Letter from the Publisher

Posted by – August 31, 2018
Categories: Psychology & Personal Growth

Sometimes book publishing feels like bottling a wild spirit so that it can run free again. The author has surely been on an odyssey before they meet us, from believing in their calling to clocking the mad pursuit into their daily life to breaking through writers’ block and bouts of self-doubt. And once the book itself comes out: who knows what wild walks that sassy creature goes on! It might move one person to tears and another person to throw it against a wall. It might work on a reader slowly over time or be sped-read during an insomniac’s kitchen-table all-nighter. May one count success by the number of dog-eared pages.

And yet the ferment must be contained for it to do its work; after and before the wild ride on either side the material must be assembled into a tangible book and delivered to the “trade,” namely the commercial labyrinth that every book must navigate to find its path into readers’ hands. On some days, it can almost feel like a game of telephone, with a dwindling amount of time and space to convey what you first heard (a 400-page book) into a sound-bite-sized tidy package, replete of course with searchable terms.

For some books, this part of the journey isn’t particularly difficult; usually these are books with either a very clear and specific message and/or a very clear and specific audience. But as a publisher who endeavors to publish books that most publishers won’t publish, ones that crack open a preconceived notion and add a mixture of time-tested wisdom and gutsy prescience, these “easy” books are more the exception than the norm.

But even in this land of misshapen toys, there are some particularly ornery books that simply refuse to be shaped into the round hole that the book trade demands—books that scoff at standard questions like “what’s this book about in fifty words or less?” or “what section of the bookstore should it go in?” or “who is the audience?”

For some of our books, the answer to these questions is “?”

Books like these confound everyone charged with bottling the spirit, and yet, beautifully and poetically, a few of them still make their mark. Stephen Jenkinson’s Die Wise was one such book, so difficult to describe that we ended up violating several cardinal rules of copywriting by boasting about what it wasn’t in the first line of copy.

It just couldn’t be bottled, so we uncorked the cava and hoped the people who needed it would find it on their tongues. And they did.

So when Mr. Jenkinson let me know that he had a new book in his bag of tricks, one about elderhood and our culture’s unreconciled relationship with it, I knew I had another wild one on our hands. We tried to make it palatable, describable, digestible, and comprehensible, but again the crow kept cawing from beyond the windows of the office, inviting us to let go of the thing, common sense be damned.

And so Come of Age flies.

Fortunately, we had help on this one: from Mr. Jenkinson himself, who of course served as faithful scribe to whatever cantankerous visionary spirit has grabbed hold of his collar, but who also has cobbled together a team of streamers, dreamers, and meme-ers who fashion their own shorthand transmissions of the ineffable.

One of these fellow bottlers is Ian MacKenzie, a fine storyteller and videographer whose short films have had their share of virality. We are lucky enough to have a trailer from Ian that attempts, in just over two minutes, to convey what this book is about. Nice vintage there, Ian. May together we help Come of Age slake our collective parched throats.

Tags: Stephen Jenkinson Tim McKee
About the Author

Tim came to NAB in 2013 and is honored to serve as publisher. Born in New York City, McKee grew up in Los Angeles and received a BA from Princeton University and an MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. He has worked in the nonprofit sector for his entire career, including serving as the long-time managing editor of The Sun magazine, the grants director for a social-justice foundation in San Francisco, and as a writer for several community-based organizations in California. He has also taught college-level writing and journalism. His book No More Strangers Now: Young Voices from a New South Africa (Dorling Kindersley) was an Honor Book for the Jane Addams Book Award and a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He is happiest when bringing necessary stories to the page.