Publishing and Politics

Travis Richardson_5x7_300dpi (1) by Travis Richardson

There is so much I’d like to say about politics right now, but in a time of extreme polarization I feel very little can change people’s minds regardless of facts and insight. I feel both weirdly energized and depressed by the spectacle that is happening this election year. We’ve got who we’ve got because society has cultivated leaders for the past 20 years or so with an us versus them mentality instead of a bipartisan approach that could get things done in the interest of America. It is easier (and cowardly) to cross one’s arms and say “no” rather than work on a hard fought compromise. Sigh.

In some ways a writing career has some parallels to politics. Here are a few I came up with:

  • Writers get endorsements by way of blurbs. A good blurb from an esteemed writer with a following of readers could boost a writer’s sales much like a candidate bringing in celebrities, current and ex-presidents to stump for them.
  • Special interest groups play a role in promoting a book or an author. This could be family, reading groups, or reviewers with clout like Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly or New York Times.
  • A publisher, much like a party, gives a book/author a strong or weak push to the public. Bigger authors have more money dumped into promotions than smaller authors or publications, much like a presidential campaign versus a state congressional seat. And then there are the independents who have to promote all on their own.
  • Depending on what an author writes, people may get incensed, inspired or moved in some direction much like a strong speech at a rally.
Political Rally
Let’s get motivated by what that author wrote! (from JFK Library archives)

There are probably more similarities as well, but this makes me wonder how many writers would endure if they were subjected to the cruelty of the current US political system? Here are a few thoughts:

The day a person decides to run for office they are vilified when they chose a party. Perhaps not in their immediate community if the sentiment bleeds pure blue or red, but eventually the moniker of the chosen party will turn off a segment of people regardless of what one says. Without a doubt there are readers who will never open romance books and others who would never touch noir or science fiction. This a consumer’s choice and while there may be occasional disparaging words said about a certain genre, imagine if writers were called out on the radio and television shows and mocked for their writing on daily basis. This has happened in the cases of a few high profile publications like Fifty Shades of Grey and Morrissey’s List of the Lost. However, this literary snarkiness is rare and does not feature the outraged vehemence like so many political pundits and hosts.

What if by writing within your genre, you had to tear apart fellow writers to make an impression with the public like is happening in the primaries? Would more readers emerge from the woodworks, wanting to read an author’s work because they insulted another writer or would readers stay away from the mean spirited scribe’s work? I imagine it would be the latter. In the UK there have been a few incidents of authors (RJ Ellory and Stephen Leathersockpuppeting. These are rare and in the noted incidents, the authors tried to hide their identities. I’m sure the public’s outrage (and disappointment) has not helped sales.

Will this writing desk be used for creation or destruction? (Image from

What if one publishing house doesn’t like that another house is going to publish a book that they have huge ideologically disagreement over. They badmouth the publisher and author with rumors that attack not only them, but go after their family and friends. When that and several other low tactics don’t seem to work they decide to nuclear: shut down the entire printing world. Whether it is gumming up all the printing presses, destroying all available paper or putting out a computer virus to corrupt all manuscripts, the object is that no books will be published, even if it includes their own catalog. So if they do this, they win right? Ugh. This is what happens with government shutdowns and other brinkmanship maneuvers. Nobody wins, everybody loses.

I could go on, but I’ll stop now before I make myself too sick. Thank God, publishing as twisted and messed up as it is has not as despicable as our freak show 21st century political process.

Any analogies you can think of?


Travis Richardson has been a finalist for the Macavity short story award in 2014 and 2015 as well as the Anthony short story award in 2014. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in crime fiction publications such as Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Jewish Noir, and All Due Respect. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime Los Angeles newsletter Ransom Notes, reviews Anton Chekhov short stories at,
and sometimes shoots a short movie. His novella, KEEPING THE RECORD, concerns a disgraced baseball player who will do anything to keep his tainted home run record. 

I have two stories come out this year so far. “Being Fred” in Thuglit Issue 21 and “Ted’s Mommy Lied” in Shotgun Honey.

smaller Lost in Clover for webthuglit13Girl-Trouble-225x300ADR #4 V3Scoundrels_final_coverdarkcornersvol.1issue2Keeping_The_Record-final_1024x1024shotgun honeyjewishnoircoverthuglit 21


22 thoughts on “Publishing and Politics

  1. Travis,
    I can see some parallels in the publishing industry and the political world. But within the mystery writing world, it’s not so bad. For me, there appears to be a lot of support for most writers. While the publishing world may appear cutthroat the writers themselves, for the most part, behave.

    Now I also belong to the ‘magic world’. In that world there is a lot of backstabbing and competition. It’s more like the political world you described. Magicians constantly badmouth other magicians and put them down for small stupid reasons. Some steal others entire acts or tricks but claim them as their own. There is a definite hierarchy between the ‘big time’ magicians and the amateurs or new magicians.

