One of the reasons that the Right, both religious and secular, has risen to power over the past few decades has been their recognition of the importance of waging what they call “the war of ideas.”  Part of their strategy in this war has been to systematically support their writers and thinkers through the research and writing of books and articles and to provide funding and resources for promoting the author and the work once published.
Much emphasis has been given to answering the Right with progressive “think tanks.” I think this is good, but just one part of a much larger puzzle.  I am not going to lay out a manifesto on the entire subject today, but simply state that a program to support progressive publishing must include the following elements: Support writers by insisting on decent payment and fair treatment from publishers and publications; support progressive publications and insist that the foundation community help excellent but struggling non-profit publications and the institutions that sustain them; support independent bookstores that are not part of the big corporate chains; and finally, support independent publishers of progressive non-fiction. This latter point is the subject of a signficant radio interview this coming Friday.

Writer’s Voice interviews Jennifer Nix, editor-at-large for Chelsea Green Publishing(that is publishing Kos’ forthcoming book). Nix published a provocative essay on Alternet recently, asking why if the corporate media is so bad, do people like Amy Goodman, Michael Moore, Al Franken and David Corn publish books with them?  Nix points out that Chelsea made a name for itself and for George Lakoff, by propelling his book Don’t Think of An Elephant onto the New York Times best seller list and inventing an alterative system of marketing:

“We did this by partnering with progressive activist and indy media groups, to launch the book via e-mail blasts and on various web sites, like, Democracy for America, Apollo Alliance, Jim Hightower, GreenFestival, AlterNet and more. We also got a lot of help from the blogs, like DailyKos and BoingBoing. We published a book about new, progressive ideals, and rather than going the traditional and lengthy turn-your-hair-gray publishing route (calling on galleys, sales reps, early reviews, and ads), we went directly to progressives to get Lakoff’s book out into the world. It worked. We created a new publishing model. And we’re not shy about telling you that Chelsea Green and Mr. Lakoff have made a very nice chunk of change.”

Francesca Rheannon’s interview with Jennifer Nix on Writer’s Voice airs 5:30-6:30pm EST on WMUA 91.1 FM, the radio station of the University of Massachusetts. Writer’s Voice is a project of the Western New England Chapter of the National Writers Union. The program can be heard on streaming audio, and the podcast will eventually be archived here.

“This rant is really not meant to excoriate progressive writers,” Nix continues in her Alternet essay, “but to draw attention to the fact that you need to do more than talk the talk about media reform. Independent publishers are with you, fighting against what’s happening to our media, to our democracy and to our country. How much sense does it make to publish your books with the likes of corporate publishers, with the proceeds going to strengthen the very media and political systems against which you rail so eloquently? Why not make money for yourselves and also funnel profits into strengthening independent presses by giving us a chance to work with your names and ideas?”

“No one is asking you to make less money, or to see your books die on the vine due to a lack of publicity, marketing or distribution. Book publishing has always been a crapshoot in corporate hands, and it always will be. Why not align your efforts with nimble, committed folks who are working to reform our media while they sell books? Just as the internet is changing politics, it is changing media — and it is changing the slow and antiquated world of book publishing. We’ve proven it, and we can keep proving it, with ever more inventive ways of reaching out to the public.”

“You no longer have to make deals with the devil of corporate might in order to sell your books. Independent book publishers can work with writers to find their audiences, and create new echo chambers with technology and various independent media partners. Together, we can spread word of your important ideas — and turn them into bestsellers.”

0 0 votes
Article Rating