Back from the Consortium Books sales conference in New York, and I’m so full up of new information that I feel like if you press the center of my skull, it’ll all come spurting out my pores. I sat in on most of the publisher presentations–what’s coming up, how they think the sales reps can sell it, what their hopes are for the books–and, let me tell you, the mind reels at the sheer capacity of those reps, who sit there taking it all in, and who still look honestly as enthusiastic at the last presentation as they did to the first. More maybe–mine was the second, since I’m the newbie. I thought it would be a doddle; I mean how many other panels have I sat through? How many presentations of various kinds? But the minute I got up there, and looked out at the hotel conference room, and saw them all sitting there–thirty or so serious faces all looking up at me and saying, “Well, we want to sell your books, are you going to help us here?” and my legs and my voice went all wobbly and never recovered. But I’ll tell you something about where I’ve landed with Consortium. This is not your gladiatorial combat. The people here all want the same thing, and it’s all idea based; it’s all BOOK based. Everyone’s got to make a living, sure, but that’s not where the real interest lies. So imagine my relief getting down off that dais, and being met by kind expressions and voices, all saying reassuring things about selling my books.
They said reassuring things too, to my even greater surprise, at a couple of meetings with Publishers Weekly. What they said was that there was some feeling around the place that small publishers, with a stubborn vision, and a pruned list, may be the future of publishing. Of course I liked that. Seeing as how, as Mike and I continually say to each other (with some hilarity) that we here at EAP are ‘modest, yet grandiose’. That was the mandate I gave Mike in designing our catalog. ‘Modest, yet grandiose’. And, by God, he stepped up to the design plate. (If you want a copy of the ‘modest, yet grandiose’ Exterminating Angel Press Very First Season’s Catalog, just email firstname.lastname@example.org, with your address, and we’ll send one along.)
More hilarity, too. After the four days spent zipping ’round New York, from place to place, like a very well behaved bee–Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, a truly crackerjack young publicist named Lauren Cerand who has a mean brain under that purple beret, lunch with my press rep, digital resources presentation, Consortium publishers meeting, presentations, cocktail party, and so on–had one very nice break, a dinner alone at Grand Central Oyster Bar, where I got into a mild and entertaining argument about the relative merits of West Coast and East Coast oysters with the banker sitting on my left at the counter, resulting in his buying extra oysters and insisting I have some…then on his remarking that I was a “really good feeder.” (Despite his propaganda, West Coast oysters remain supreme.) After it all, I kind of slid over to New Jersey, utterly wrung, to spend an evening with a friend there before getting a 6 am flight from Newark next morning. And sitting in the garden, I gave a little summary of what at gone on (at request). My friend’s husband said, “It doesn’t sound like a very profitable business.” “No,” I said. “Maybe 3% a year, if you’re canny.” He looked at me with astonishment (his wife’s friends never cease to astound him with their eccentricities, but he, being a kind man, usually can hide this. not this time, though.), and said, “Why are you working at a 3% a year business?” I just grinned at that one and didn’t answer. “Just because you like it?” he said.
“Just because I like it,” I said.
And I do like it. Thinking back, through the jetlag, over the last few days, I think about seeing the books everywhere, and hearing about lovely books being brought forward and launched by a wide variety of brave, smart, and funny people. And I think about how not one person gave me any bullshit about themselves; this is a pretty good average, considering I talked to so many people my voice just about gave out. (Actually, it did literally give out when I insisted on introducing myself to the goddess Amy Goodman; I started on a coughing fit that ended THAT conversation fast, and told me it was about time to go home.) And I think about how this is what motors the culture, THIS, not the immodest but grandiose stuff that claims to. This. Because what motors anything is the small, determined, quietly humming bit, not the loud, large, flashy, publicized bit. Every day life is what forms us; not all those heroics that sell so many cars and computers. And these books are every day life, in the finest possible way.
So I do like it.
(Don’t forget, if you want a copy of that catalog, I’ve presently got two thousand of them, give or take a few dozen, in boxes on my office floor; I’ll be happy to send you one.)