Seen Reading’s 1%

Before I got into publishing—before I even knew there was such a thing as a career in publishing—I knew a surgeon. One day, she asked me about my passions. What was my vocation?  I’d been in a rut. From editor to ad sales rep to photographer to lady of leisure, I was struggling to find work that would both sustain and satisfy me.

“You have the 1%.” The 1%? “The 1% to accomplish something unique.”

That’s awfully nice, I thought.

“The thing is,” she continued, “you can’t access the 1% until you’ve established a solid work ethic: that’s the other 99%.”

“Is that all,” I joked.

But it stuck with me, and, along with this advice and the support of family and friends, I went back to school and graduated from a creative publishing program that got me in the door and vying for an internship at House of Anansi Press. I got the internship and enjoyed three years with the press until leaving to pursue other ventures.

I can still see Sarah MacLachlan standing just to the right of my desk. I’d been on the job for no more than a month, I’d say. I’d just told her that I’d seen someone reading Bill Gaston’s short story collection, Gargoyles. I had an idea for a blog that would report what people had been seen reading. Did she like it? “Do it,” she said. And because I trusted her instinct for recognizing cultural ideas that also generate marketing buzz, I did it. Once. Maybe two or three times more. Enough that George Murray eagerly reported on Book Ninja that Seen Reading was a daily project. An email came, then a phone call, and a few days later I was staring around a mic sock at CBC’s Matt Galloway swearing up and down that, no, I wasn’t going to publish a blog-to-book. Never. Nope. I left the studio, to emerge onto the street with one thought: F*ck me, now I  have to stick this.

What I would average is about 43% later, Seen Reading has evolved numerous times to include podcasts, guest posts, a Twitter hashtag (#seenreading) and, to come shortly, an all-welcome community in which readers can cruise for their next read and possibly one another. (I also go by The Book Madam, so it should come as no surprise that I want you all to get to know each other a bit better.)

There are still days, though, when that elusive 1% seems so far away.

Then a week comes along like this past one, and I realize that my surgeon friend wasn’t wrong, per se, but she doesn’t work in publishing. Because in publishing, so help us, if we think someone might have a shot at really getting it done, we’re all in. My 1%, I now know, is made up of you. You’re everywhere, and I think it’s why I knew the book had to be dedicated: For You.

I’d like to highlight three such people, publishing professionals and/or fans who under their own steam are doing incredible things to get the word out about Seen Reading pre-publication.

Steph, over at Bella’s Bookshelves, received an advance copy of the book. She immediately posed for a self-portrait. How adorable is this?

Read her full post and you’ll value, as I did, just how much she gets Seen Reading. “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?” she yells. “It’s this question Julie asks and imagines the answers to, and it’s this question that also makes us want to connect with the people we see investing their time in a book . . . an urge to connect with someone we feel an instant, albeit it perhaps fleeting commonality. . . . [C]ar owners, motorcyclists, too, feel it . . . it’s all about a sense of validation, of fitting in, of belonging. A meeting of passions.”

Her enthusiasm caught the eye of Mark Leslie Lefebvre—writer, editor, past bookseller and, to their great benefit, Kobo’s Director Self-Publishing & Author Relations—who immediately took Steph’s photo and pinned it to a Pinterest board he named “Seen Holding Seen Reading.” My plan is to take a picture of myself reading Seen Reading in facing mirrors so I’m also spying on myself as I read Seen Reading, to infinity and beyond.

All your meta are belong to us.

On that Pinterest board you’ll meet the third person I want to introduce you to, Ashley Winnington-Ball, a jeweller and uber reader. She’s also one of my closest friends, someone whose passion includes helping others pursue their own.

So, what did Ashley do? Oh, you know. Just got in touch with my publisher and basically said she was going to hand sell the sh*t out of this book, so could they strike a deal? They did, and should you ever have the good fortune to bump into “Ace,” you will be buying a copy of my book. She’s good at this kind of thing. She calls me, you know. We have Seen Reading sessions. She has a private Facebook event page to which she invites people she thinks should buy my book. “You should buy this book,” is probably the full extent of her pitch. She might even say, “What’s wrong with you? Look at this book. It’s beautiful. You have something against beautiful books?” You won’t be able to disagree.

All to say, with 1% like these, who needs the other 99%?! Am I right? Or, am I right?!

What? Still not off the hook?

Rats.

Thanks for reading. Be seeing you.

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