Collaborative publishing – a new model: some initial thoughts


This is going to have to be out in the world in draft form, until I have the time (and patience) to flesh things out more. Or perhaps, this will exist permanently in this form, demarcating where I see my life going from 2014 onwards. In any case, here it is.


– I’m frustrated with what mainstream publishing looks like; every time I go to the bookstore (if I can find one), I don’t see much of anything that captivates me. It’s as if the same thing is being reworked over and over on the same plateau, both creatively and sociopolitically.
– I’m also deeply frustrated by the widespread sentiment in activist and even community organizing circles that making art is by definition reactionary. This is against most everything I believe in, all the way down to my cells. The work (defined here as art that actively challenges not just the status quo, but the nature of internalized oppression itself, and not just in terms of overt social constraints, but in the modes of thought itself) is both labor and transformative praxis. The-work-as praxis both as concept and practice got debated and sorted out in the period from the 1950s to the early 1990s. Most if not all “criticisms” of this reality are long since debunked, and are about as relevant as phrenology.
– For me, and many others (whose work-as-praxis is frequently shunted off to the margins of the margins within the larger society), the-work-as-praxis is the revolution, or at least, my and others’ contribution to it. Creating work that challenges, inspires AND deepens, that is fundamentally a form of praxis, and secondarily a “product”, when it is a product at all? That is what i’m interested in.
– I also hope/long for this sort of work becoming strong enough again that it can co-exist with modes of community organizing, rather than being viewed as in opposition to it (a tension that I view as a form of false consciousness, although a very specific one that is easily mistaken for tired ideas, such as “I just make art, I don’t care about politics”), or worse yet, as something that inevitably is funneled into teaching, hobbyist pursuits, or just destroyed outright. In other words, yes, I can teach, many (although not all) artists can. But teaching is predominately not my transformative work, making art is my transformative work, by-in-large. And if you want to destroy what I’m doing? We have nothing to talk about, although hopefully at some point in the future, we will.
– That all said, there needs to be new models for making art, as well as collaborative ownership of both content creation and distribution. This potential for creating new modes of creating art collaboratively, as well as a fruitful and potentially collaborative co-existence of the-work-as-praxis with community organizing, is by definition unachievable without building new models, so here goes.

The model:

– I am focusing on writing here, because it is the medium I’m most well-versed in; what follows could be applied to any art form, especially if it exists digitally.
– The creation of writer/reader communities should be focused on the “long tail”, including experimental/innovative lit authors, and authors otherwise shut out of the mainstream. The idea is to allow the kinds of works that transform thought and being alike to flourish, as opposed to the upholding of various sorts of status quo thoughts and existences that heavily dominate the mainstream.
– In keeping with this concept, the focus should be on developing close bonds within respective niches, both currently in existence and ones yet-to-be-formed, rather than large-scale fame. The idea here is sustainability, not celebrity.
– “People in the mainstream marketshare can fend for themselves”, both via digital distribution and traditional publishing; not so much “fuck you” as “we have our own work to do,” readers and writers alike. (The literary world is full of famous “fuck yous”, most of which are used as fodder for high society rags, and increasingly, that get used as quick fuel in a 24/7 news cycle, if they are acknowledged at all.)
– Openly friendly authorial mindset to reader feedback/criticism, including harsh criticism; readers as “long tail editors” a la wikipedia.
– If feedback occurs after a piece has been released commercially, efforts should be made to take said feedback into account for the future, including possible inclusion in future editions, as appropriate.
– Conversely, authors have a right to ignore feedback, just as they would with an editor; and as with editors, readers have the right to critique this ignoring. In other words, the author/reader relationship should be focused on nurturing transformative yet critical dialogues, not celebrity worship.
– Sidebar: what would inclusion of feedback look like for fictional works? I think this is where collaboration could truly shine, if done right. Imagine multiple versions being available, cross-referenced and annotated as relevant, leading to a deeper social/political understanding as a result; not just work-as-praxis, but editorial-as-praxis as well.