I am writing this in a cafe on my way to General Synod. It’s quite an exciting time in the Church of England at the moment. There is a lot of positive action, and to watch the final stage of the women bishops legislation pass will be. . . well, it’ll be divine.
I have been in the broadcasting and publishing world for more than 15 years. It should be a huge wrench to leave publishing and head to the Church to become a priest, but the reality is that both are facing sustained challenges and changes, and that’s something that I really love.
Publishing and bookselling has, I think, got over the worst of the digital hump. It’s no longer a fight to engage with senior managers and boards on digital issues. We’re starting to see debates about why there should be “digital editors”—“isn’t that just what an editor does?”
For me, though, this is the most dangerous time. To allow digital to slip into the mainstream is to invite complacency in research and development, and digital has forced us, as an industry, to move quickly and take more risks. This is a very good thing.
At the Futurebook Conference this month (14th November), I encouraged the industry to take more risks when it comes to marketing books—a leap of faith, if you like. It will be the difference between obsolescence and success.
I am leaving the industry because I have ignored my calling for far too long. I had my first conversation about becoming a priest when I was 19, and I was told to go away and live my life a little. Publishing and bookselling is an amazing industry. There is still a huge amount of work to do, and I’m sad that I will not be as big a part of that as I am now. The industry is going to continue to be challenged and threatened at an alarming rate, and I regret that I won’t be in the middle of that.
So as I leave this industry and move to the Church, I take a great deal with me. I take the love and fellowship even the most ardent of competitors display at industry conferences and other trade-wide meetings, I take the joy that people in our industry have in creating wonderful stories . . . and I take very practical lessons in patience!
Cashmore will be available for consultancy work from January, with special rates for small publishers and booksellers