An Open Letter to New York Publishing

Downtown New York

Downtown New York (Photo credit: sreevishnu)

Dear New York,

I love you.

When I went to the city for a conference this year and came face-to-face with agents and editors for the first time, it made me tear up. I stumbled upon Random House whilst walking around the city, saw the lobby lined with books from floor to ceiling. I wanted to go in. I wanted to walk in and just stand for a minute. Traditional publishers have made so many books possible. They’ve made dreams come true for many, many people.

I’ve been a writer since I could hold a pen. It’s been my dream to see my book on a shelf. To feel the spine, the covers, to feel the pages flip in my hands. It’s been my dream to work toward that result with others who love books and stories. I know I’m not alone, but in this rapidly changing era of publishing, it feels just a bit lonely.

By now you should know the deal. You’ve seen Amazon’s profit margins; I know you have. You know that writers are flocking to e-publishing in droves, their stories trailing behind them. Some of those are books you could have put on the shelves, but chose not to for many reasons. They might have even been the right reasons — in some cases I’m sure that’s true. Do you believe the future lies on a Kindle or a Nook, written in 1s and 0s? I’m asking you that, New York. Do you?

I want to know what you say. If you believe that’s true, tell me so I can get out the wrecking ball, demolish the construction of my dream and prime the foundation to build anew.

But I have a suspicion that you don’t believe that is the future. Or that you don’t want it to be. What I have to say to you is this: the future is not built on a road to inevitability. It is what you want it to be. It is what you strive and sweat to make it. And if you want that future to be built with you in it, writers like me need you to start laying bricks.

I believe competition is hearty and healthy. I believe readers should have choices of how to get their stories. They might want to read them on paper or on a phone, on an e-reader or on a computer screen. They might want to listen to them. They should have those choices. The last few — those are easy. Anyone can make those things possible, and there is a beauty in that.

But you. You are still New York. You still produce most of the printed books in the world. You are still relevant if you want to be. I want you to be. I love printed books. I love the weight of them; I love being able to flip to a part I remember. I love having those favorite parts marked on a spine worn from so many readings. There is poetry and beauty in that, too.

You must innovate.

You must.

You will need to make sacrifices. You will have to trim some fat. You will have to reinvent the way you find your authors and how you reward them for their work. You will have to do those things because you need to compete — because we need you to compete. Fight. Stay relevant. I may feel alone, but I’m not alone. For every die-hard indie published author out there, there is someone like me. I still have the dream of bindings and pages. I know I’m not the only one.

Writers like me need you. I’m willing to query my heart out until I find the right agent. I’m willing to work and write and rewrite and rewrite and write some more until I have an excellent, salable product. I’m willing to commit to you, New York. I already told you I love you.

There is a growing unease among writers like me. We fear being ostracized by our fellow writers who gladly e-publish, but most of all we fear that you will get a knockout punch to the nose from Amazon. The only way that will happen is if you stand still. You need to move. You need to put on your gloves. You need to fight for writers, because frankly, right now Amazon offers us a lot more, a lot easier, and with more perceived opportunity.

If you’re still finding the best stories, you will remain competitive. If you are willing to take some chances and show that you are committed to the evolution of stories, you will remain competitive. If you are willing to innovate your turnaround time and get books on shelves faster and more efficiently, you will remain competitive. If you are willing to show just how well you will treat your writers, writers will flock back to you. Show us an industry built on a love of books. Show us an industry that loves writers and agents and editors and designers and all of the people who make books possible. Don’t just show us. Show the world. Show Amazon.

Because you have something Amazon does not and cannot have.

You love books. You breathe books. Every day is about making books happen. About finding new stories and new information to put on shelves. Your entire business from top to bottom is built on a foundation of books.

That can only help you.

I love you, New York.

Don’t fail me.




About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on February 22, 2012, in Writer's Digest Conference 2012, writing business, writing process and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Love your spirit, Emmie, and I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  2. Author Kristen Lamb

    Love this. It’s funny how we think alike. As I was writing today’s post about Amazon, it felt like a love letter to NY to fight back. I almost deleted and put in the form of a letter, but I am glad I didn’t because you did it and it…is…AWESOME!

    • Thanks, Kristen! And a heap big THANK YOU for writing what you did today as well!

