Tuesday, May 18, 2010


No one should be surprised that a DIY writer like myself is interested in how to market. Over the years as a zeenster I've been writer, editor, graphic designer, publisher, distributor, publicist, promoter, entertainer, and all parts between. This is directly opposite to the nannied authors of the mainstream, who struggle through a manuscript, send it out, and from then others have control over every aspect of the work.

When you sell your own work, you wonder how to get it more attention. This is marketing.
Fact is that one of my blogs is now devoted solely to a discussion of marketing--
Access is free, but you have to ask for an invite. I generally allow everyone to read it, with the occasional exception of pods, moles, spies, ghosts, bankers, Nottingham sheriffs, Sholokhovs, O'Briens ("How many fingers do you see?") and the like. The current post is "What Is Talent?"-- in which I present my unique perspective on what I look for in writers, which I guarantee is different from the strictured criteria of the mainstream.


Harland said...

DIY is great, but its inherent function is to fill a niche not being served by larger "content providers," in this case magazine and book publishers. The audience is almost always pre-defined (i.e., made up solely of people interested in that material to begin with), self-selecting (i.e., resistant to "marketing"), and therefore an inherently limited one. Of course you want to "get more attention," but you're feinting here, King. You've never said, "What I want is to reach as many of the 2200 people interested in this stuff as possible," or if you are you're saying it very badly, because the way you articulate it is by railing against the exclusiveness of the very entities to which you've set yourself in opposition.

How do you reconcile the idea of "struggling" through a manuscript with being "nannied"? And what do you know about the extent of the "control" these nameless others have over "every aspect" of the work? Experientially, you're talking through your hat. You've never published a book, or worked with an editor on revising it. How would you know what the power dynamics are?

King said...

The limited contact I've had with established literature told me enough-- various essay in several esteemed lit periodicals hacked up, my rhythmns, and the sense, or the pieces destroyed. Forgive me if I don't give chapter and verse.
You miss the point. In the 100-some zeens I've published, I had no editor to work with or negotiate with. I was in total control. (Well, for two issue of Pop Literary Gazette in 1998 I had a co-editor.)
I'm sure I've "published" in a real sense more than you have, in that I formatted my zeens for a printer or a copy machine.
Don't tell me you've actually been involved with the printing process?
Laying out how the writing looks on the page?
Adding photos, artwork, other kinds of cut-ups?
Designing the cover?
Physically taking the product into stores?
Planning and staging your own readings, with all that involves?
Designing and printing flyers for the event, and posting them or handing them out around town?
Doing your own p.r. through relentlessly contacting journalists?
Have you in fact done any of this?
Or are you the passive reipient?
Organizing even one show with varied and sundry kinds of egotistical writers can be a handfull.
I went beyond this in that I organizaed a writer's organization; recruited, enlisted, converted members; worked up its main talking points, wrote membership material from outlines of the groups history and principles to regular membership newsletters.
Etc etc.
It's a different philosophy of how to produce literature. Forgive me for lauding it.

cs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mather said...

I need to ask you to be allowed to read your blog? That's not going to happen.

Harland said...

Don't tell me you've actually been involved with the printing process?
Laying out how the writing looks on the page?


Adding photos, artwork, other kinds of cut-ups?


Designing the cover?


Physically taking the product into stores?


Planning and staging your own readings, with all that involves?


Designing and printing flyers for the event, and posting them or handing them out around town?

Not as such, but yes.

Doing your own p.r. through relentlessly contacting journalists?


Have you in fact done any of this?
Or are you the passive reipient?

Of what? Are you now extending your position to declare inauthentic all authors whose experience of the publishing procedure is mediated by the presence of editors, copy-editors, printers, and others involved in the production of a book? What next? The "nannied" state of failing to mill your own paper, fell your own trees?

Harland said...

Besides, you're actually avoiding my point. It's one thing to laud the practice of self-publication, and why not? It's a laudable practice.

But you're not sitting here cogently arguing with an emphasis on the joys and pitfalls of self-publication. You're arguing against your exclusion from the mainstream that forces you to self-publish your work. A zine exists to serve a need that's not being filled elsewhere. Fine and good. A long and wonderful tradition. But when Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door, the punchline wasn't, "Therefore, elect me to the College of Cardinals."

