Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Small Is Beautiful

When people ask how The Therapist’s New Clothes is doing, the answer I give is that the numbers are small but reactions are big. I don’t have a commercial publisher, with its industrial-scale marketing and distribution behind me. People learn about the book through encountering my work on the web, through word of mouth, through my telling them about it personally. Of course I want to kick this up, and plan to. But the way readers are responding to the book makes up for the (predictably) modest sales so far. Acquaintances who picked up the book on a whim call me to say “wow”. An editor I admire told me it's "quite a tour de force”. The book has been accused several times of keeping folks up late, since they couldn’t stop reading. One friend wrote, “If there's anyone who could write a page-turning memoir about psychotherapy, it's you.”

Every time I hear from a reader, friend or stranger, I feel that kind of warm satisfaction that only comes from personal connection. While I know this alone doesn’t mean “success” in a traditional sense—and that I do have larger ambitions for the book—I also know that this matters to me. In my writing on local economies, I have encountered Jane Jacobs’ ideas on how the small, social exchanges around the buying and selling of goods lend vitality and meaning to daily life in our cities and towns. As this post’s title suggests, I’m in touch with the work of the E.F. Schumacher Society, which challenges the all-too-American notion that bigger is always better. In most industries, including publishing, in order to stay viable one often feels pressure to focus on volume to the point where other goals and intents get lost. With books, for example, an author must make back the advance or risk losing the publisher’s interest. Under such terms, it’s hard not to watch the numbers. I’m wondering if there’s room for different views of writerly success than what we tend to rely on, one where meaning holds as much weight as profit. What do you think?Here, from the woods below our house, is an example of the industry of squirrels.

No comments:

Post a Comment