Sometimes, it’s really not just a game

By Carmen Comment

Agent 007 muses on the concept of “fantasy publishing” and why sure things, though great for the career and pocketbook, get boring after a while:

Winning when you knew you were going to win all along is Boring with a capital B. No one wants to play a game that they can win every time.

What really gets an editor’s adrenaline pumping is the book that she fell in love with at first sight, championed in-house, cradled all the way to publication, and watched burst onto the media scene. Books like WHY DO MEN HAVE NIPPLES?, FREAKONOMICS, THE KITE RUNNER (all currently ranked higher than The Historian on Amazon’s bestseller list, by the way)—those are what fuels an editor during long meetings spent debating the merits of Phoenix vs. Miami on the author tour or whether the typeface on the cover is blue enough, or while repairing the hurt feelings of the art director when everyone hated his cover.

And if you don’t have a sense of risk or daring, quit while you’re ahead:

If you no longer get fired up about something that doesn’t have “sure thing” stamped on the cover, get out. If you can no longer trust your instinct that tells you that you are right, get out. If you can’t have fun and take a few risks and re-discover the joy of publishing again, take a sabbatical.

You may be forced, as I was, to sit in a conference room and revisit every failed book of the year in order to determine “what went wrong.” But most of the time, there is no one answer, just as there is no one secret to the surprise hits. And I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because scoring with a sure thing is fun.. but only for about 15 minutes.