King said...

Uh, Harland, don't you have some polo ponies to manage or yacht party to attend?

King said...

You know, Harland, you keep trying to impose your self-created narrative upon myself and what I'm about. You don't have a clue what motivates me and has motivated me. I'll just say that I was a shit-disturber before I became a writer. My attitudes and ideas were formed long before I became a writer.
If I understand your argument, you want DIYers to exist apart from literature, and the noisemaking engines of society, by extension, apart from society itself. DIYers, in your view, should operate in a desert outside civilization, where we do our own thing in our quiet circle and never disturb anyone.
I guess you'd love that!
Except that I write for one reason-- to engage society.
Does one do that by accepting the current Machine of Literature, and thereby transform lit and culture from the Inside, as so many faux-liberal writers pretend to be doing?
Or does one attack the monolithic system in all its parts?
I note a lot of anti-establishment sentiment from the public right now, manifested within both political parties.
Wait a minute! There is no establishment, is there?
By the way, in my view my intended version of DIY is not meant to "fill a niche." What we're given as mainstream literature is the niche. You have the pre-screened pre-defined audience. I don't.

King said...

I still wonder why you're here, or what you hope to accomplish.
Do you really think you can move me toward your moldy point-of-view?
I have no desire or reason to become just one more go-along person.
In my book, when one looks at the spectrum of literature, you're in the area of literary reactionary, in that you actively argue against change in the art or in the system which produces that art.
Most of today's writers are literary conservatives. Their main impetus is inertia. They do what everyone else is doing.
I find that many self-described outsiders are moderates, in that they'll not actively work for change of the art and system, even if they disdain it.
Yes, there are maybe eight literary radicals out there, unafraid to state that the art is de facto dead. In a historical sense dead, because it's stopped moving.

King said...

To Mather. Uh, yes, that blog is by invitation only. I've invited writers to read it, but I'm not a mindreader and know in advance who is or is not interested in the topic.

King said...

p.s. When Harland returns from his poplo match, I hope he expands on his own points. Such as: What ARE the power dynamics between writer and editor?
We all know the sad case of Ray (excuse me, Raymond) Carver and his editor Gordon Lish. Is this not reflective of the system?
Isn't the most prestigious (if not only) venue for short stories in America, the New Yorker, infamous for demanding that writing conform to the New Yorker voice? (Which has become the voice of the literary story.)
What leverage does the writer have or could possibly have in a "dynamic" where he is supplicant to a hierarchical system where not he, but the Publkisher at the top of the skyscraper is in control of the art?
In other words, where finance makes the ultimate decisions, and beneath them, the mandarins of the art who they hire?
Think what you will about the ULA, but at the outset it was intended to become a different kind of model, horizontal in structure, where the writer would be in charge of the art. Sadly, it didn't work out like this, but the notion behind it was the right path.

King said...

p.p.s. That should be "polo" in the previous comment from me. I must have "pop" on the brain.
While I have a little time to kill before I go into my job, I'll mention that the most tiring thing about Harland's comments is his always giving me power I don't have.
Such as, the idea that I can "declare" any writer inauthetic, or anything. This notion is a perversion of reality.
I'm on the outside, remember, and he's on the Inside.
The reality is that my ideas have already been declared inauthetic, behind closed doors. They're automatically dismissed.
He's dismissed them here, and dismissed myself as a writer.
That leaves no middle ground between us whatsoever.
The literary establishment-- yes, there is such an animal, Virginia-- has dismissed me with the same rationale that I'm not a writer. Therefore, I should have no voice.
This is PEN's attitude. If you're not a literary citizen, then you're entitled to no respect.
All writers are equal, but some are more equal than others.
(No, I don't want to be a member of PEN. Or to be a member of PEN just to be a member of PEN. I asked them to live up to their OWN principles, and called them on the hypocrisy of the organization. The Petition was a useful tool to do that.
If we have nonprofits like that, given special tax treatement, then they should serve the public-- not just the most priviliged part of that public. To say "No one cares" about corruption isn't an answer.)
For those commenters who say I'm not a writer-- then we have nothing to discuss. There's no basis for a discussion. We're not speaking the same language.

