The Risk-Taking Writer
This weekend I returned from Book Expo, the largest book trade show in the United States in New York City. A trade show requires the attendees to wear a badge to get into the event and the entrances are closely monitored.
The floor of Book Expo is filled with librarians and booksellers from around the world. The exhibits are large and small publishers who are showing off their forthcoming books and authors. The aisles are full of well-known and unknown authors. For example, I saw journalist and political commentator Chris Matthews in the Simon and Schuster area signing the paperback version of his New Times bestseller, Jack Kennedy.
From my years in publishing I know that every book which is published is a risk. No one knows if the book will sell or not. The publishing professionals make their best effort and put the book into the market. Book Expo or trade shows like it are one more way that an author can get exposure for their book.
One of the foundational keys is to take calculated risks in publishing. First and foremost a good book is based on an excellent manuscript. Good writing is critical.
As I walked around the massive floor, I saw some unusual risk takers. For example, I met one new publisher with three full color picture books. While the art work was beautiful, I looked at the story and it seemed to have a lot of words for a picture book.
I mentioned this concern to the publisher and he instantly launched into how they are creating a new category of picture book which he called the picture book/ chapter book. I listened but skeptically. The children's book market is very particular. The age category and the expectations from retailers and librarians and others is almost impossible to shift or “add a new category.”
I wish this new publisher nothing but the best but from my years in this market, I could see some potential pitfalls in his book launch. I hope he proves me wrong and sells thousands of copies of his beautiful books.
The Book Expo was an excellent event in my view because of the opportunity to meet with literary agents and authors. On the final day of the event, Saturday, the public could purchase tickets to attend and someone told me that over 600 people were waiting in line to be able to enter the exhibit floors. I was grateful for the opportunity attend and learn from the experience and new relationships.
My encouragement to you as a writer is to take calculated risks. Every bit of writing that I've done for years involves risk. Every writer can:
- diversify their writing skills—i.e. write for magazines as well as writing books.
- if writing nonfiction, write proposals rather than full books.
- continually build new relations in the publishing community.
- attend conferences and foster their relationships.