There has been a lot of chatter lately about whether or not books can survive in an economic downturn. Publishers are freezing acquisition budgets, bookstores are closing and authors are fretting more than usual about sales and shrinking media coverage. I had an author friend recently write to me and say that she was seriously considering another line of work, and I thought, What? Car sales? Banking? Teaching in the beleaguered public school system? No occupation is immune from the grim current economic realities.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I think that it’s a wonderful time to be a writer. I find that people appreciate, even more than normal, the chance to escape into a book. For $14 (I’m lucky to be writing trade paperbacks!) people have to opportunity to hold a mirror up to themselves, to stand for a moment in someone else’s shoes, to experience delight, solace, joy and the pleasures of a story that comes to a resolution the way real life seldom does – and they’re grateful for the chance. I get emails almost every day from people who say things like, “I loved your book,” “I stayed up until the wee hours reading,” “I had to fight my husband for it,” “Keep writing!” Perhaps all these readers have been channeling Deciderius Erasmus, who said, “When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.”
I have a friend who is working tirelessly to open a brand new independent bookstore in a town that has been without one for quite some time. She feels fierce about what she is doing, even though the numbers on her spreadsheets and the word on the street are daunting. “It’s not about the money, in the end,” she says, “It’s about building community.” I think she’s exactly right and exceptionally brave, and I am crossing my fingers that when her store opens, she is met by streams of eager customers.
Readers form a community that exists outside of the normal boundaries of time and space. We are connected to each other even if we never meet, and we thrive even when the world is embattled. These may not be good times for a lot of things, but they can be good times for books – and that is plenty of reason to cheer.
Guest contributor Jennie Nash is a novelist who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two teenage girls. The Only True Genius in the Family, which just came out, is her fifth book. Find out more at her website www.jennienash.com.
Jennifer is glad she plans to keep writing because she loved this book.