Harland said...

"Uh, Harland, don't you have some polo ponies to manage or yacht party to attend?"

Talk about imposing a "self-created narrative" on someone.

"My attitudes and ideas were formed long before I became a writer."

You're bragging about having calcified ideas and attitudes.

"If I understand your argument, you want DIYers to exist apart from literature..."

No, what I'm saying is that part of the subversion of art is in its patent disinterest in the "marketable."

"DIYers, in your view, should...do our own thing in our quiet circle and never disturb anyone."

No, in my view DIYers should do whatever they want, but they leave their motives open to question when their shrill posing openly yearns for mainstream acceptance and attention.

"I write for one reason-- to engage society."

You don't "engage" anyone, you deliver personal judgments about individuals you don't know and literary judgments about authors you don't read.

"I note a lot of anti-establishment sentiment from the public right now, manifested within both political parties."

Of course you're right. I was just reading about a Tea Party protest in which Rick Moody and Daniel Handler were burned in effigy.

"By the way, in my view my intended version of DIY is not meant to 'fill a niche.' What we're given as mainstream literature is the niche. You have the pre-screened pre-defined audience. I don't."

That doesn't make sense even within the context of your own strange logic. Are we dealing with the monolith or with a niche purveyor? Are you supposed to be the marginal undergrounder or the writer with mass appeal?

"...you're in the area of literary reactionary, in that you actively argue against change in the art or in the system which produces that art."

Because when you refer to "the system" you are referring to every form of non-DIY publication from the smallest press to the largest corporate imprint, it's hard to know what I'm supposed to be arguing against except the very concept of "publication" as a juried procedure.

Of course to you "the system" would have to be an all-inclusive concept, because if "corruption," "fear," and "greed" are the only reasons you can come up with for why "eight literary radicals" can't get published, except by themselves, then surely it's a "system" that's working against them.

"What ARE the power dynamics between writer and editor?"

Back from the polo match. Easy. An editor writes what is known as an "editorial letter" outlining suggested cuts and revisions. The writer is sometimes given to understand that the amount of marketing and publicity weight that will be placed on the book, its position on the "list," as it were, is dependent upon his or her agreeing to certain of these changes. But the author is fundamentally free to disagree, and in any case often there is no such pressure applied. Raymond Carver was a pathetic fuck-up who at any time held it within his power to tell Gordon Lish to get screwed, but he never did. Go figure. Many, including me, think that his stories are stronger for Lish's interventions. The New Yorker is a different story, and I won't defend their editorial practices (whatever they may be; I've never been in the New Yorker), but I will observe that those practices effect something like .00025 percent of the writers working in America today.

Many of the small presses you refuse to acknowledge do not, in fact, impose financially-motivated editorial changes on their authors. And this is where the majority of authors do publish.

"He's dismissed them here, and dismissed myself as a writer."

Anyone who continually uses the reflexive pronoun as you do deserves to be dismissed as a writer.

mather said...

About people who write anonymously: "Your name, you scoundrel! For to mask and disguise yourself and to attack those who go about undisguised is not the act of an honorable man, but of knaves and rascals. Therefore your name, you scoundrel!"


mather said...

I think the Michael and Matthew Dickman sudden rise to fame is a good example of what you're saying, Wenclas.

mather said...

Harland, I've noticed that every time Wenclas makes some hypothesis about you or your life, whether in jest or not, you jump on it to prove what an idiot he is. But, still, you refuse to come clean and admit who the fuck you are and what you've done. If you would just be honest in the first place, 50 percent of this blog comment section could be eliminated.

mather said...

Well, he's giving us hints all the time. Now, we know that he has "not" been published in the New Yorker. Thanks for that. It's like an easter egg hunt. Except with blowhard cowards instead of eggs.

Harland said...

