When the economy started nose-diving, I told myself, “During bad times, you want more irons in the fire. This is a great time to expand my publishing business.” So I went from four titles to thirteen in about eight months.
I had it all planned out. During bad times, people start yearning for simplicity and more control over their lives, and there’s always a back-to-the-land movement. So I published three classic back-to-the-land books: Gold in the Grass, Ten Acres Enough, and We Wanted a Farm. These, I figured, would do very well. I also republished a motley collection of books just because I loved them, though in many cases I felt that maybe no one else would.
So what happened? A couple of my labor-of-love books became mainstays of my publishing business, while the back-to-the-land books have been relatively disappointing. Only Ten Acres Enough was anything to write home about, but even its modest success was eclipsed by Fresh-Air Poultry Houses, which instantly became my #1 seller, and A Thousand Miles up the Nile, which has nothing whatever to do with any of my other books!
So it just goes to show, you never can tell. You have to swing at the ball a lot more times than you hit it, so you should give yourself a lot of at-bats, rather than counting on a home run on the first swing. Heck, I almost didn’t publish Fresh-Air Poultry Houses because it’s sort of eccentric, but I told myself that it’s eccentric in a good way — charming and thought-provoking, and in touch with natural thinking — and it’s a good thing I did.
Seth Godin has an interesting blog post where he shows a chart by Tim Burton of all his failed projects — lots and lots and LOTS of them. Even now, only a fraction of his projects actually get released.
So keep swinging, and don’t bet the farm on any one venture. Most of ’em won’t get very far, but some will.