Publishing: A New Punk Ethos

The Ramones

I remember an interview with Joey Ramone, where he bemoaned how the record industry had robbed him of the experience of creating and sharing music in a timely fashion. That, in the early days of The Ramones, they would record a song one week, and release it on 7″ record the next week. That he could directly communicate with his fans that quickly.

By the time The Ramones found success, it would be months between recording and releasing a song, and by that time, the energy and enthusiasm he felt for it had dwindled a bit. That it didn’t feel as though he was directly sharing with his audience as creator and listener. This is partly why bands love playing new material at their live shows – because they are representative of how they feel in that moment – when they are ideas still being born, with a passionate need to communicate them to fans now.

Dan Blank When you think back to the world before books, this was a core part of storytelling – the immediacy of the connection between the storyteller and the audience. Stories were as much about the interaction as the content. Stories would be shaped and evolve and change over time, depending on region, culture, personality, or a variety of other reasons.

Like the music industry, publishing has evolved, for the most part, to a system where it can take years to create a work, and then years to get an agent, a book deal, and to turn that idea into a printed work. Even with digital books, this can be the case when working with traditional players. You get slotted into a system. And as any published author will tell you…. you EARN it, slowly, month by month through the process leading up to publication.

And then, finally, you are a published author. Your book, an expression of years of work, is ready to be discovered. That communication between creator and reader can finally happen.

But this has changed. The publishing world is going back to the days that Joey Ramone pined for. Creators now have many choices as to how and when their work is shared. And these are not “either or choices” – where one has to choose EITHER traditional publishing, or independent publishing. They simply have more options as to how they can share, how they can create, and how they can manage their writing career and relationship with their audience.

My friend Guy LeCharles Gonzalez released his first ebook this week: Handmade Memories. When I spoke with him about it, I was shocked to learn a key fact about the production of the book: while the content was created over the course of years, when he finally sat down to package the material into ebook format, it took – LITERALLY – a single evening to publish his ebook. He started on Friday evening, just thinking he would get the process started, and finished it by Saturday morning.

The book went on sale that day.

Guy is eager to point out that the content is not second-rate work. This is his best work, created over the course of years. But once he was ready to share, he was surprised at how quickly it could be packaged, and shared via ebook format.

My friend Jane Friedman recently released her own ebook: The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations. It’s a brilliant and fun work, and it felt even more personal to me in that I know she published it on her own. That she chose when to release it (April Fools Day), and that she could ensure every aspect of it reflected her vision of the work. That this work reflects who she is now, what she wanted to say now. That she didn’t have to spend months shopping it around, and more months waiting for publication.

This is not, in any way, shape or form a slight to the traditional publishing process. I love publishing in all its forms. Yes, even the “Snooki has her own book” form.

I am simply glad that new forms of publishing are opening up, that creators are finding new freedoms to choose how to publish and when to publish. There are no lines here – this is not a future of one type of publishing vs another. All forms of publishing have a future – and for creators, their careers will likely move across these forms and processes again and again.

When I was in college, I produced a music zine every month. Here’s a photo of me in 1994 producing one issue:

It was a labor of love, created in the late hours of the evening at Kinkos. It was a very personal work, and I went deeply into debt to fund that project.

I’m thrilled that creators can now share their work at will – and without going into debt. That they have choices – choices to do right by their work and to turn the process of from sharing content, to truly interacting with others, just as traditional storytellers did.

973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank |

Why Use Social Media? To Discover Who You Really Are.

Sharing anything online is a risk. Whether it is a blog post, Tweet, YouTube video, Flickr photo or Facebook status update, each is involves putting something out there that can be taken the wrong way, or expose something about yourself that will affect how others feel about you.

Some people see this as placing a bet that can only yield positive results – that the world will likely become more enamored with you. Other people see this as placing a bet with largely negative consequences – that everything is fine as it is, and sharing of yourself online can only disrupt the careful balance of things.

Dan Blank So why share and interact online, either professionally or personally? I posit that doing so is not just about engaging with others and learning more about them, but that doing so allows you to find out more about who YOU are.

This is scary for most people. We assume we know who we are, what we stand for, and our place in the world. But we box ourselves in to job titles, to a town in which we are living, a circle of friends, and a daily routine. We tend to interact with those who are like ourselves, share a common context and shared set of identity and social structure.

When you start sharing more opening for all the world to see, outside of the social construct that surrounds you in your daily life, you share something that is uniquely you. So who are you? I’m reminded of Anthony Michael Hall’s classic pondering in The Breakfast Club:

The more I use social media, the more I share, the more I learn about myself. What I will say, and what I won’t say. How I react to people from a wide variety of places and perspectives. That I am constantly surprising myself, and constantly trying to find ways of being even more honest – of being less vanilla and expected. Of exploring who I am and who I can become.

This is also reflected back – how others react to me, and choose to (or not to) engage with me. How do I fit into the social situations of people from around the world, who have different goals, values and perspectives?

This extends to companies engaging in social media. I think a lot of brands don’t know who they are. They are run by people who joined the company long after it was founded, and only work in one small role. Corporate executives are often rewarded for delivering the expected, and for not rocking the boat for investors, shareholders and board members. They want to offend no one. Why do you think their mission statements all look the same, including everything but the kitchen sink. They are vague, inoffensive, and require no hard decisions. Every company seems to value about innovation, the customer, products, caring, blah blah blah all equally. The reality is, plenty of companies work in that middle ground: “good enough” products, at a reasonable price, with as much customer service as they can afford within a set budget. But they won’t say that. They say they are all about cutting edge innovation, doing whatever is necessary to please the customer, etc.

