One could reasonably argue there were TOO MANY publishers at the Bookfair when you think about the relatively small markets they cater to for literary fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, as well as the often myopic focus on a single magazine, ignoring or discounting other ways they could serve their community while ensuring a sustainable future. The relatively low barrier for entry into (and expectations of) literary publishing “let’s people wade in a little over their heads,” as Creative Nonfiction‘s Hattie Fletcher noted during the Literary Innovation session, and many publishers often find themselves living on the brink of insolvency, one time-consuming fundraising pitch away from failure.
For an allegedly liberal industry, publishers do a much better job of packaging and peddling the worst aspects of conservative punditry (along with celebrity memoirs and coloring books), while truth, history, and “diverse” perspectives and experiences are often dismissed as having limited commercial potential regardless of their cultural value. Many are sitting on a treasure trove of great content and access to a roster of truly creative people with timely and compelling insights and ideas that could literally change the world, but we’ll most likely just see a few anthologies cranked out to modest acclaim, with minimal marketing and zero cultural or financial impact.
I was excited to attend my first FOLIO: Show in ages, and after a slow start that included HTC'S awkward plea for VR content and some uninspired Facebook examples, things picked up with some great presentations from National Geographic, Harvard Business Review, The Foundry, and Revmade. While I didn't come across anything particularly new, there were some solid takeaways that I found helpful and heartening.
I had the privilege of being one of the fifty voices included in Molly's excellent feature at Brooklyn Magazine (the interview for which inspired my last post), and it's a must-read for everyone in publishing. It left me with mixed emotions, no less frustrated with the industry and still vaguely optimistic that real change is on the horizon. Maybe. Go read it and share it widely.
If you're white and work in publishing, the path to creating a more diverse industry that represents the real world is actually a lot clearer than it is for those who are underrepresented. You're the default; you have access and influence and the ability to drive change from the inside. And thankfully, I know many who are doing exactly that and I appreciate their efforts. But what about the rest of us? How can we help drive change in this industry we care so much about, despite it so often not caring all that much about us?