Publishing is on a rocky roller-coaster ride these days. That’s why it’s heartening to hear from pros who still feel a sense of excitement about the future of books. The setting: a lively event at Watchung Booksellers, a wonderful independent bookstore right in my neighborhood. The tone was upbeat and the panel was first-rate: Reagan Arthur, the publisher of Reagan Arthur Books (an imprint of Little, Brown); Amy Gash, senior editor at Algonquin Books; Aaron Talwar, founding publisher of Dark Coast Press; and two seasoned agents, Joelle Delbourgo and Janet Reid. Here’s an update:
Some good news: People are reading more than ever before and interacting with authors online, via video chats, and even Skype reading groups. There are more opportunities than ever before for writers to reach readers in different formats and venues — and to attract attention via online reviews, virtual book tours, and videos. But “being published” in the traditional sense still matters.
Some sobering news: Publishers are being more selective and buying fewer books — and editors are under intense pressure to deliver big hits. There are plenty of fantastic books that faced tremendous obstacles on the way to print.
Some more good news: Editors and agents are still in love with books and passionate about storytelling. “As an editor, I still experience joy at finding a great voice and a great story,” said Reagan Arthur. “I’m always looking for something original — a compelling voice,” noted Amy Gash.
Helpful advice: Do your homework. Craft your query letters with care (for help, check out Janet Reid’s resource: http://www.queryshark.blogspot.com). Know what’s happening (sign up for the free industry resource, Shelf-awareness.com). Really work hard at your first sentence and paragraph — they matter! Keep polishing your work. If it’s rejected, it might not be good enough yet. Just keep at it!
Hopeful thought: “There will always be a need to get lost in a book that transports you,” observed Jenny Milchman, the writer who put together this terrific program. Thanks!