Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Big Bang

All promotion is physics. Promotion is concentrated force at a point of attack. Promotion is the exploitation of time-space.


Gradualism is how everybody in the lit-biz does things. It’s the slow road. Usually it doesn’t get you very far. The universe consists of a lot of gradualism, but was created with a Big Bang.


The promoter needs to punch a hole in the universe, or at least in the culture. Ideally he should not punch, but blast the hole. With the ULA we didn’t jump through the hole fast enough. The dilemmas of time-space.


In this hypercompetitive world, extreme bravado is required. Lady Gaga-type bravado. Spotting an opening and having the bravado to move into time-space.

Promotion means seeing the field and doing the obvious.

Friday, December 24, 2010

More Beatles Thoughts

AFTER FIGURING OUT the amazing promotion and packaging of the Beatles, which helped make them the biggest p.r. phenomenon ever, there remains the question of their music. What about their music worked—and led, with the other elements, to Beatlemania?

First, for all the borrowings, the music was unique. Or, unique enough. It was presented to American audiences as like rock n’ roll, but different. That the band was foreign and looked foreign enabled this. Their first American hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” sounded like no other rock/pop song that had come before it. It also presented a kind of “power pop” wall of sound which got the listeners attention.

Second, the music fit the needs of the target audience, which was, for the most part, sixteen year-old girls. The ballads of the band—the “lilting lament”—added just enough romantic softness to balance the band’s “big beat.” The Romantic and even medieval aspects of the Beatles and other early rock n roll acts was part of the great appeal. This is a key point. Another is that it didn’t matter if Lennon-McCartney were considered by peers and critics to be good musicians, songwriters, or even very good rock n rollers—as long as sixteen year olds believed they were, to whom everything the Beatles did was new and profound, and remained so.

The Beatles from the start mixed necessary elements, from upbeat fun (“I Wanna Be Your Man”) to soulful melancholy (“There’s a Place”) and everything in between.

New Pop fiction will likewise have to do all of this.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why the Beatles?

Why the Beatles? What about them caused a huge cultural mania, an international breakout, instead of other bands? Their sound? Their manager?

This is a question I continue to ask. Why them, and not the Dave Clark Five-- Clark was an astute entrepreneur-- or the Shadows, or the Tremeloes-- who got the Decca contract the Beatles did not-- or so many others? Why them? That's the puzzle to be solved.

A Better Mousetrap

When I was creating the Underground Literary Alliance, I threw away the idea of a "better mousetrap" as far as the art itself went. I saw that writers thought all they had to do is write, and the world would find them. Editors and readers would "beat a path" to their door. The notion is clearly false.

I've come around to an extent, however. I now realize that, while promotion is all, you still need, in this hypercompetitive society, a better product. I'll have a few more words about that coming up.

Monday, December 13, 2010


There can be no one template for the new pop short story. It will require a half-a-dozen different templates. What they’ll have in common is being recognizable as pop; a noticeable break with the accepted model of the contemporary.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Understanding the Beatles

The thing to understand about the Beatles is that they were, indeed, mostly hype. The ultimate successful p.r. campaign. The critic who early on called them “70% hype, 25% hair, and 5% lilting lament” was more on than I’m sure even he would later admit. The Beatles were a good rock band, with personality and a unique look. They also had a great ability to churn out a mass number of new pop songs, which fed the hype. Time/space.

It’s to the Beatles credit that they struggled heroically to live up to the publicity, continually reinventing themselves in the process. Thanks to help from George Martin, they seemed to succeed at this. Their art appeared to be revolutionary. In some studio technical aspects it partly was.

When they did stadium shows, the Beatles noticed that the crowds weren’t there for the music. They were there for the event; for the show. The show! The would-be promoter can’t lose sight of this, or fully believe, about the art he creates, his own hype.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Billion Dollars

There’s a billion dollars on the sidewalk waiting for someone to pick it up.

It won’t even be that difficult. It would take a few years of very very hard work, then the momentum will take care of itself.

How can I say this? I answer with a question: Why was it so relatively easy, once he saw the open road, for Brian Epstein to create the phenomenon of the Beatles? Or for that matter, for a closer analogy, how does one explain Lady Gaga? Luck? But in both cases it wasn’t luck. It was making the right moves.

I look at early rock because that was the kick-off point. From 1955 to a little after 1980, the music industry multiplied in size and sales many times over. Pop music in its various forms became an integral part of everyone’s life. A huge success story.

My goal is to double or triple the literary biz. Very doable. There’s a great deal of untouched, unexplored territory. People who aren’t regular readers. You have to have ways, of course, to reach these people. You don’t do it by hitting them with Franzen’s “Freedom.” You instead need a product that’s cheap, fast, and very exciting.

The alternative is to try to squeeze in your little burger stand on an overdeveloped street where there’s already a few dozen. Or really, many times that..

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It’s About the Writers

NEW IDEAS mean nothing without writers willing to carry them out. For my plan to work, I’d need writers willing not only to write work  likely to be dismissed and scorned by the critical establishment, but also willing to play with their own presentation. Look and charisma. Where does one find such writers? I’m beginning to believe, not in literature! Writers will have to be not chosen, but made. They’ll have to have innate talent, sure, and be completely open-minded. Are there places to find such a breed? I believe so, but we’ll see.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The New

We live in a world where everything is known and seen; nothing is exotic and new. The key to success, then, is simple. Develop and present the new.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Talent Isn’t Enough

We all know talented writers. What are they doing with that talent? Anything?

Talent is like a precious mineral in the ground. It has to be found, mined, cleaned-up, leveraged, and marketed. When it’s allowed to sit, it’s worth nothing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010



I have a new plan 85% ready to go. The main thing I lack at the moment is capital. Also, of course, writers! The universe is telling me that the time isn’t yet ripe.

My plan is counter-intuitive to the thinking of 99.999% other writers. On the surface it’d appear insane. That’s the idea! Playing by the rules doesn’t work. No way. You have to destroy the rules, every rule. In our ultra-competitive society, it’s the only way to succeed.

At the same time, everything about my plan is completely logical, using a few immutable rules of promotion which haven’t been suspended because of the rise of social media. They only appear to have been suspended and superceded. The nature of making innovative art is being able to think clearly amid the noise of media, the “fog of war” of what everyone else is doing. This is nearly impossible today—but there lies the opportunity, because keeping one’s head leads to the path of being unique. The path out of the chaos and noise.