But Mather, who I am doesn't make any difference, as the King has repeatedly made abundantly clear here. I am a published author living in New York City who occasionally teaches writing and literature at the university level. To the King any one of these facts, or any combination of these facts, renders me indistinguishable from his betes-noir. There is no way, according to the King's particular brand of truth, that I could be said to have earned whatever "privileges" he might imagine that I enjoy, or that the King could be led to believe that those privileges are quite inadequate to the task of supporting me and my family. There is no way that my work, published by an "establishment" that is corrupt from top to bottom, could be said to have any merit. In other words, the King doesn't actually see me as an individual but as representative of a "monolith," inherently without individuality. Why should the name matter?

I'll say what I've said before. With the very recent exceptions of McInerney and Gaitskill, the King has NEVER had anything good to say about a published living writer, and he doesn't limit his remarks to the discussion of their books, which he does grudgingly if at all, but about what he assumes that they have. The King's appeals aren't literary appeals, but class appeals. A writer's being published by a publisher -- any publisher -- makes him, mutatis mutandis, part of "the corrupt machine." See Donald Ray Pollock, whose "Knockemstiff" is EXACTLY the kind of book the King is always ranting about as "authentic," but which, since it was brought out by Doubleday and since Pollock received an award for it, is a piece of crap as far as the King's concerned.

mather said...

Harland, there's only one way to stop treating you as a cog, and that's for you to prove, right here on this blog where the conversation is happening, that you are a real human being. But you won't do that. So, the conversation just stops there. That's your cute little sleeve card.

Whatever Wenclas is saying, he's saying it with his own real name and identity, and he's not hiding his creative works or his past. You keep accusing him of generalizing and abstracting but at least he is a real human being who we can all see and point to, while you won't even specifify your self, in order to separate yourself. You are nothing.

Harland said...

Oh, please. I love how people like you and the King and pretty much anybody else who's carved a kind of shallowly authoritative presence on the surface of the web trots out the same dumb line about how proof of the authenticity of one's identity is the only way to validate their ideas. Schopenhauer, yet. An interesting choice, considering that this blog is all about inscribing and memorializing the King's runaway desires and envies.

The fact that the King is "a real human being" has nothing whatsoever to do with the fatal process of rationalization that infects his thesis ("the machine" that extends to the furthest reaches of publishing) or with the irrelevance of his authentically gritty life to his ability to produce genuine literature. In fact, the fact of the King's identity, which you can be sure is at least as much of a self-serving construct as "Harland" is, is the mask that he himself wears. I am brave. I am cast out. I am leading the rebellion. I have been a substitute teacher in the toughest schools in Philadelphia. I have worked alongside the downtrodden in America's forgotten city. Bla bla bla. The raging egotism, the obsessive rehearsal of the grim circumstances of his life, the meditative asides about how he can't figure out why he, who is such a powerless and marginal figure, should be blackballed and harassed by the Powers That Be -- even the most credulous reader would have to question whether this is who the King is or who he wants (us) to believe he is. Meanwhile, each of these mythic elements of the King's "story" serves to justify his asinine "ideas" about literature and his bizarre persecution fantasies about "the establishment." Not buying.

"You are nothing."

No, I am a voice. It's all that's needed. Literature Lesson Number One, Dingbat.

King said...

The Harland technique is to make a series of distorted statements, which I'll then spend many words refuting. Even after the matter is clarified, he'll continue posting the same distortion again and again, regardless.
He has an obsession about every petty grammatical rule which has ever been thought up by the school marms and regulators of lit, but larger concepts like truth and right or wrong have no meaning to him.

King said...

Case in point: Donal Ray Pollock was mentioned in an overview of PEN awards I posted last year. Pollock wasn't the focus of the post.
The larger question, though, is why supposed watchdog PEN is in incestuous relationships with media conglomerates like Bertlesmann-- a question alleged small press guy "Harland" doesn't care about.

King said...

