A couple of years ago, I went on a radio show and said something like: “This is the best time in history to be a writer.” The host looked at me, incredulously, and said: “Really? How can that be — there’s no money in it.”
I said that while it’s true there may be less money — which is actually bullshit, because there’s tons of money — what you have now that you didn’t have before is the opportunity to publish whatever you want, whenever you want.
Not only that, but through social media and email, you’ve got a direct pipeline to your readers. You can talk to them if you want. There’s no middle man, no fat cat publisher, standing in your way.
Which is to say: there is tremendous upside, provided one is willing to put in the work. But it’s like anything else these days — you’ve got to really be in it.
Unfortunately, that may mean not making money for a while. And you’re right, it’s theoretically easier to produce good work when you have cash to fall back on. Or, maybe not.
Part of the reason why so many ordinary people feel alienated these days is because the culture-producing industries — media, Hollywood, publishing, music and fashion — have arguably forsaken them.
But all those industries, glamour industries to be sure, are undergoing seismic changes, in some cases even cratering altogether. The privileged left everyone behind, stopped making things for regular people, and instead focused on making things for themselves.
And now they are fucked. They forgot the audience, and they are fucked. Fucked fucked fucked.
So, fuck them. Do you.
And it’s tough, I know. But tough as it is, it’s important to remember you’re not moving widgets around. You are writing words, communicating thoughts, expressing ideas. At worst, you are producing “content.” At best, you are creating “art.”
Everywhere you look these days, brands, people and institutions are looking to create “authentic” experiences, foster “deeper” relationships, and offer products that are more “organic.” They’re trying to keep it real, in a world that is anything but that.
Self-publishing, direct to reader, is as real as it gets. Nothing is more organic, authentic and deeper than that.
Keep at it. It’ll pop.