Industry News: Publishing Doomsaying? This could be your golden age
Periodically, producing the Saturday Industry News piece is falling-out-of-bed easy. This is not one of those periods. Maybe it’s August and everyone who doesn’t have a kid starting school in the past two weeks is busy on vacation. Or maybe everything that’s big news (DOJ likes its collusion suit; Apple and the publishers don’t) has a certain duh quality. Or maybe I lack imagination. But there just doesn’t seem to be much newsy content these days.
There are some tidbits here and there. Barnes and Noble will start selling Nooks in the UK, which seems intelligent. The Hunger Games has passed Harry Potter as the most-sold book series on Amazon’s long history. Thomas Nelson has pulled David Barton’s revisionist Thomas Jefferson book, The Jefferson Lies, so Glenn Beck will publish it.
None of these stories get my blood pumping, in terms of news. There was, however, a story called Fifty Shades of Green. By now, it must seem like there’s nothing new to say about EL James’ mommy-porn trilogy–except for one thing. It’s not a sign of the apocalypse or imminent worldwide functional illiteracy.
It’s a good thing, and here’s why:
In baseball (oh, geez, another baseball-as-life metaphor), it costs a lot of money to have a player toil for the big team. To reduce risk and cost, teams make the players run through a sieve called the minor leagues to reduce the chaff and identify the wheat, which is then promoted to the Bigs.
In some senses, publishing works the same way. The Hunt for Red October was published by the Naval Institute Press. After it was successful, Tom Clancy was picked up by a mainstream publisher, Penguin. The same thing happened to EL James. Except in the late 1980s, James work probably wouldn’t have found its audience because there weren’t fan fiction websites and author-driven websites.
In essence, James’ story is the equivalent of a kid playing a pickup game of baseball, having a mess of people watch, so the kid gets signed to the low minors, and a mess of more people watch, so the kid gets bumped up again, and eventually plays with the big team.
Odds are it won’t happen to you or anyone else with more talent, but the odds weren’t in EL James’ favor, either. And yet it happened.
David Barton insists that Thomas Jefferson was not antagonistic to this being a Christian country, and that he didn’t enjoy what the Rolling Stones would refer to as Brown Sugar with Sally Hemmings. Thomas Nelson, his publisher, doubts the accuracy of Barton’s claim. So Beck, who seems to have a man-crush on Barton that rivals Gregory House and James Wilson, has decided to publish Barton’s book.
Politics, religion, and historical accuracy aside, this is also a generically a good thing. It’s another avenue to publication. This isn’t to say that you want Glenn Beck (or George Soros or any other successful political figure) to publish your book. But it’s another possible avenue.
At the end of the day, you don’t get style points for following the progression any specific way. JK Rowlings got published by Scholastic because everyone else turned her down. Tom Clancy came out of that fiction powerhouse, The Naval Institute Press. EL James was writing smutty stories on an Internet message board.
The options are far more plentiful than when Clancy, or even Rowling became successful. The Hunt for Red October became successful after Ronald Reagan read it. Eragon became successful after Carl Hiaasen noticed his grandson reading it. David Barton has a patron for his work in Glenn Beck. It’s all about persistence, networking, and, ultimately, luck.
And as the great Branch Rickey said, Luck is the residue of design.
This is a magnificent time to have a great design, some persistence, and the drive to network. (And there is this conference coming up…)