    Thanks for thinking up this topic.
    – Stephen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Stephen,

      I feel fortunate for the comradery I’ve experienced in the crime writing world. I remember you telling about Houndi and other magicians who went after their own kind. That’s too bad.


  2. That’s quite an analogy, Travis. My answer would be a very long one if I went on to relate writing to current British politics. We have similar issues of backbiting in the pre-election processes and being Scottish I also have the Independence agenda as well. I’m all for positive promoting in writing and in politics- a YES person, you could say! 😉


  3. Interesting points you have. Perhaps there is back biting by readers but usually, unless well known, we don’t have to hear it (except by reviews on Amazon perhaps). Anyway, I am appalled at the way political elections show the undesirable qualities (in my opinion) our candidates have by the way they may cut others down, then join them in congress and praise their ways if they are of the same party. And I wonder if some people watch the debates as they do a prize fight, not really caring if the best man/woman wins, but just how dirty the fight gets and if the toughest man/woman wins. Disparaging thought.


    1. Thank you Neva. Yes it’s like politics have become melodramatic theater. I hate it because there are real issues to be discussed in intelligent nuanced ways, but many people and most media outlets only care about the sensational BS.


  4. I do love when a person can be creative enough, thoughful enough and brave enough to see similiarities when others don’t. Bravo, Travis.
    I have to admit, I take what’s going on with an observers eye, trying to weed out all the rhetoric to find the kernel of what is being said. So far, as an author of fiction, I’ve been pretty lucky, but non-fiction, there’s where the fun begins. While not bad, when historians start talking about their conclussions…Doris


    1. Thank you for the kind word Doris! As the cliche goes life is stranger than fiction. Looking at things from a historical standpoint and apply assumed underlying motivations… yes I can see arguments happening. In another life I’d love to get a PhD in history. There was a time when I wanted to write about 20th century power. Going through a long list of world leaders and seeing how they rose, manipulated and weaseled into powerful positions.


  5. Travis, I too think politics are a 3 ring circus, from all of them. I listen once in awhile, and I have already pretty much made up my mind. I think way too much money is spent on politicians, pour some of that money into the national debt or in helping the people who slip through the cracks. I self-published because I didn’t want to jump through the hoops. I had a few publishers that were interested in different books, but I make more by doing it this way, and I have total control. Thanks for the comparison. Your daughter is adorable. Cher’ley


    1. Thank you Cher’ley. The amount of money wasted on political campaign is mind numbing. I really would like it if candidates, PACs, and other organizations would be limited on spending and political commercials would be illegal. I hate that soaring music and a flying eagle would qualify somebody for office, instead of well articulated positions.


  6. Interesting points. I’m lucky to be part of the romance world and it’s amazing how supportive it is. Everyone has likes and dislikes, of course, but generally writers try to help each other. Thanks heavens snarkiness and put downs are not the norm. No way could I deal with the stuff that goes on in politics. Fun post.


  7. Excellent post, Travis, and your analogy is spot-on! I am SO WEARY of politics and the ugliness going on, that I keep things pretty tuned out. I am not a fan of all the rants and such and the negative feeding frenzy makes me very, very sad. I’m glad that, for the most part, writers are supportive of one another, and our blogging group is a prime example.


  8. I definitely see the analogy between campaigning for political office and authors and the publishing world. Just look at the latest political craziness… gives me the willies. Trump questions Cruz’s Christianity. In earlier years, Trump questions Obama’s faith, insinuates he might actually be Islamic. Now the Pope questions Trump’s Christianity based on his campaign promise of building a border wall and not bridging differences. In turn, Trump blasts the Pope. When will a candidate actually release policy plans of substance? Trump, Cruz, Rubio, if they were authors, they’d be writing erotica.


    1. Thanks Mike,

      It’s easier to deliver platitudes and insults than to have well thought out, substantial policies. I’d say the politicians would be writing zombie horror or perhaps zombie erotica. (Which is a category.)


  9. Interesting post Travis. I agree that our political platform this year is a three ring circus and I feel it makes our country look ridiculous, but that’s just my opinion. My husband and I were at a dinner not long ago and the conversation turned to politics and illegal aliens and the (wall) between Mexico and the US. I had to practically bite off my tongue as some of the comments were totally ridiculous, and of course after living in Mexico for eight years I have some pretty strong feelings about the subject. It sems that for me, staying quiet this year might be the best bet!


  10. I love the analogy, Travis. I think for the most part, writers are a very supportive group. It’s horrifying to think how it would be if we did behave like politicians. Publishing and bookselling are different animals though, and I wish everyone could support one another. We’re all trying to promote reading and literature aren’t we? These industries can be so divisive at times. I guess the bottom line is money which is unfortunate.


  11. Fortunately most writers and publishers aren’t as cut throat as most politicians. Writers tend to support one another and don’t view other writers as competition.


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