Greenwich Book Festival Part 1
Yesterday I went to the Greenwich Book Festival, a two-day series of talks and readings in the Old Royal Naval College. I’m always a bit uncomfortable at these things, as I am anywhere where people are rhapsodizing about anything in particular. There is just so much in the world to love, and hate, that spending two days on anything seems a bit tunnel-visioned. I do love books, however, so I tried to ignore my misgivings.
The first talk I went to was about small independent presses and how they are in a ‘silver age’ and it struck me more completely than it has before how little control we have over what we read. I fully believe in the power of books to change our minds, our thinking, our lives. They develop empathy and push our experiences out of the immediate here and now and into an entire range of possibilities, and impossibilities. Through books I have met 19th century blacksmiths and 21st century zombies, Russian widows and Indian musicians, hermits and politicians and brain surgeons. I have been there while people fall in and out of love, have children and lose children, forget themselves and journey through self-discovery. There is an incomprehensible magic in being allowed into all these lives.
And yet, how many people have we been denied because a business model doesn’t think their story will sell? The three owners of independent presses spoke about how they do what they do for the love of literature, while large publishers have enormous overheads to cover and as such, can only publish commercially viable fiction. And yet they were saying that they personally choose what their press publishes. The ten books they release a year is entirely in their hands and dependent on their taste, and while there are many of these small presses there is no way they can cover all the good fiction that’s around.
So while they were busy bemoaning the evils of Amazon, I was thinking thank god we have another option now. Thank god I could release Andie and Caroline into the world because it is where I think they belong, and not because they will make anyone mountains of money.
Now I must try to navigate the self-publishing waters to try to find these mysterious characters whose lives might have been dismissed by people in The Business but who I, nevertheless, want to meet.