“The Self Marketer Vs. The Writer”
By The Late Mitchell Warren
If “The Truth” is the greatest weapon mankind has ever discovered, then a mirror is the shield that he holds close to his heart. Mankind hides his vulnerability very well, projecting a reflective wall of defense. This shield is nearly impenetrable, as distracting his competitors with evidence of their shortcomings and their ignorance is like holding up a mirror to a flailing arms warrior who has no idea how ridiculous he looks in full battle gear.
Indeed, why would one focus on protecting his own heart or head, when his enemy can simply dash the reflection of himself to pieces?
When I first fell in love with writing, it was well before the days of blogging, search engine optimization and online news reports. Back then, it was a rather closed industry, an elitist society of college seniors that determined a freelance writer’s worth based solely on his/her background. If you were not hyper-educated or had not won a few (popularity) contests you were deemed unworthy to meddle in the affairs of the writing world. The alphas of the writing world determined that whatever you wrote, if not first declared valid by a qualified intellectual, was unfit to be published—as in, it is best reserved for your own hard drive, or a private data CD collection.
No one would ever read it, because the intellectuals of this elite society wore the mind of the average book buyer and collectively spoke in Borg-like unison, “You’re just not cut out to be a writer.”
There was no real opportunity for new writers to penetrate the system, because the hierarchy of big publishing houses was simply too unwelcoming, as were nepotistic local publications, that had in-staff writers and a team of regular freelancers who were already considered of the magazine’s family. The only way you could truly “break in” (an apt euphemism) to the legitimate publishing industry would be snag a college degree, or lie sensationally, or plagiarize the work of someone, or perhaps find something brilliantly “marketable” and appease the gods in suits.
And what was marketable was becoming abundantly clear. The books that were selling all had a common theme:
- The Idiot’s Guide to
- For Dummies
- Harry Potter
- Soon to be a Major Motion Picture
It was not just the lowest common denominator but was children’s education passing off as adult enlightenment. The classics of old were all but retired and detested by the writing elite, who loved the idea of their contemporary wit surpassing the most groundbreaking evolutionary writing of the Renaissance period. Editors sneered that the iconoclastic lyrical quality of Shakespeare, Joyce, Bronte and Dostoevsky would have no market today. People just didn’t have the patience to absorb such great ideas—and perhaps not too coincidentally, those deceased authors couldn’t quite fathom an unrestrained capitalist system, not like our great, contemporary, college-grad go-getters.
Just as classics alienated the modern readership, so too were books that challenged the system—as in books containing alternative perspectives, new philosophies, a deconstruction of old values—labeled as useless, self-indulgent, and however quaintly, “unpublishable.” That new and virtually meaningless word that would come to define the elite’s attitude towards the inevitable evolution.
After the creation of this defensive “shield” by those with diminishing power, it was understood how you were to communicate with the legitimate publishing world. You were required to share the values of the elite, including their condescension towards those second hand writers who dared to uproot the system and create virtual commotion or unrest.
Authors who dared to mention self-publishing as a legitimate option were mocked, and compared to chronic masturbators. They were people without talent and without the good sense to quit their silly ambitions of mainstream success. It was understood that you were either traditionally published or were unpublished and happy with your mediocrity. Furthermore, if you were unpublished the only way that you could be a part of the industry was to hobnob with publishers, agents and “advance” authors (as in the ones who are paid thousands in advance) as part of an approved subgroup I like to call…
Writing Groupies—The whores and gigolos of writing who corresponded with “New York City Publishing Houses” via forums and who eagerly awaited to be stuffed vaginally with a fish, just so they could have a brush with greatness. Some of the alpha groupies even created websites of assistance to new authors, warning them of the perils of the industry. The real reward though, was being part of the Big Publishing Community, and keeping your good standing amongst the elite.
There were many casualties early on; self-published vanguards who were laughed off the page, and who predictably failed to rise above impossible odds. However, it was only a matter of time before books like Eragon and Chicken Soup for the Soul (notice a theme again?) began to eat away at the Great Publishing Empire, their successes running contrary to every truth we “learned” about publishing.
The Great Publishing Empire, while still alive, now resembles the Vatican compared to Ancient Rome and it’s all because of the invention of free virtual real estate. The Internet itself did not cause the irrelevance of the printed word, nor was it necessarily the technology. Though, no one’s denying that the iPod and iPhone helped to destroy the world.
What was truly culture shocking about the Internet was all the free real estate being traded. Suddenly, unqualified, detestable human beings who didn’t graduate college, sleep with an editor or agent, or who weren’t blessed with Irish Luck, were being given the chance to find their own readership by direct solicitation and payment across the vast Internet sea.
Writers now had an unwarranted sense of freedom—the freedom to post articles, serials, and even full length books and take their message directly to the people. The very thought was distasteful to the publishing industry, who had always hid behind the excuse of expense and profitability. As in, we cannot justify publishing your book because it would probably lead to a financial loss…(forget the fact that the movie industry rewards profit loss year after year)
And while the publishing world disliked so much literary freedom, still, they didn’t share the contempt of the Writing Groupies who found the idea of Internet writing downright sacrilegious. They had been brainwashed well. Real writing involves payment—big payment and instant fame—and until the writers gets a huge cash advance it’s just a waste of time.
