You might not know it from looking at this site, which seems to be all over the place, but I spend most of my time helping others, in some capacity, to promote their books and projects to the rest of the world, primarily through the publicity group Aid & Abet, which I coordinate along with my friend Matt Dineen.
What I do is, essentially, sales. It’s selling an author or their book to a writer at a magazine or to a host at a venue. “Sales,” in general, feels pretty gross, because potentially, I could fall into that loathsome set of people that self-promote constantly or who push their materials on you at inappropriate moments or try to sell you things you don’t need or want. Or who fuel consumption. Really, though, I think of it as a lot more (and better) than that – publicity can be all about helping authors/filmmakers/organizations connect with people who really want to know that they or their project exists. You know, like that moment when you find an amazing book and think to yourself, why did it take me so long to discover this? I look at my job as helping people connect with others who will be excited about their work. That feels pretty good.
Plus, and this is the good part for me, I get to choose the people that I work with so I get to interact with people who I am really excited about. And I’ve been really lucky over the years to work with people like Ted Nace, Raj Patel, and David Solnit, who I just think are really cool.
Anyway, the entire purpose of this post is to tell you that I’ve recently started working as the staff publicist for the Hesperian Foundation.
A lot of my friends/peer group have never heard of Hesperian before, though a few have heard of their book “Where There is no Doctor” (pictured to the left), which I first purchased myself around 1996. I still have my copy, along with “Where there is no Dentist.” You know, comes in handy when you don’t have health insurance.
Anyway, I’ve had a couple of (awesome) friends who have worked at Hesperian over the years, and when I heard they were hiring a publicist, I thought – hey! That’s what I do! Maybe I could do that for them!
Well, now that I’ve officially worked with Hesperian for a few weeks, I’ve found out a lot more about them that I think is really awesome, and since most of my friends know nothing about them, I thought I would share – because 1. you might be excited about the books that they publish, and 2. you might want to support their work.
So, from their “philosophy” page on their website: “Poor people throughout the world lack basic health care because it is priced beyond their means or because services are too far away. The affordable services that do exist are being threatened by global economic policies that force governments to cut budgets for health, education and social services.” And:
- Health is a fundamental right for all people.
- Health information should be shared.
- People can and should take the lead in their own health care.
- Women and men with little or no formal education can understand, apply and share medical information if it is presented simply and appropriately.
- Educational materials are most effective when the people who use them are involved in their development from the beginning stages.
- Health programs should be practical, accessible and respectful of the knowledge, experience and resources already existing in communities.
- To achieve good health, communities must address the underlying causes of poor health, such as: poverty, discrimination, harmful traditional beliefs and unjust social structures.
Um, really? Because that’s pretty awesome. And I 100% support all of those things. I know a lot of people think that Hesperian’s materials are intended for (and indeed, the look of the materials suggests this) Peace Corps volunteers working in some rural village in Africa. But especially that whole part about healthcare being for everyone and it being unavailable because of cost –well, it sounds like that applies here in the U.S., too. Since the first book, “Where there is no Doctor,” they’ve gone on to publish more health empowerment titles in English and Spanish, most of their materials are available for free as a download, and their open copyright policy means that they have worked with many other organizations to translate Hesperian materials into an astounding number of other languages.
And, they treat their employees well. And the office was closed for May Day. And all the people are nice.