Where Are the Sparks?

While reading the May 30th issue of The New Yorker, one article caught my eye called “The Stories Behind the Best-selllers” by Meakin Armstrong.  It’s a topic that I’ve addressed several times in these entries about The Writing Life.  The article actually turned to be an advertising section but contains some valuable insight from some mainstream publishing people about books.

New York is gearing up for the Book Expo America or the premier event in the U.S. serving the publishing community which will take place from June 3 to 5th. I’ve been to these events in the past but will not be attending this year. BEA is a closed trade show and not open to the general public. You have to be a retailer, associated with a publishing house, or an author or member of the media to enter the event. Guards stand at each entrance and monitor whether you can get inside or not.

Every publisher is looking for that illusive bestseller in a variety of different genres of books. Chip Gibson, the president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books said in this article, “Publishing companies are engines of enthusiasm. We’re always looking for the little sparks around a projects; those physical manifestations of that overused but perfect word, ‘buzz.’” While the search is constant, publishers are careful not to overpromise because of the fickle public. As Doubleday Broadway president and publisher Stephen Rubin explained in the same article, “Because publishing is such an intuitive business, I never say that a book will be a best-seller. I say it has the potential of becoming one.” Notice the little dance in semantics?

While these major publishing houses are looking for their next big seller, the same search is going on in countless other places—submission piles for large and small publishers and at literary agencies. It’s actually happening in each aspect of the business. Magazine editors are looking at their submissions for the sparks that capture their imagination and fit their particular audience. Children’s book editor are searching for the manuscript which will touch children in a new way.

Our challenge as writers is to learn our craft and learn it well. Not to simply glut the market with our latest unpolished brainstorm. Instead to work day in and day out at producing excellence. Then maybe our submission will set off those sparks.

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