Internet Killed the Publishing Star
Perhaps the facades of elitism began to deteriorate right about the time that no name companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon began to dominate not only the reading world—but the entire world. The publishing world was forced to acknowledge their irrelevancy when compared to the much bigger world of instant global communication, made possible not just by technology, but by the capitalistic concept of free virtual real estate.
It also didn’t help that mom and pop publishing companies were elevating themselves *slightly* above vanity presses only by definition. A small advance, an adequate book returns policy in bookstores, an “editorial review” (meaning they actually took the time to read the damned thing), a few media blurbs here and there…why, it seemed as if traditional publishing was sort of like vanity publishing in the end. As for the #1 bestseller, Stephen King success story that writers craved, it was quickly becoming more of an urban legend (something a friend of a friend accomplished) more than a realistic goal.
Because of the Internet freedoms bestowed upon us, at last, everyone had a voice. Everyone had a chance. While few succeeded, everyone tried, and the elitist publishing world was shaken up, even suffering casualties like the major book chain company Borders. By the time the online piracy revolution began, publishers and even its big brothers, the music and movie industries, were in full-scale panic mode. To this day, the U.S. Government continues to scapegoat Peer-to-Peer websites and software companies, not necessarily for their moral sins, but as a last resort to save their own sinking ships. The publishing world is perhaps the most marred of any institution, as it now exists primarily as a training ground for the Next Great Tween Movie or as a launching pad for a cable or Internet variety show that will be even more profitable than the book.
And yet, for all the publishing world’s sobs that people don’t read anymore, thanks to free virtual real estate, the entire world is reading more and more than ever before. Oh sure, they’re still reading crap but they are reading, just as Big Publishing hoped, and yet at the expense of Big Publishing. Funny how you only seem to get what you want now after the rest of your future is totally screwed.
What a wonderful time to be a writer, or so one might think.
And yet I find myself, now in 2012, underwhelmed by a great majority of the writing on the Internet. I do believe I know why, though I am disturbed at the notion.
The Revenge of the Self Marketer
What we are witnessing is yet another evolutionary battle, that of the Self Marketer vs. the Writer. Aren’t self-marketers, writers, and vice versa? In classical theory, no. Writers are supposed to be the most ferocious of the human species—the ones who challenge, who circle, and who devour. They don’t just stir the pot—eat their prey raw. Writers are cerebral assassins, dangerous creatures, and statistically speaking, weird and creepy people in general.
Self-marketers, on the other hand, are an unfortunate side effect of capitalism. They live only to sustain themselves and provide sustenance to their expanded, worldwide tribe. The true writer has more in common with the bear than with a pack of wolves. While not all writers are isolationists, most great writers are not “team players.” By nature, they seek individual attention—whether as terrorists, trolls, alphas, masterminds, revolutionaries or detectives of the human spirit. On the other hand, self-marketers seek to work smoothly in a team environment and help each other succeed, which inevitably leads to more money for everyone. It’s the same Law of Attraction bullshit you’ve heard, the new optimistic, optimized, proactive, pyramid scheme you grew up with, but now adapted for this socially ignorant generation.
Perhaps I must confess that true writers are probably more cynical than self-marketers, as they do not necessarily have the “answers” to the puzzling questions they raise. Then again, neither does God or Science. Neither do the great minds of today or yesterday. True writers ask questions, they don’t provide neatly crafted answers that help to push an agenda. Whoever does offer “The Answer”, like the self-marketer, offers this dogma insincerely, without creativity or self-awareness, and with special attention to branding his or her own name. Mr. Self Marketer—the go-to-guy with the answers!
I’ve studied enough marketing and written enough bullshit to recognize a self-marketer for what he/she is—an imposter writer, something in between the Writing Groupie and the Mastermind Writer of the Renaissance. My first boss in Internet marketing (who actually inspired the Amanda/Melanie character from Writers Depository) confessed to me in private chat that she had always been a “world championship bullshitter” and had a career in SEO to prove it.
Honestly, I find the self-marketers’ clandestine admission of dishonesty refreshing. It’s good to know that most of these people don’t really believe the self-congratulatory tripe they come up with. They see their empty words for the Prozac pills that they are! Suddenly the world seems slightly less mad, only slightly more cynical.
What is truly sad is that much of the new generation of “writers” on the web, the ones who take their freedom of speech for granted, actually resemble the self-marketer and not the true blooded writer of Renaissance days. What appears to have happened is that the elite of the publishing world have transmigrated themselves into a new generation of haughty web bloggers and magazine writers. The same spirit is still there—not just the condescension but also the self-deception. The delusions these self-marketers keep, suggesting they are in fact “writers” despite not having the ability to write anything the least bit interesting. Instead, they quote doctors. They quote great men. They fire off cliches like handling a machine gun and pop a Prozac sentence, proud of their “referenced” work—masterfully constructed plagiarism.