      I read your post too, and one by Nikki McCormack — and I reeeeally needed to get it out.

      Traditional publishing is still my dream. Maybe if enough of us put a fire under their arses, they’ll find a way not to pull a music industry.

  3. Amazing post! I have the same dream. There must be a way to realize that dream.

    Are you listening New York? We aren’t against you. We need you and if you listen, we can help you keep this alive.

    Emmie, you are awesome. 🙂

  4. Trish Loye Elliott

    Great post, Emmie. I’m with you. I have the same dream and the same fears. So glad you wrote this!

  5. I really cannot agree with you more. I’m almost scared about the future of storytelling, and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. New York is a wonderful city – so wonderful, in fact, that I want to live there – but I really hope the big publishing companies there step up to the plate and show the world just how important they really are. You’re a fabulous writer, by the way, and I’m quite pleased that I found you =)

    • Thank you for stopping by, and for your comment!

      I hope they do as well. I meant what I said about them having something that Amazon can’t even grasp at — to see that fall by the wayside would be a tragedy.

  6. A tragedy indeed. Now let’s flood with this letter and Kristen’s and Nikki’s and send them throughout the cyber universe in the hope somebody somewhere somehow does something.

    • I tweeted this post directly at the Big Six (minus Macmillan because they have no Twitter). *Gnashes teeth and bites nails.*

      If you want to retweet it at them, go to my Twitter profile. Maybe someone will see it.

  7. This was great. I was expecting another bash-fest of the Old Guard, but you won me over.

  8. I love this, Emmie. I wish I were a publisher because this kind of passion would put a little (big!) fire under me to get it together and move forward without moving out of the way. I read by Kindle 80% of the time but still prefer cuddling up with a paper book for all the reasons you mention. Beyond sharing this and other similar pieces with the publishers, I wish I knew what we could do to bring publishing into another heyday where great storytelling, great writing is a gift to the readers. Any ideas? You seem to be thinking about it an awful lot.

    • I think the biggest key will be for writers to NOT polarize behind print vs. e-books. I’ve been seeing a lot of that lately, and it disturbs me. I don’t like the name calling (Luddites, etc.), and I think that the only way to usher in a new heyday will be for people to work together for the love of books and stories.

  9. I hope they’re listening, Emmie. I surely do.

  10. I love your fire and passion, and I believe your dream will definitely come true. Of course, I am there to support you and be there for you to help in any way imaginable.

  11. Well said, Emmie. I can only imagine what your letter to Santa looks like.

  12. Reblogged this on Patricia Caviglia and commented:
    Emmie Mears summed up the hopes and fears of many current writers with an open letter to New York publishers. It is beautiful, moving and to the point. I had to reblog it.

  13. Sorry I’m just getting around to commenting but this is a great letter. Although, I’m going in a different direction and it wasn’t an easy decision, I can see all sides. I hope for all readers (and writers), there’s a way for all facets of the publishing world (traditional and indie) to co-exist. All the best to you!

  14. IMHO, you’re barking up the wrong tree here. I get the sentiment, and I sympathize. But this industry change has nothing to do with sentiment and cannot be influenced by it.

    New York publishing may love books, but New York publishing is owned by huge conglomerates who love nothing but money. Those conglomerations will always seek the maximum ROI, which is why paper publishing is in the state it’s in. Not to mention the much larger technological, economic, and sociological forces that are at work here.

    Not that I think paper is going to disappear. Just continue to wane while ebooks wax. New York publishing will (already is, in fact) survive by making the shift to digital, just like everyone else. I think everything you asked for will happen–will have to–among those New York publishers that survive. The only way to compete with Amazon is to become like Amazon.

    Most importantly, New York has to stop being New York. Geographic fetishizing and the enormous overhead involved therein are an albatross around the big publisher’s necks. In this connected age, physical location is unimportant; paying a premium for it is ludicrous. No offense to New York; I’m not bashing the city, just the rents on office space.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how people read, as long as they do read. Storytelling isn’t going anywhere, and might be in the best shape it has been in in a long, long while.

    Best of luck with your own writing, as well as that of your readers. I’m sure your hard work and passion will pay off, regardless of the container you ultimately package your work in.

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