Ch. 8: Career paths in publishing
or How I came to work at Kickstarter
Last month, I was pleased to be invited to give a talk at the New School Publishing Institute, a weeklong introduction to the publishing industry led by John Oakes. In the wake of The Next Page, I’ve been thinking more about who gets access to information in publishing, so I have decided that as much as possible, if there’s interest, I’m going to start recording and sharing my talks.
At the New School, I gave a talk on how I got into publishing, the career path that led me to Kickstarter, how Kickstarter works for publishing, and specifically how I used it to fund and publish two books, and a few other thoughts about publishing. You can hear the talk here if I haven’t somehow botched the link.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my first Kickstarter project recently, which was to fund Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby, which I published almost exactly four years ago. It’s pretty unusual in book publishing to get to do a book exactly the way you want to, and be beholden only to yourself (and your readers!) for the choices you make. I’m incredibly proud of the work I did on that project, and I’ve been thrilled to see that the book seems to have become what I set out to make, which is the book I wished had existed when I first discovered roller derby.
I’m especially thinking about this since I got a chance to do an interview with Jennifer Harlan of The New York Times for a story about the past and present of the sport of roller derby. When I was writing Derby Life, I ended up doing a lot more research than I had intended to do on the history of the sport, since it was really fascinating to me.
I also did half a dozen interviews with the people who had reinvented roller derby in the early 2000s and Jerry Seltzer, the son of the man who invented the sport, and the guy who kept the whole thing going for decades after his father retired. Jerry passed away earlier this month. Aside from sadness for the passing of a brilliant, generous, and fascinating person, I have been feeling a lot of gratitude that I got a chance to learn from him, and build a real connection with the history of the sport.
Jerry Seltzer and me as Em Dash, my roller derby alter ego, at Rollercon 2015
Finally, one last piece of exciting news: I’ve signed with an agent! I’ll be working with Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary to represent my new work in progress, Don’t Steal This Book: Why Paying for Words is Radical and Necessary. [Edit: I ended my relationship with Dawn Frederick in summer 2020.] It’s an exploration of how money works in the publishing industry, and how that impacts who gets to write and whose voices are heard. The second part of the book includes solutions and suggestions for how readers, writers, publishers, and society can create a more diverse, vibrant, economically sustainable publishing industry.
If you happen to be an editor or publisher who’s desperate for a book like this on your list, well…talk to my agent! Otherwise, expect to hear a lot more on the subject in the coming months as I continue to research and write the book.