New Year, Same You
on new beginnings, newsletters, and how to do the thing
I love the new year. It’s a time of fresh possibility, blank bullet journals, new plans unsullied by time, interference, and complication. The new year is a snowfall on an open field ready for fresh footprints and paths to show the way.
I’m choosing to make my first mark on that field with this newsletter and I wanted to take a moment and explain why.
This will be my fourteenth year of professional work in the books business. Mostly, this is what I got: Publishing is hard.
Publishing exists at the intersection of art and capitalism. An industry under threat from within through ever increasing industrialization, under attack from without by digital disruptors and people with more vision than understanding, and under pressure from the popularity of other, brighter, shinier media. But more than that, the very process of taking someone’s story and putting it up for sale, the process of marketing art, the packaging of experience, is fraught under the most ideal conditions.
This newsletter is an attempt to unpack some of that. To give an insider’s look at the process, the concerns, and the challenges we face every day in trying to get an artist’s work into the public’s hands. I hope some of it will be educational. I hope some of it will be practical. But mostly, I hope it’ll help people understand why we make the decisions we do and shorten the bridge between industry and creators.
This newsletter will be about my experiences. It’ll be about thoughts I have on various aspects of what agents do, how publishers work, what the editorial process looks like, why I obsess over covers, and so on. I’m also going to take the opportunity to dive into my thoughts on craft issues. I love editing and I have a lot of thoughts about structure, character, and voice that don’t really fit into twitter-sized segments.
I’m also charging money for this newsletter. Listen, I’m an agent. I believe people’s work and ideas have inherent value and one way to communicate that is to ask for money up front.
Also, friction in the transaction, to use start-up speak, means the audience will take this more seriously. And I’d like this to be a conversation. I want to hear your reactions to ideas I put out here. I want to hear questions and start a conversation that’s more advanced than your general 101 “how to write a query letter” session at a writer’s conference. I hope to do advice-column style segments where I can respond to your conundrums with thoughts and perspective.
A community begins with a boundary. In this case, a subscription fee. I’m asking for $5 a month which is as little money as this platform will let me charge. I’ll also put out the occasional free newsletter in addition to the stuff behind the paywall. So sign up even if you’re not sure you want to pay.
The new year is also a trap. I am suspicious of resolutions. It’s easy to make a commitment to a grand goal at the top of a blank calendar. It’s easy to feel crushed and discouraged when a week later, a month later, a year later you realize how much you let slip and fall by the wayside.
Instead of resolutions, I believe in practices. A practice is an ongoing project. If you miss a day, a week, a month, then you haven’t failed at your practice. You simply have more work to do. A practice always asks what can I do in this present moment to further my goal. A resolution is test. A practice is a way of living.
In 2019, I’m resolving to embrace a practice: to shorten the distance between thought and action.
Let’s all practice doing the thing. Whatever the thing may be for you.