Too Early or Too Late?

4 December, 2012

I called a publisher to pitch a submission this morning.  In my excitement, I worked in a couple of buzz words such as “paranormal romance” when the publisher interrupted me. “Oh, that is so over, ” she said.  “Even if we acquired the book today, it wouldn’t be published for a year, and then these genres will truly be dead in the water. Switching gears, I stressed some other aspects of my client’s work, and the publisher ‘agreed to have a young editor on her staff take a look. I’m not holding my breath.

In book publishing, it sometimes seems as if everything is too late.  No matter what the subject or the genre, the publishing house will tell you that they already have another novel with the same plot line or that Barnes and Noble stocks only one book on that subject, so any new book even with a different angle or lens will be skipped by the nation’s largest bricks-and-mortar bookseller.  It’s as if no book can ever be written on this subject again.

The inverse of this is that it is too early, and the publishers don’t yet see the trend that the author has identified.  This is just as bad.

The truth is that nothing is really new and that many things are cyclical. In the 80s and 90s, I worked for  Ann Rice’s paperback publisher.  I remember being blown away by Interview with a Vampire, which seemed so original and compulsively readable. Fast forward 20-25 years, and vampires and werewolves were suddenly” in,” as if we’d never experienced them before.

So what should authors and agents do?   I still believe that you should write the absolute best book you can, the book you were meant to write. Know your competition, acknowledge it, and differentiate your work from that of others.  Then pray.  Sometimes it takes one courageous person at an agency or a publishing house to stand up for that book and that author, and that person becomes the change agent and advocate.  Suddenly, everyone’s reading it.  It could happen.  It could happen to you.

–Joelle Delbourgo