Subtitle: Or the Old Model is Dead, Long Live the new Model.
Every once and awhile, I feel the need to write an entry like this. I apologize if I am treading old ground, but I feel this needs to be said: writers who only write are dinosaurs.
They may not be extinct now, but in the very near future, my prediction will become true. What reminded me of this was a letter, two actually, written by comedian Patton Oswalt talking about how success for comedians now depends on themselves and less on a gatekeeper or getting on the right late-nite show that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s all on them and their ability to create unique content. To prove his point, he pulled out an iphone and proclaimed if it wasn’t the great equalizer, smashing those gates wide open, it soon would be.
Blogging has only been mainstream for…. less than 10 years? I remember even in college around 2004-2006 it was something we all tinkered with but never considered a valid medium. Today I would argue online content IS the medium. But back then, bloggers were the joke, the writers without spell check who worked in pajamas in their parents basement (back when living in your parents basement was an insult. You know, before 2008.)
Back then the way it worked was you wrote an article, submitted it to a magazine. You got a rejected a few times, got it published. Then you wrote a feature and when the first rights came back on the article, you reworked it slightly and resold it to a different magazine. Rewrite, resubmit, and repeat. Eventually, you would get a few niche markets and you could approach a publisher for a book, a speaking engagement, or a gain editorial position at a magazine. All the while your old articles would still be sell-able, giving you multiple streams of revenue.
Unfortunately, on the internet, there is no first-rights. Sure you can have an article pulled on a website after a few months if you want as part of a contract, but nobody online wants OLD content.
I think my favorite illustration of how technology has changed the writing world was in journalism class. In our text book, there was a photograph tagged to a paragraph about digital media and the future of journalism. In the photo, there was a journalist who was supposedly “high tech.” He had a backpack with a small laptop strapped to it, a cellphone strapped to his belt, a tape recorder in hand, and a video camera in the other. We have one device to do the job that required 9 ten years ago.
The writing was on the twitter feed
I’m learning that 90% of what I learned about getting into a magazine, a publishers office, or a newspaper is now obsolete. The part about building relationships and readerships, that still exists. What doesn’t exist are gatekeepers. You make your own opportunities now and you oversee every detail. The days of a writer not worrying about the finer points of their marketing budget, touring schedule, and contests are over. If you want to sell, you’re going to be involved.