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The Writing Industry Isn’t a Business, It’s an Exercise in Social Engineering
You must avoid developing a steadfast confidence in baseless assumptions
To succeed in life, you have to avoid acting on baseless assumptions. Unless you’re deliberately mindful, it’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in blatantly false beliefs. I call this the “flat Earther fallacy.”
For example, when somebody sincerely believes the Earth is flat, it’s really hard to convince them otherwise. As a mental exercise, try to brainstorm some arguments that prove the Earth is a sphere which don’t require any complex equipment.
Can you prove the Earth is a sphere using only your words and phenomena observable to the human eye? I suspect a kindergartener will be able to discredit most of your statements.
If you look around you, it appears as if the Earth is flat. Your opponent will keep coming back to that. All of your arguments require abstract thinking.
One of the great tragedies of life is that the simple and wrong arguments are much easier to express than the arguments that are complex and right.
To make matters worse, when somebody becomes committed to an assumption that’s based on an ignorant oversimplification, they develop a kind of horrible and steadfast confidence. They plant themselves and will not be budged. In fact, any effort to convince them to abandon their beliefs only serves to strengthen their resolve.
I run into the same problem when I encounter people who make casual comments about the publishing industry. People say things like, “media entities release the stories that they think will turn a profit.” Although that seems like a logical thing to believe, there’s evidence to suggest it’s an incomplete, and therefore inaccurate, assessment.
My background as a business owner
There are two things that make me different from the majority of writers. The first is that I have a Bachelor of Science rather than a Bachelor of Arts. This is because I decided to pick up a minor in Physics in my last year of college.
It’s a decision I’ve never regretted because, more than anything else, my science classes taught me to believe evidence based conclusions even when they seemed to fly in the face of common sense.
Believe me, you need some formal training to be able to do this.
The other thing that makes me different is that I was once a part owner of a small retail bicycle store. I have a background in business, and I know that the reality of running a business is much different than the general perception of running a business.
Bicycle stores don’t make money from selling bicycles
Somebody might be tempted to say, “retail bicycle stores make their money from selling bicycles.” As the former owner of a retail bicycle store, I can attest that statement is inaccurate.
Yes, selling bicycles was one revenue stream. We also made money from our service center (repairs, tune ups, etc.). We also sold accessories.
Those are the obvious sources of income, and I’m not close to being done.
We also made money from putting on events. We made money from government programs that were designed to help support small businesses. That last one is something that “self-made businessmen” always like to pretend doesn’t exist because of the various anti-socialism campaigns out there. The reality is that the government wants to create jobs, and that means they periodically hand over free money to people who own businesses.
I’ve received and spent that money. It’s out there.
Never assume you know where the money comes from
The community where our shop was located also wanted the business to succeed, and the local government also found ways to help us out. They loved our events because those brought thousands of people to the area. We therefore received government kickbacks, sponsorships, and grants for those events.
So, yeah, you could walk around bleating that “retail bicycle shops make their money selling bicycles.” People might even believe you, but it’s wrong.
The problem in the United States is that everyone’s been socially engineered to think of businesses in a certain way. However, unless you actually comb through the books like an accountant, you are completely ignorant as to how a business is truly funded. You can’t be steadfast in your assumption on how a business gets its revenue if you haven’t seen the books.
I suspect most of the American population would be stunned at how much free government money is available to the individuals who strut around and brag about how great they are at business.
This also applies to the writing industry.
The rules that govern physical reality change in extreme scenarios
It’s a dangerous thing to assume that everyone in the world faces the same struggles that you do. Most of the people you know struggle with money. That’s particularly true of writers. Every now and then you have to pause and remind yourself that governments simply print up money as needed. The reality of money is more complex than we recognize on a daily basis.
We often forget that money, like writing, is a tool of social engineering.
This is the same as how you can start thinking the world is flat if you don’t deliberately walk through the abstract arguments that prove otherwise.
Ignorant, oversimplifications are seductive. They also set you on the path to ruin.
In my college Physics classes, I was taught that the laws of nature can invert in extreme scenarios. For example, you know that opposite charges attract and like charges repel, correct? You also know that all the protons of an atom conglomerate together at the nucleus, right? Did you ever wonder why all the positive protons don’t repel each other? Most of the time high school classes skip over that part because the explanation is complex.
If you try to explain what’s happening to people who aren’t ready to hear it, they respond with arguments like, “Positive protons can’t conglomerate in a nucleus because like charges repel.”
That’s the same as saying, “The Earth is flat, look around.” It seems true, but it isn’t.
Things that are very small, thing that are very big, and things that are moving very fast obey a different set of natural laws.
In the same way, big publishers obey a different set of rules than small publishers. Small publishers obey a different set of rules than you.
Writers need money, big publishers don’t
All writers need to consider the hypothesis that big publishers don’t see profit from book sales as a primary business objective. I believe that small publishers do need to produce profitable books, but when it comes to the “too big to fail” publishers, I suspect there are other funding mechanisms available.
Again, I’m proposing this as a hypothesis, not as a definitive statement of fact. My ideas are based on abstract thinking that’s complex to explain. I contend this argument is more developed than those who say, “Well, they must be making money on their titles.”
When I ran a retail bicycle store, I had access to various government support programs. However, the amount of money available to me was not even close to the money that was available to bicycle manufacturers. The amount of free money that’s available rises exponentially with the size of the business. The cynical side of me believes that all business is just a giant shell game that takes massive revenue streams and uses them to cover up various forms of bribes.