My plan will work by using  key promo tricks that to my knowledge haven’t been written down, but have been used time and again by American hustlers from Barnum to the Colonel; chief among them the creation of “walls” to manipulate buzz and interest in what you’re selling. It’s what I did only in small part with the Underground Literary Alliance. Next time I’ll eliminate what the ULA did wrong and multiply what it did right.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More Gaga

I read a comment by someone to the effect that “it’s fun looking at Lady Gaga.” Yes! She gets it. Culture first needs to be fun, a fun experience, which for lit means a fun, thrilling read; works literally fun to look at by writers with a fun aspect or look about them as well.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Guys on the Yachts

EVERYBODY is selling something. I note there’s now an “Underground Literary Society” on the internet--

which has a Media Communications arm which tells the writer that you have to have an online presence to brand yourself. At Outsider Writers Erik Deckers is selling pretty much the same thing: a book telling the writer how to use social media to brand yourself. Meanwhile, there are writing experts selling, for fees, info on how to write the saleable story and market it. I’m trying to find the experts’ own stories, and work of their pupils, and not having much success at it.

NO DOUBT all these folks, and a hundred others like them, have useful tips—ideas which could be incorporated into a workable literary program.

At the same time, I’m reminded of the commodity trader—an expert of sorts in the field—who I worked with. I helped sell his expertise via an old fashioned print newsletter. He told me once that the guys who could truly beat the markets, consistently, weren’t out hawking 1-900 numbers or books. They were sipping cocktails on their yachts.

I hear on the radio on weekends continual infomercials from guys who’ll tell you they have a winning system for picking football games. Listen to them carefully and you hear a desperate edge to their voices. If they could really pick the winners and make the million dollars they promise, why don’t they do it themselves? Why are they putting so much energy into signing up clients?

In some sense the same questions apply to the lit-biz. Come up with a true winner—a better art—and you’re going to exploit it yourself.

If 600,000 writers are using the same system—social media for branding, say—then there’s no possible way for the technique to work. There’s no way to stand out from the pack, which is what branding is about. In fact, using social media might be the very worst tactic to use, for reasons I’ll discuss in a later post.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Creating the Pop Star

Take a look at this truly bizarre video circa 1959:

The honesty is shocking, because Annette, like so many others, was a front for talented string pullers like Dick Clark. Those learned writers who’ve created the mythology of rock n’ roll, who’ve turned rock music into a pantheon of charismatic heroes, skirt away from the fact that rock n’ roll was the creation of low-rent entrepreneurs—hustlers like Dick Clark.

Annette Funicello was Disney’s first pop musical star, setting the pattern for those who followed. For all that, her “Tall Paul” is a fascinating piece of pop-rock music, in that it incorporates the street shouting out that kids engage in. Basic rapping. Because rock n’ roll in its early days was music which didn’t take itself seriously, it was free to appeal to the most childish instincts, drawing on the simplest techniques. Walt Disney wasn’t creating populism so much as casually, even cluelessly, exploiting it.

The Beach Boys— at least Brian Wilson—are today treated as musical geniuses. Yet take a look at this later version of Annette and note her back-up band:

Can we say that anyone was taking the Beach Boys seriously then?

For all its cheeziness, by the way, the stripped-down presentation, clean blue suits, retains an innocent appeal.

The Dick Clarks and Berry Gordys of the DIY music business had an easy time of it, because their young stars hadn’t been educated to think of themselves as geniuses. They hadn’t undergone the mythology—the brainwashing—that today’s generation is burdened with. Instead they wanted to have fun, create product, make bucks.

The same situation applies in the literary field. When a writer gets the MFA degree, he or she is certified as an “artist.” Creating work which appeals to the public—which is simple and basic—is unthought of and untried for, if not outright scorned.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Social Media

A small press guy is hawking a book at Outsider Writers about using social media for branding. Which seems to be a contradiction. The problem with writers and small publishers is that they all do what everyone else is doing—which guarantees that what they do won’t work. If a million writers are “branding” themselves in the same way, it means nothing. There’s no way to stand out. The idea is to do what no one else is doing.

Or, if everyone’s a star, nobody is.

Being Better

In any project you have to be better than the competition. The problem with the ULA was that we weren't better.

This morning I caught the opening monologue of my favorite ESPN sportscaster. He was talking about the Oregon football team rushing to the line of scrimmage, their sheer pace wearing out their opponents. They're a total machine. They've figured out how to be marginally but significantly better.

I stop in a lot of coffeeshops now that I have a netbook. Some of them, sorry to confess, are Starbucks. I've been observing how they operate. They're extremely efficient. They know how to hire quality, talented people with great attitudes. Some of their managers have amazing people skills. Everyone works terribly hard. I heard a manager in one of them complacently say, "I'm used to working twelve hour days." One of his workers corrected him: "Twelve hour days moving." Starbucks is predatory, sure. In some crucial ways they're also better.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The New Machine

Only another machine—a very efficient and disciplined machine—has a chance to prevail in the current clogged literary scene. Creating a new, better, more disciplined and attractive art—very doable with the poem and story—is merely the first step. Around and above this new art has to be constructed a publicity machine. Lit entrepreneurs have to abandon 19th century literary mindsets which think in terms of creating a small press. The actual press, online or off, is a mechanical function which without accompanying p.r. strategy means nothing. Anyone today can get a book printed, or a story or poem posted online. The trick is creating an audience.

Disciplined boundaries for the new art have to be agreed upon and set, within which creativity can flourish. The machine built to promote that art would have to be as disciplined, as well as perfectly coordinated with the presentation of new products.

Are writers capable of any of this? Are there enough talents available to make such a thing work?

Study the most successful entities and brands. Study Apple. Study the NFL and ESPN. Efficient, disciplined organization is all.

There’s no alternative to this outlined scenario, for those serious about being successful—Gaga-style successful.

