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How Books Can Change the World

I have a confession to make. I have spent the past 20+ years underestimating the power of my job. For that I’m ashamed.

While I love what I do with everything in my being, I never felt like I was doing something that would make a big change in the world. I wasn’t giving shoes to poor children, or providing clean water to third world countries. I wasn’t feeding those who are hungry or saving lives. I am a literary agent. “I represent authors and sell their books to publishers.”

I did pride myself on being a dream maker. I was making the dreams of authors come true, people who imagined that they would one day be published. That was it. And it’s big. Making people’s dreams come true is a big-ass deal. I get it, but it never felt quite as big as I wanted it to be. It wasn’t making a difference to the scale I wanted to make a difference.

Times have changed. Dramatically. We are living in a world that many of us never imagined. That we only read about either in history books or, some would say, Dystopian fiction. And I have changed. I have come to realize that the job I do is of utmost importance in this world. That I have the power to change and shape lives. No, my job hasn’t changed. I’m still going to be sitting on the other side of this blog 3-5 days a week. My worldview has changed, and with it my view of who I am and what BookEnds is.

Books change people. They make people. They form who we are and who we will be. I see this in almost every single biography/autobiography/memoir I read. Have you ever noticed how many of today’s most successful women will say that they were big readers in childhood? I might note that many of them cite Nancy Drew (who I loved).

The books I represent are no different. Every single one of them has changed someone in some way. Fiction and nonfiction can empower and teach. We find courage from the protagonist and knowledge from the villain. We can find refuge when we need a safe, quiet place to hide. We can see other cultures through the eyes of the characters and find new friends and discover entire worlds.

In these times, when many are struggling with what’s happening all over the world, when families are torn apart by differing political views, and a country is clearly divided, books can become a lifesaver. We need more books, and BookEnds is determined to make that happen. We also need more diverse books from diverse voices and BookEnds is determined to make that happen. Because, as I told my team during a time when many were struggling, “I believe people can be changed through books so it’s super cool that we have the sorts of jobs that can help bring that change.”

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9 comments

  1. Hi Jessica. I’m so glad I ran across your blog this morning. Writing is my passion, but I have never felt it was more important than in today’s world. Every word of positive encouragement maters. Currently, I have a manuscript pending at Harlequin Heartwarming. Wish me luck 🙂 My hope is that it will make a difference just as you describe.

  2. This just made my little heart do handsprings. 🙂 And I SO agree that books are lifesavers. They whisk us away to new worlds, improved mindsets, and perhaps, gentler ways of thinking.

    Once again, this morning my FB and Twitter feeds were filled with ongoing rants. It made me wonder… How much time people waste on hate-infused jargon when they could be reading a good book. Or better yet–writing one.

    Thanks for this. Cheers!

  3. What a wonderful post! I’ve often asked myself the same question–am I contributing anything by writing genre fiction–especially when I read about people doing amazing things that benefit humanity. But I guess we each contribute in our own way, and it’s all important although for different reasons.

  4. Very well said! As a scifi author, I look to Gene Roddenberry as an example of what a writer can do. He made it a primary function of his writing and creatI’ve focus to look toward the best of humanity and try to bring that forward. He tried to push the envelope further than others dared in order to help humanity see what it could become, and show them that all they had to do was set aside their petty differences. He, and others like Arthur C. Clark, Ray Bradberry, Issac Asimov, and so many more, tried to see humanity through a different lense and paint that portrait through their words with the help of people like you and your team. That job has never been more important than it is right now as we rise up against those who seek to bring out the primal fears and hatred of those who are not like us. Your post is inspirational!

  5. This is a mind-blowing post. I have so much to say on the matter, but I’ll keep it to a few ideas. As both reader and writer, but first of all as a reader, I feel a duty to poke Dystopian authors (and not only, I could list some thriller authors, too, for example). While some write Dystopian (or dark thriller, etc.) from the bottoms of their hearts, most do it because it’s big in trends (the world is practically choking with them), and quite a number of publishers acquire Dystopian and “dark and twisted” for the sake of sensationalism (the trend might be dying, though, but it sure did its damage). It may get tough on those authors who are stubborn to deliver smooth and elegant stories, and a happy end (which I die for in books because I need healing from all the “dark and twisted” that bombards me every day). Superhumans engineered by the world elite in experiments before they try the dangerous processes on themselves (in order to become invincible)? Bah! Too “Twilight”. Gimme some catholic priest turned Drag Queen in New York and sleeping with a congressman in exchange for small children as meals, and I might be interested. Don’t get me wrong. I understand how this works – editors read so many ubmissions that it takes A LOT to grab them. But now let’s face it – look at what all the “dark and twisted” Hollywood productions (once screenplays), shooter MMORPGs and “profound” Dystopian did to the world. The world emulates what entertainment promotes. Literature is a professor. Fiction educates – especially since it’s the ONLY means to create the capacity for extended empathy in the human brain (I could talk a week about this topic). Authors have huge responsibility, and adding to the wave of anxiety attacks and depression that’s taken over the world isn’t how they should go about it. Just my two cents. Thanks for the post and the discussion, Jessica, it’s awesome!

  6. Just in case it isn’t clear how my previous comment relates to the ppst – the world, what happens in the world today, is a mirror of what entertainment promotes. Literature is a form of entertainment.

  7. For me it’s never mattered what is happening in the world, I’ve always needed books. Books give me pure joy. I think it is wonderful that in dark times books can help people, but it wouldn’t matter how sunny the world is, there would still be a cloud in my sky if I didn’t have a book. So even though you’ve seen the power your job has in stormy times, never forget it’s just as important when the sun shines.

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