The Woeful Story of Pepper Bear

Let me tell you a story about a book, a bear, and a beginning editor.

Back in the 90s. I was just getting started as a book editor. I was given the assignment of editing a children’s book. It was one of my first books, and to my elation, it was a very good book. It was called Pepper Bear, and the story was about a small black bear who was rescued and raised by a family, and the misadventures that came with him as he was raised.

I decided that this was going to be the best book possible. I called the author and told her, “We are going to make this a best seller!” I hired an illustrator to not only produce a cover, but to develop ten ink drawings for the inside. I spent extra time editing the book to make sure it was the best quality it could be, then spent more time cutting copy so that the illustrations would fit in the allotted pages for the book.

Finally, the book was completed. It was a beautiful book. However, it never went into reprint, and the publishing house didn’t really put much effort into selling it. Further I got into trouble as its editor. What was the problem? Cost. All that extra time I spent as an editor had to be billed to the book, and all those illustrations were added to the price of the book. It ended up costing more than people were willing to pay. Because of that, a good book died before it had a decent chance in the marketplace.

I learned an important lesson that day. Sometimes, higher quality isn’t better. Sometimes it’s better to do a reasonable job that’s a reasonable price, then stop while you’re ahead.

That goes for book covers, investing in editing, formatting, and in your own rewriting of your books. How much are you willing to invest in your project? How much is prudent to invest in it?

Sometimes a labor of love can kill a project. Unfortunately.