David Comfort’s publishing guide is not so comforting

David Comfort’s The Insider’s Guide to Publishing is depressing, although I believe he was aiming for darkly humorous. Unfortunately, I found the humor to be more annoying than funny.

I will save you the trouble of reading it by distilling the information here:

  1. Publication is unlikely, especially paid publication.
  2. Your book will probably flop, and your agent will drop you, and you will never write again.
  3. Writers are miserable, crazy alcoholics who die penniless (and occasionally get into fights with each other over who’s best or just because they are miserable and penniless).
  4. Publishing is an incestuous industry and it really does matter who you know—or don’t. So if you don’t know anyone, you’re pretty much screwed.
  5. The 1920s were THE high point of literature, and things have gone downhill from there. No one reads anymore. No one writes good books anymore. Etc.
  6. Self-publishing is a thing! It’s great for the companies who are running the self-pub companies, because they are making their millions off the hard-earned dollars of writers and the writers’ friends and family. And if you self-pub, you will lose respect. Or something.

Reading this book made me feel crazy, like why am I even writing? Everything is hopeless.

But the more I thought about it, the more I disagreed with what Comfort is saying. Not the historic facts (and really, the book is mostly a compilation of depressing historic facts), but the doom and gloom attitude he seems to take.

I reject this attitude. There are good publishers out there publishing good books. We have more diversity in literature than we ever have (I probably don’t have to tell you Comfort mostly writes about Dead White Guys like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Poe, Pound, etc., with the very occasional nod to lady writers).

The landscape is changing, true, and change can be hard, but according to the Pew Research Center, 76% of Americans read at least one book in 2013. Print books brought in more than 20 billion dollars in revenue in 2012.

Clearly, people are still reading. So I’m going to keep writing.

#FridayReads: Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie Blake Mycoskie’s Start Something That Matters came up when I did a library catalog search for business-related audiobooks (I’m doing some research for a project I’d potentially like to take on).

It’s an easy read in that Mycoskie doesn’t use technical or business jargon. He acts as a cheerleader throughout, and shares stories about people who have founded successful business ventures that give back to the community in some way—like his own company TOMS, which donates one pair of shoe to a child in need for every pair it sells.

This is not the book to read if you want to know the legalities of starting a business or nonprofit venture. It’s not presented as a “how to” book, and it’s not. It’s more an inspirational tale of business people making an impact.

Mycoskie does impart some practical wisdom, though. He advises readers to focus on the story of their business or nonprofit instead of their product, because people like buying into something that resonates with them more than they like buying utilitarian gadgets (or shoes).

He also spends a good part of the book building an argument for starting a business with a built-in giving/charity component. If you wait until your business is successful enough to give, you’re probably going to wait forever—not because your business won’t succeed, but because you’ll have do extra work to make the charity aspect possible.

Plus, he argues, if you build giving into your business model, you’re more likely to attract influential partners that will help your business grow. He used AT&T’s partnership with TOMS as an example. His arguments are compelling, especially because he uses examples and data to back them up.

The book did get a little too cheerleadery for me at times, like the section where Mycoskie shares about ten of his favorite inspirational business quotes, all of which seem horribly cliche. But overall it’s a solid book, and one I would recommend if you’re interested in making the world a better place.




Further thoughts on the nature of metafiction

This is not a pipe - Margritte

“This is not a pipe.” by Margritte

I defined metafiction in this post over here, but I find this short list of meta-related definitions to be helpful also:

  • meta- : a prefix originating from the Greek meaning “after,” “along with,” “beyond,” “among” or “behind.”  (dictionary.com)
  • metafiction : fiction about fiction, or fiction that draws attention to the fact that it is fiction and forces the reader to abandon her suspension of disbelief. (Wikipedia)
  • metanonfiction : nonfiction that draws attention to the fact that it is nonfiction.  An example would be a memoir that tells the story of a person’s life while at the same time telling the story of writing the memoir.
  • metamusic : music about music, or music that brings the listener out of the listening experience and forces her to think about the fact that she is listening to a song, rather than continuing on in immersion.
  • metajournalism : journalism about journalism, or journalists writing about other journalists.  This type of journalism forces the reader to think about journalism rather than simply reading and absorbing a news story where the writer is absent from the text.
  • metanarrative : a story about a story.  Generally this is a narrative about an all-encompassing world view. (Wikipedia)

Metanonfiction, metamusic and metajournalism are not widely accepted literary terms, but I believe they are the best terms to discuss the concepts of these kinds of narratives that comment on themselves, and will used them as defined here.