I posted recently about the Author who compared self publishing to; “I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.”
Since then, some stuff came across my screen that took a rather different point of view. First, here’s a more even handed, if more realistic take from M.T. White(highlights added).
But legacy publishing does have some appeal. There’s a chance of a big advance, (which I think is the biggest carrot the publishers can dangle), the chance of seeing your book on the shelves at your local bookstore (most likely a Barnes & Noble if you live in the U.S.) —and face it, we all like going to the bookstore and dreamed of seeing our work on the shelves, right?—and the chance of having a bit of, well, a legacy. Everything on the internet, everything electronic, feels a bit transient; bestseller today, afterthought tomorrow. Knowing that your book might have a print run of several thousands, sitting on library bookshelves, maybe eventually becoming required reading in schools across the country—maybe even the world over, because if your books are traditionally printed one place, sells well, then other publishers in other countries will want to pick it up.
It all sounds so appealing.
But what do you have to do to get there? What hoops do you have to jump through? According to Larry Correia, the chances of getting picked up by a major publishing house are minuscule. He says the failure rate is 99.9%.
In my post about Mike Cernovich’s Mindset books and my decision to self-publish, I received a couple of comments about a certain passage I wrote:
I constantly asked myself “What am I doing wrong?” Is my query letter bad? My first few pages not catchy enough? Was the book too politically incorrect, too vulgar and too violent for the delicate snowflake sensibilities of New York publishing?
Basically, how could I beg more correctly?
The questions were in the line of “What’s wrong with begging?” The suggestion being I should treat it like a job search process. That’s all fine and good. If I decided to dedicate myself to getting picked up by a major publisher, I’m confident I would have succeeded. I just needed to take the necessary steps to realize it.
What are some of those steps?
First, when your writing to get your work legacy published, you’re writing for THEM, not the the audience. To start, you need to get an agent interested in your work. Meaning you have to write a great query letter, where you have to get them interested in requesting a full manuscript. That means you need write a great sales pitch and have a first 5-10 pages that will make the agent want to read more. It’s harder than sounds. If it was easy, there wouldn’t be a ton of web articles and I’m sure tons of discussion on web boards on how to successfully execute it.
If an agent does request your manuscript, you have to wait a couple of months for them to read it (which might require some hounding). If they choose to represent you, they will probably then work with you to “fine tune” your novel so they in turn can make it more appealing to the publisher’s they will submit it to. When your book is submitted, it then has to go through an acquisition editor (or a team of them) and whatever else. If they agree to pick up your book, they may demand some changes be made as well.
Notice, you’re not writing your book to appeal to readers. You’re writing your book to appeal to agents and acquisition’s editors. Naturally, they are looking for product that will sell, but to them it is just product—to you it will be a book written full of compromise…maybe. No matter what, you have to appeal to THEM first before your book hits shelves. And THEY might have very different tastes than you. They live in a different city (probably New York), while you might live in rural Texas. They might have polite sensibilities, while you have vulgar ones. You might find someone who is in alignment with you but as I stated above, there is a 99.9% you won’t. You have to appeal to THEM before your book even makes it to the press.
In short, it’s a road filled with compromise. You’re going to write thinking about THEM, appealing to THEIR tastes, hoping they align with yours. While you write, you might question certain passages, lines that may be too politically incorrect, or just too offensive for someone who might dine at Per Se every now and then. You might change character arcs around, change the villains, modify complete dialogue exchanges, not to please the reader at home who is reading your work to get their mind off of their dick boss—no you’re modifying your work to please THEM.
And they live in a bubble. They’re not perfect. They have biases and tastes, just like everyone, but the chances of them aligning with your tastes or mine are tiny.
I’ve made the compromises listed above. They got me nowhere.
So, I’ve decided to self-publish, go direct to the reader. It has challenges of its own for sure. I have to compete for eyeballs, I need to build a brand, I need to convince people to read my work but in the end, these are things under my control (to a certain extent). I just have to do the work—something I’m not afraid of. I approach it the same way French film director Eric Rohmer approached Six Moral Tales, his first major body of work: “I was determined to be flexible and intractable, because if you persist in an idea it seems to me that in the end you do secure a following.”
