In a short blurb? We talk books.
As I am writing this post, I am on a bus full of thirty young book industry peers from publishing companies all around New York City — from the Big Five to the smallest academic presses. We’ve just left a two-day Book Industry Guild of New York trip to a paper mill, a digital printing press, and an off-set printing press, and just like my trip to Coral a few months ago, I was pleased yet again to see the other side of the book production process, to see the paper orders so casually typed out on our end get translated into the manual and mechanical labor of combining special formulas of different pulps of wood, chemicals, dyes, and water, heating them up, drying them out, joining the fiber, straightening them out, spinning them around, trimming them off, until we get the paper our books will be printed on. So interesting to see the PDFs I upload to the printer with the click of a button get translated into sheets of magnetic stamps that then pick up the inks we choose, get folded and gathered and glued or sown, then trimmed, bound with a cover, fitted with a jacket, and stacked, ready to be shipped to your homes and our warehouses.
I can hardly believe It’s been nearly a year since I’ve started working full-time in trade book publishing. I get restless easily, and I can’t lie — I was fully prepared for this trip, in which I’d be staring at sheets of paper for hours, to bore me straight out of book production and into the arms of a shiny new field. I expected these hours spent alone in a hotel room to give me time to evaluate my choices and I damn-near set myself up mentally to have one of my infamous change-of-life-path epiphanies where I’d realize that it was time to move on.
But the trip did just the opposite.
I truly had one of those end-of-How-The-Grinch-Stole-Christmas-moments, where I looked around at the smiling faces of these production folk (and other new-to-the-industry professionals) after spending 6 hours at the local bar talking about everything from the nature of our jobs and the companies we work for, to the shows we love to hate and the time we got arrested for… and the space in my heart for this job and this industry grew three sizes that night. What I tend to forget, after alternating stressful 10-hour days and so-bored-so-restless stretches of time, after alternating “been-there-done-that” moments and moments where I feel like I have to accomplish the impossible, after I’ve gotten used to seeing celebrity authors and working on million-dollar books, after the complaints have laid seeds of frustration in my mind — I tend to forget that I love this industry. I love helping make books happen, I love being in an office with hundreds of people who are, for the most part, so much like me, it’s hilarious. I love that I’m in the middle of an intense time of change for the way we create and experience books, that we get to come together across departments and imprints and companies and industries to brainstorm how to shape and adapt to this transition. I love the free books and the free booze and being surrounded by people who love what they do, who are lighthearted about their jobs because, well, books are not life-or-death situations, but are serious about their work because they truly believe in the final product of their efforts.
And maybe the Book Industry Guild just softened me up with free cookies and $3 beers. Or maybe the two days off really did put things in perspective for me — just not in the way I anticipated.
In any case, I still do want to evolve. I want to expand my skills, and broaden my horizons. I see my career as an ever-changing story [way more fitting for an app then a printed book 😉 ], but at least for now, one year into the field, I have faith that I will find that expansion right here. One year into the field, and I’m still proud to call the book industry my home.
That’s pretty impressive for me, guys.
Well, now that we’re finally re-entering New York City (and I didn’t even mention that I love New York City, the publishing hub of the U.S.), it is time to sign off to grab more free booze (office pool tournament!) and prep for a very important lunch tomorrow (department cupcake challenge!). Again, these bonuses are not the reason I love this industry… but they certainly don’t hurt its case.
Happy (working?) everyone!