Every argument Harland makes is a distortion. I said I read and liked Gaitskill and Jay Mac-- when I read them in the late 80's!
As for now, I'm under no obligation to publicly praise ANY current mainstream writer. I advocate a different aesthetic for the art. If a current book strikes my interest I'll hype it. (As I did for a historical work a few years back.)
As I said, recently I read novels by Jonathan Lethem and Lorrie Moore-- the established lit world's proclaimed best of the best. Neither book was very good. I'd never claim that the authors aren't writers.
Re the small press: I've criticized aspects of the small press, sure. To claim I'm against the small press, or small press people, is an untruth. I've been open to small press folks who've been open to me.
My first "Three Questions" was to small press person Colin Meldrum. I included small press types of all kinds in reading events of mine, such as Jackie Corley. I debated on radio the editor of a local small press. I've attended and read at numerous open mics staged by poetry small press outfits. I've networked with and met small press publishers like James Chapman, Whitney Pastorek, and Keith Gessen. Etc. Why distort the reality-- then insist again and again on the distortion?

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

"Harland" has made two remarks on this thread which as much as anything reveal where he's coming from.
He suggests I should have a "patent disinterest" in marketing.
But any serious small press person not on a trust fund has to be concerned with marketing-- especially if your own money's at stake. That, to disdain marketing is a sign of "subversion," instead is the sign of someone who lives in a bubble divorced from the real world. Only someone sitting around a mansion can afford to disdain marketing. Dropping all potential weapons to use against an establishment is hardly subversive. You may as well tell Robin Hood to abandon his bow!
Further, Harland's words are a sham. Isn't the conglomerate which publishes him involved in marketing? of course!
More revealing and troubling are Harland's contemptuous comments about Raymond Carver.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

1.) Could Carver have told Gordon Lish to "screw off"? Really?
The notion could come only from someone who's never struggled, never been down. Who's always had a safety net under him.
Think of it: Carver, poor his entire life, worked endless shitty jobs while turning himself over the course of many years into a writer.
Intense dedication to his art. Relentless networking, along with the eternal "practice" Harland advocates. Then, finally-- finally-- his lifelong dream within reach-- and he's to tell the person dangling the realized dream before him to screw off? Easy to say! One would have to be in a comforatble spot. (Or, like me, a nut.)
2.) It's interesting the way Harland devalues the writer. In his opinion the hacked-up Lish version is somehow "better." This justifies the mangling of the man's work. With his casual attitude toward the writer, the vision and work of the writer, the value of the writer, Harland proves my argument about the nature of conglom publishing and the mindset of those involved with it.
3.) Most interesting is Harland's inability to understand or sympathize with Carver's dilemma-- and what this says about Harland as a writer. He's unable to put himself in another person's shoes; to appreciate the pressure the Carvers of this society are under.

King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harland said...

"The regulators of lit." So now the dictionary is part of "the machine," huh?

Go ahead and continue to make big sweeping comments about writers pro and con without supporting them in any way and see how ultimately persuasive it is. No skin off my nose. This writer is the most exciting writer working in America because you find his work exciting. This writer is a coddled pet of the machine because he went to a writing program. These books are superb because they're good. These books, though, are bad because you didn't like them. If you were in my class, King, I'd require you to support your enthusiasms and dislikes. Of course, you'd say that my trying to lead you to think and express yourself critically was just another example of the "conformity factory" in full swing.

I think it's fair to say that for the most part you're on the record as having said that the small press is made up of toadying underlings begging for crumbs from the table of the overlords, or rhetoric to that effect.

I think artists, particularly those trafficking in an image of themselves as "subversive" and anti-mainstream should avoid marketing, yes. Certainly if they intend to avoid hypocrisy. Should a "small press person" be interested in marketing? Perhaps, but generally that person would be marketing books. I don't see you marketing anything except a very vague idea of yourself and your buddies as "literary revolutionaries." That's actually the bubble you allude to. Even to hold in mind the opposed ideas that you can oppose an establishment while at the same time trying to gain its approval is a sign of someone seriously in need of have a little reality reflected back at them.

And the latest member of that select group, "Dead Writers The King Can Afford to Spare Some Sympathy For" is...Raymond Carver.

Please King. If Carver were still alive, you'd HATE him. Iowa, the prizes, the Mildred and Harold Strauss Livings Award, the directorship of the Syracuse program. Now, of course, since he can't bug you by enjoying all the fame and success that drives you so nuts, he's the poor victim of Gordon Lish. Maybe you like the original stories better. Fine. I don't. And if Carver himself preferred the original versions, then he shouldn't've sold out his vision. Why should I "sympathize" with Carver's capitulation? He didn't have to say yes to Lish. (Or maybe you think PEN should have stepped in to protect him from Lish's coercive behavior.) And when an editor's "dangling the dream" over you, well, that's the moment of truth, isn't it? -- not that you'll ever know anything about that. Why should art care how much Carver wanted to be famous? Why should I? I don't have to put myself in Carver's shoes. I was in Carver's shoes.

