City Spotlight: Exploring Seattle's Book Ecosystem
“The thing that is unique about Seattle and Portland is the DIY [do it yourself] culture,” says Jenna Land Free. “People are much more open to self-publishing and excited about it. If they have any kind of network that they can tap into, they often prefer to do it that way.”
“It’s obvious to everyone that publishing is going through throes of massive consternation,” says Wayt Gibbs. “In that context, it’s an advantage to not have a big staff that’s been doing the same thing in the same way. The new model is smaller and more flexible about what’s possible. It allows you to be a lot more nimble to take advantage of new opportunities rather than fixating on the process.”
Nimble is a word that comes up over and over when talking about publishing. Publishers, writers and everyone in the literary community have had to think quickly and creatively to survive and thrive through the publishing industry’s massive transformation. And Seattle is nothing if not nimble. Perhaps it’s the blue-sky thinking of the tech space or the way the large DIY community excels at thinking around problems, but the community here is finding a way to collectively co-exist and be greater than the sum of its parts.
“There is a collective need to get work out there. There will always be small presses and publishers popping up,” says Richard Hugo House Program Director Brian McGuigan, who observes that the book ecosystem that Gary Luke pointed to is not retracting but simply going local. “Like eating local, it’s the same with the publishing world. Big houses are publishing more Fifty Shades of Grey, so we have to be more realistic about traditional publishing.” For many, it makes perfect sense to look within Seattle’s growing literary community instead to find homegrown, quality producers to feed the publishing pipeline. BB
Jennifer Worick is the former editorial director of Running Press Book Publishers and becker&mayer! She’s the New York Times-bestselling author of more than 25 books and is also a publishing consultant. Her publishing talks and workshops with Kerry Colburn can be found at bizofbooks.com.
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