I was lucky enough to attend a publishing event in Europe recently, specifically in Paris, for a week, which means I also had time to eat, drink and tour to my heart’s content in addition to actually getting some work done. For now life is very good, and I can’t complain.
But something occurred to me while I was touring the Louvre. Here I was, in Paris, to discuss the future of the global publishing climate with some of the best in the biz and I was questioning the importance of what I do. I know it’s important to my clients, and it’s definitely important to our house’s bottom line, but in the big scheme of things, should the exposure of a book, or the fame achieved by an author, carry as much weight as it does?
But in all seriousness, it started because a colleague, a lovely Canadian woman I hooked up with after meetings one morning to do a little touring, made a comment while we were taking in all the sites at the Louvre. She said, “It’s amazing how much is in here, how many amazing works of art and artifacts, and I’m embarrassed to say the only ones I knew to look forward to were Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa.” After she said this I couldn’t help but see this same concept mirrored in the book world.
How many books and their authors can you name? How many that were published in the last 5 years? The last year? I’m sure it’s minimal, even for the bookiest of worms out there, when you consider the fact that there were over ten of millions books published last year.
So back to books and fame. I could execute a very successful campaign for one of my clients, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be on the discount shelf the following year. Fame is fleeting, is volatile, it’s if anything, totally unpredictable, so why do we put so much importance in it?
Let me ask you, the books and authors you could name, are they books you enjoyed? Or if you haven’t read them, are they titles that have been deemed “classics”? I’m willing to bet they fall into a combination of both categories. And I’m also willing to bet you enjoyed them, or know about them, not merely because they’re famous (they may not be famous at all), but because they’re good.
That’s right, when it really comes down to it, I want authors to realize it’s about the quality, not fame, not notoriety. If you can produce quality writing, you will be appreciated. Even if you only sell 3 books (I know, don’t have a heart attack), those three people will LOVE your book. It’s like all the art and artifacts in the Louvre, most are totally unknown to the majority of the population, but what they all have in common is that they’re respected for being special, for their quality. And that’s something to strive for.