Jacky, Jessica, and I were having a conversation the other day about how life has a wondrous way of balancing itself. Every time we find ourselves needing to buy a new roof, shelling out cash for taxes, or buying a new engine for our car, we often land some kind of windfall that is just enough to take care of it. And just as predictably, any time we find ourselves the grateful recipients of some sort of monetary gift or lottery, we immediately come up with all sorts of fun shopping we can do, but some kind of bad luck befalls us and sucks that dough right out of our hands. We may not always get that cute little pair of red boots at Bloomingdale’s that we wanted, but we always seem to get what we need.
Humming a little Rolling Stones to myself, I got to thinking how often this is the case in the publishing industry. Authors and agents have a LOT of expectations for the books they submit out into the wild blue yonder. Most professional authors think they have a clear idea of the best way to market their book, the type of cover it will get and the way it will be placed on a publishing house’s schedule. In fact, it’s important that our clients do strategize this way, because the publishing industry is a business first and foremost, so it’s important to approach it as a businessperson, not just artistically. Still, with all of the thought we and our clients put into this stuff, circumstances change. We land the windfall—a contract—and we have all sorts of ideas about how the finished book should turn out. But the longer I’m working on this side of the business, the more I’m seeing that there can be some unexpected turns. While we may not welcome them at first, they usually turn out for the best in the end.
For instance, one of my clients thought she’d written a quiet, slightly controversial literary novel that would have a modest hardcover printing and garner some nice reviews. Instead, Bantam is publishing the book next summer at the top of their list as mass-market women’s fiction. The author’s brain had to do a 180-degree turn, but she knows that she’ll reach a lot more readers this way and it’s the best possible opportunity for launching her writing career. The change was jarring, but completely thrilling, too.
Another client published her first book a few months ago, and unfortunately the numbers aren’t what we’d hoped. We’re finding the romance audience just isn’t large enough for the particular time period and setting that the novel covered. Now she’s hard at work on something that’s quite different from that first book, and I’m super excited about it. I have a feeling this will reinvigorate her writing and push her to a whole new level. We don’t know what the payoff will be yet, but I’m confident this turn will grow her career.
And this sort of stuff happens in many aspects of my job. Another agent may have snapped up an author I was interested in, before I could. But the next week, I come across a submission I connect with even more and I sign the author right away. So any time you think a disappointment’s come your way, just cue up the ITunes and hum along with Mick, because it’s all going to work out for the best.