The Self Marketer Vs. The Writer
- by Late Mitchell Warren
- Posted on 23 March, 2009
“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.
Late Mitchell Warren- The Self Marketer Vs. The Writer. The writing world has changed over the last 20 years but some attitudes persist.
Wish I could market myself. Unfortunately, i can’t. I’m no marketer, self or otherwise. Which is why I’m grateful to Subversify for granting me this window to the world.
My book, Anastasia and the Cuban was published unconventionally as an eBook under the Bookstrand label. In my naivety, I made the mistake of publishing a suspense novel that had a romance, as a romantic suspense. It was a learning experience. The book hasn’t sold well.
I did this because the dinosaurs of the publishing world did have MFA inspired mandates for what was publishable. So much so, that I’m confident that even Steinbeck would find it difficult to publish his work today. They relied on the flavor-of-the-year MFA inspirational ideas of what was in vogue. The only other way you could get noticed is if your spouse was Hamptons-wealth rich, rich, rich; or if you had a celebrity blunder, sex video, or other noticeable publicity stunt that drew a number of clicks on your name. I’m convinced the major literary agents and dinosaur publishers still operate this way.
As Mitchell knows, I was a “starry eyed” writer in 2003 that entered one of those bastions of snobbery known as a writer’s site. I recall the dinosaurs of those places with humor. None of them really had done anything remarkable with publishing, but they were all experts. I quickly dug my own grave in those places, by not approaching these people’s delicate egos with humility. I became one of the most hated people at Writers net and later at Zoetrope. But oddly enough, I also attracted a nice following of online friends too; people who thought the same things I did about those folks and later told me so.
What I learned from all of this is that only you determine your success. And I learned to absorb criticism and apply changes. Today I have not changed my style to suit others. I have changed my poor writing. I listened. I changed. I grew as a writer. I’m about to burst out with three novels I’ve edited and changed. I don’t know if the publishing world will give me the time of day. After reading some of what they publish, I’m not offended. If they don’t, I know the alternatives and I do know how to market myself. The revenge, if any, is that they made me the writer I am today. And I’m happy with that.
I have often thought that today’s world of the arts may likely be recalled as another era of self-indulgence, but not much remembered for raw talent. I believe that we have turned the art of writing into a joke in the traditional publishing world.
What are they publishing? Well…every no-talent celebrity that has a perfume out also has a book out; so what does that tell you? Why? Because the vacuous public has become mesmerized by celebrities, rather than pristine story-telling and creative plotting. Today’s audience revolves around the pretentious, not pretending.
I am reminded in history of the Age of Hedonism and Decadence. I think we are not far off from that…not necessarily in a sexual sense; because in reality, we have become sexual prudes with the Reborn Christian Fundamentalism. But in our desires to accept the lowest forms of entertainment, rather than demanding excellence and creating for excellent ideas. What impression will this leave on our descendents? I’m sure they will look upon us as a silly lot of people, incredibly lazy and pathetically dull. And that saddens me, because I have a grandson.
I think I might be a Self-Marketer.
By clicking on your name, I think you may be an expert at something. However, it seems like maybe the ‘casting couch’ has already historically been proven.
I think works of art and literature that are motivated by money are worthless. I think the man or woman who creates art in order to make money doesn’t qualify as a genuine artist at all.
I think any work that is done for money is tainted work. I like working for pleasure.
I think our society is so sick it’s really surprising that we still exist. I think if God is real he probably feels ashamed and disgusted for having created us.
I think everything we do is wrong; we can’t get anything right IMO, and those who try are put down.
It’s illegal to be right or do right these days as far as I can tell. People who do stupid things and encourage stupidity and ignorance become rich and/or celebrities. (think the asshole who wrote the Twilight series.)
I think people who like the Twilight books/movies are the problem, and they should be persecuted like jews under nazism.
Seriously though, how can there be any place for good books when people are only interested in bullshit?
LOL, Shh, I hadn’t even clicked on your name link until Jennifer brought it up…you coulda warned us!
