“Why Don’t You Just Publish Bestsellers?”

“Why don’t you just publish bestsellers?” I think everyone in publishing has gotten this question at least once. And don’t we all smile knowingly to ourselves that it is not quite that simple.

Of course, every once in a while someone comes along who thinks it is that simple. Here you will read about Jonathan Karp at Twelve who seeks after the Holy Grail of publishing.

Certainly he is to be commended for limiting his list to give every book the best chance possible (publishing only one title a month–thus the name of the firm). Every publisher knows that too many books can mean that each book does not get the editorial or sales, marketing and publicity attention it deserves. With over 290,000 new books published in the U. S. in 2006, all publishers have to ask if they are doing too many.

Of course, it is not necessarily the goal of every publisher to only publish bestsellers. For some the goal is to publish the best books of a certain genre and still stay in the black. Nonetheless, it will be worthwhile to check in with Jonathan Karp in three, five or seven years. For we can also lay alongside the common question noted above the dictum: “It is easy to get into publishing. It is hard to stay.”