So when these companies and employees begin blogging, creating videos and Tweeting, it is a wild change from the corporate press releases that are vetted by legal and are written in the same language that the public relations team has used for years. Suddenly, when you create more content that isn’t vetted, you share more of who you really are. And this can be surprising even to the author.

My wife is an artist. I’ll watch her meticulously work on a painting for months, and then when finished, I’ll ask her what it means. She never knows. The process of creating and sharing is inherently one of self-discovery for her. I think that for many people, sharing on the web is the same thing.

Sure, we all feel we know who we are, but the truth is, we are all evolving. And the more we step out of our comfort zones, the more we share, the more we interact with others far outside the context of our daily lives, the more we learn about ourselves.

And that doing so puts us into a greater variety of situations to see what we are capable of. That this process can make us better people. More unique, more focused, more centered.

You are not the title on your business card. Your resume often adds no context as to how you worked, not just what you’ve worked on. That letter grade on a test says very little about you.

But sharing every day says a lot about you. And it builds an identity that is there for the world to see. Oftentimes, we know our skills, we know our responsibilities, but do we really know who we are? That answer will be different for everyone. And one that can be the journey of a lifetime to figure out.

973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank |

Upcoming Speaking Events

In the next few weeks, I will be speaking at a few events. If you are a writer or publisher, these might be up your alley:

Writer’s Digest Conference
Dan Blank

  • Branding Yourself
    Friday, January 21st, 2011 | 6:00 – 6:50 pm
    No matter what you write, you’re writing for a community of readers – a group of people bound together by a common interest, passion or value. Many of us are crafting work that we believe will appeal to community members, but are falling woefully short in getting their attention once the work is done. Succeeding in that particular endeavor takes an understanding of both what that community really wants as well as how to make them aware of your own personal brand and what it means for them. In this session, you’ll learn how to establish your “brand,” create engaging content and get it in front of your community – the three crucial steps necessary to make it as a writer.

  • Panel: How to Use Social Media to Get Noticed and Sell Your Work
    Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 | 9:00 – 9:50am
    Dan Blank, Kate Rados, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Moriah Jovan
    There’s been a lot of talk about how investing in social media is necessary for writers who want to succeed. But what does it all mean? How do you facebook, tweet, blog and post effectively? And how much time – time that takes away from actually writing – should you spend doing it?

  • Blogging as a Platform and Publicity Machine
    Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 | 11:00 – 11:50 am
    Learn how to use online media to connect with other writers, readers and those who can help you to fulfill your goals in writing and publishing. Having a blog is an incredibly effective way to help you do so – but only if you know how to use it properly. In this session, you’ll discover not only the power of blogging, but the step-by-step process of creating a blog, developing its content, managing the process, and using it to market yourself and connect with others online. This special session, created by Dan Blank specifically for the Writer’s Digest Conference, is adapted from his exceptionally popular Writer’s Digest online class, Blogging 101.

Digital Book World

  • Content Strategy: How to Serve Your Community by Developing Great Online Content
    Monday, January 24th, 2011 | 10am – 1pm
    Content Strategy, Content Marketing, and Community Management have become big news, promising the ability to directly engage with your readers in new and profitable ways. But which platforms, networks and tools are the most effective? And how does “great” content stand out online?

    In this intensive workshop, content strategist and online marketing expert Dan Blank will take a deep dive into these questions, with the goal of developing an actionable online content strategy for engaging directly with readers.

    Topics that will be covered:

    • How to find and engage readers and existing communities.
    • Understanding your readers’ needs, and tactics to identify them.
    • How to create and curate high-quality online content.
    • How to use blogs, email and social media networks effectively.
    • How to measure, analyze and adjust tactics to ensure a profitable content strategy.

    This workshop will focus on the strategies and tactics editors, marketers, and authors can use to develop an individualized roadmap for creating and curating valuable online content that serves the needs and desires of their communities.

AWP Conference

  • UPDATE: Panel: The Art and Authenticity of Social Media: Using Online Tools to Grow a Community
    I was a late edition to this panel, replacing Guy Gonzalez. Topics covered: Social media is easy to disparage as meaningless socializing, undignified shilling, or time better spent writing. Yet sharing information online and having conversations with readers is critical to spreading the word about what you (or your organization) does. Online community building can help develop a long-term readership, plus open up new opportunities. This panel discusses meaningful online social interaction, and how the panelists have seen it advance their careers or their organizations.

  • CLMP Workshop for Presses—Marketing your books online: Virtual Touring, Social Media, and Promotion in the Digital Age
    Friday, February 4, 2011 | 1:30pm – 4:15pm
    Kate Travers and Dan Blank
    This session outlines ways that book publishers and authors can market their books and engage readers with low-cost, high-value online strategies. The virtual book tour provides a way for indie presses on a shoestring to schedule author readings not limited by cost or coast. Social media tools such as Twitter, can be used to promote authors, publishers, and create a dialogue with the community and readers you are hoping to reach. Learn how you can utilize these mediums in the new digital age of publishing! (Note: CLMP Workshops cost $30 for CLMP members and $60 for nonmembers. To register, please stop by the CLMP booth at the Bookfair.)

973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank |

Trish Lawrence Interview – Helping Writers Leverage Social Media

This week, I chatted with Trish Lawrence, owner of Real/Brilliant. Trish is an online strategist who works with writers and entrepreneurs to help them leverage social media.

You can find Trish on Twitter at @TrishLawrence, and her website:

My goal is to share conversations with those doing interesting things in the world of publishing and media.

Click ‘play’ below to learn about Trish’s thoughts on how important social media is for authors.