I found an interesting interview with Rudy Shur, the former head of Avery and founder of Square One Publishers. Rudy has been a publisher for 25 years and he has lots of solid advice for aspiring writers. And be sure to read what he says about “unique” books, it’s spot-on in my experience.
He represents what I’d call “mid-list” publishing and publishers. These are the independent, entrepreneurial houses that might pay lower advances, but tend to have a long view when it comes to managing their back-list.
The interview is worth reading if you’re thinking that profitable books are only published by the big name houses: it’s just not true, and many smaller publishers have made huge successes with books that started out quite modestly.
A few great examples would include Chicken Soup for the Soul, which was acquired by Health Communications for a reported $2000 advance after being turned down by more than 30 houses, or a book like What Color is Your Parachute, a gold mine for Richard Bolles and Ten Speed Press alike.
Note, the “front-list” titles are the new releases that appear toward the front of a publisher’s catalog and are pushed hardest by the sales reps. “Back-list” titles have smaller entries toward the back of the catalog, and “mid-list,” for me, refers to those books that succeed over time. They might be revised, updated and re-released to the front-list, but tend not to be huge front list titles in the sense of a Juiced, which though it burns brightly today, will not have much of a future on the back-list.