By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 30, 2013
Our question today is from Jason K:
Twenty years ago, if you had access to the current generation of self-publishing options, how would you have used them?
This is the last question from our session we recorded a few weeks ago. Stay tuned for our next podcast, Organizing a Day, Organizing a Year. We’ll be sending it out in its entirety to First Look Access members Jan. 1 and releasing one question per week here on the blog.
Steve: Okay, let me segue off of that into a question from Jason Kay. And Shawn, I actually have another question to follow up on this, and I want to ask you.
Jason K says “Dear Steve, 20 years ago, if you had access to the current generation of self-publishing options, how would you have used them?”
I think it’s a great question and sort of my answer is probably wrong or crazy or idiosyncratic. But when I thought about it, and also Jeff, I want to ask you about this too. I would not have used the self-publishing options at all, but my reason is kind of crazy. My reason is because, let me back up a second and say that the self-publishing options, the benefits of that is that you get to bypass the so-called gatekeepers. You get to bypass the editors and the publishers and the agents who sort of screen out bad work or who define what is good, what is worthy of publication.
And so the concept of self-publishing is “Well we won’t even go to these people. We’ll just do an end run around them and get our stuff out to the market directly.” But for me as a writer who had worked for like 30 years, struggling in the trenches, I wanted the validation of the gatekeepers. That was really important to me. I wanted to put my stuff out there with really A-level editors and publishers and have them validate it and say “Yes, it’s good. We’ll publish it”.
That was the most important thing to me. So I would not have gone through the self-publishing options.
Now I want to ask Jeff, Jeff Simon here who is our tech wizard and our young guy around here. Now Jeff, I know that you’re working on, among many things, screenplays and stuff like that. Jeff is 27. We’re here in Silver Lake, which is kind of a hip neighborhood in L.A. and at Jeff’s place where in his back room, he’s got his keyboards and three huge computer screens and every possible tech thing. And what Jeff is working on among other things, among screenplays with partners and stuff, is a web series. So you are using the tools that are available in many ways. And can you talk a little bit about that? Is that the right thing to do? And why are you doing it?
Jeff: I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. I think you have a lot of hurdles with web series. As you said, there’s a lot of junk out there, so you’re competing with cat videos and you’re competing with funnier die, people riding skateboards and breaking their heads and their helmets. But there’s also a sort of a new level of the market that’s coming out, which is people that are making their own projects that are professionally done that just want to use the free open market, the same way the music industry did it. Now you don’t really need a publisher. You just need to get your music on iTunes, and the publisher’s main purpose is advertising. And if as you’re saying, the publishers are worse at advertising, why go to the publishers in the first place?
Steve: Yea, let me ask you this, Jeff. What is the ultimate goal here of your web shows? Is it to get picked up by a mainstream outlet like a cable channel, or is it to get your work out there for screenplay work? What is the goal?
Jeff: For me, it would be great if somebody like Netflix picked it up. It’s hard to imagine that they will. This is just a first project I’ll be directing. But I think like what you said last time, the purpose of me making a web series is that hopefully when I’m done with this, I’ll have enough money and credit to do another one or to do a film and maybe that one will go somewhere. And so it’s really just about, I was working on a big budget, working for the ‘man’ if you will, and…
Steve: To butt in here, Jeff spent like 18 months in London working on Doug Liman’s new movie as a production designer.
Jeff: As an assistant to the production designer. And nothing wrong with Doug or his film, it’s amazing. I think the work that they’re doing is great. I just wanted to take a bigger responsibility that you would never be able to work up to being a director within the studio system because…
Steve: So that is your ultimate goal here, to be a director or a screenwriter or a writer/director, something of that nature to control your own projects. Right?
Jeff: Something like that.
Steve: That’s great. So in this case, I’ll invalidate what I said earlier. For me, I wouldn’t have done it, to take the self-publishing options, but Jeff, it seems to be a really smart thing for you to do.
Jeff: I think it might be a media difference for books. There’s the solo thing, and when you’re working in films, and everybody wants to be the writer and the director. So it’s just a different situation.
Steve: Okay, good one. Let’s wrap this up for today, and thanks everybody for listening to this. I want to tell you a couple of things we’re thinking about doing for the future that involve participation of everybody that’s listening to this. We were thinking about doing a podcast or one of these Q&A’s to go for the New Year that would go along the lines of a New Year’s resolution of getting set for the New Year, and we were thinking about doing it about how to organize a day for work, or how to organize a year.
How to organize this coming year, 2014. So I’m going to put this on the blog in Writing Wednesdays, but we’d like anybody that has any questions, write in those questions. Do it on the First Look Access. We’ll get that up when it’s ready to go, and I’ll let you know. Then we’d like to do an entire half hour on just structuring. How do you structure a day? How do you organize a year to get the most out of it? And another subject that we want to talk about, and again, we’ll put this out on Writing Wednesdays when the time comes. It’s about mentors and mentorship. So any questions about that would be great. So those are a couple of things coming up in the future and thanks a lot.