Another week, another round of authors and agents and publishing type people telling the world that everything is bad. Our future is doomed because children aren’t reading the right books. Self-publishing is ruining our culture. And anyone who doesn’t have a degree in something that someone else deems important should probably just shut up.
Oh, for heaven’s sake, everyone.
Am I generalizing? Yes. These are a random sample of headlines pulled off The Passive Voice (who also posts good stuff, I’m just talking about the negative to make a point.) This is an almost constant refrain in Book World.
Can we stop? Can we just stop now? All of the writers, traditionally published or self-published. All of the agents. The publishers. The editors and talking heads. The bloggers and journalists.
Dear Book People, can we stop arguing about SHIT THAT DOES NOT MATTER?
The market is going to do what it’s going to do. I don’t control it. You don’t either. Know who else doesn’t? Publishers. Distributors. Book stores.
Know who does control the market? Readers.
So let’s talk about readers. Because the really big thing we often forget is that, beyond all the hand-wringing, I imagine we all got into this business because we really love books! So there should be one thing we can all agree on.
It’s a vitally important part of our emotional, intellectual, and cultural development. It matters. To the individual. To the greater world. The act of reading matters. And the promotion of reading, particularly for children, is one of the single greatest causes we can support.
Everyone. Every single one of us should be focused on this.
Because I was a child who read voraciously, I was never bored. I was never lonely. I was never the only kid like me. I could travel anyplace. I could be the hero of the story. I could be brave. I could be afraid, too.
I learned empathy for those who were different than myself. I explored placed that only existed in my imagination. I flew with dragons. I fought with swords.
I won. I lost. I learned.
I learned who I could be if I dreamed. That what I imagined could be made real, if only in my mind. I learned that ordinary could become extraordinary. And maybe “ordinary” didn’t really exist in the first place. Because everyone has a story, whether it’s told or not.
And finally, I learned that maybe it was my job to tell the stories that would touch another person who loved to read. I was one child, but I was every child who reads.
That’s why reading matters.
Because there are a lot of people who don’t have that. They don’t have that much-needed escape. They don’t have that eye-opening relationship with the written word. They don’t have connection with something simultaneously greater than themselves and achingly personal.
If we really care about the book business, then we need to start focusing on that. We need to start focusing on how to make MORE READERS in a world inundated by information. There are videos and games and interactive everything you can imagine. The world of our minds is changing. Stretching. And this should create opportunity. But reading culture as a whole will not grow if we keep fighting about the right or wrong way to do it. This should be a cause greater than petty squabbles.
You want to expand your market?
Make more people fall in love with reading. And let them access it however works best for them. Paperback. E-Book. Audiobook. Web serial. Formats and avenues that haven’t even been imagined yet! Let them get it at libraries. Bookstores. Corner stores. Online stores. Facilitate it. Feed it. Let it run wild and see what happens.
We have no idea what the possibilities are. I want to find out. We should all want to find out. All of us. All the book people. The readers and bloggers and writers and publishers and agents and journalists.
Make people fall in love with reading. Reading matters.