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.
1.) WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY.
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.
2.) UNREALIZED PLAN.
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.
3.) NO INFRASTRUCTURE.
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.
4.) NO FOCUS.
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.
5.) NO ORGANIZATIONAL FOCUS.
Disorganization leads to failure. A team needs leaders, structure, accountability, ways for decision-making and dispute resolution, and designated responsibilities.
6.) UNBUILT ACTIVISM.
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.)
7.) NO STYLE.
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.)
8.) UNFOCUSED WRITING.
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.