Mr. White makes the same point about traditional publishing that Ms. Gough did, though she didn’t know it. The fact is that when you write for traditional publishing, you are writing for THEM and then begging THEM for approval and compromising yourself long before a reader ever sees a word. Looking at just every piece of written text, you see those little attempts at compromise. In just about anything a great story or article will go off topic and include some random virtue signaling. I think that the typical Conservative is so willing to show that they are willing to compromise to at least get some of what they want that they don’t understand that the other side does NOT compromise.
We who are on the odd side of the culture war need to understand the reality of the situation. Consider this recent piece from Conservative publisher Andrew Bellow in National Review.
had read books like Animal Farm and Doctor Zhivago, so I knew very well what could happen when petty ideological enforcers seized power in a totalitarian setting. But that was long ago and far away. You could never have convinced me then, in 1976, that from these tiny seeds of academic radicalism an ideological movement would grow that would one day come to dominate the American cultural landscape. Yet that is exactly what happened. I eventually went into publishing to fight back against people like these. I had seen them coming a long way off and I knew they meant business. They wanted power and were eager to use it. Their approach to fiction was two-sided: use their own stories and novels to advance their revolutionary aims, and prevent others from using that same descriptive and imaginative power for counterrevolutionary ends. It was an American version of what used to be called socialist realism. When I joined the culture war in 1988 as an editor of nonfiction books, conservatives had little to read. There were a handful of classics like Witness, God and Man at Yale, and The Road to Serfdom. But in order to become a serious movement capable of winning arguments (and converts) we needed a lot more: history, biography, investigative journalism, social and economic ideas, philosophical critiques of liberalism — you name it. This copious agenda has kept conservative publishers busy for the past 30 years. Meanwhile the conservative media establishment has grown and flourished. We have our own TV and radio networks, our own newspapers and publishing houses, and dozens of highly trafficked websites. Conservative books today sell millions of copies. By all apparent measures, the culture war is going extremely well. Except that in reality it isn’t. Recently I was asked to comment on the state of conservative publishing for an article in BuzzFeed. My major focus was the difficulty of publishing the sort of serious, intellectually demanding books that used to be the staple of the movement. I ticked off relevant factors such as the rise of conservative mass media, the proliferation of publishing imprints, the decline of book reviewing, and the bifurcation of political media into spheres of left and right, leading to the disappearance of serious controversy. What I didn’t say is this: The real problem isn’t the practical challenge of turning serious books into bestsellers. The real problem is that we may have reached the limit of what facts and reasoned arguments can do. The real problem is that the whole conservative nonfiction enterprise has peaked and reached its limit of effectiveness. Yes, conservative voices can now be heard throughout the land, and the GOP is poised for victory in the upcoming midterm elections. But even as we appear to be winning the political argument, for the moment anyway, we are losing on the cultural front. For proof, you need look no farther than the recent successful attacks on conservative spokesmen. The Left has always demonized conservatives, and many of my authors have been subject to that kind of ugly treatment. Those who cannot win an argument often fall back on ad hominem attacks. In the past we could ignore such attacks — indeed, they often worked in our favor. But lately they have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Those who dissent from the prevailing liberal dogma are quickly branded as extremists and declared to be bad people. Do you support the traditional view of marriage? You’re a homophobe who wants to deny equal rights to gay Americans. Do you question the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage? You are a selfish Scrooge who hates the working class. Do you want America to establish control over its borders? You hate hard-working immigrants who just want to enjoy the American dream. Do you believe a human fetus has legal and natural rights? You are a misogynist who wants to control women’s bodies. Do you support the death penalty in certain cases? You’re a heartless savage no better than the killers themselves, according to Charles Blow of the New York Times. Do you oppose any aspect whatsoever of Barack Obama’s transformative agenda for America? You’re a racist. Racist, racist, racist!
