Dear New York,
I love you.
When I went to the city for a conference this year and came face-to-face with agents and editors for the first time, it made me tear up. I stumbled upon Random House whilst walking around the city, saw the lobby lined with books from floor to ceiling. I wanted to go in. I wanted to walk in and just stand for a minute. Traditional publishers have made so many books possible. They’ve made dreams come true for many, many people.
I’ve been a writer since I could hold a pen. It’s been my dream to see my book on a shelf. To feel the spine, the covers, to feel the pages flip in my hands. It’s been my dream to work toward that result with others who love books and stories. I know I’m not alone, but in this rapidly changing era of publishing, it feels just a bit lonely.
By now you should know the deal. You’ve seen Amazon’s profit margins; I know you have. You know that writers are flocking to e-publishing in droves, their stories trailing behind them. Some of those are books you could have put on the shelves, but chose not to for many reasons. They might have even been the right reasons — in some cases I’m sure that’s true. Do you believe the future lies on a Kindle or a Nook, written in 1s and 0s? I’m asking you that, New York. Do you?
I want to know what you say. If you believe that’s true, tell me so I can get out the wrecking ball, demolish the construction of my dream and prime the foundation to build anew.
But I have a suspicion that you don’t believe that is the future. Or that you don’t want it to be. What I have to say to you is this: the future is not built on a road to inevitability. It is what you want it to be. It is what you strive and sweat to make it. And if you want that future to be built with you in it, writers like me need you to start laying bricks.
I believe competition is hearty and healthy. I believe readers should have choices of how to get their stories. They might want to read them on paper or on a phone, on an e-reader or on a computer screen. They might want to listen to them. They should have those choices. The last few — those are easy. Anyone can make those things possible, and there is a beauty in that.
But you. You are still New York. You still produce most of the printed books in the world. You are still relevant if you want to be. I want you to be. I love printed books. I love the weight of them; I love being able to flip to a part I remember. I love having those favorite parts marked on a spine worn from so many readings. There is poetry and beauty in that, too.
You must innovate.
You will need to make sacrifices. You will have to trim some fat. You will have to reinvent the way you find your authors and how you reward them for their work. You will have to do those things because you need to compete — because we need you to compete. Fight. Stay relevant. I may feel alone, but I’m not alone. For every die-hard indie published author out there, there is someone like me. I still have the dream of bindings and pages. I know I’m not the only one.
Writers like me need you. I’m willing to query my heart out until I find the right agent. I’m willing to work and write and rewrite and rewrite and write some more until I have an excellent, salable product. I’m willing to commit to you, New York. I already told you I love you.
There is a growing unease among writers like me. We fear being ostracized by our fellow writers who gladly e-publish, but most of all we fear that you will get a knockout punch to the nose from Amazon. The only way that will happen is if you stand still. You need to move. You need to put on your gloves. You need to fight for writers, because frankly, right now Amazon offers us a lot more, a lot easier, and with more perceived opportunity.
If you’re still finding the best stories, you will remain competitive. If you are willing to take some chances and show that you are committed to the evolution of stories, you will remain competitive. If you are willing to innovate your turnaround time and get books on shelves faster and more efficiently, you will remain competitive. If you are willing to show just how well you will treat your writers, writers will flock back to you. Show us an industry built on a love of books. Show us an industry that loves writers and agents and editors and designers and all of the people who make books possible. Don’t just show us. Show the world. Show Amazon.
Because you have something Amazon does not and cannot have.
You love books. You breathe books. Every day is about making books happen. About finding new stories and new information to put on shelves. Your entire business from top to bottom is built on a foundation of books.
That can only help you.
I love you, New York.
Don’t fail me.
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