Anyway, rarely is anybody’s art recognized until they are dead. This is just a fact. The Stephen Kings of this world are not selling their “art”, in fact his fiction frequently refers to this dilemma, the un-sellable things he considers “good”, his guilt and fears.
I see it this way, “sucessful” writers of any era are in fact PR and Marketing folks. It’s no accident that the not-puke-worthy-but-not-exceptional Twiligh series recieved attention for Stephanie Meyers while her more adult attempt at Sci-Fi writing “The Host” does not. She was taught to write what sells and did it. We could feasably all do this. For some of us, it’s just not what is interesting.
Thank whatever gods you have, when you are a person who is able to do what is interesting to you, even if it’s in your spare time. This is really the only thing that matters anyway.
Grainne, I think there’s two distinct types of writing these days, and they stem from people’s reading habits IMO.
One is what I would call writing for the sake of knowledge, and the other writing for the sake of writing itself.
I think writing for the sake of writing is as absurd as reading just for the sake of reading.. But it seems this is what’s popular today; people rarely read for information anymore, rather they like to read “good writing” which is IMO anything that is amusing/enjoyable/etc.
I think 100 years from now, what we call “great literary works” today aren’t what people will remember. I think knowledge is what people covet the most in the end.. cause you know.. knowledge is power.
shh, I don’t find reading for the sake of reading,nor writing for the sake of writing absurd. In fact, I can’t even wrap my mind around that statement. To me, that is absurd.
How is it absurd to simply enjoy reading, to get lost in a story. It has always boggled my mind that people don’t do this. Anything amusing/enjoyable/etc. is good for the soul, like music or film or any artform. It relaxes and uses higher brain functioning than watching film and it inspires. Why else would so many teach in parable, faerie tales and myth?
Of course knowledge will be important, we will need to know how to make things we don’t now, most likely irrigation systems, compound bows and putting food by, will top the list. (half kidding)
But also, we, the human race crave stories and I see nothing wrong with this. Also I see nothing wrong with writing for the sake of it. Whether that be journals that leave a history of us and our feelings/discoveries or dreams we make up. They are in a way thier own knowledge, a history of our culture, a snap-shot of what is culturally important.
Grainne, I think all we care about is pleasure.
We have reduced everything to pleasure and amusement. We even go so far as to say that pleasure is good for us..
If you ask me, I say indulging in pleasurable acts is a waste of time. From my limited experience I’ve reached the conclusion that there is nothing to learn from pleasure.. real learning takes place through enduring hardship.
Of course we believe that hardship is bad for us and we try to avoid it at all costs (a clue as to why we are so stupid perhaps)
I don’t see anything wrong with stories. I love stories. What I don’t like is bullshit presented in the guise of a story.
I think bullshit in the guise of a story can be very telling. But yes, there remains the question as to whether it deserves longitivity.
Well, Grainne, as you said, certain people know how to sell their crap (PR and marketing folks)
I think stories that are written just to be sold are the BS, and yet they are usually interesting/amusing BS.
As an example, I think Harry Potter is excellent crap. It’s a magnificent worthless story IMO.
I don’t think it’s “wrong” to get lost in Harry Potter or Bella Swan’s world.. but it seems to me that we are like prisoners in a cage reading stories to escape our condition.. when we could be living the real thing instead.
I understand where you’re coming from Grainne.
“shh, I don’t find reading for the sake of reading,nor writing for the sake of writing absurd. In fact, I can’t even wrap my mind around that statement. To me, that is absurd.”
Grainne, I know you don’t generally agree with my ideology, but I’ll give you an analogy anyway:
Presumably, mammals have sex for the sake of procreation. Some (most) people have sex for the sake of sex itself. I can’t say which is good or bad.. But I can say that having sex just to have sex is stupid and senseless.
And another one. Some people take morphine to ease pain. Others take it for pleasure.
I’m one of those people that believes there is an inherent purpose to everything. The purpose of reading can’t be reading itself because that’s just nonsense IMO.
I know..It’s all a good conversation.
I think this entire piece and the comment thread afterward is one of the greatest comedies I’ve read in a long time. People who label themselves as “true writers” are as worthless as those who describe themselves as “spontaneous” are to hang out with.