Ideological fanatics and fear have crippled the major houses. But new book publishers are rising up to take the risks they won’t.
And now for something totally unpolitical, fun and entertaining---I have been working on a novel making fun of Home Owner Associations and the little bully neighbors who run them and think they can push the other neighbors around. Still have to explore the self publishing world. If you have ever lived in a HOA community, you will relate to this book.
Great piece, long overdue. One note: George Floyd was not murdered, but died of a fentanyl overdose, which the autopsy report makes clear. Since this is a piece about honesty in the face of orthodoxy, it’s an important point.
The same is true for the television and movie industry. It’s almost impossible to find any recent production that doesn’t include at least one gay couple, a stereotypical white conservative nut job, and marginalized characters that have nothing to do to the storyline. I’ve always prided myself as a pretty tolerant viewer, but now I find myself turning off most of these limited series about three episodes in. We’re sacrificing good plot lines of human interest and struggles for fringe ideology.
"For years, there has been a growing politicization inside the industry, which editors describe as a slowly percolating illiberalism that makes it difficult to publish books by authors who don’t adhere to the new dogma".
Sounds all to familiar.
Universities, Big Tech, Government Agencies, Religious Organizations, Health Care, School Boards, Corporate Media, Corporate Boardrooms, Hollywood, Professional Sports.......the progressive mind virus ruins everything and eventually eats itself from within.
So happy to see new players like Substack can come in and serve as arbiters of true liberalism & free speech.
Also worth noting, Walter Kirn founded County Highway (20 page broad print newspaper) that I recently subscribed to and its great! (https://www.countyhighway.com)
I'm so encouraged to read about all these options and the possible shift in the publishing world. I used to LOVE reading fiction & non-fiction but it's been years since I could find fiction books in which some full-left political talking point didn't take center stage. Can't wait to dig into the options in this article and to follow these publishers!
Finally, the Free Press does an article on this hugely important problem which plagues publishing both in the US and in the UK.
You can read the LoobyLou substack which does try to pull back the curtain. LoobyLou still is forced to remain anonymous. https://loobylou.substack.com/
I have been warned about sticking my head above the parapet, but as a long time subscriber of the Free Press, have been trying to say many of these things for awhile. Yes, it is bad and yes there is a huge culture of fear. Yes, the Identity Synthesis did have a short march through publishing (and yes, there were problems with gatekeeping etc -- I remain uncertain if embracing the Identity Synthesis was the correct way to solve it).
One of the problems with the Identity Synthesis is that it assumes people can not write about cultures which they have no direct experience. Historical fiction which does occupy a sizable percentage of the fiction market is by definition writing about cultures and time periods which the author has no direct experience with. Are we to abandon historical -- a genre which I have written in for over 17 years? Or are we going to reembrace universalism and recognise that human emotion is a constant? Love, for example is timeless, even if the social milieus alter.
“It’s people listening to market forces and realizing that what happens on social media isn’t necessarily real life.”
Alas, paying $250k advances for books that sell 3,000 copies (haha) is not a sustainable business model.
This is the same thing that is happening with Netflix and Disney and everyone else. In 2020 they started thinking they had to get on board with “representation” and all the rules about who can write about what and what stories they “have “ to tell. They all started pushing the same stories at us. And guess what? They lost money. Because turns out people turn to television and movies (and books) for entertainment, not for lessons in wokeness. Indeed, we turn to these things to ESCAPE all the political bullshit.
The Big Five publishing houses are, first and foremost, businesses, not social activism machines. Once they remember that, they will either produce books accordingly—the kind of books people actually want to read—or they will perish. Because guess what? While it’s fun for editors and producers to pat themselves on the back for telling formulaic woke stories and pushing their ideology on readers/viewers, it’s not fun to read preachy books (or watch preachy movies) that hit us over the head with these completely irrational, illiberal philosophies. Weirdly, people aren’t inclined to pay for that experience.
