Sleeping with the Enemy
Why do our favorite progressive writers flock to corporate publishers?
Image by Flickr user: katerha / Creative Commons
I’ve got an invitation for all progressive authors out there.
How about putting your money and ideas where your mouths are? Why not work with independent book publishers to share with the public your thoughts about progressive politics, social justice, sustainability, and media reform . . . instead of lining the pockets of the corporate publishers (and ultimately the five or ten rich white men who control nearly every media message we read and hear in the U.S. today)?
Let me share with you a story about an independent publisher waging battle against the corporate-owned and fossilized business of book publishing. We could use a little help from you, friends.
Late in 2004, Chelsea Green Publishing did the impossible. We signed George Lakoff, got his book Don’t Think of an Elephant! : Know Your Values and Frame the Debate out in five weeks (!), and then ushered it onto The New York Times and other national best-seller lists less than a month later.
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 MoveOn.org, 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.
There is a great deal of talk from progressive leaders these days about how this country needs media reform as part of a multifaceted approach to saving democracy and winning back the White House and Congress. A woeful lament is sung by our progressive leaders about how the media companies are now concentrated into homogenous conglomerates that, at best, worry only about bottom-line profits, while at their most sinister are dedicated to furthering the radical right-wing agenda.
We agree! What we don’t understand is why these same progressive writers and activists don’t walk the walk and offer like-minded independent book publishers a seat at the table when strategies for media reform are being bandied about.
For the sake of opening up this discussion, I’d like to ask Amy Goodman why she published her last book, The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them, with Disney-owned Hyperion.
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