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From Cardboard Boxes of Cast-Offs to a Collection of Essays: A Writer’s Journey Amidst the Publishing Industry’s Turmoil


In a realm where stories are crafted, edited, and disseminated, Zachary Pace, a writer and editor, embarks on a journey through the tumultuous waters of the publishing industry. From his humble beginnings, fueled by a passion ignited by books gifted by his aunt, an editor of children’s literature, Pace navigates the challenges and triumphs of a writer’s life in the 21st century.

Early Career Struggles:

The year 2008 marked a pivotal moment for Pace, as he ventured into the heart of Brooklyn, coinciding with the Great Recession’s devastating impact on the publishing industry and housing affordability. Amidst economic uncertainty, he found himself juggling entry-level positions at small, independent book publishers with freelancing, teaching, and selling books to secondhand bookstores to make ends meet.

The financial strain and feelings of undervaluation led Pace to question his career choice, contemplating whether to abandon the publishing world altogether. The guilt of pursuing personal writing while working for book publishers gnawed at him, fearing that it diverted time and energy from promoting his employer’s books.

Guilt and Conflict of Interest:

Pace grappled with the guilt of pursuing his writing while working for book publishers, fearing that it diverted time and energy from his employer’s books. In an acquiring editorial role, he felt pressure to prioritize the company’s bestseller goals over his personal writing, leading to self-doubt and insecurity.

Despite facing rejection and criticism, Pace realized his knack for managing editorial work, which allowed him to focus on checking and fixing mistakes, alleviating some of his guilt. The ability to identify and rectify errors brought him a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Balancing Work, Writing, and Financial Precarity:

Today, Pace navigates a delicate balance as a full-time managing editor, an adjunct English professor, and a weekend freelancer, juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet. He reflects on the disparity between his aunt’s success in corporate publishing and his own challenging path, emphasizing the labor of love involved in his writing endeavors.

Despite the financial uncertainty, Pace finds immense joy in the publication of his first book, a collection of essays about female singers who have influenced his life. The book’s release marks a significant milestone in his writing journey, a testament to his perseverance and dedication to his craft.

Returning to the Roots of Inspiration:

In a poignant moment of reflection, Pace sits in his childhood home, near the shelves that once held the books sent by his aunt, the catalyst for his literary aspirations. He picks up a Joni Mitchell CD, reminiscent of the music that accompanied him through difficult times in his youth, highlighting the enduring power of music and literature to shape and inspire.


Zachary Pace’s journey serves as a testament to the challenges writers and editors face in the publishing industry, particularly in the wake of economic downturns. His story underscores the resilience, determination, and passion required to pursue a writing career amidst financial uncertainty and the need to balance multiple jobs. Pace’s reflections on his aunt’s influence, his guilt over pursuing personal writing while working for publishers, and his eventual success in publishing his own book offer valuable insights into the complexities of a writer’s life.