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Publishing Note: Life, Death, and Publishing
Book publishing reflects the world around us, including life and death. We produce and sell books about every conceivable topic and some things that go well beyond the average imagination. The noteworthy death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022 marks the end of an era both for the British monarchy and the world. One might reasonably expect to see a wave of books published about or related to Queen Elizabeth II. I’m sure some enterprising company will track titles and sales in this niche market in the coming months.
The reality is that few people in the world actually met and knew the queen personally but many feel a sense of loss at her passing. How is it that we mourn the loss of a total stranger we may only ever have read about or watched on the TV or heard about on the radio? Human empathy prompts us to associate the loss of a world-famous personality with our own personal losses. Though saying “I know how you feel” to someone who has experienced loss may not actually be all that comforting to the person, it is a way of expressing our shared humanity. Their loss reminds us of our losses, be they literal deaths of family, friends, colleagues, or other forms of loss, such as a child moving far away, a colleague leaving your company or being fired, or a beloved local business closing its doors for good.
We in the book business may be in competition with other companies and by association their employees. We may not see eye-to-eye on various issues and may actually dislike someone quite strongly. Nonetheless, at moments of loss, we set aside our differences and surround one another with empathy, a kind word, or a gesture that says, “I may not know exactly how you feel, but I feel for you.” Such acts of human kindness transform the publishing industry from a cut-throat, dog-eat-dog competition, into a place where empathy and respect provide the glue that holds us together.
While life continues on and death recedes into the collective memory, knowing that people can indeed care for one another in times of loss and trouble should shape how we view one another between those sad points in our lives. I encourage us all to bring those feelings of empathy to bear as we relate to people even outside of crises. Regardless of whether we are affected by a conflict, a loss, a death, life is so much sweeter when we show kindness to others.
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