Joseph Wallace’s Hope for Publishing
A guest blog by Joseph Wallace:
Although I’ve been a nonfiction writer for decades, Diamond Ruby, my first novel, was published early in May. The most personal project I’ve ever done, and the one that means the most to me, it arrived smack in the middle of the most disorienting, frankly terrifying, times publishing has ever seen.
No one knows exactly how to sell books these days. How do you get the word out about yours? Advertise in magazines? Post on blogs? Book in hand, visit every store in the United States yourself?
Or does it even matter? In the age of facebook and Twitter and text messages, who has time to read an actual book? Are writers like me as obsolete as the makers of buggies in the age of the automobile?
Two weeks ago, I would have said that answer to the last question was yes. Luckily, and crucially for my psyche, I took the time last week to visit Book Expo America (BEA), the giant trade show that brings together publishers, booksellers, librarians, agents, authors, bloggers, and others every year in New York City’s Javits Center.
Trade shows aren’t usually my thing. I attended BEA for one day, signing and giving away copies of Diamond Ruby and spending the rest of the time wandering from booth to booth. Going in, I’d expected to end the day with nothing to show for it but a headache and sore feet…and maybe some advance copies of great fall books. What I actually walked out with was something far more important.
I ended the day in a better mood about publishing, about my industry, than I’ve been for ages. No, no one told me how to “save publishing.” Its problems still exist, they’re still big, and maybe they’ll still be fatal someday. But not any time soon, not if the people I met were any indication.
They were excited to be there. They were well aware of the challenges but saw them as only that: challenges, not an inevitable death sentence. They were filled with ideas, arguments, approaches, enthusiasm at solving publishing’s problems.
Perhaps most importantly, many of them were young, in their twenties and thirties. The world of publishing today is the only world they know. They’re not trapped by the tyranny of nostalgia, as I am too often at age fifty-two. (“Remember when there was a bookstore on every corner?”) They’re clear-eyed, they understand the digital age we’re in and the power of social media, they’re thinking all the time about what needs to be don.
Most of all, they love books. They love to read. They love what they do. And they’re not going anywhere. They’re in this struggle for the long haul.
It’s been a week since my day at BEA, and I haven’t lost the upbeat mood I gained—along with, yes, sore feet—amid the bright lights and cacophony of the trade-show floor. I hadn’t realized how doomful I’d been feeling till the feeling went away. I’m thankful to all the people I met that day, and to hundreds I haven’t met, but whose cheerful enthusiasm changed me.
Hope. I could learn to live with that.
Buy Diamond Ruby by Joe Wallace