(a hands-on practical guide to saving the publishing industry by yourself)
(from the US National Archives)
Sometimes we get sort-of disgruntled calls or e-mails from people who are frustrated to find that publishing does not seem to be going down any sort of tube anytime soon, and they therefore cannot single-handedly save us with the power of their minds.
To them, and all of the rest of you whose minds may be filled with the burning desire to do something, we offer some avenues to explore.
This is kind of the #1 thing; if you're concerned about the possibility of no more books ever being published again, you should try to buy some books once in a while. Have a bookshelf in your house. Put books on it as well as decorative statuary. When you fill it up, buy another.
Embrace the philosophy of books as gifts — in perusing the shelves of your local chain or independent bookstore or the tubes of the internet, you should be able to find a book that is fun or silly or serious or very strange and therefore perfect for the person you need a gift for.
You may not want to buy every single book you're curious about — maybe you don't have the room in your house or the space in your budget. You know what's great for that? Libraries! They are everywhere, and full of books. You can ask the librarians about books they'd recommend for you, and request that they special-order books for you, either through inter-library loans or just buying them outright. Those librarians! So helpful.
If you are super-excited about your local library (as everyone should be!), there are ways you can level up in supporting it. Take a moment to check in with your local librarian about things like book drives, summer reading programs, tutoring, and other outreach they can do. Most libraries are glad to have competant and enthusiastic help in their mission of getting books into peoples' hands.
Consider talking about books sometimes. You know the #1 thing that convinces me I should read a new book? When someone I know tells me I should. So — if you've read a book and you're excited about it or interested or have something to say, find someone and tell them about it.
Pro Tip: you may do this 'talking about books' thing in person or online on book-related communities like GoodReads or LibraryThing. Try it sometime.
Pro Tip 2: conversation about books (depending on the book, but still, 99% of the time) makes for completely unobjectionable verbiage when in unfamiliar social situations; at the water cooler at work, when meeting new people, at parties, navigating family dynamics, and talking to small children. All of those people may be interested in books! Try out some conversation with them; if you get blank stares, fear not! You can always change the subject to octopi or data processing.
Ask People What You Can Do.
This is a bit of a complicated one, because people only think of it infrequently. So: it turns out that there are many things that go on in the world that you may be completely unaware of, even if they are in your home town or state! Crazy, right? But: if you are on fire to do things, try asking people if there are things that are already going on that you could be a part of — or things that should be going on that you could make happen.
Good people to ask include: friends, teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors, small children, museums, event spaces, and (sometimes) the internet.
Do Nice Things.
Do you already buy books and volunteer at your library and help out with your local book festival and do literacy outreach and your conversation is at least 50% composed of book-related objects? We advise you to consider your life's balance and possibly take up a low-maintenance hobby like white-water kayaking. (Though we understand that if you are at all connected with the publishing industry, re-balancing your life thusly may be less-than-feasible.)
But! If you are still on-fire to help out with the cause of books, take a step back and think about what you read. Is there an author whose works you particularly appreciate? A publisher who you think does a great job with the books they put out? Is there an illustrator whose work just blows your mind every time you see their new picture book or graphic novel? Is there a book that changed your life?
Take the time to sit down and write those book-makers a letter. Then send it to them.
It'll make their day.