Because life is a series of edits

Rejections & Feedback & Pub Boards (oh, my!)

In Books, Calling on August 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Open Book

I should have shared this a few weeks ago, but with school officially starting, I didn’t make the time. For those following along on the book publishing front, here’s the bad news: all three publishers I spoke with in May have officially passed on ThirtySomewhere. Obviously, this was not exactly where I was hoping to be by the end of summer, but alas, it’s where we are now.

The feedback was interesting to consider. One publisher’s “pub board” (a group comprised of editors and sales and marketing people) said that, “ThirtySomewhere‘s audience likely would consider the topic in a
magazine but not necessarily a complete book.”

Obviously I don’t agree…unless one thinks the experience of a decade of life can really be reduced to 1000 words. Sure, a well-written magazine article can be helpful, but it’s certainly limited in its depth and effect. Is their issue that the content wouldn’t fill a book, or that the audience wouldn’t read one? As sales and marketing folks were involved in the decision, I’m guessing the latter drove the decision.

I understand the tension, especially considering the economy and the up-in-the-air status of the print industry; however, the reality is that books are not getting published today for the worth of their content but for the fame of their authors and the potential of their sales. My co-author, Doug Serven, responded to the news this way: “Disappointing. Maybe we should be Tim Keller and then they’d want to do it.”

Maybe. Or maybe we keep writing something that, if and when someone ever takes another chance on us, is worth reading and not just selling.

Here’s another pub board’s feedback:

“While there have been some positive responses to the content and to your style of writing, the conclusion many came to was that this is going to be a hard sell. While TwentySomeone was timely when it came out (and did fairly well), the sentiment here is that a generational book is not so timely now. I realize that your intent is to look more at life stages and life experiences as the shaping influences, but even with that, from a sales perspective it’s hard to see the consumer interest in the topic now. We may be wrong, sometimes are, but we have to go on what we know and sense from the very difficult retail world right now.”

Interesting, especially since the publisher knew (and even acknowledged in his email) that we don’t think of our book as a generational book; it is a stage of life book. I would agree that generational books are not as en vogue as they were perhaps 15-20 years ago (Generation X, anyone?), but did the world suddenly misplace millions of literate thirty-year-olds, or are there just no thirty-year-olds left who care enough about this stage of their lives to read about it? I know what I know, but I guess the pub board knows (or thinks they know) something different.

So, we’re at a bit of a fork in the road. And yet, since we still believe this book is worth both writing and reading, we’re pursuing other avenues. If you or anyone you know works in publishing and might be interested in a proposal on helping thirty-somethings find their place in a decade of possibilities, let me know, as we’re trying to find our place in the world of publishing in order to reach them.

  1. Ironic (if not redundant) in making my point, read this op-ed in the New York Times today. Here’s a quote to tease you:
    “I’m part of the Peter Pan-ish Gen-X final trickle — and what do we know about growing up? My friends are all broke, say ‘whatever’ too much, still live in Converses and constant hangovers, still yell at their parents on the phone and two seconds later ask for money and possibly a place to crash, are still deferring college loans and say everything is the new something-else, including the 30s, which are the new 20s. The economy is in crisis, and they don’t care; they have become Zen about debt, having been impoverished, if trust-fund-less, since they got out of college at the beginning of the millennium, a time of tragedy and war and turmoil, their entire 20s devoured by someone they refer to only by a twangy iteration of his middle initial.
    But now, as a writer playing Writer more than ever and a woman on the verge of playing House for real, I find myself torn between the decadent counterculture of my 20s and a desire for things ‘properly’ adult. And this is the very no-man’s-land paralysis that [the TV show] ‘Thirtysomething’ was obsessed with, that cold-sweat-panic moment when youthful rebellion runs headlong into the responsibilities, pains and joys of full-blown adulthood.”
    There’s more. Read it and let me know what you think.

  2. Read your update with sadness. The pressure to publish “names” – whether or not the content is worthy – is such a frustrating reality of this business environment. All the “missional” talk is window dressing. No matter how much I sing the praises of a proposal’s content, if sales and marketing don’t “get it” the book doesn’t have a chance. At least in my environment, editors are viewed as egg-head types who live in a sheltered, overly spiritualized world and don’t really know what the public wants. Big sigh. But I digress.

  3. In thinking about praying about the book for you, I’m remembering praying you would sell some of your songs so you could buy Megan a diamond. Hee Hee. That was a life time ago. :)

  4. I’m thinking we should start our own publishing house and then we’ll show em.

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