Monday, October 18, 2010


ANY NEW literary machine intended to credibly compete with the established system of literature will likely have to be nonpolitical. I say this as someone who pushed a lit group, the ULA, which was perceived as very political. The current system, incidentally, is very political, in that it comprises a single viewpoint whose stance on a variety of public issues almost never varies—generally, the viewpoint of the New York Times and The New Yorker, which remain the pillars of establishment literary noise. The viewpoint of all the well-hyped approved novels, such as Franzen’s Freedom, match this viewpoint—which notably is not the viewpoint of a majority of Americans.

This leaves the New Competitor with several problems. One, because of the need to stand out from the pack, is the temptation to take an easy way to do it by differing from the literary establishment’s political assumptions. Another is the question of how to reach middle America without falling for that same temptation, especially during a period of populist revival. Yet another problem is the reality that the political realm is much bigger than the literary one, so that it stands as a way to bypass lit-establishment roadblocks, by going after what could be more productive territory from a noise-making standpoint.

Right now, for lack of much else happening, I’m making probings into this larger territory, in ways that would be consistent with what will have to be a more populist/popular new literary art.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Building the Better Product

LISTENING to the first 30 minutes of the Colin Cowherd ESPN radio show this morning, I was given an example of why sports radio is a much better product, as radio, than NPR.

Cowherd does a segment, "Spanning the Globe," in which he does very quick interviews with a selecion of sports reporters around the country. Today two of the reporters weren't ready to go (they'll not be put on again!) which led to awkward silences. I was made aware of how well the segment works by hearing the one time it didn't. Fast, punchy, informative-- bang, bang, bang-- the kind of thing that would never be tried on NPR, because NPR doesn't need to try it. They're a static outfit. Cowherd's a serious guy who knows all endeavors need to be dynamic in a dynamic world.

Btw, Cowherd gave his spot-on take on the Favre text messages to an employee of the rival New York Jets, who Brett Favre's team played last night. The Jets were sitting on this story for a year and a half, then brought it out before a crucial game. A classic case of sports gamesmanship. It's also an example of the panoply of strategies and tactics layered over the mere athleticism of football, beginning with the coaching staffs. (See Bill Belichek.) No, football isn't just running with and catching a leather oblong ball. It's an entire industry which extends to those who promote it, like a Colin Cowherd.

Writers need to realize that literature works the same way, and that layers and varieties of strategies and tactics can be used in presenting literary products. Those who master that notion can be hugely successful. Writers who wish to "just write" have the mentality of five year-olds. It's the mentality of Jonathan Franzen. Unlike most writers, he has a system doing everything for him-- they may even replace lost eyeglasses!-- he can afford to be a total stooge.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why Lady Gaga?

Of the couple million wannabe music stars in America, how did a nerdy little girl with average looks and scant talent become the biggest pop personality of the moment?

The person who became Lady Gaga is an astute student of promotion and marketing. She used almost the same strategy and tactics that Madonna had 25 years prior, with a small assist from YouTube.

What were the tactics?

-Crafting a name, a brand, a look.

-Being “outrageous.”

-Being seen in New York City, heart of media and cultural empire.

-Networking industry and buzz people.

-Working extremely hard for a ridiculously short period of time.

More than 90% of Gaga’s effort went into promotion. The brand, not the music, was the selling point. The music had to catch up. (She made sure it fit the brand.)

To talk about it makes it seem easy. Anyone else could’ve done it. Why her?

Good Isn't Good Enough

I see many ambitious, well-intentioned literary projects. One pops up almost every day. Some of them are even fairly good. But being good isn't good enough in this hyper-crowded age. You have to be more than good. Way more. Explosive. Spectacular. Nuclear. You have to be more dynamic than the competition by a factor of ten. So good, so explosive and energetic that you're scary. If you're not scaring yourself by what you're doing, you're not good enough; your fate will be to be just one more of many many more; a faceless dot in a overcrowded literary scene..

The Rehearsal

As we're one day from the ten-year anniversary of the founding of the ULA, my attitudes toward that project have evolved. I see it as a positive, in the sense that it was great practice. For me it served as a rehearsal for a possible other, better project.

Its core principle worked: the maximum amount of noise in the shortest possible time period. This is the essence of promotion.

The biggest mistake was in not creating an efficient organization. There in fact was no organization, no efficiency. All was chaos, so that when noise was made, there was no way to fully take advantage of it, nor to long sustain it. Markets-- the world itself-- are a clash of systems. To compete with a status quo, you need a better system. Everything better across the board: better product; better packaging; better personalities. Most of all, better, more colorful noise about what you're doing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What to Listen To

No one serious about marketing their art listens to National Public Radio-- unless you're looking for ways to get on it. Otherwise, it's bad radio. The network survives by begging for money. Its audience isn't the general public-- they don't try to reach the general public-- but the rich people who support it, from genteel listeners who answer the appeals to the corporations and foundations who give much larger amounts. Do you think NPR will in anyway rock the boat by presenting something which would too much counter their base of support? Do they have an incentive to noisy up their tepid style and programming? They survive by lulling the audience to sleep. That's their purpose.

I'd suggest instead that you catch instead the Colin Cowherd sports show on ESPN, found normally on AM radio at 10 am Eastern time. All you have to do is catch the first twenty minutes of it to catch his insights on the business he's in, on personalities and teams. The business and marketing knowledge is intermittent and incidental, but they're there. This is a guy who knows what he's talking about. Listen to him to hear what he says, but also how he presents his own product, how he makes sports interesting, informative, and relevant.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Existing Outside the Narrow Viewpoint

The longer I study and try to understand the attitudes of people—the intellectual class in particular—the more I become convinced that we’re the product of our class, our upbringing, and the pressures of our education/indoctrination.

The intellectual class which so dominates the literary game is for the most part a genteel class of people, raised in relative comfort, surrounded by the markers of proper liberal behavior, which includes a climate of uncontentious intellectual consensus best represented by the slow-talking slow-thinking mandarin presentations of NPR. This is a far cry from the always loud always combative always unsteady lifestyles of much of the rest of society.

The literary class, then, is incapable of understanding the tones and tastes of the other 80-90% of us. Given the need to have specific strategies, they see things in terms of the established lit system, of how to accommodate themselves with it, whether gaining teaching positions in a college, or creating nonprofit publications removed from the competition of the marketplace. Their way of operating is directly opposite to the way upstart entrepreneurs in the pop music field still operate. Literary people operate as if their art were classical music. They limit themselves to 10% of the potential audience.

