“I’m really very literary. I’ll sit down and read a whole magazine, cover to cover.”
Sarah Jessica Parker just announced the first book she will publish for her SJP for Hogarth imprint. This is not the first time a celebrity has gotten her own publishing imprint. Lena Dunham’s launched last year, and a quick search reveals Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnny Depp, and Oprah Winfrey all have their own imprints. I’d read about Derek Jeter’s around the time he retired, and am not surprised to see Anthony Bourdain has one as well. There’s lots of commentary out there about how boutique publishing is now just part of a celebrity brand. You prove yourself to be a tastemaker and a thought leader.
I am still wanting to see the day Jessa Crispin gets her own imprint. It doesn’t seem like something that would interest her, but I’ve always imagined her somehow infiltrating the system, planting herself in a corner office with a bottomless budget, and publishing really weird shit while drinking whiskey and smoking a cigar with her heels up on the desk.
That’s not really what sells books, I guess, and the publishing industry as I always imagined it doesn’t exist anymore. The story goes, it was a gentleman’s game that permitted women to while away some time until they got married, everybody enjoying three-martini lunches until Amazon came along and spoiled all the fun. I don’t know for sure; I wasn’t there, and I’ll never get the chance to find out.
Still, we got books out of the deal. The business of books has always baffled me. A mentor-type who has had a long career in finance asked me about work the other day, so I babbled on a bit about ebooks and sales and not knowing how to price anything and then he commented, “It’s fascinating to follow a market, isn’t it?” That comment cracked open something in my head. Books are a market, like any other. Volatile, subject to whims, and vulnerable to outside influences. It’s art, yes, and I’ve always known that, but even fine art has a market.
Exploring the intersection between the two is what took me to grad school. The program was a masters in literature and publishing, for heaven’s sake. Literature and publishing. Art and commerce. Does what it says on the tin.
Four years later and I’m still sitting here, twiddling my thumbs because I’m just NOT SURE. I still don’t know what all this means. It’s my writing style to a T: do a bunch of reading and research and throw a few interviews into the mix but never get to the bloody point. If I were to take a step back and apply the lessons I’ve learned in journalism, the obvious question to attack would be “How does one get rich through books?”