This is a bare-knuckled attempt to enforce an ideological orthodoxy by policing the boundaries of acceptable speech. The methods used — anonymous accusers, public shaming, forced apologies, reeducation programs — come straight out of the Stalinist playbook, and they are not only shockingly illiberal. They are shockingly effective. By harnessing the passions of offended minorities to the power of social media, the Left has created a hurricane of politicized indignation that can be directed wherever it likes and levels everything it touches. Meanwhile the general response is the same as it was for me at Clarion: embarrassed silence and the fear of being targeted yourself. This is a key point, for just as bad as outright censorship (which cannot be imposed to the extent the Left would like) is the censorship people impose on themselves in order to avoid being punished with the loss of their reputation and livelihood.
While this is more or less blue on blue, not how the SJW antagonist goes directly to attempting to dox and damage. Even the smallest disagreement is reason to attempt to destroy. Which means that anybody who dares to disagree with the prevailing Progressive narrative.
Having to face the constant threat of personal destruction is a pretty big hurdle for a writer to overcome. For every Larry Corriea that gets lucky there may have been thousands people who were daunted and stifled by the gatekeepers. How many writers never even submitted because they knew that they would be rejected out of hand by the gatekeepers? How many stories were never even written?
The advent of the internet allow the aspiring writer the ability to do two things that could not happen in the heyday of traditional publishing. The can set up a platform to market themselves and they reach readers directly. Here’s Nick Cole explaining why that’s a good thing.
Having a platform is a great way to stave off scurvy blacklisting dogs and SJW corporate assasins who try to pick the winners and patrol the culture at your expense. Nuking your career for the greater good, as they see it, is a perfectly acceptable casualty in their eyes. After all they view you as less than human. Deplorable even.
So lets take two examples of people who have gi-normous platforms despite establishment-endorsed hate. Vox Day and Stephen Molyneaux are both loathed by all the “right people.” (Both Molyneaux and Day are actually very nice people and one of them I count as a friend. I don’t formally know the other. Further point: I have lots of friends from all different sides of the political spectrum. You don’t have to agree with me to be my friend.) Meryl Streep would disapprove of both these fellows so let that be your guide as to how fragile their position is in our current SJW-dominated corporate culture. Except, Vox gets over Three Million page views a month and easily buries Eatablishment Media Sweetheat John Scalzi in website stats. Stephen Molyneaux tackles controversial subjects with wit, charm and stage-worthy execution in slick video podcasts that easily nail half a million views.
They both, often, talk about radical subject matter that @Jack CEO of Twitter would ShadowBan (Yes. That’s a thing that happens in America. I’ve been Shadowbanned by the Truth and Saftey Council. As have many others. I know… creepy huh?) them for in a heart beat. So, if all their followers, or base as we call it, we’re only available through those SJW dominated social media channels… Well, then they would be very vulnerable.
But they’re not.
So put all your politics and preconceived ideas on the back burner and ask yourself what we can learn from these two people.
Neither of these people are at the mercy of a big publisher, as I once was. So… If some petty little corporate thug decides he/she doesn’t like Vox’s opinion about something they have no ability to silence Vox. Vox maintains his own website and blogs heavily from it. Same with Molyneaux. I think Molyneaux once mentioned he’d sold over a hundred thousand books through his website. Wow! He’s even cutting Amazon out of the picture and keeping all the money for himself.
Thus proving to the rest of us if you build your own platform you can weather the storms of corporate social justice shenanigans/intrigues/nepotism and connect directly to your audience to sell your product.
So no matter what happens in these times of faux moral outrage and someone demanding someone we don’t like must be silenced because they’re “Hitler,” these two can still directly connect with their audience and sell some books. And laugh all the way to the bank.
Here’s what you need to know to do the same thing. It’s easy. In fact, it’s never been easier.
- Blog regularly. Six days a week. Say something. Anything. Even repost someone’s article (like this one) and add a comment to get readers interested and sharing the post even if it’s not yours. People who click on it will land on your website and they might get interested in your books.
- Stop going on Facebook and giving them free content by just posting stuff. Take the time to write a blog post from your own website and then post it to Facebook.
Do this faithfully and start connecting with your readers regularly. In time you’ll build an audience that will be yours and not some SJW media mogul’s who might decide to blacklist you because you think DNA determines gender. Or global warming is a big lie. Or civil rights is just a con game some crooks are using to stay in power. Or Gweyneth Paltrow’s latest film sucks. Whatever. Build your own platform. Even if you’re not interested in causing trouble you’ll have an audience you can direct market your book to any time you want. These guys have had to do this because it turns out the “tolerate everything” Left aren’t all that tolerant about stuff they don’t agree with you about.
