Words versus numbers. Books versus the bottom line.

I realised yesterday that Justin Bieber is now helping to inspire me to start up my career.

This statement is, arguably, made even more hilarious by the fact that my chosen career is books. (Yes. Books. I can’t rightly call it anything else, as I want to do everything pertaining to books — I want to write them, I want to read them, I want to review them, I want to design them, I want to hand-bind them, I want to edit them, I want to collect them, I want to sell them. The term “author” isn’t nearly a big enough umbrella for me.)

And so, I decided, relatively recently, that I want to go the indie publishing route. If you note my Laundry List of Booksluttery above, I’m sure you’ll understand why: Going indie is the only thing that would afford me the opportunity and control to do everything that I love. And while I’ve always wanted to be an author, I want it so badly that I want to take it one step farther. (Or perhaps more like twelve steps, but I suppose the point still stands.)

Still, though, I would be lying if I said that was all there was to my decision.

To pay the bills in the interim, I currently work in a large branch of a large chain bookstore in a large city. And the job has reaffirmed two things for me: My boundless love for books, and my complete lack of patience with the publishing industry proper.

I love words, not numbers. I am not in this because I only care about the bottom line.

And while I love what I do, I hate feeling as though I am enslaving myself to people who don’t.

Which brings us back to Justin Bieber.

I understand that bookstores are having to work harder and harder to make ends meet, that the business and demand just aren’t what they used to be. I know that a little too well.

But I can personally guarantee you that putting up big displays of things such as Bieber-swag (complete with gigantic plastic purple sunglasses for sale!) is not going to rekindle the general public’s interest in buying books. Maybe it will help to keep the stores afloat, but it won’t help to keep them bookstores.

Words versus numbers. Books versus the bottom line.

I’ll take my chances and go the indie route. At least that way I know I am responsible for my own success or failure — it’s the integrity of my work that’s in question, not the integrity of an industry at large.

And maybe that is, ultimately, what publishing needs. People who love what they do, and who are allowed to love what they do. Start with that, that sort of honest untainted enthusiasm and drive to succeed, and readership will follow. And careers will follow readerships, and money will follow careers.

The equation doesn’t work quite so well backwards.

So thanks, Justin Bieber, for that little reminder that I am personally on the right path. Your epically purple accessories don’t belong in chain bookstores, but then again, neither do I. :)


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