It is different. For one your anxieties are different. Since your academic book has a limited print run, a niche audience and will only be bought for libraries you do not worry about sales or marketability. Somehow the risks do not seem yours. If anything the rigorous editorial process takes into account all the factors that go into preparing your book for scrutiny. It is as if the risks get taken care of in the pre-publication stages, and both you and your publisher know exactly what you are doing. Therefore, every step of the way is more impersonal and yet more reassuring. There is inherent pride in knowing that your book is part of a prestigious imprint (Palgrave Studies in Oral History) and the intrinsic value of the book is therefore taken care of. So you do not worry about reviews, Amazon sales rank or how sales can impact the publication of your next book. Your publication profile is somehow free from any need for branding. A different kind of buzz is created for your book. Institutions/ scholars from related fields know about your work and show keen interest. Therefore, a forthcoming book is anticipated with the right amount of eagerness and academic curiosity. I was telling Will that as a fiction writer you do know that one day your novel will simply cease to sell; the royalty statements will tell you that. It carries its own twinge of disappointment. I have a feeling that an academic book spares you this as well. If anything, the process of building up your reputation is slow but more sure footed. Your publisher knows it and so do you. Your book gets talked about in a limited circle and if it finds its way into other bibliographies then you book is still in demand.
I am wondering why it is not the model for all publications, fiction, non-fiction and specialized books? Will told me that no publisher can anticipate a best seller and somehow intrinsic worth is not the criteria. Then why not have a system that percolates this bit of assurance right down to the author? We need bestseller lists, popular awards and talk shows for marketing books to keep the industry afloat. I agree. But there is a niche market for that as well. Why bring fiction into it? What is it that determines the survival of fictions’ so called midlist?
I will end with a bit of self promotion for my Palgrave book. When I got back the cover proof I felt a quiet sense of satisfaction to see what had been included as promotional material. I am reproducing them below:
“Suroopa Mukherjee's important book tells how Bhopali women from one of the poorest communities on earth have thrown off the veil and led a spirited, inspiring resistance against corruption and injustice by a multinational corporation and its political allies.”—Indra Sinha, Author of Animal’s People, based on the Bhopal tragedy
“This is a captivating read and the work is an admirable example of scholarship and artistry guided by moral principle and passion. Mukherjee designed it to purposefully and forcefully keep the Bhopal gas tragedy in global public discourse – indeed, to reintroduce it. She works diligently and passionately with oral history narratives from women survivors together with vivid accounts of women’s collective participation in activities that continue to press for compensation, justice, respect, and dignity. With poignancy, her brave and timely objective is to ‘pierce the veil of secrecy’ by using indigenous oral traditions to deconstruct corporate and bureaucratic obfuscation that function as a tool of oppression. This work is an outstanding examination of every imaginable dimension of the Bhopal gas tragedy.”--Raymond E. Wiest, Professor Emeritus, Anthropology, University of Manitoba, Canada.
I know it’s the blurb and part of the marketing but it reads differently, does it not? I also know for sure that it brings the issue centerstage, which pleases me immensely.