Last week I read this insightful, sobering insider look at publishing here by Daniel Menaker, former Executive Editor-in-Chief of Random House. His experience is with adult publishing, and I do view children's book publishing as a happier world, but his is still an authentic view of publishing in general. Especially true is how negative a culture it can be. For example:
You're more likely to be "right" if you express doubts about a proposal's or a manuscript's prospects than if you support it with enthusiasm.
I'm often disappointed that our acquisitions team doesn't get more excited about projects. Sometimes it seems that the best praise we can get is "I liked it fine" or "I would be okay if we published it." Hardly glowing endorsements. True, when those rare moments come along where everyone gets excited about a project, it's wonderful, but people seem to be more critical than ever. It's a tough business.
And this is only the beginning of the negativities that editors must face. Barnes & Noble doesn't like the title. Borders doesn't like the jacket. The author's uncle Joe doesn't like the jacket. The writer doesn't like the page layout and design. Your boss tells you the flap copy for a book about a serial killer is too "down." The hardcover didn't sell well enough for the company to put out a paperback. The book has to wait a list or two to be published. Kirkus hates the book. Another writer gets angry at you for even asking for a quote. The Times isn't going to review the book. And so on.
*Sigh.* So true. And the following observation is something I particularly agree with:
It's my strong impression that most of the really profitable books for most publishers still come from the mid-list -- "surprise" big hits with small or medium advances, such as that memoir by a self-described racial "mutt" of a junior senator from Chicago. Somehow, by luck or word of mouth, these books navigate around the rocks and reefs upon which most of their fleet -- even sturdy vessels -- founder.
Anyway, read the column. It's fascinating. And I'm glad I'm not as jaded so far in my career--I still see many more pros than cons. But it's good to recognize the challenges in the hopes that maybe aspects of the business can change.