Sunday, March 18, 2007

In which two topics become one…sort of

I have a two page personal statement that I have to write for my Denver Publishing School application. Two pages on why I think I should be in the program and what brought me to this point. Two pages to cover a lifetime of experiences and joys found in reading, bookselling and this blog.

Crap. Verbose people don’t do page limits very well. And verbose book lovers?

Yeah, not so much with the limitations. Not when every discussion adds something more to my mental catalogue of thoughts about books.

Take the different discussions going on surrounding the inclusivity and exclusivity of book blogger communities. In response to one of the comments she received on her original column, Monica Edinger replied, “What may seem totally inclusive to one of us may seem dauntingly exclusive to another.” She applies this to life as a whole and it certainly is representative. How many times have I heard on this blog that readers have felt uncomfortable approaching booksellers to ask for recommendations for fear of mockery or idiocy or that authors break out into the sweats at the idea of walking into a store and asking to autograph their books? Plenty. This fear exists because we all want to be liked or accepted, although more rests on this connection for an author than for a reader. Something that I’ve tried to do with this blog is alleviate that fear, or at least put it into terms that are relatable in the grand hierarchy of things that should affect your self-worth.

Does that make the fear go away? Hell no. In some cases it may help (hey, they’re just as afraid of me as I am of them), and in others it exacerbates. Just because I know that I hate public speaking and I need to obsessively practice whatever I’m going to say to stave off the cold sweats does not mean that I’m still won’t be dreading every moment up at a podium. There are many variables that will add or detract from my experience on stage just like there are many that will affect every time you walk into a bookstore. Did you get a bookseller with knowledge of your section or books? Was the store well organized and run? Did the person helping you have to deal with the customer from hell earlier that day? Did someone just run over grandma with a reindeer? Or hey, do they even have your books? Did they have a nasty reaction a publicist? Did your publisher call during a lunch rush and so all pre-arrival warnings were drowned out by the ca-ching of the cash register?

All it takes is one disconnect in the chain and the whole experience falls apart. And since the chain is long, though it is the person at the very top who dropped the ball, it is the person at the very bottom (and dealing directly with you) that has to deal with getting hit with the flack.

In a perfect world (especially a perfect book world) everyone would be comfortable, well-off (oh, c’mon, you know a little financial cushion would make you feel better), and well informed: the bookseller would know exactly where your book is and why it is/isn’t available, the customer would know exactly what they were looking for and feel comfortable discussing their likes and dislikes, and the author could just walk in off the street into any bookstore and find and sign their stock. Wine and signings would flow freely, and thoughtful consideration would be granted to all.

It’s not a perfect world, but talking about what makes it imperfect and what we can do about it helps. I want to part of the publishing world in some way because I see this disconnect between publishers and booksellers. I see it between authors and booksellers.

And I see it between readers and the rest of the publishing community at large.

We all want to be part of the community, and we all have different point of views to bring to it. Whether we feel comfortable voicing those opinions remains to be seen. And maybe you don’t necessarily have to. This is a wide open world and thanks to the flattening affect of the internet you have a chance to find a champion, someone who says what you might not be comfortable expressing yourself.

Of course, you might have to work up the courage to talk to them, but with a like-minded individual it might be a little easier.

What I’m saying is, I want to be that person in publishing. I want to carve out my little space showing people how to speak up, speak out, and get what they want. I want to make it easier for authors to reach booksellers and readers, and for booksellers to reach authors and the rest of the world.

HTC said to just take my bookstore post and edit it to conform to the personal statement guidelines set forth by the publishing school, but it seems more an obituary than a starting point for something new. I know where I’ve been and what I’ve done, but how that fits in my future remains to be seen.

Whatever I write will have to be done soon, and only represent a narrow section of what y’all have taught me about needs to be done. I hope it helps with the acceptance process.

Either way, know that you had a lot to do with the result.


Robin Brande said...

BSC, I'm so excited for the possibilites of your future. I think you have a great idea about where to use your talents, and good for you that you're being proactive about your career, rather than waiting for it to come to you.

Can't wait to see where this all goes.

Lesa said...

BSC, I think you should take a good look at the post you just published, and edit that. It's not an obituary. It tells what you want to be to the bookselling and publishing business. I wish you all the luck in the world.