Friday, April 11, 2008

Inside Scoop: Why I Love What I Do

Meg McAllister, McAllister Rowan Communications Group, has an uplifting antidote to PW's A Day in the Life of a Book Publicist:

Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy what I do, and the joy I take in being a productive part of the publishing process and its ensuing marketing industry. My partner Darcie and I are known for our "straight-from-the-hip" assessments of the publishing industry and the business of marketing books, and thankfully people like Bella create sites like this where we can come together to share ideas, express concerns and...hopefully...enlighten one another from time to time.

Authors are VERY brave people! Just the act of putting words on a paper can be nerve-wracking, but then sending a book out there (like a mother sending her child off for the first day of school) into the big world to be savaged by agents, acquisition editors, publicists and media, should come with a Purple Heart. So why do you do it? Being somewhat jaded (but we hope terribly charming with it) marketers, Darcie and I have come to view authors as brands, and the books they write as tools in a larger plan/agenda.

But this week I was reminded in a big way that sometimes an author writes simply to tell a wonderful story, and in doing so share a part of themselves that impacts millions. If you don’t already know who Randy Pausch is, I urge you to learn, hear, and read more about him. A highly acclaimed professor from Carnegie Mellon, Randy is making news daily, not for his academic accolades, or his vast knowledge in the computer science field, but because he’s dying.

A relatively young (at 46 just a year older than I), vibrant, father of three, Randy has an aggressive and terminal case of pancreatic cancer. In September 2007 he was told that he would have a relatively short time left to live. Faced with a diagnosis that would send most of us into a flood of tears and a tub of Hagen Daaz, Randy instead agreed to take part in an academic tradition known as “The Last Lecture”. The premise of The Last Lecture is what insights and messages would we share with the world, if we knew this would be our last opportunity to do so. Randy addressed a standing room only crowd at Carnegie Mellon and talked not about achieving greatness, but about realizing childhood dreams; not about dealing with mortality, but living each day with renewed wonder and joy; and most importantly, not about achieving personal success, but helping others achieve theirs.

If you haven’t seen the lecture Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, I implore you to invest the 76-½ minutes to do so, because it could change your life. Also please consider reading THE LAST LECTURE, which expands on Randy’s story, the lecture, and the impact it’s had on people throughout the world .

Randy’s lecture reminded me why I do what I do for a living. I want to promote books (though alas I am not promoting his) that have a meaning and a purpose that transcends Amazon rankings, bestseller lists, and units sold. I want to open the door to ideas and discussion. And I guess in my own way, I want to achieve success by helping others realize their goals.

So the point of my story is this: When you think about why you want to publish, why you want to promote, start by asking yourself why you write, and what it is you’re hoping your reader will really gain from reading your book. And when you have those moments where you’re bogged down with writer's block and insecurities, or when you’re that jaded (did I remember to mention charming?) publicist dealing with stress and media rejection, or when you’re that beloved publishing consultant dealing with everyone else’s hysteria while courageously dealing with her own issues and demons, perhaps Randy’s signature phrase will offer some inspiration: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

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