Don’t Follow the Money!
Joy Saint James
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There is a lot of financial incentive to the nonprofit paradigm. It is an under-rated place to give. As in GIVE (directly to Medium) versus leveling a tax mainly writers pay. The tax exempt status makes you eligible for an array of grants, especially funding that could go to specific sections (politics, family, heath care). The subscription model is as doomed as the advertising platform. We keep reinventing the wheel. Then, when things fail, we sit there stunned, wondering what happened. I can understand that it’s a difficult task to stay alive in a publishing place where the competition feels insurmountable, but then, it’s a difficult task to simply stay alive, period. Medium has challenged the status quo of publishing itself, and it’s main, and fundamental problem is the hedging of the bet. If you’re going to represent new models — as new publishing — then you need to find people who can ride that horse. NOT people from mainstream, midtown, Manhattan publishing. You cannot BE new publishing, and then turn around and pick talent from the pool of folks who have already failed. This is a conflict. It might seem almost irrelevant, but I am here to tell you that mainstream publishing is cute, but it’s a cottage industry and dying by the day. In the past, I could get six figure advances. Publishing cannot afford that today, and will not be able to afford it tomorrow either. Publishers are borrowing right and left. Intellectual property rights and the backlist is all publishers really have to bring to the table.

Take film. Take Amazon Studios, take films produced by Hulu. Take Netflix. Take the current set of financial relationships with production studios that coordinate the specific movie they might be making with significant funding from cultural entities similar to the NEA. Iceland, Denmark, Canada, France, Germany — all help fund movies that can be made in their respective countries. The US faces a defunding set of cutbacks from Trump’s domestic and cultural budget, and we draw a sharp distinction that hardly finds the National Endowment for the Arts involved in relationships and associations and the networking of ideas that would see projects existing outside the context of the museum versus the movie screen. American investment is in pop culture. Not culture, and our lack of depth creates the impression that cultural art is inaccessible when, in fact, it is anything but. Medium could be a game-changer, but it’s stumbling between a vision and a hard place where it’s almost natural to invite the very people who failed at old publishing (check out Matter Studio) to provide new answers because they have never shown they have any. They talk the talk. But they do NOT walk the walk.

Is Medium just social media, and writing actually an afterthought. Go to 99% of the comments.

They are so smoochy and inane that there is no hiding place.

Medium is social media. It could be more. But it doesn’t have the testicles or gravitas to follow that path. There are landslides of slippery rock. I know Facebook is the gorilla in the room. But when social media gets the death it so richly deserves, what do we have left.

Writing.

It’s not enough. To claim you value writing but surround yourself with these people whose history is based on printing books. The tech guys keep saving Medium over and over again. But there are now management types (think suits) who weigh in on setting the agenda. I have seen this so many times in publishing, I can only screw it, and walk away.

You can’t BE new publishing if your drive and your values are from a period that is from an intransigent dinosaur past that valued and still values exclusivity versus transparency and inclusion. You are compelled to find new ways of doing things. Why can’t Medium do what authors do. We hit the road, and we read out loud and we read out loud and we read out loud even if we have been assigned to the back of the bookstore right by the bathroom door. No publicist can save you. But perseverance can. You have to focus on what you VALUE. VALUE is not a pop culture aneurysm. It belongs to a longer space of time. Medium could lead the way, but I see no evidence that indicates a leadership potential (more gatekeepers are lead weights) that lends us a voice that is not just allowed or tolerated, but it’s nurtured by the reality that some writers just gotta write. Spanky piece, Joy. I would love Evan, too, but he blocked me so what am I doing here.

Wasting my time. But there is nothing new in that.