The only way the culture war will be won is if the creatives who can not get through a semi open gate can build a platform to get over the crumbling walls using the new and disruptive internet and it’s related communication technologies. The way those technologies empower individuals rather the large institutions that came about in the 20th Century due to the powers of the economies of scale.
Now, thanks to social media and the web it’s possible for like minded people outside the general narrative to build platforms and get their voices to an audience. The trick now is how do build an audience. That’s become easier because there is a lot of people that want to hear alternatives to the narrative created by the media industrial culture.
There was a time, not so long ago that the media industrial culture producing complex understood that there needed to be some sort of balance. Now it seems that, being in the dominant position across the media, academia means that all the brakes the used to restrain the fringe are gone and anything must be accepted, no matter how depraved. Not only must the depravity be accepted, it must be celebrated by all and sundry.
If weren’t for the power that the left has over the creatives in the various media industries the only response to the screams that the left is making over issues that are so pathetically trivial for ever smaller victim groups would be to laugh in their face. It is only through the power that leftist gain through the fear of consequences. Which is why they attempt to inflict those destructive consequences at every opportunity.
The push for COCs accelerated in 2015 when feminist activist Coraline Ada Ehmke demanded that hackers welcome social justice tactics and alt-left agendas into their tech communities, thus politicizing every aspect of people’s professional lives.
Under the guise of making tech spaces “welcoming,”Ehmke created the widely-used Contributor Covenant, which states people may “ban temporarily or permanently any contributor for other behaviors that they deem inappropriate, threatening, offensive, or harmful.”
In practice, the Contributor Covenant has been used to ban people from tech conferences and coding projects on the basis of any offensive given, at any time, even when it takes place outside the spaces in question.
In June 2015, the hacker Elia Shito publicly tweeted skepticism about transgenderism in children. Although Elia tweeted from his own personal account, Ehmke tried to get Elia Shito ejected from the open source community he participated in.
Shortly after the Elia Shito incident, open source hacker Curtis Yarvin was disinvited from Strangeloop after organizers fielded numerous complaints about views expressed by Yarvin in his political blog—despite the fact that Yarvin’s talk had nothing to do with politics and was focused on his open source work.
Just two months ago, Douglas Crockford’s invitation to Nodevember was rescinded, to prevent any “discomfort” that he might cause oppressed attendees. Nodevember never described the specific crimes to which Crockford was presumed guilty.
In the face of this unchecked power grab by the regressive left of tech, the Fantasyland Institute of Learning has developed its own COC that provides concrete criteria for expulsion and protection from ideological discrimination, making it the most inclusive and anti-discriminatory COC yet.
This Code of Conduct, called FCOP, does not permit discrimination on political grounds, nor does it allow adopters to consider a member’s behavior in other communities (allowing people to have and express personal views outside the community, even views that offend SJWs).
In a potentially devastating blow to the most widely-used weapon in the arsenal of social justice warriors, FCOP forbids “naming & shaming.” This technique involves shaming someone on social media, with the goal of forming a lynch mob powerful enough to get the person discredited or fired (“tech evangelist” Adria Richards notoriously used this technique to get a developer fired for a private joke he made to a friend at a tech conference).
The Progressive left has been using the tactics of destruction for a long time. It’s really all they have. That and angry outrage. What they lack is creativity, imagination and any love of life itself or any ability to laugh at that life.
There is an opportunity for authors and other creatives to change the course of the culture. All we have to do is make and create beautiful thing and wonderful stories and build our own platforms to shoot over those crumbling wall. Above all it’s time to be subversive and never lose our ability to poke at the pompous and laugh, even at ourselves. Consider what authors like L Sprague De Camp had to do back in the 1950’s. Can we do less?
There is no better time to create. To write, to paint, to make videos and movies of the stories that we want to tell. There’s no need to accept the message driven grey goo that the establishment media insist on plopping out. It’s time to stop accepting cultural mush and reach for the elegant, tasty and beautiful again.