Lies, Limits, Prestige & Publishing

Ah yes, this is it! Page 36 of Gladwell’s David and Goliath he writes:

“We spend a lot of time thinking about the ways that prestige and resources and belonging to elite institutions make us better off. We don’t spend enough time thinking about the ways in which those kinds of material advantages limit our options.”


This articulately summarizes what I’ve felt to be true for years. He’s given me the handle and the wheels so it’s easier to take it around with me. Thank You Malcolm!

Growing up in the 80s and well into the 90s to discover you’re a writer is devastating, it’s like being a mutant resigned to enrolling in Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Here’s the old system I was forced to contend with if I wanted to be an author. (I’ll always be a writer, just now I got all hubris and decided to be an author).

None of the big “legit” New York Publishing houses will bother with my manuscript if I don’t have an agent. If I submit my agentless book it’ll end up in the slush pile. Odds of slush pile discovery/success, about the same of Eva Mendes giving birth to my children. So I have to get an agent. Great…how do I do that? By writing.

So now I have to approach magazine editors and submit stories, articles…consistent magazine writing of some kind. When I have lots of good clips and/or prominent clips I can begin contacting agents and see if one can represent me. Sigh…still not done yet.

I somehow get my agent, it’s a Christmas miracle, who gets my book into the right publisher, it’s an Easter miracle, only to find out the publisher will publish the book but not support me with publicity or anything else. Sigh…I’m as doomed as Stephen King character.

What an ugly brutal awful system. I loath every aspect of it. I detest being subjected to it, having to content with it, having no options. Plus why would I lose a cut to the publisher and to the agent who aren’t going to do all that much to sell it? Financially that doesn’t make sense! Less layers not more middle men.

I didn’t have options, all writers didn’t. As Gladwell writes we were supposed to accept the prestige of having made it…imagine being published by Harper Collins. Or Penguin. That glory, of being selected, like being the first pick of the NBA draft was the fuel the dream. If you want to play professional basketball it’s NBA or bust…there is no alternative. CBA maybe?

Well that prestige is great but it’s not enough. There’s far too much risk associated with that system and no guarantees. And then the internet happened…big time. Social media! Print on demand! Amazon! Options. Glorious wonderful options. All the options the original system didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t provide. I went from being a butler to owning my own house.

The freedom is thrilling! It’s incredibly easy for me to abandon the old system because I only tolerated it, I wasn’t invested. It was a loveless marriage. I believed then as I do now, there has to be a better way. There must be alternatives. Always. I’ve nothing to gain by continuing to invest in the old system…be it publishers, studios, record companies, tv stations…the internet has opened up all kinds of direct avenues of connection and distribution. More: we can control our destiny, I can found companies, startups, that assist Artists (which in turns continues to dismantle the old system). Online possibilities outnumber indie bands.

However I’ve come to realize my passionate revelry is painful and offensive to hear by writers, filmmakers and creatives committed to the old system. Many writers still dream of being published by Penguin. Filmmakers dream of working with Paramount Studios and winning an Oscar. Depending on your perspective they’re invested…or institutionalized.

It’s the same tension when a married friend gets together with a single friend. The married friend insists it’s a wonderful life, the best choice. The single friend can’t comprehend it, he’s happy being promiscuous. And yet Gladwell is right arm, both friends are blind to how they have limited their options.

By placing a bet on the New, all the wonderful online advancements and opportunities I have limited my options. So Be It. It’s entirely possible I’ve overlooked benefits from the old system. So Be It. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, it’s a bet I’m willing to make. Betting on myself is always more comforting. It’s the first step anyways, I have to bet on myself, before I can ask anyone or any other company to do the same. So Be It.


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Also published on Medium.

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