This creates unique opportunity for those who can see outside the bubble, who want to go after the rest of the population.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Winning and Losing Fiction

There are two types of short stories: A.) Pop Stories; B.) Literary Stories.

Type A dominated up until about 1940, when Type B took over through the rise of writing programs and elitist magazines like The New Yorker. After 1950 the idea of populist and popular fiction was devalued.

The period of the Pop short story was a period of success. From both the sales and artistic viewpoint the period of the literary short story has been one of unbroken failure.

The way to win at endeavors from picking stocks to sports betting is to understand which products are overvalued and which undervalued. Today’s literary system has overvalued the literary story. It’s all that’s being produced. Meanwhile, no one is writing the other kind of story. In other words, the Losing model is consistently followed. The Winning model isn’t being tried.

This sets up fantastic opportunity for those willing to jump at it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Basic Stuff

The writer, if he or she has talent, has an obligation to that talent. There’s no excuse in this day and age for not thinking of literature as a business, of yourself as an entrepreneur with a product to sell, namely, your work. The odds against the unconnected writer are tremendous. There are ways to even the odds, stray opportunities. They need to be grabbed at.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Is There a Solution?

The supply/demand situation I sketch in the post below is a pessimistic one. There's really no point in being a writer. The set-up, if you want a meaningful number of people reading your work, is close to hopeless.

There is a solution-- but it takes the will to abandon everything about the status quo. It's what I was getting at with "pop." Everything would have to be done to distinguish new writers from the huge mass of the status quo. Not books-- but, Zeens-- or something. (Give me a name.) Not writers-- but popsters. (Or something.) Everything about the new art and the new practicioners of that art has to scream, "We're different!" Otherwise there's no chance.

For myself, I sense some strategic changes coming in society, so I'm changing, shifting, going more "populist" than before. Change or die! That's what the working class long has been told.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


The contemporary literary system's house of cards could be collapsed with one good shove-- but it will take that shove.

Right now I'm looking for support against the system wherever-- wherever-- I can find it. That support isn't to be found where I've been looking, so I have to search elsewhere.

Here are the current trends which are approaching an extreme:


Trend: Down.


Trend: Down.


Trend: Down. (For all of these, going-out-of-business Down.)


Trend: Up.


Trend: Down.


Trend: Way Down.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What Am I Doing?

What am I up to with “The El Cid Project”?

I’ve jumped off the literary game board. I’m exploring new territory elsewhere. As always, I look for openings.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Newest Project

My newest blog is

The question is what I do with it.

Monday, August 2, 2010


There’s a nice new tea shop in South Philly. They have the best tea I’ve ever tasted. What they don’t have is any business. The proprietor is a nice young Asian woman who seems to think business will take care of itself. “Build it and they will come.” But they won’t come if you don’t market—if you don’t aggressively get the word out about what you’re doing. In literature, too many writers think all they have to do is write. Bullshit! They’re completely misguided.

What am I doing? I’m toying with a big new marketing idea. . . .

Friday, July 23, 2010


The theoretical infrastructure is in place to create a new literary art. But writers need the will to change the art.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


A huge advantage for me is that I’m from a city in turmoil like Detroit, where all comforts  and complacencies were destroyed. For years, as auto companies and accompanying businesses declined, people were told, “Change or die.” I learned to reinvent myself just to survive. I’ve gone through six or seven “careers.” I’m not tied to being a writer, much less a particular kind of writer. Zeenster, essayist, activist, poet, promoter, performer, fiction writer—I try to do it all. (Then again, many think I’m not a writer at all.)

The lit game will change drastically. Writers need flexibility about their art and themselves, if they’re to negotiate their small ships through difficult shoals.

Monday, July 5, 2010

How I Write Pop

1.) A basic plot.
2.) Clear, readable prose, but with colors added so the effect resembles a pop painting.
3.) A willingness to deliberately use recognizable plot motifs; "cliches" used ironically or not ironically.
4.) Everything exaggerated a touch to add melodrama and intensity.

I haven't found the right mix yet but I'll keep trying.

Give 'Em What They Want!

I wish underground writers would get into their heads the realization of how much opportunity there is out there. Best selling novels should be selling 30 million copies or more. Right now "Literature" is hitting a tiny fraction of the American public-- mainly because the literary product sucks. (See recent stories in The New Yorker.) You know potential is out there when a goofball like Glenn Beck tops the best-seller list with a tossed-off novel-- largely bought no doubt by folks who aren't reading David Foster Wallace.

We're a nation of 300 million people. Give people a truly exciting, readable product and they'll flock to it. You might need a few things that current lit writers scorn-- like narrative drive and striking characters, as well as a glance or two at the real world. Writers, of course, would need to put aside their egos and-- gasp!-- write for an audience. The writers who do that with talent and the right promotion will be ten times bigger than the literary world is now.

More Movies

I'll finish what I was saying about Western movies a little later. Critical standards are crucially important-- flawed standards leads to flawed art.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


(A follow-up to

1.) A movie, first, is photography. PHOTOGRAPHY. Or rather, cinematography. Photographed images which move.

2.) The second key feature of movies is sound. Even silent movies had accompanying scores. What makes film unique is that it combines several art forms. At its best it's a giant painting come to life, backed by a symphony.

3.) Upon this foundation of pure art is added the literary, the intellectual, in the form of narrative. This leads us to think about the art of narrative.
A.) What's the nature of narrative? What are a narrative's internal dynamics? How successful artistically is a particular narrative?

4.) Within the filmed narrative are aspects of theater: acting and dialogue.
These are standards which can be used to judge a movie as art.

Now we can look at the magazine's "top" three Westerns: "High Noon"; "The Ox-Bow Incident"; "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Understanding Beatlemania

Since 1998 I’ve been thinking about Beatlemania. Partial knowledge of how it occurred provided impetus for the ULA campaign.

Recently I was listening to a radio show about the Beatles at the same time I’d been reading a book about blitzkrieg. A lightbulb turned on. I finally understood the physics of Beatlemania. Which means, I know how to duplicate it.

Some points: Beatlemania was caused by an unplanned conjunction of physical circumstances, first in England, then for the U.S. The Beatles had talent—but a lot of bands have talent. Manager Brian Epstein didn’t know HOW their success would happen, but he sensed—he “saw”—that it could be done. What he brought to the equation was his total belief in the band, and his reworking of the Beatles look. Both were crucial. More important was the situation that Epstein and the band jumped into. A window existed and they hopped through it. A perfect storm came about.