Now, instead of insisting upon loyalty to an institution (as in the Big Publishing Houses, which now act as subservient geishas to every little new fucking device that Apple releases), the Elite now fancy themselves as “marketers”, people that know the ins and outs of marketing and have learned to work “smarter not harder.” The new Golden Rule is not adherence to traditional format, but allegiance to the Great Pyramid Scheme—the self-marketing path to capitalist paradise.
To knowingly blaspheme against the great Internet marketing gurus, the rich and independently wealth builders, is blasphemy to the Self-Marketing generation of writers. Unfortunately, it’s what we real writers do. We chip away at your armor. We slice off your limbs and legs, one at a time, just so you’ll admit that the pensive sting you feel is more than a flesh wound. We can’t help but hurt people in very imaginative ways. Our questions are our swords. Sometimes, once in a while perhaps, our brutal actions causes a colossal shift in the way the world turns.
The only issue left to discuss is which writer are you, the Subversify Reader. Are you a Self-Marketer posing as a writer or are you a genuinely creative being that sees the world for what it is: an ongoing and violent dichotomy of art and finance?
Admittedly, not every artisan is easy to classify. Even the greater writers of old suffered from the inability to not be liked. From the days of Mark Twain (who had to wait 100 years after the death of he and his friends to publish his final collection of politically incorrect thoughts) to even the plays of Arthur Miller, who lamented through his Death of a Salesman characters that to be only “Well Liked” was quite the un-achievement.
Granted, not all “true writers” have courage and valor—and perhaps only a handful of great minds from each generation have this quality. The magnificent ability to withdraw from a corrupt community and a harmful institution—even if such an institution provides temporary comforts or important friendships. True, not all great minds should become writers, since higher epiphanies and the continual dissection of one’s values can easily slide you into a lifetime of depression.
However, even if you’re a chicken writer you can live comfortably with the realization that you’re not an absolute slut of a human being, like the self-marketer who is so generous with his/her genital wisdom. It’s the law of attraction summed up in clinical terms: Whatever I ejaculate is what the world wants. Life begats life, like attracts like, the secret of the universe is within your pants.
Perspective and Criticism: Irrelevant!
There is one true way to tell self-marketers apart from true writers and that is the total inability to see new perspectives. The self-marketer is not only unable to debate amongst intellectuals, but is also unwilling to fathom that there is any logical explanation for how things are, other than what is written in his/her gospel. Debating is pointless because only the self-marketer’s viewpoint matters. Everything else is worthless. Everything else is masturbation. (Seem familiar?) Everything else is unworthy of the self-marketer’s time because this fucker is just too busy making money and living the high life—enjoying the fruitages of his/her truth.
To question a self-marketer, a guru among mortal men, is not only sacrilegious in thought, but more importantly, it’s dangerous to the brand. When you insult the self-marketer’s honor, you endanger his or her reputation. You question his or her credentials, and suddenly, their career slows down. Ideally, the self-marketer’s paradise is an Internet full of only positive comments (er excuse me, testimonials) with all the opposing arguments deleted from existence. Just imagine the average self-marketer with a raging hard on, a priapism of optimistic thinking. Yes, disturbing…sick…permanently damaged dick. That’s Mister Self-Marketer for you.
These people are definitely soulless because we, the revolutionaries of the written word, love eating people without souls. The soul of a person—indeed, the empathy we prefer not to feel, lest it challenge our own values—adds a bitter taste to our kill. Thinking writers sometimes feel guilty for coming down too hard on someone with a soul. So thank God for soulless self-marketers who digest like cactus. They don’t know the meaning of the word empathy or multiple Points-of-View. They make literary cannibalism so yummy because they taste like creampuffs.
So as you continue to grip that mirror shield and march into battle—indeed, the Internet is the writer’s gladiatorial arena—very aware of everyone else’s faults and ignorance, I ask you this: what is really happening when that mirror is crushed to pieces?
I’m not answering that for you. I only ask questions.
Now I’m not suggesting that you impressionable young writers out there go the other extreme and become a Pulp Fiction-esque Gimp, just itching to take punishment from your favorite mentors in hopes of becoming a better writer. I’ve seen this happen a number of times at retarded writing forums and stupid writers’ net websites. Asking random people to spank you is not really winning a popularity contest—but it is nonetheless a great way to brand your ass.
Good writing comes from your own experiences, your own expanding vocabulary. Ten years ago, the dogma of the day that suggested that your writing was not good enough and needed to be finely honed by reading and imitating popular authors. Now, fake documentaries like Catfish and books like Hunger Games are reaping in big bucks and creating viral storms all over social media. Keep that attitude and you’ll be left behind more often than Harold Camping.
Yes, criticism is helpful to a point. However, writers can also suffer from a form of Stockholm syndrome and become so addicted to empty criticism that they evolve into a new age Writer Groupie—a person stalled in talent and in growth because of peer worship.
Still, if you adamantly prefer to be a Writing Groupie, I’ve got a fish just waiting for you on my Facebook Page.