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  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
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Advocacy and Authors

https://i0.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/500-Sprit... 183w, https://i0.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/500-Sprit... 488w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" data-recalc-dims="1" />‘The Spirit of the Printed Word’ is one of Arthur Crisp’s murals in the reading room of Canada’s Parliament Building. Image: Parliament of Canada, House of Commons, south wall, reading room
Torching for It
Murals of the previous two centuries are among some of the West’s most interesting public art.
This one is The Spirit of the Printed Word by Arthur Crisp, 1921, located on the south wall of the reading room at the Canadian House of Commons. I came across it during our coverage at Publishing Perspectives of the Canadian Parliament’s hearings on the 2012 Copyright Modernization Act–which unfortunately has led to terrible losses (some $50 million annually) for authors and their publishers.
Crisp’s Spirit shows us the titular allegorical creature lifting high her “torch of knowledge” and her mirror, which the curators’ commentary tells us “reflects the news of the world.”
No fool she, Spirit has engaged, as you can see, two small half-naked boys to do all the work. I readily join her in commending this labor approach to you. The guys appear to be slogging through the business of lugging around stacks of paper on the left and, I believe, some typesetting drudgery on the right. Clearly, these kids need Kindles.
There’s a deco-sleek pigeon gliding by near Spirit’s torch on the right as you view the piece, and this bird is said to represent the transmission of information. On the left, there’s a more fluttery dove near those pink clouds, dropping by to symbolize good tidings.
What’s interesting to me about this and similar works is that they play a kind of passive advocacy role. At Rockefeller Center in New York, of course, you can see some marvelous examples, and one of the famous stories there is of the destruction of Diego Rivera’s 1932 Man at the Crossroads piece because Rivera added Vladimir Lenin and a depiction of a Rockefeller having martinis with some ladies of the night … things got out of hand.
What brings us to advocacy today, however, is an interesting moment with The Hot Sheet, the subscription newsletter for authors that Jane Friedman and I produce. We’d written about author Marie Force’s new Indie Author Support Network, an advocacy effort to get a unified voice going on some of the issues facing independent authors. Needless to say, trade authors frequently could use such a thing, too, and for the most part, the Authors Guild has served that purpose for many decades.
We heard, however, from the Alliance of Independent Authors that they were miffed we’d said that the group isn’t focused on advocacy. We think ALLi is the essential training organization for indies (half its membership is in the States), and with its watchdog operations following author services and efforts in professionalizing the community, we hold it in high regard.
We don’t see advocacy as its main thrust, however, which is fine. No group need be all things to all authors. And to the degree that Force’s force might one day approach a retail problem that indies are having, for example, we think that only now, really, has the fresco of self-publishing dried adequately for there to even be a coherent advocacy effort in the making.
And that gets us to our provocation today.

Who’s on Your Advocacy Mural?
https://i0.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Porter-Pr... 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" data-recalc-dims="1" />Provocations graphic by Liam Walsh
Another thing to come out of our Canadian copyright coverage is the fact that it’s the authors we hear from the least frequently. Publishers are better organized and are, in fact, a key component in the creation of the copyright revenue agency that’s now under attack in that country. The publishers association’s folks speak eloquently to the issue, they’re terrific advocates, actually.
And in the most recent round of commentary to the relevant committee hearing testimony on the copyright act, John Degen of the Writers’ Union spoke, very well, to the issues of authors.
But one of the defining factors in any picture of the publishing business has been that it’s an industry based on the voluntary submission of its fundamental product, the content, by people it does not know (until they turn up with a manuscript) and do not employ (until they get into a contractual arrangement). It’s a peculiar business model, when you think about it. I always like to compare it to the auto industry. Imaging those folks sitting around waiting for someone they’ve never heard of to turn up with their next bestselling car design.
What this does mean is that authors, at the broadest level, have trouble with organized advocacy because they’re all working as individual operatives out in the deep field, often far from the centers of publishing power.
Yes, authors are also busy and most of them may well be happier working on the writing than the business of advocacy. Spirit clearly has the work-output situation under control better than most of us and apparently nothing else awaiting her attention like grocery lists, family demands, and car servicing. So she has lots of time to torch for it, even though her arms have to be tired.
What about the rest of us? Most readers of Writer Unboxed, I think it’s fair to say, are trade authors–or authors who at least have aspirations of being published by trade publishers–as opposed to indie writers.
And yet, beyond the absolutely mandatory services of a good literary agent–if you don’t have one, don’t stop until you get one–where’s your advocacy?
I’m asking more than telling today.
Do you think that authors, as a class of the trade publishing workforce, need more advocacy for their interests and concerns? Are you a member of the Author’s Guild? What part of an author’s life and work needs more and better advocacy most?
Our comments section awaits your pigeons and doves, so get those tidings headed our way. And why don’t we see if we can get a Writer Unboxed group price on hiring those small children who do all the work? That’s the Spirit.

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About Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson)@Porter_Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives, the international publishing industry news magazine of Frankfurt Book Fair New York. He and Jane Friedman produce @The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors. Anderson previously was The Bookseller's Associate Editor for The FutureBook in London. He is also a featured writer with Thought Catalog in New York, doing the #MusicForWriters series, often in association with Q2 Music. More on his consultancy: PorterAndersonMedia.com | Google+Web | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Google+ | More Posts

"The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium."
Norbet Platt

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