Creating literary “Popmania” would take concentrated work. The payoff would be worth it. The payoff would be huge. I’m talking a billion-dollars huge, which sounds fantastic, but it’s not. Ten times bigger than Eggers. Competition wiped out. What I’d need are a few young writers willing to be adaptable—able to abandon their brainwashing, and humble their egos, to learn how to write pop. A tall order.

During the next many months I’ll be working quietly but hard to set the plan up.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Buzz Ratio

There should be a way to calculate the buzz factor of various cities. Meaning, the total buzz achievable through that city, divided by the city’s size.

For instance, the buzz potential in New York is gigantic—but there’s a tremendous amount of ground to cover, as well as many competitors for noise.

At the other extreme, it’d be easy to dominate a small town, but it has low payoff.

The ideal is a city with a big payoff, with small as possible competition and territory.

What’s the buzz ratio of your city?

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Art II

We as writers need to create works of surprise and wonder. Do that, and the literature will be ours.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Art

It’s unrealistic for anyone to demand or expect that I write the revolutionary new literary work. I came late to the field. The first real writing I produced was for a union newsletter. A couple years after that, when working for a commodity trader, I put out an investment newsletter. Only after that failed did I examine the literary game, becoming a small-time player at it by accident.

What I brought to the table was a new perspective on the art. I’d charted—by hand—hundreds of commodity moves. I’d gained some sense of how cycles operate, and of when a commodity—or art—was up too high, and when one was down. I saw literature as stagnant. Today it’s even more stagnant. It remains in need of a rebound.

I said at the outset that I was a precursor. A wannabe promoter looking for writers to promote. I was a voice in the wilderness—a ranting crazy person, which is how I appeared of late I’m sure to some of the HTML folks. I sought what I called a “Zeen Elvis.” My own goal was to be a Sam Phillips or Berry Gordy Jr. or Brian Epstein or Andrew Loog Oldham.

Look—the art isn’t good enough. It has to be different. Solipsism, or convoluted postmodernism, or narrow realism, or shitty surrealism—none of that goes anyplace from a marketing standpoint. What’s needed is a James Patterson with more skill, more intelligence, and more emotion. (I haven’t read Patterson, so I’m guessing at his kind of work.)

I know this: the writer today who can create new literary art—striking pop—will be the biggest American writer ever. That I’m sure of. I’d think that’d be enough incentive to abandon your old modes of thought.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What Is Talent?

THE VOICE OF THE ESTABLISHMENT, anonymous commenter "Harland" at my DemiPuppets blog, has a very different idea of what talent is than I do.

When I ran the ULA I looked at writers as a scout would view athletes. I looked for natural writing talent-- writing energy, a unique view of the world, and the spark of life. A james Nowlan has these qualities in spades. One can always clean up his typos! What's key are the other qualities a writer like that brings to the table.

Well-trained workshop writers are merely well-trained. They know all the rules, like automaton basketball players, but there's no excitement to their game.

I continue to believe that my way is the way to beat the mainstream.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bill Haley in 1953

AN OBJECT LESSON is to listen to Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” and Bill Haley’s “Crazy Man Crazy.” Haley’s was jazzier, hipper, and more fun. The difference is that Haley was consciously creating a product. He remade his music in the same way he remade himself from a cowboy singer into, briefly, the hippest cat around.

The key thing Haley did to turn rhythmn and blues into pop was to speed up the pace. This immediately made the music attention-getting—a punch in the face. (The punks did the same thing to recharge rock in the 1970’s.)

One can recharge prose in the same way.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


In my dust-up with the HTML herd I was outnumbered 1,000 to 1, deck stacked to favor them. The herd (or some of it)sought to stampede over me. You know what? They failed.

Of course, their intellectual big guns, Higgs and Butler, stayed on the sidelines. I’m not sure how they would’ve fared. Bigger guns—the Rumpus people—may stand behind them. That’s how they operate, through layers of, well, for lack of a better word, puppets. (Or, I’d bet that some of the anonymous comments were from the Rump folks.)

This is different from my style. When I ran the ULA I was always at the head of the pack. I believe this is where a leader should place himself. Don’t kid yourself that Blake Butler isn’t perceived by HTML people and readers as that group’s leader. This true whether he perceives himself that way or not. There’s no getting around group dynamics, which are built into nature, and the nature of human animals.

My own objectives with my visit to HTML were accomplished. First, to regenerate some interest/hits for my main blog. Second, I wanted to test—really test—what HTML was about.

I have more confidence in my ideas than ever.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I'm showing that one unauthorized intruder made it through this blog's defense barriers. And no, this isn't "Forbidden Planet" where the intruder is myself. At least, I think not!
I might have to scrap what I said below about HTML Giant's traffic. Now my "Demi-Puppet" is getting decent traffic sent from them, commensurate with their rep. Demi-Puppet's hits approach what they were in the blog's heyday, five or more years ago. Congrats to HTML Giant, then. Enjoy the attention while it lasts.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Paper Tiger

Re HTML Giant.

1.) EXAGGERATED HITS. The hits on their site have been overstated, based on response to a provocative comment I posted on their blog April 1. My comment and followups were accompanied by a blog link. Increased traffic to that blog was modest. But perhaps HTML’s readers are so mind-stunted they have no curiosity.

2.) MORE OF SAME. There’s nothing new about these writers and their work, which is inward-looking. They’re holding events at the AWP Conference in Denver—as status quo as you can get. HTML’s young writers seem to have little imagination. Or, they were born old.

3.) INFRASTRUCTURE? This is the same weakness as the ULA’s, but moreso. There’s nothing lasting, nothing substantial, just an endless series of blog posts forgotten within a week.

4.) DIFFUSION. Another ULA weakness. Many of HTML’s staff and writers are scattered around the country. Maybe, though, their home base is New York—the situation if HTML Giant is merely a subset of the Big Money Boys.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Better Product

The key to success is to transform the art to offer a new product. Do that, combine it with innovative promotion, and growth will follow. By “better” I don’t mean by the standards of a writing instructor, but better for the general reader, the potential market.

