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Book Publishers are Not Tech Companies

My biggest gripe about people who write about “revolutionizing” the book publishing world is that it’s written by people who don’t know the publishing world. And my biggest frustration with the book publishing world is that the industry is broken.

Publishers are steeped in tradition and stuck in the ways that were started during the golden age of publishing in America, which began in the 1920s. This was when Mr. Alfred A. Knopf was President of Knopf Publishing before it was acquired by Random House in 1960. This was the time when authors were truly wined and dined by the publishers as a way to nurture to their brilliance. Publishers see books as representations of our culture and the intellectual property of the authors. Art.

While this is true, book publishing is also a business and books are commodities that are developed, invested in, promoted, and sold. And for some reason publishers have not caught up with magazine publishers who see what they work on and create as part of a business that should adapt and change with the times. My hypothesis is that it’s apparent that magazine publishers are a form of media because they are dependent on advertising dollars to subsidize their printing; books are supported by book sales.


Wordstock: Where it began

Before I can tell the story of what happened at this year’s Wordstock, I need to tell the story of what happened at last year’s festival.

If you know me, you know the story of Wordstock and how I wrangled way-too-many authors during the first two years of the festival (2005 & 2006). If you mention my name to the founder, he’ll tell you how Norman Mailer was impressed by how well I dealt with authors, even though I was 18. If you talk to any of the four author coordinators now, they may tell you the story of how their job was once performed by one single person (oh, hi there!). I was the first intern and as such I was given an enormous opportunity to shape author-relations and process as it stands today and also set the foundation for the type of work that drives and fulfills me in everything that I do.

The first Wordstock team with Norman Mailer, April 2005

The Wordstock team with Norman Mailer, April 2005

Wordstock V, October 2009

Last year, 2009, I was asked by my dear friend to come back to Wordstock and help her run event management for the festival. This was my first time working the book fair and so many things were different since 2006: there’s a new executive director, new core volunteer staff, book fair structure, etc. I was nervous, as anyone would be, walking into something familiar yet still unknown. Plus since I lived in Seattle and would only be in Portland for the week of festival, I was essentially “arriving and driving” instead of being a part of the months and months of planning leading up to the event.


Chew On This: What is Authorship?

Yesterday morning a friend clued me in to this article from the great Laura Miller at Plagiarism: The next generation: A 17-year-old novelist defends herself in the latest copycat scandal. Are we just too old to understand?

Photo credit: bopuc

[cue Star Trek: The Next Generation theme song]

That’s right, kids, these are the voyages of an ever evolving enterprise known as artistic inspiration, authorship, taking creative license into your own hands, and, well, owning it. I come from the school of thought that every story has been told before and there are no new stories. I think this skepticism was instilled on me from my first creative writing professor (thanks, GVB) and it’s why I had a hard time appreciating “Avatar” as a stand alone-movie and not as a rehashing of “Pocahontas.”

In literature and in life, “you are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.” Everything that you have ever thought of, want to do, and will do has been done before. The difference is in the details―the how and the way you tell your story.

I believe that I have become the person I am in life because of the people I met along the way. If we have had a conversation or shared an idea or worked on a project together, chances are it left an impression on me. I have incorporated your influence into the make up of who I am and who I will become next. I believe that inspiration is everywhere and everyone has the opportunity to be my muse. At our core, we are all “intertextual.”


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