I don’t know about you all, but I’m pretty 9/11’d out. I’m looking forward to New York’s newspapers returning to non-remembrance cover stories—you know, the heartwarming stuff like the previous week’s “24 Shot in 24 Hours.” Certainly, those of us who were here don’t need a reminder in order to remember. That said, with all the talk of “ten years” later and the general consensus that publishing is in a time of CATASTROPHIC CHANGE!!!!, I admit to feeling mildly reflective. But maybe it’s just an autumn thing since just last week, Michael’s nostalgia-meter was set off by the back to school season.
As Michael mentioned, the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’ve heard repeatedly about the oncoming death of publishing. Audio books were declared dead. Fiction was declared dead. And the printed word in general? That’s died and come back more times than I can count. Publishers shuffled and reshuffled their imprints. Hundreds of people were laid off. Many of them abandoned publishing as it was going to pot. They were replaced by younger versions of themselves, some of whom are already abandoning ship to get into a more secure industry. Others will stick around forever. Erotica was going to be the next big thing for about half a second. Vampires were declared “over” before Twilight even hit the shelves. Chick-lit was all anyone was buying until no one would touch it. Several books that went to auction for six-figures were called “the last of a dying breed.” The plight of the midlist author was talked about endlessly by any midlist author whose books weren’t succeeding. And in this exact moment, ebooks are changing everything about everything. Except that they aren’t. The publishing industry has always existed to get work from authors to readers in its best and most profitable form. The heart of the industry was never in printing costs and paper stock—it was in the distribution of words and ideas. And listen, while I trust the internet for a lot of things, I don’t think crowdsourcing slush piles will be an effective way of deciding what books break out and what gets lost to the ether.
Long story short, I work in an industry that looks and feels different than it did ten years ago, but the essentials remain the same. I’ll keep looking for great books and working with authors to build the most creatively and financially successful careers that they can have.