When I say “bribe” I don’t mean handing over a stack of cash in a brown paper bag. Instead, I’m talking about the promise of a six figure job offer where you don’t have to do anything. There are many ways you can dump money to a person in a way that’s perfectly legal. Heck, you could walk through a house and offer absurd payments for all the junk lying around. “How much for this torn envelope? Ten thousand dollars? Sold!”
The point is, there’s a lot of money flowing around. The idea that money is attracted to merit has not been proven as a natural law of the universe.
Most writers indulge a childish fantasy about the writing industry
Writers want to believe it’s simple. They want to think that if they write a great book it will be picked up by a publisher because of the book’s potential for profit.
Okay, let’s unpack that idea.
Let’s say you write a book that shows a path to universal peace and harmony. Great! That sounds like the kind of book that the general public would be eager to read.
However, a business that gets most of its revenue through manufacturing a state of perpetual crisis isn’t going to want to publish it. Right? Your manuscript is going to be perceived as a threat to their corrupt mechanism of profitability.
But they don’t say, “We’re rejecting your manuscript because we’re against the idea of love and tolerance.” Instead, they say, “We’re rejecting this because we don’t think it will find an audience.”
Then the writer thinks, “I must be terrible!” and she never writes anything ever again.
In this case, the writer submits to social engineering because she hasn’t taken the time to comprehend the complexities of her reality.
This isn’t an outlier, this is the perpetual state of things.
Stories without merit
There has recently been a very high-profile case where a certain media network promoted a narrative that resulted in over a three-quarter of a trillion dollar settlement.
That’s trillion with a “T.”
I’m not a lawyer, but my dad is, so I know how lawyers think. It’s a lawyer’s job to say, “this action potentially exposes us to liability.” If an action potentially exposes you to a three-quarter of a trillion dollar payment, then that action does not make financial sense.
The negative financial consequences aren’t a matter of speculation. It happened.
So, we have to ask ourselves why that network would publish a story that exposed it to that level of risk. In this example, I think we can dismiss the quest for profit. Ending up having to pay three quarters of a trillion dollars is the opposite of making a profit. So, clearly, money wasn’t the main focus here, at least, not the money that came from putting the risky story out into the marketplace.
It’s no secret that the majority of books that are published don’t provide a decent return for the big publishers. That reality should lead to all kinds of questions and discussions about our literary community. I find it concerning that it’s extremely rare to see any writers exploring these questions.
Maybe the majority of books fail because they’re designed to manipulate public opinion rather than give the public what it wants?
That might seem like a radical idea, but keep in mind that the idea that women should vote was also once considered “radical.” Expand your mind a little bit.
Social engineering is designed to manipulate how we think
There’s data to suggest that the American public is very open to what are called “progressive” policies. People are tired of paying too much for health care and education. People are tired of mass shootings. However, progressive ideas are often smeared in the media (obviously there are exceptions to this, I’m speaking to overall trends).
Is it really so hard to believe some of the profits from education, health care, and gun sales are used to manufacture a narrative to help support those revenue streams?
The money doesn’t come from the stories, it comes from the social engineering.
Perhaps if publishers released books and articles that represented what the people actually wanted, those books and articles would turn a profit on their own merits. However, that’s clearly not the system we have in place today.
The writing industry is a propaganda model designed to influence how people behave and think.
Don’t assume you know how big publishers are funded
It’s the job of writers to create, maintain, and dismantle narratives. Good writing can change the world. Good writing can help bring down mechanisms of injustice. Mechanisms of injustice are not funded by their own merits because they don’t have any merit.
If we had a publishing industry that was only funded by the quality of its product, I think we’d have access to a completely different catalog of books. As a writer, you can’t make assumptions about the quality of your writing based on whether or not a publisher is willing to put money behind it.
It’s also dangerous and inaccurate to make the assumption that publishers are releasing works they think will “be profitable.” You can’t disregard the social engineering aspect of media narratives.
We’re living in an era where there are widespread political attacks against marginalized groups, and it’s important for the writing community to support the media entities that place an emphasis on quality writing over social engineering.
I was recently contacted by a publicist to review some books by a small LGBTQ publisher, and the books are absolutely fascinating. This represents a case of a publisher that actually does have to discover manuscripts that turn a profit on their own merits, and it shows.
The advent of AI “written” articles
AI writing is nothing new. For years, I’ve suspected that many of the comments I’ve received on my articles were AI generated and launched at me as part of an effort to discredit my message.
If I write a thoughtful article that attracts 500 negative comments, casual readers are inclined to think my premise is wrong.
That’s social engineering. You see this often when you write anti-racism articles like I do.
Only recently has AI developed to the point where it can produce entire articles rather than just comments. Today, instead of writing 500 negative comments on a human article, AI offers the potential to flood the internet with 500,000 articles that serve to promote some narrative of social engineering.
Needless to say, I’m really concerned about all of this. This is why anyone who consumes any form of media, and particularly writers, must resist the impulse to steadfastly settle upon conclusions rooted in baseless assumptions. Oversimplifications hurt you.
The sad part is that it’s very, very easy to program people. The majority of the population is quite willing to do it to themselves. If we are to retain our autonomy as thinking creatures, we have to develop a greater commitment to comprehending the complete and complex truth that governs our reality.
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