Nothing is worse as a reader than clicking a link that interests you, only to discover you’ve been had. There’s nothing substantive there. The publisher and writer got what they wanted (the page view), but you had nothing to show for your investment of time.
Ideally, the relationship between writer, publisher and reader should be symbiotic. Everyone in the cycle needs each other. Otherwise, like a triangle without one side, it all falls down.
Unfortunately, some forget this and become selfish. They engage in practices that can temporarily benefit them but harm others—like the clickbait example. They exploit others in the relationship.
The goal, however, should be for the success of everyone else in the process. This is especially true for Christians. To use a biblical concept, we should work toward everyone flourishing.
Writers should want the best for their publishers and readers, who should want the best for writers and publishers, who should want the best for writers and readers.
So how does that happen? First, we have to identify ways that each level can exploit the others. And then we can highlight ways to help others flourish.
How writers exploit others.
Writers exploit publishers by using them as a means to an end. Some writers want fame, others money and the publishers are merely a way to get there. It can be couched in an endless array of spiritual-sounding clichés, but if you only want to get your message out, you don’t need a publisher.
Writers exploit readers by merely producing content. Anyone can produce content. Certain websites around the internet are dubbed “content farms” because they produce endless articles on the latest controversies designed solely to get clicks (and sell ads).
How publishers exploit others.
Publishers exploit writers by treating them as merely as a way to make money. This can lead to valuing a “name” to the exclusion of an idea. Publishers need to sell books to stay in business. Christian publishers are no different. That’s why having someone with built-in audiences makes sense. But the danger comes when individuals who aren’t writers are given book contracts solely because they’re famous. That can deceptively elevate one person while diminishing the gifts of actual writers.
That’s why having someone with built-in audiences makes sense. But the danger comes when individuals who aren’t writers are given book contracts solely because they’re famous. That can deceptively elevate one person while diminishing the gifts of actual writers.
Publishers exploit readers through clickbait. Whether it is a book or a blog post, publishers can so overvalue exposure that they resort to deceptive and exploitive marketing. This is not necessarily using enticing headlines, but using headlines and marketing that overpromises and under-delivers.
How readers exploit others.
Readers exploit publishers by demanding more for less. Everything cannot be free. Yet many readers expect publishers to print only books or articles they agree with, to never charge or sell ads, and to do it constantly so there is always something new to read.
Readers exploit writers by dismissing their work. Everyone can produce written content, but not everyone can skillfully craft sentences and stories. Readers can sometimes assume this is the case, which leads them to demand more from writers than is possible or merely look for books from already famous names.
How writers help others flourish.
Writers help publishers flourish by partnering with them at the right time. Writers shouldn’t leave all the work of selling books or promoting the writing to their publishers. They should do their part to ensure success for both.
Part of that comes from developing an organic platform based on years of quality writing and developing relationships with other writers. Healthy platforms are built on work and relationships. Unhealthy platforms are built solely on personality.
When writers leverage their platform to help make their writing successful, they leave the publisher in a better place. This enables the publisher to do more and find other writers to publish, who may not have gotten the opportunity otherwise.
Writers help readers flourish by providing something of value. Do more than give a useless piece of information that a reader could get anywhere else. Use your unique gifts and experiences to develop a piece of writing only you could.
It could be a brief how-to article or an insightful book. Help readers gain new insight into a popular show or movie. Provide practical parenting or relationship advice. The point is that you gave your readers something only you could give.
How publishers help others flourish.
Publishers help writers flourish by valuing ideas. When publishers value ideas, they seek to find the best writers with the best ideas that can become worthy writing. They aren’t looking for the biggest name or even the best-selling idea. They are looking for something of value and the perfect voice to deliver it.
In valuing good ideas, they will provide the writer with something of at least equal value. There is an ongoing discussion about whether writers should ever write for “exposure” without pay. That is something only individual writers can decide, but publishers should seek to develop the relationship with the writer and encourage them further by providing as much as possible.
Publishers help readers flourish by publishing the best voices with the best ideas. Not every book should be published. Publishers should be gatekeepers for the reading public, only allowing through what will be of benefit to the reader (as well as the writer and publisher).
No writer is owed a publishing deal or website platform. Publishers should make decisions based on what will allow them to publish the most quality voices. That may mean rejecting a good writer until they’ve become a better writer with a wider audience.
How readers help others flourish.
Readers help publishers flourish by valuing what is made. A good reader recognizes all the work it takes to get a book into his or her hands. From the writer to the printer and everyone in between, readers concerned about others know.
Readers help writers flourish through encouragement. Writers are a self-reflective bunch who need accolades and attaboys (or attagirls). They need to know someone read what they wrote and appreciated it. Purchase books. Leave reviews. Like posts on Facebook or retweet links.
What other ways are people exploited in the writing and publishing process? How else can we help others flourish?