Writers: The Publishing Cheese Has Moved


Laura is constantly taking pictures of our meals. Part of this is because of her Baking Outside the Box cookbook and baking blog. I, being a creature of habit, have started asking at breakfast whether Laura has already taken a picture of that day’s baking out of fear that I might eat something that has not yet been photographed. When I made breakfast the other day, I insisted that she take a picture of that, too, as I was feeling my own cooking was being visually ignored.

We are creatures of habit, it seems, although those habits can work against our better interests when the rewards that once drove those established habits suddenly or, worse, gradually go bad and disappear.

Who moved the publishing cheese?

Back in 1998 there was a popular book by Dr. Spencer Johnson called “Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life.” One of central principles in the book talked about how we keep going back to the same place in our little mouse-maze that we always found the cheese before. Only after a while the cheese is not there anymore. At this juncture there are two ways to react to the sudden absence of cheese: you can either abandon the old place where cheese was always found before and look for new cheese or you can complain about the injustice of someone moving your cheese and go away starving and disappointed.

The cheese of getting your words before an audience may not have been moved entirely but those of us who have been making a living at it for thirty years can certainly see that it has definitely moved.

My friend and author Matthew Wayne Selznick has written on this subject.

Its challenging to communicate the paradigm shift necessary to really understand why the DIY ethic is a viable alternative to the mainstream. Indeed, DIY, coupled with an Internet-driven meritocracy, is likely to become a standard in this new century.

Of course, this is what sends record companies and movie studios after peer to peer networks. This is why print journalists fear bloggers. This is why radio seems a tired, aging medium compared to the innovative adolescent energy of podcasting. Traditional medias fearful anger and condescension demonstrated through litigation, lobbying, and editorializing is a manifestation of fear.

The recent strong moves by amazon.com against traditional publishers as well as the traditional publishers attempts at asserting their power against Amazon in regards to who is in control of the written word is the evidence of this manifestation of fear. And it is not just the publishers but writers who were used to things working the old way who now stand in bewilderment at the changes and are threatened with extinction.

What is difficult for any of us used to the old cheese and what we fail to grasp — and in completely different ways — is that the cheese has moved in a paradigm shift toward the DIY: putting real creative power in the hands of the Do-It-Yourself artist. Giving up on what has worked as an economic paradigm for over five centuries can be a frightening prospect for those of us who thought the cheese would always be there in traditional publishing. We want to react with disbelief, clinging to our normalcy bias that the cheese has always been here before and being mad that someone moved it. It takes real courage to do otherwise.

Tonight we have a webinar called ‘Writing Like the Dickens‘ which is about new horizons in group-funding and serial publishing but it is also about how the economic model of publishing has been turned completely on its head. Join us if you can. Use the coupon code ‘dickens’ to register for more than half the regular price. We’re going to chart a new path through the maze.

It’s time to look for new cheese.

2 thoughts on “Writers: The Publishing Cheese Has Moved

  1. Thanks for mentioning my post “DIY Endeavors In The Internet Economy,” Tracy! I’m pleased to see my musings still have some merit after all these years. It’s a great time to be a creator!

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