It’s probably not that unusual for Wes students, at some point after graduation, to renounce their indie-rock ways and move on to real jobs and real-world responsibilities. We can all continue to pretend like it isn’t going to happen, or we can take a page from Johnny Temple ’88’s book and do it right: after “touring the world a few times” as the bassist for Girls Against Boys, Temple and his friends founded Akashic Books, an independent publishing company that recently hit it big with Go The F*ck To Sleep, that manifesto of frustrated parents whose late-night party days are far behind them.
While it’s nice to nurture dreams of being a published writer, Temple told students who came to his talk on February 16, being the one who publishes writers is a much more viable way of making a living, and it comes with its own unique rewards. Yes, it’s a “relentlessly difficult business” filled with “misfits and miscreants,” but it’s one in which those who work hard have a real impact on literary culture. Temple, still nursing some Wes-inspired idealism, envisions “a more literate, engaged world,” where books are for everyone, not just the overly educated elite. He noted that irony that while, 20 years ago, friends joked about how his courses in Caribbean literature would never be applicable to his life, Akashic books is now a huge platform for the writing that comes out of that region.
For those interested in breaking into the publishing world, Temple says your options are to a) make it up as you go along (this is what worked for him), b) resign yourself to slave labor and complete some internships (if you’re good, there’s a good chance the same company will start paying you in the future), or c) work your connections (no one’s going to pretend that’s not what makes the world go ’round). For those wary of the later, it’s worth noting that Temple regrets not having taken more advantages of Wesleyan’s resources while he was here, but that he’s found alumni networks to be incredibly fruitful.
The students who stayed after the event to hit Temple up for an internship probably have an advantage at Akashic for the coming summer, but others ready to get started in publishing should check out these other independent houses that he recommended: Seven Stories Press, Verso Books, Graywolf Press, Archipelago Books, Ugly Duckling Presse (another place to pull some Wesleyan connections!), Grove/Atlantic, and W. W. Norton. The most important thing to have in your CV? According to Temple, “You must love books deeply, and continue to love them always and forever.”