(What makes the current literary culture beatable is that they think about their art within an airy bubble removed from the greater society. Their standards are arbitrary, if not abstract, becoming more skewed—and skewing the art—by the day. And so you get a Great White Literary Hope like Blake Butler praising difficult writing. In another field this would be nonsense. Think if the auto industry operated like that. “Our new model is difficult to drive and repair—and it looks awful!” It’d be to our great shame if we don’t beat these clowns.)

I’m old enough to remember the impact of the first “Star Wars.” George Lucas made the old new. The movie had an old-fashioned feel to it—it looked like a “movie”—yet was strikingly new. What he’d done is adjust the formula of which elements of the movie art to more emphasize, and which to pull back. This can be easily done with literature. It’s amazingly simple. The result is a new product. Sometimes one only needs the imagination and will to do the obvious.

Writers who create the new capture the future.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


A key part of my plan is hitting vulnerable areas, and, eventually, entire demographics that our mainstream competition has written off.

No, the plan isn't to sell to "street kids," but to about 80% of young people, which established lit isn't trying to reach. $$$. (And face it, all young people want to be "street kids" in some way.)

One of my ULA mistakes was leaving products up to others. . . .

I'm targeting short stories because,
1.) They used to be the most popular lit form, and could be again.
2.) They're the most vulnerable spot on the literary chessboard. We can easily create better stories.
Recall how the Big Three automakers were beaten. They lost the subcompact section first. High-end vehicles came later. Novels are publishing's high-end. You don't attack their strength. That's suicide.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Big Shakeout

I’ve never seen more competition in literature than exists today—yet I’ve also never seen more opportunity.

Writers are flooding toward one spot on the game board. I believe they can be outflanked.


It’s likely that the monopolies will lose their dominance; that we’re entering a feudal, anarchic situation. If that’s the case, there will be a scramble for positioning. We’ll enter a big shakeout that will rearrange things with a few major players remaining. Study any industry’s history and that’s invariably what takes place. Will one of the survivors be, say, HTML Giant? Or are they destined to be another Foetry—or a ULA?

Are there ways to prevail?


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Xtreme Art

What about a possible new strategy?

Those who read this blog don’t seem to understand the immense competition which exists in America’s arts, including literature. An example is the big rock festival taking place in Austin, headlined by a gazillion unknown bands who are destined to stay unknown simply because there’s too many of them. There are in fact a million rock bands in this country, and millions of other styles of musicians, all seeking success. The field is saturated.

So is the writing field, of course—for those who follow the traditional paths. The only advantage with the literary realm—the only glimmer of an opening—is that, with will and imagination, it remains possible to transform the art. By contrast, the music business was revolutionized and popularized in the Fifties. Since then, everything’s been tried. Everything’s been done. It serves as a model for writers of what CAN be done.

There’s no mileage in following the pack. In doing what everyone else is doing. Xtreme tactics are required. The illusion of xtreme presentation and promotion, centered around a transformation of the art. I have a total plan to accomplish this. I hope that at some point others will be able to join in-- but they’ll have to be willing to scrap the same-old same-old bourgie business-as-usual mindset.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mistakes of the ULA

The Underground Literary Alliance did many things right. We were on the verge of real breakthrough. It's necessary to understand why this wasn't achieved.

The first objective, creating buzz, was accomplished by April 2001 after a mere six months of activity. In the fall of 2003 the buzz peaked with simultaneous feature articles in The Believer and Black Book magazines as well as smaller publications. Our momentum then stalled and soon enough began to decline. Three or four years of our "story" was all we should've expected before it became old news. We weren't set up to maximize that window of opportunity.

We never implemented two crucial parts of the plan. This was fatal. A.) We never got the main players to Philly during the Window of Opportunity. Not enough "boots on the ground." B.) We never had a "Zeen Elvis" centerpiece.

We never set up the necessary infrastructure to be able to support book releases: a lit-journal; regular public newsletter; fan zeen; radio show; video show; etc., though we made weak attempts at doing a couple of these. Too much effort was expended on organization and too much on the web site.

I and others working for the team were spread too thin. We tried to do too much at one time, instead of focusing on one or two solid objectives-- suc h as a lit journal.

Disorganization leads to failure. A team needs leaders, structure, accountability, ways for decision-making and dispute resolution, and designated responsibilities.

We could've focused just on the activism, established a true nonprofit organization, and raised money as a way to capitalize on our noise. This would've established us as an alternative to the PEN-style fake writer advocacy groups of the mainstream. It would also have limited us and moderated us. (This could possibly still be undertaken to maintain the remaining equity in the ULA name.)

Lisa Carver pointed this out to me at our 2004 Conclave. We needed, as part of our branding, a unique, recognizable look about ourselves, like the Beats had. (In fact this, not their art, was the Beats' main asset. Their writing fit the style.)

There was no focus to our writing; no readily identifiable style. This diffused the marketing. It weakened the branding. Frankly, organizationally and individually, the overall writing was good in spots but not good enough to overcome the hostility we faced, which, believe me, was immediate.

We had many failures. This is a rough overview. That we got as far as we did-- while fighting constantly among ourselves-- is amazing, and evidence of the vulnerability of the mainstream.


Big-time promotion is easy enough if one knows the tricks. The key is having something good to promote.

With writers the trick is knocking them out of the stale and acceptable grooves of self-promotion which lead nowhere.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Less Is More

A key secret to successful promotion is to not give the world too great a glimpse at yourself and your product until you or it is established. Mystery over familiarity. (Being offstage has worked for God, for example, for the past few millennia!)

It's a difficult trick to pull off.

Much of the Beatles fantastic initial explosion in the U.S. was because they were offstage, inaccessible, in England. Americans were hearing about them, reading about them, but not seeing them. Demand built, under the surface, until the lid blew off.

Much of the ULA's initial buzz was because we were a mystery. We'd hit and run events. We'd mail out short crazy broadsides. "Who are these guys?" people were asking.

Getting a website up in January 2002 ended the mystery, and in many ways ended the ULA.

I may close off "Demi-Puppets" simply because I gave there too much of myself and my ideas. They became familiar. It's a law of nature, that when you limit supply, value of what you're selling increases. It makes no sense to give too much away free, or making accessing it too easy.