Patrick said...

"It's interesting the way Harland devalues the writer. In his opinion the hacked-up Lish version is somehow "better." This justifies the mangling of the man's work. With his casual attitude toward the writer, the vision and work of the writer, the value of the writer, Harland proves my argument about the nature of conglom publishing and the mindset of those involved with it."

Okay, wait. Lish mangled Carver's work? Honestly, I'm not a fan of Lish (or his "students" for that matter) at all, but Carver's original version of "What We Talk About..." was FULL of irrelevant information. Sentences cluttered with unnecessary words, etc..

But this explains a lot about your philosophy. You assume all writers' visions are equal (they aren't). Of course, the caveat to this assumption is that this is only true of outsider, underground writers. Which was only true of Carver before he caught Lish's eye.

Your statements are wildly inconsistent, Wenclas. Where's that hard-line "King" we're all so familiar with? Getting mushy over Carver? I thought he would surely fall into the category of "narrow realism" in your taxonomy.

Thanks for challenging my assumptions, I guess. It's just funny to me that you, who basically hates any successful writer can imply that YOU value the writer while Harland does not. At least, that seems the implication to me.

You know what I think you value? Reading what you've written with a smirk. "Take THAT establishment!" "That PHONY Harland will NEVER be able to respond to that!" "I think I've solidified why *I* should be the arbiter of what is genuine in Litworld™!"

King said...

Hmm-- you're both reading a lot into my statements. Could you possibly look at what I actually say? Again, you're still dealing with your self-created stereotype about me.
(Granted that I may have created another sterotype about myself-- which I plan to address, if anyone really wants to hear about it. (Be careful what you ask for.)
Am I a contradiction? In many ways, sure.
Is Harland a contradiction?
Is he willing to discuss the matter?
We'll see.
My point about Carver was limited to his road up to his moment of truth. We know the story after that. Yes, he sold out, compromised, and in return received everything he'd wanted. I guess he was happy-- and died of cancer shortly after-- cause attributed I guess solely to cigarette smoking.
I'm interested in that moment of truth.
Yes, I had a moment of truth once in my life-- a long time ago. What's the Frost line?
It's made all the difference.
We have no way of knowing whether harland ever faced a similar situation. He can claim he was in Carver's shoes-- but we just don't know. He's not at all a credible witness. Or, he's about as credible as Daniel Handler was posting similarly here while claiming to be a poor graphic artist in San Fran.
You're a fiction writer, Harland. Great for your novels, maybe, ut not for your credibility outside that role.
You're just a disembodied voice, as you say. A ghost. In Shakespeare's words, a "demi-puppet" with as much substance and meaning.
Behind the voice of course, like a marionetteer, is an actual human being. For you to adopt human semblance would introduce questions of character-- questions you're unable to face.
Back to Carver-- you miss my point. Right or wrong, it was HIS vision. HE was the artist in the case of his own work-- not Gordon Lish. Lish, yes, was the voice of the Machine.
Does not a mighty media empire have enough substance to be called a machine? How does one deny that reality? It's like trying to wish away a skyscraper.
With the Carver matter we have an example of a writer, yes, absolutely, being asked to conform.
Mr. carver, who up till then had conformed every step of the way-- including playing the clown at writing seminars-- in this instance suddenly balked.
According to his biographers he was very torn. He who had been the most compliant and accepting of personalities. (read his stories-- that's all they're about; the acceptance of society or tragedy). His was not a raging voice.
yet even he was torn by the choice to be made.
Is this not an interesting story? I think it is.
Did you read my recent essay about O. Henry at this blog? I mentioned a moment of truth in his life, and how it gave shape to the themes of his stories. To know a writer it does help to know the full story.
Do you really think I can't state the reasons Lethem and Moore's recent books are failures?