The Human Side of the Publishing Industry

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Community

Last week, I was inspired. Truly inspired.

After several days of chaos and anxiety–worrying about and tracking down friends, family and colleagues–I finally ventured out into New York City to attend the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar. By some miracle, the hotel hosting the conference still had power (the blackout area started just a few blocks south). Despite many agents and attendees being unable to make it because of the storm, the conference was going forward.

Even though attendance was small, this was perhaps the most inspiring conference I have ever been to, and at this point in my career I’ve been to many. I’ve seen writers and industry professionals rally and pull together at these events before, but nothing compares to last week.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how the end of publishing is nigh. Bookpocalypse, I call it. Will mergers make it impossible for writers to get book deals? Will the rise of self-publishing make agents and publishers obsolete? Will eBooks kill paper books? Will people stop reading forever? It feels like everyone in the book world is up in arms because publishing-as-we-know-it is on the brink of destruction.

Guess what: it’s not. At the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar, I saw evidence of this first-hand.

The publishing industry might be a business, but like any business it’s made up of people. As long as as these people work together and help each other, this industry will continue strong. I have a lot of hope for the book world, not because of the business itself but because of the people. And book people have a lot of heart.

Last week I saw agents who weren’t scheduled for sessions jump in and cover for others those who couldn’t make the conference. I saw writers encourage and support one another–no competitive attitudes there–and I saw them roll with the punches when things didn’t go as expected. I met industry professionals who biked in from areas of the city without power, writers from other continents who traveled for days to get there, and conference organizers who left home and family behind to run the event because they refused let people down.

We’ve heard many incredible stories surrounding the storm, and in no way do I mean to downplay the heroism of the first responders and volunteers who have helped so many get through this difficult week. But it’s easy to overlook the small acts of heroism, the moments of humanity and those everyday kindnesses that may not make a difference on a large scale but will mean the world to one person.

We hear about how publishing is full of rejection and disappointment, but this conference only reaffirmed why I love this industry and why I love my job. Events like this conference make me proud to be part of the book world and I am honored to have book people as colleagues and friends.

Writers, readers, agents and publishers: this week you are my heroes.

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