In the early stages of a promotion, this is the ballgame.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

About the ULA

The original idea of the Underground Literary Alliance was to create demand before worrying about supply. All focus was to be on creating buzz, and feeding supply into it once the buzz was strong enough. This flipped standard behavior on its head. The ULA was designed to be a "caper." It was a sales campaign-- selling the ULA name itself.

Similar models:
1.) Beatles 1964.
2.) Nike.

Nike was a sales campaign from the beginning. The purpose was selling the Nike name. They don't own their own factories. They contract out, setting the standards they want the many individual producers to follow.

It could be argued that a huge publicity campaign is all Nike is.

The ULA should've worked like this. The p.r. end has to be in control of every aspect of presentation and direction for it to have a chance of success.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New "POP" Story

In the meantime, be sure to read the latest story, by Brady Russell, at
It's called "Ezra Meets Esther."
Get your story "Top of the Pop"!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chess Strategy

I was up all night recently designing a new chess strategy for the lit game. My purpose here: to see if a team concept is possible.
Key Points:
1.) Three posts are upcoming here re the ULA. Not to knock it, but to give the thinking behind the ULA. Some of the same thinking will go into my new plan.
2.) My Pop blog is a preliminary, "pawn" move designed to set up other moves.
3.) In chess, you want to a.) Establish a position on the board. b.) Have that position create openings in other locations.
4.) The plan will need a.) New literary art. b.) Intellectual justification for that art. c.) Artistic cachet.
5.) Roles. There will be enough key roles to fill. You could say, very roughly, Coach, Quarterback, star Running Back and Receiver among them.
6.) I hope not to be front man. GM, more like.
7.) Flexibility. I'd need writers with some flexibility regarding roles and their writing. More on this soon. (It's interesting the number of writers with no flexibility whatsoever.)
8.) The trick is not to be at the curve, stylistically, artistically, culturally, but half-a-step ahead of the curve.
9.) The Plan would be designed to go all the way. Touchdown. Checkmate. Even if we fall short we'll make waves.
10.) We'll be good guys not bad guys.
11.) There'll be room for minor supporting roles, but they'll have no authority. (A project can't be run from half-a-country or half-a-world away.)
12.) The ULA was a test run-- a Model T compared to a Lamborghini.
13.) The Internet will play an important but secondary role. Kind of like the air force for an invasion fleet.
14.) Time and place. Very key. More on this upcoming.
15.) Key Chess Pieces. Without these, the Plan may not work. More on this upcoming.
Numbers 4, 8, 14, and 15 are what it's about. With those going, we'll revolutionize the literary scene. We'll be bigger than the Beats.
Watch future posts for more explanation!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

How to Win

Writers need to realize that the congloms themselves, with all their resources, do little to promote the art. Because they lack imagination, it's possible to outdo them

One example: Philadelphia, one of the top four lit cities, has not one weekly radio or TV show, to my knowledge, devoted solely to writers and books. Even golf trumps that.

It's not just that you do it, but HOW you do it. It couldn't be a NPR snoozefest. I'd make such show part of a presentation of new literature. New art, look, packaging, tone, product, with emphasis on excitement and drama. Newness across the board.

Changing the Art

This is the necessary first step. Right now writers don't need any other commitment than that. But it has to be done or there's nothing else. We start with the short story because it's the easiest to reinvent.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Trade-Off

With the right plan we could achieve amazing things. Not a doubt in my mind. BUT, to do so means going full-bore all the way. It's why I'm presenting the commitment angle up front. This would in no way be easy.
(It's likely I won't find the right pieces for a new strategy. No biggie. I concede that with the ULA, despite great early success, I ultimately failed. This causes hesitation.
As fallback I have a go-it-alone plan ready.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

About this Blog

I want this blog, unlike some of my others, to be uncontentious, strictly business-- with emphasis on ideas and problem-solving, discussion more-or-less limited to the subject at hand: marketing writers; marketing literature.

Back to Basics

The first thing is to question everything you're doing-- to ask yourself why you're doing it.
Or-- what's your goal with it?
For most writers, publishing a book is an end in itself. They have no unique plan to sell the book. Most publishers today, even the big boys, give little promo support, unless you're wired to the establishment.
You have to know where you want to go. Visualize a map or a chessboard. How far along the board do you want to travel? All the way to fame and fortune? Or a more modest target?
Whatever it is, this is your Goal.
Now you have to know what objectives to hit to reach the Goal. You need to know if the Goal is attainable, and how. You have to see the road in front of you.
1.) Go it alone. Odds of success: 0.01%.
2.) Be part of a big, "Super ULA" campaign with all the trimmings. Odds of success: 10%. (Higher IF you can put and keep said campaign together-- the hard part.)
3.) Organize a smaller, tighter, more focused team. Odds of success: 33%.
How tight or loose the structure?
What's the goal?
The ULA's goal at the outset (2000) was insanely ambitious. Like the German army invading Russia. We made it to the gates of Moscow before being destroyed in the snow.
Outsider Writers goal was to be the anti-ULA. They wanted to build a huge membership, and feel good about doing so. They achieved this-- but haven't thought past it.
The nature of how they grew left them with
a.) a low level of commitment from their writers.
b.) lack of focus.
Also, their brand is unfocused. If everybody's an outsider, nobody is.
You also have to know what you're selling, and where.
What's the product? A book? Or YOU?
Where are you selling the product? CAN you stand out?
There's no alternative to having a plan. Or cooperating in some way on a plan. Otherwise it's Everybody Doing their Own Thing. It's micro-micro-marketing, which ultimately means everyone selling to five people.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Future of Publishing?

Has anyone read the article by Random House big Jason Epstein in New York Review of Books, topic the future of publishing? He's not objective, needless to say, and he believes his kind of publishing still HAS a future, which may or may not be the case. (I only scanned the piece-- so give me your feedback, please.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Question

If I ever attempt again to seriously promote writers, I'll ask each writer one question about their work: Is it your hobby or your life?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Why the Book?

Someone will have to answer this question for me. From a business standpoint: Why the book?

It seems to me the book should be the final stage of any literary campaign-- the culmination-- not its beginning.

In the first months of World War II, the "jewels of the fleet" in navies around the world were the battleships. They turned out to be obsolete in that role, in that they were lumbering, expensive, and needed supporting infrastructure in the form of protection. They were shown to be extremely vulnerable to small, quick-strike planes launched from land or by aircraft carriers.

