One of the most common lines I heard this summer in reference to the literary world was its hesitance to change. Understandably so: publishing revenue margins are diminishing with every poetic word you and I read online, yet some people cannot relinquish the sensation of a physical book. Online content is curated in order to keep up with the times, but books are printed in order to draw on a demographic of unknown proportions. This, to me, was a grand example of publishing’s paradox.
I spent the summer as a reader for The Paris Review as well as conducting informational interviews with publishers, agents, non-profit employees, and writers to learn more about the business aspect of books. New York City bustles with this enterprise, and yet I still felt a hesitance to stray from summer reading bestseller marketing or books that fit successful genres or subject areas. The sense of precedent is so strong in the industry that new books riff on old narrative successes.
At least, on the surface that’s the sense you get. Sitting down with people across the literary world helped me see that incremental changes are occurring from individual efforts. Publishers love reading uniquely, and they employ that to impassion children to read, to incorporate texts from Asia into our idea of a “classic,” or, as is my goal, to spread writing that considers illness from novel perspectives. Maybe you won’t see it at first, but soon your pages will be brimming with it. Because paradox is just a matter of perception.