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Are Publishers Taking Risks Anymore?

I’ve gotten some interesting questions from readers lately, so I’m going to post my answers here, so all readers can see. The first is from Jeni:

Am wondering if you think the world of children’s books is getting more conservative? Are publishers taking less risks? Are authors being positioned so that they have to play it safe?

Publishers are still taking risks, but the risks they’re taking will be based on story rather than a writer’s raw talent, I find. Publishers are much more willing to try a brilliant book about a strange subject, unheard-of paranormal creature, situation, or whatever (like Libba Bray’s GOING BOVINE (read my review), a book about a crazy mad cow disease road trip, but executed with ridiculous genius, which went on to win the Printz), than to take a risk on a book that’s good but a hot mess by a writer whose craft they’ll need to develop in the editing process.

That’s why it’s so much more important, now than ever before, to have impeccable craft, breathtaking storytelling skills, and a marketable idea. Publishers are still taking risks… but they’re smarter risks, and they’re risking on more quality material than they might’ve been before. They’re also buying things that scream “commercial” or things that fit the trends as they see them. And those are the two main drivers of acquisitions decisions today.

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