From the Annals of the Stone Street Press: the ABA, now BookExpo.


I started The Stone Street Press in 1980 –with nothing but the desire to start The Stone Street Press. A desire both unformed and uninformed. In other words, a pure desire.
(I like to mention this “lack of resource” because I have learned over those almost thirty years that there are many people who would like to have their own small press, & would like to know how to get started. If you are one such, do e-write to me; I will answer; will try to point you in the right direction.
Now, more than ever, there is a need for more small presses. And now, more than ever –or, perhaps more accurately, less than ever, it is harder to survive.)

In those almost 30 years I have been immersed in making books and publishing books, and I have observed the world-wide world of books from the vantage point of being a very small small press, and have seen close-up the evolution of books and publishing.

One important aspect of making progress in publishing, has been to find ways of letting booksellers, large and small, chain and unchained (independent), see your books and order them from you.
Very soon after I began, I started to show my wares at various local book fairs, and had an encouraging response. Then the owner of one of the book stores that sold my books told me about the Big Book Trade Fair, the ABA –now called Book Expo– run by the American Booksellers Association.
At the ABA one set up one’s booth –along with all the big book publishers and many of the small ones– and over 3 or 4 days sat in the booth and talked to book sellers from all over not only the country but the world. It was not inexpensive to do, but I quickly came to see that it was worth it. Some of the attenders were old established publishers and book sellers –book businesses that had been around since the birth of the nation. And some were very new indeed, at the very “cutting edge” –changing and transforming the world of books. Some for the better, and some…perhaps for the less so.

All sorts of book people came. But essentially of course there are only two kinds of book people –the writer and the reader

There were many writers who came, some wellknown, some not yet wellknown, some who might never become known. Which of course did not necessarily mean that they “could not write”.
Amongst the writers were some who qualified for the problematical category of “Celebrity Author” and of among these also were the ones who could write, and those who still had some way to go.
Some of these “Celebrity Authors” were real people as well as being real book people, unimpressed with themselves –or if they were, did not make that an issue: they stood out by their casual accessibility. Stephen King was one good example of this — one year I saw him on stage at one of our parties in the evening, playing bass guitar with the book-band, “Rock Bottom Remainders”. (Bruce Springsteen advised them “Don’t get any better. Otherwise you’ll just be another lousy rock band.”)

And at the ABA there was one more category, without whom there simply would be no book publishing and no book business. I of course refer to the book-reader and the book-lover.
Oddly enough –and perhaps even tellingly– the ABA as a trade fair did not admit the reading public, who had to employ various forms of ingenuity to get in.

I say that there are only two kinds of book people: the writer and the reader. But those of you who are familiar with my book-philosophy will know that I advocate that we all do both. Yes, write and read. When you think about it, it’s only fair. You tell me your story, and I’ll tell you mine. It is my firm belief that not only do we all have a story to tell, but that the rest of us want to hear it, and we all have two minutes to hear the beginning. Further, none of us want to stop listening to a good story.
So, all it takes is to tell it well, which usually means some form of getting out of the way of your story. Maybe you are too long-winded. Or too full of yourself. Or too eager to impress, or please. Or use too high-falutin’ language. Or are too shy. Or invalidate yourself, think too little of yourself, reduce yourself.

So, in the future –in my future; in the ideal future– there will be only one kind of person: the reader/writer.
Well, not really. But you know what I mean.

[FOOTNOTE: in my next “Annals of The Stone Street Press” I will tell the extraordinary story of meeting, quite separately, two individuals who were to make a huge impact on the world of books. It was, as it happened, at my last ABA/BookExpo –in, I believe it was, 1997.]

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