Wednesday, November 17, 2010
It was interesting to me to read comments on my republished post Ranting on Amy (read the comments from the original posting 4 years ago HERE). As I said in comments, I did write that rant 4 years ago so a lot of things have changed (especially my thoughts on greatness), but it was the inquiries on my label "midlist" that captured my attention this time.
According to Wikipedia: authors who consistently publish acceptable but not bestselling books are referred to as Midlist authors.
Personally, I'm not sure where I am on the hierarchy. Thanks to the Newbery Honor (which I will always be eternally grateful for!), I have one book that broke out of the midlist. I have many that fell way below, but most are solidly in the middle. The hope is that the success of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon has opened a door (or cracked a window) for my future books to sneak through. Of course, that is the Hope with a capital H. As with everything in publishing, you just don't know. That door (or window) can slam shut at anytime.
But, let's just say that is the case (double crossing my fingers I am not jinxing myself), I'll know that what has allowed me to climb up has been my stack of midlist titles. Each one of my non-bestselling books are responsible for my growth as an author and illustrator so that I could write a Newbery Honor book. And each midlist book gained my work more readers. They weren't big numbers, but those small groups started adding up--contributing to the large readership of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. That is to say, if I succeed in breaking out of the midlist, I truly believe it will have been my midlist titles that have gotten me there.
Which is why articles like this worry and sadden me. The first line of the article proclaims, "The midlist is dead!"
I know the PW article is mainly talking about adult books, not children's books, but it's still a disturbing trend. Most authors just don't have a blockbuster bestseller right out of the gates. Some authors need a couple of books to grow and blossom. Someone (I don't remember who) called these writers "slow-burning authors"-- they write books whose fan base is growing but have not hit that peak capacity yet. I have a feeling I am one of them.
Without a midlist, where will they go? Where will we go? The article seems to indicate smaller presses will be the life vest for midlist authors in the future. What do you think?