I was in Washington, DC last week to see some clients and meet about a couple of projects. A couple of things occurred to me as I wandered the streets of the Capitol on a ridiculously gorgeous Thursday in late October, on one of the first clear-headed and not sleep-deprived days I’ve had since the summer ended and I’d gone from Jewish holidays to a bat mitzvah to, almost inexplicably, adopting a puppy (who is beautiful and one day will be a perfect child, but right now is a gorgeous brown menace).
The first thing I realized was just how portable my job is. I was out of the office but had spaced out my meetings in such a way that I was pretty much able to resemble my usual email protocol without needing to put up an Out of Office message. I have a Surface tablet, which might as well have been made for a literary agent or editor—it allows me to use Office in full, read portably, see my email (which is Google based, so therefore looks the same whether I’m in Chelsea or on Connecticut Ave) and edit manuscripts in a smaller and lighter package than even a laptop (and has a detachable keyboard—it’s outstanding…). I spent several hours a day in my hotel room, by myself, better able to concentrate because I had nothing (beyond the internet and, say, solitaire) to distract me (and the wifi was iffy, so even that went better than usual). I submitted manuscripts, held calls (I use my cellphone a lot anyway), and the change of venue did me a world of good. Not that it’s not good to be back to the kids, dog, and general chaos of NYC, but that was a nice breath.
The second thing that was pretty stark was the way we now think of ebooks. One of the meetings I was in dealt with a graphic novel. All of a sudden, one of the non book-people in the meeting said “Wait a minute, is there even going to BE an ebook of this?” “Of course,” I said. “Well, do we need to negotiate rates or anything?” “No, it’s done in the boilerplate.”
Nobody even needed to say more. And the interesting thing to me was that the conversation was, in point of fact, all about maximizing the print edition through product placement and general branding. It was incredibly old-school thinking—and for this project, it will clearly be the driving force of sales. Now, part of our conversation dealt with the fact that the book part was only one of four separate pieces of a multi-platform brand that will ultimately have digital games, at least two apps, and (if we can clear a bunch of hurdles) a television series. So lots of screens. But the book drove the bus.
So I guess what I took out of the trip is that while the digital world enables me to do my job better, more efficiently, and from anywhere, our industry is getting comfortable, at last (at last? It was pretty quick…but that’s another story) with the place of the digital world alongside the traditional one.
And then I got home and saw that Amazon is opening a traditional bookstore. And we’re off to the races…