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?