Writers and Performers
post # 136 — July 18, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations post
Shaula Evans, part of my tech team, spotted an interesting discussion with John Updike, which raised some concerns about the future of publishing. Since we discussed the future of writing books in this blog back in February, she thought we all might be interested.
Apologizing for her rephrasing, Shaula says
In short, much of the advice to (published and aspiring) authors in the digital age boils down to: “Don’t worry about monitizing books. Give books away, and make money through collateral revenue streams.”
To which Updike responds that authors are writers, not performers, and not likely to succeed as entertainers.
Of course, you (David) have already addressed in your post the reality that those of us who are not already John Updike are not likely to make money through the conventional book publishing and promotion model, either.
It makes me wonder if the middlemen (Amazon, speaker’s bureaus, promoters) are the only ones making money here…
Shaula, I would also relate your comments to the recent stories (New York Times July 17, 2006) about film director M. Night Shyamalan’s superior ability at self-promotion. Do film makers need to turn themselves into a “brand” to get their films into blockbuster status? Should we all be taking lessons from Madonna on how to create and market (constantly evolving) personas in order to draw attention to ourselves?
Do these challenges apply also to those of us trying to practice so-called “professions?” Do we consultants, lawyers, accountants, engineers and others have to take note of all this?
I do believe that there is such a thing as marketing with greater or lesser taste, but as much as I want to sympathize with Updike, I think we live increasingly in a pop-culture world where performing and entertaining ARE indeed where the money lies.
And, Shaula, if the writer doesn’t want to take control of the marketing, the performing, the persona creation, then, as has always been true in the music business, the intermediaries will write the contracts and make the most money.
Peter Macmillan said:
You may not be too surprised to learn that English language teachers in Hong Kong are in high demand in schools and as private tutors. But the real “stars” of this industry are hired by (and sometimes own) specialist education centres created to help teenagers pass their highschool exams (and not just for English, but for science, maths, geography and all the other examinable subjects, too).
This is big business, and the teachers at the top are like sports stars. They can earn several million Hong Kong dollars a year and change “owners” in return for multimillion dollar golden handshakes. They are also the ones that own the very expensive homes featured in gossip magazines and real estate guides.
What I have never before seen any where else (but maybe it exists) is the larger than life images of these teaching professionals on double-decker buses all around the city. It’s quite surreal. They seem to be creating their own celebrity by massive public exposure of full body pictures, reassuring smiles and memorable names in very big print.
I could, for instance, easily recognise “Ken Sir” in the street, although I have never met him and would probably never have need of his services. I just quietly hope that his shabby jeans and laconic stance are more than just a stage act!
Presumably such initiatives have an impact on the buying decisions of the public who may quite like being able to tell friends that their children are being taught by the famous teacher X (who in turn is very likely under great pressure to maintain a high pass rate for his or her students).
I had always considered highschool teaching to be a very valuable profession, but I had never before seen so much of this value exploited/realised by individuals like this.
Then again, why not. Isn’t this simply free market capitalism in action?
And if it is possible to be a highschool teacher superstar, what about a lawyer, dentist or accountant superstar?
I know that there are true superstars in these areas, but maybe superstardom is more attainable for ordinary professionals than we had previously imagined.
Could the key be to present one’s self as a person first, then as a professional in a particular discipline.
The funny thing is, if he said he was capable I would probably be quite happy giving my tax return to Ken Sir …
posted on July 19, 2006