Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Fall of the A-Write-ocracy?

This morning I relished with somewhat devilish delight a provocative opinion piece appearing in today's Huffington Post entitled New Rules for Writers: Ignore Publicity, Shun Crowds, Refuse Recognition and More.

Though some have speculated that this article may actually be satirical, it echoes many of the sentiments genuinely expressed by writers consciously choosing to bypass the disempowering aspects of those in the traditional writing establishment who are not enlightened or progressive enough to empower authors. I happen to know because I'm one such writer.

The push and pull of differing opinions on this topic come up regularly on weekly #writechat discussions on Twitter, with today no exception. In fact, last week, the topic was so very raw, afterwards I may have been the first to coin the new term "a-WRITE-ocracy" to describe the elitist attitudes that are unfortunately so commonplace in the established writing world, with the many writers in waiting circulating around its ivory palaces.

No matter how shrill the denials or condescending comments, there is no escaping the fact that a genuine writer's rebellion has been underway for so long, it is essentially a fait d'accompli.

The rebellion is actually not quite as revolutionary as we may think. Although not as accessible in the days of old, its seeds were already present in everything from cheap broadside ballads, chapbooks, almanacs and alternative news sources to the unconventional approaches of the talented 19th century Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Self-publishing is the writer's entrepreneurship, not all that different from the choice to seek freedom as an independent business owner instead of a paid employee. Self-publishing need not only describe the publishing of a book. It can also encompass many forms of online writing, from blogs to discussion forums to entire web sites.

Traditional publishing may carry its rewards, but so does freedom. As with progressive employers, the most progressive publishers will survive and thrive, but only those that emphasize the empowerment of a true co-creative partnership, only those that recognize that writers really do have legitimate choices these days.

In truth, nothing can silence the voice of a writer, whether assessed by some as "talented" or not. Free, unhindered expression is writing in its purest form. And no matter how forcefully some attempt to bar the gates from the threat of the "writing rabble", the true gatekeepers are now the readers, not the publishers.


  1. I wonder how much of the rebellion is due to the elitism, and how much of it is because of pure demand. The existing system can't even come close to accommodating the volume of publishable works, so other industries had to grow out of necessity.

    On second though, nah...I like a good 'ol rebellion :)

    Now all it takes is validation of these alternative methods through success or endorsement. Is that something that you're seeing more out of the self-publishing world? (Not necessarily blogs, but books mainly)

    Let me know what you think @elijahryoung

  2. If I had written an article about it (and I did) I would have meant every word.

    It's about total artistic freedom, and finally it's here, in our grasp.

  3. Elijah,

    I am aware of multiple instances where online writers (with nary a book to their names) did indeed attract significant attention. Be aware that I think of "self publishing" in the broadest possible sense.

    In one case, an online writer I know was invited by Oprah herself (in a message relayed by her producers) to appear on the extremely popular "A New Earth" webcast, where there was a segment in which he was interviewed by Oprah via Skype. He had written very prolifically and expressively on the Oprah discussion forum, with multiple posts surfaced via readership popularity to the top 3 Hot Discussions on the front page of the entire Oprah web site. How many authors of books have experienced that level of visibility?

    In another case, someone I know who has blogged for years in the spiritual community (and who created a popular web site) earned a book deal with Penguin (albeit chose not to self publish the book in that case, a book that is still forthcoming). He is now a regular commentator on a very popular History Channel program, all without publishing ANY books to date.

    In my own case, my online writing has led to many things, including attracting the attention of an Emmy-award-winning ABC News producer a couple years ago. I too have had the experience of seeing my writing surfaced via popularity to the front page of the Oprah web site (keeping in mind that this was not Machiavellian on any of our parts - that forum has always been all about regular people writing straight from the heart).

    So when I talk about "self publishing", I'm not just referring to books. One of my current web site projects (where I'm writing about a niche topic in great detail) is opening a lot of doors, even before a book related to the topic is complete.

    It is no longer unusual for people to make conference appearances based solely on their online writing. This is currently my experience.

    As to my own book publishing plans, I'm forming a small independent publishing entity via my existing business, so I'm not exactly taking the traditional self publishing route either. But I chose not to invest time into pitching either of my two upcoming books to traditional publishers. I would entertain a discussion with a major publisher, but it would only be from a win-win partnership position, not anything disempowering, and it's not something I'm proactively seeking. I have come to realize that a writing career today can have many components, and a book is just one of them.


  4. Amos,

    You are of course one of the self-published authors inspiring me to write about this topic.

    Free artistic expression has always been with us in one way or another. Every time we feel it has been lost, it finds a way to emerge once again. And this time, the rebellion is complete! :-)