By: Pete Peterson, The Rabbit Room
Whenever we release a book, it’s easy, addictive even, to get caught up in checking its sales rankings or its Amazon reviews. And while those are good measures and necessary data, I’ve learned over time that they aren’t as immediately important as they seem. Books take time.
A book isn’t an immediately consumable product. A new title might sit on the shelf for a day or a week before its owner even cracks it open. And it may be another week or a month before she’s turned the last page. But more than that, books are relational. They are a means by which people communicate with others and by which people gradually define themselves through the curated collections on their shelves. In some ways a good book is more like a family member than a mere construction of words and wood pulp.
So, because of that long-term relationship that a reader builds with a book, publishers and writers should approach the development of a new title and their expectation of it with that in mind. We are in it for the long haul and committed to helping each book find its way in the world, even if it has a troubled youth. We want it to find its people.
So, I think that once we begin to view publishing with an eye toward that long-term vision, it changes everything about how we approach the process. Will this book matter in 100 years? Will this typeface still be elegant in 2030? Can this cover artwork stand the test of time? Publishers and writers want to create books that people cherish, not just for their stories, but for their texture, their color pallettes, their typography, their weight. And ultimately all those tactile details should work in service to the words themselves to synthesize an experience for the reader that will last for hopefully a lifetime, or at least a long time.
So, let us pay attention to the numbers, yes, but also remind ourselves, that books need time to grow into themselves, to develop a readership. A good book will age well and gather its momentum over the course of years, maybe even decades, and we may not know its full purpose until we are long gone. That’s good and true and mysterious—and exactly as it should be. And it’s not something we can see in a couple of months of new-release sales data.