Why Publishing, Why Now

By the time I started attending classes at my local community college, I already knew I wanted to make a career out of books. Looking at the why, I can only say that books had become such a large and important part of my life, helping me to understand myself and this world, that the thought of working with manuscripts and authors on a daily basis was a dream come true. I read so much that I began to write, and after tutoring at my college’s Writing Center, I discovered a love for editing. I learned that the ability to look at a piece of writing objectively and provide the author with valuable feedback and criticism wasn’t something everyone could do, and I felt a sense of pride when students would come back with smiling faces and a good grade stamped on something I had helped them work on.

My father had always pushed for me to become a lawyer, and for a period of time, I heavily considered it. I’m a good writer; I enjoy debate and research. In the end, I chose to stick with book publishing. Law is something I could be good at and potentially make good money doing, but it can also be extremely stressful, time consuming, and unrewarding emotionally. After taking several creative writing workshops, I felt even more reassured that my decision to go into editing was the right one for me. I was finally able to apply my editing skills to creative writing, and I found that reading other’s work—even the pieces that were more difficult to get through—was stimulating.

There are many people and experts who believe that the book publishing industry will soon come to an end, or that so much change will occur that it will no longer resemble the industry that has existed for hundreds of years. Change is inevitable. Many readers will switch to tablets and e-readers, but there is still a place for print books. Personally, I can’t imagine buying an e-reader and think I’ll stick with print for the long haul. Staring at a screen for long periods of time hurts my eyes–and seriously, I’ve already been wearing glasses since middle school and risk getting ran down by oncoming traffic every time I step outside without them, so I’d rather not take the risk of growing even more blind. This switch will mostly affect the design and marketing side of books, however, as well as the business model of large publishing houses.

Editing, especially, will always be needed, even when design standards and the way in which we read undergo drastic changes. While computer programs and Internet services may allow someone with very little to no knowledge about publishing create an entire book on their own, there is no existing service that can provide the same feedback as an editor. Writers have enough trouble getting programs, like Microsoft Word, to correctly complete a spell check, let alone provide tips on how to improve a manuscript. Furthermore, these technological advances have created a surplus of titles for readers to sift through in order to find a book that interests them and is well written. My time is precious, and for this reason, many readers will continue to gravitate towards titles produced by publishing houses–they do the sifting for us.

– Melanie Figueroa

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Melanie Figueroa

Melanie is the Editor-in-Chief at The Poetics Project. She has a masters in writing and book publishing from Portland State University and a passion for stories in all their forms. Her favorite book is The Bell Jar. You can follow Melanie on Twitter or Instagram @wellmelsbells.

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