The ULA was successful when it attacked established literature's weak points, not its strengths.

One thing the publishing industry can still do is put out there millions of books with a huge supporting infrastructure.

Writers, however, are wedded to the idea of the book.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ballyhoo Works!

Lady Gaga is the perfect example. A few years ago in high school she was a mousey nobody. When she decided on a music career she brought along the hype. The rest is pop music history.

If I could find a few young writers as hungry as singers, I'd topple today's literary industry. With the right plan it'd be easy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More Branding

Branding IS the Ballgame.
Look at what ING Direct, the cafe/bank, has done with the use of the color orange. Masterful-- associating the color with their name. Instant association.

My new plan, if I implement it, will focus on branding.

Friday, February 12, 2010


The biggest argument for participants in a project being in one geographic location is simple efficiency. I've learned you can write only so many words in a week, so it's best not to waste them on emails, explanations, and debates. Face-to-face meetings are morale strengthening and at one shot can cover large amounts of territory.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Going Forward

The key to success for literature is not just to recognize it needs a better product. It's to see that the literary slice of the cultural pie can be much larger-- that there are methods to achieve this.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why "Pop"?

Obviously, I'm rebranding myself and my ideas. I'm also branding the new kind of fiction several of us have talked about.

Why am I using the word "pop"?

The word is easily understandable. "Pop Lit" conveys the nature of the art in two words. It's also inocuous. For myself it represents a tactical shift away from "literary rebellion," which many people ultimately found too dangerous.

Pop signals fun. For my uses it has three connotations beyond itself. (To be effective a brand needs resonance beyond itself.)
1.) Pop songs, which I see epitimized by the Beatles (or even 80's New Wave and Brit-Pop) more than the overproduced pop of now.
2.) The word populist.
3.) Pop art.

With any attempt to displace "literary" writing, those with a vested interest in the status quo will attempt to label all alternatives as "bad writing." The defense against this is to tie pop lit to art. Lit as art.

Finally, "pop" creates a broader category than other possibilities like "pulp" or "noir."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Book Under Assault

One has to accept that in the next few years, the book as we know it will be under crushing assault-- from the line of "Kindle"-style ebooks and the Internet, but also through the indifference of most of the public. Official literature will become more narrow, more elitist, more ensconsed among an affluent minority of the populace. It will be sustained by academia and by a downsized infrastructure. (The New York Times and the Washington Post, two pillars of book culture, are in trouble.) Lit's position will be defensive only.

Which leaves room for a dynamic literary movement which reinvents every aspect of the art. It's possible, with the right plan, to completely outflank the status quo. The plan should have the understanding that the standard $25 well-written novel is an obsolete product.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Literary Art

We're in the midst of drastic technological change transforming the way people receive their news and information-- and their culture also. One art has scarcely budged in response-- the insulated realm of literature.

Ten years ago I saw books and their big box delivery systems as on the edge of obsolescence. I still believe this. Aspects of the ULA campaign we never got to would've addressed this.

Those who'll prevail in the coming world will be those willing to rethink EVERYTHING.

The first step is to reinvent the art itself. It should be obvious to all that weighty and expensive scarcely-readable postmodern novels aren't designed to connect with 99% of the Twitter generation.

We can make new literary art that's readable and exciting-- and make it consciously ART at the same time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Baffling to me is the realization that most underground writers won't even try to compete with the mainstream. At every prospect of making noise the stance has been to back away, back away, back away.. The attitude is typified by Outsider Writers, whose writers glory in their marginality. For the last two years the ULA has also followed this strange philosophy.

How anyone can be satisfied with this situation is beyond my understanding. Say what you will about me, but I was always in the arena COMPETING-- doing whatever it took to stand out, with the belief that by competing we could become hugely successful, and not incidentally make literary history. More than this I believed in the necessity and urgency of what we were doing. I saw openings on the game board which still wait to be exploited.

Without huge belief and ambition artists of any kind are noplace.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pop Stories

My new blog is up, "American Pop Lit" at

I'll soon be looking for submissions-- which should address the question,
"What is a pop short story?"

I'm not completely satisfied with the story I put up, "The Strange Case of Mr. Box." It could be better, shorter, tighter-- but it has some good points.


Noteworthy are two recent big happenings with the potential to change the cultural landscape.
1.) Philly-based Comcast buys the NBC empire.
2.) Kirkus Reviews folds. (Albeit since resurrected.)
These happenings alter the game board.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Everything in this society, this culture, is presentation and promotion. One has to be aware of this.

For example, the Rolling Stones were a creation of their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, who followed a designed approach. He set the model for them to follow. After he left, they continued with his model.

Understanding the mysteries of promotion is the key to success.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why the Short Story?

One has to know where the competition (the establishment lit scene) is vulnerable. Novels are their strongest point. Short stories are their weakest.

Short fiction is the easiest way to capture new readers; a new audience.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"By the Book"

In promotion, with certain things you have to go by the book. Keep in mind your competitors are all reading the same book! In many areas it's better to throw out the book.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The New Short Story Part I

The best opportunity for those seeking to compete in the arena of literature is the once-glorious American short story, which is no longer a popular art form. To judge by mainstream products, it's in poor shape.

The story needs to be reinvented. This is simpler than it seems. The Beatles reinvented rock n roll with a few tweaks-- superficial changes which gave the shock of the new. Standard rock n roll astutely repackaged.
My interest is not in literary stories but pop stories. That's what was successful in the past. That's the way to capture an audience.

That doesn't mean redoing O. Henry. It means accomplishing a few of the same objectives: readability; form; fun; humor or color: "popness."

Wred Fright's short fiction isn't O. Henry, but achieves some similar things. His pieces are new and artistically innovative, and so present one possible direction for the pop story.

Another direction is in combinations of simplicity and melodrama.

The models to be followed will be found in the stories we write.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Branding means grabbing words and territory for ourselves within the mental universe. For instance, "avant-garde." Who "owns" that term? With what writers is it identified? Is its use for some styles of them anachronistic?

My thesis is that any attempts to promote underground/outsider writing should have labels/brands ready to go, beyond "outsider" and "underground," which in the bigger picture weren't/aren't good enough.