I miss the days you could get the paper, sit down and read over a cup of coffee during the week or the huge "bonus" Sunday paper. Its nice to not have a screen in your face, and it was even better to read actual, properly written text. The publishers (whether in online or paper form) have surely resorted to poor but "flashy" writers; people who look to fit some mold of a movement rather than individuals who can express thoughts in an educated and creative way. I remember reading MANY glowing reviews on Amazon over some new "poet" that all the younger kids are reading about "life, love, abuse, sexuality" - and all it was was run on sentences written in "poem" form filled with lines of complaints with the addition with a few vulgar words sprinkled in. No one can even properly craft an email anymore let alone write poetry! It's refreshing to see more and more people find the knack to using Substack to provide the world actual written art.
I absolutely love to escape in a book. I read 25-35 books a year. I’m a member of Amazon Prime. The quality of books have become unreadable. It’s a shame. Go to Prime reading and see for yourself. It’s le’s “diverse” than it’s ever been!
I was recently in NYC for a week and met with various folks in the book business. It was a dark experience. I've tried out various adjectives to capture the general mood. And I think I have the correct description: everybody was humiliated. They know they're not living up to their own personal and professional values and it's eating at their souls.
As Herb Stein said many years ago, what can’t go on forever won’t. The major publishing houses have given into the screams , wails, and teeth gnashing of the little junior high girls
who work in book publishing to the extent that they affect their profitability. When this happens over an extended period something has got to give. Now two things are happening: the rise of new small publishers to fill the void and the weeding out of employees who if retained will ultimately put you out of business. Congrats to publishing a great and much needed piece!
In almost every article I read, the fear of a group of self designated "activists" makes companies capitulate. Why is that? Is it an act by fellow ideological soulmates or do they think the public in general get moral suasion from these fringe characters. I think society would improve dramatically if we ignored these people.
But if it's a plan coordinated on the inside and outside to enforce progressive ideology, is that too much conspiracy to be true?
This is a good one. It did bring up bad memories for me, but I also feel a sense of vindication. Thank you for writing this!
In 2013 I began an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program in creative writing. I had spent my life to that point on western fire crews, in the Army, and working in oil and gas fields. I had never heard of "woke" or identity politics even though I'm from a very liberal NPR-kind of family. I wanted to write about my experiences and adventures--just tell interesting stories about interesting times and the interesting people I'd met along the way. I didn't care at all about placing myself, or women in general, as the victim in the male-dominated worlds of firefighting, the military, and the oil and gas patch. I also didn't care about advancing the global-warming (it was global warming then, before the "climate change" rebranding) finger-wagging--you know, by saying how evil those Wyoming oil and gas operators are and how terrible the whole industry is.
The MFA program was made up of mostly middle-aged white women who were not the sole income-earners in their families.
These women tore my writing to shreds. I just wouldn't say the stuff they wanted to hear. I was supposed to be an angry victim of "The Patriarchy" who spent all my time wringing my hands over the warming planet. Instead, I was like, "let me tell you about this time in the Army when our team found a lost beagle in the woods during survival school."
In turn I found their writing boring, self-involved, and crazy. So many words saying so little, most of it on being unhappy about...well, I'm not quite sure. But we all better be *sorry,* dammit.
It was during this time I coined the phrase "God save me from middle-aged white women." Which, as a middle aged white woman myself, is not only heartfelt, but also just good fun. Did I mention the humorlessness of this crowd?
Publishing a chapter a month is how 19th century British writers sold their work. Back to the future!
I am increasingly encouraged that the signs like those described in this and other FP essays seem to indicate that we have reached a societal tipping point. We may, as a people, have finally become disgusted with the crazies on both the left and right. All the newspeak gibberish and racial nonsense that has sought to shred the fabric of our social connectivity may have peaked in effectiveness, thanks in part to efforts by the Free Press and other in the press and publishing communities. One can only pray that the tide has turned.
We don't really benefit from gatekeepers who are themselves barbarians, do we?