Surviving a career in digital publishing

Today, I had a hard conversation about the future of The Learned Fangirl. Not in a bad way: the blog is eight years old; it’s more than a blog now, we have a budget to pay contributors, and infrastructure to grow, and ideas to expand the scope of what we do and what we are about. In that way, things are better than ever. But the hard part of it is knowing what we do, based around a now-dead early blogging/print zine ethos doesn’t fit firmly into today pageview-driven funding models for digital media, and trying to figure where or if we fit into that. I’ll get into that later, here and elsewhere.

But for me, initially coming from the print zine world and spending 15 years working in multiple digital day jobs, all while balancing freelance writing and TLF, has given me an…. interesting perspective on digital media as a professional. (Probably more way cynical than many, thanks to all of the time I spent working as a web analyst. It’s really hard to keep eating the sausage when you know what’s in it.)

I’ve seen friends and colleagues move on to  other careers, I’ve seen other friends and colleagues move on to great success in the field, and others stay in the field and continue to hustle way too hard. The question is: Why would someone stay in this field? It’s so hard, there are so many problems and so few solutions, it’s an industry set up for so many people to fail, especially if you are already a marginalized group.

I dunno why I still strive to work in publishing, except I want to, and i believe in the stuff I am creating and in the work I see other people do.  But it’s  very hard and I go through moments a lot where I wanna say screw it and give up trying to do publishing as a career, I just don’t. I don’t always know if that’s a good idea.

I get some people who ask me for advice about this, and I often laugh about it, and say “I can’t tell you shit!” I would not suggest any reasonable person make some of the professional choices I’ve made. Moreover, I don’t think there’s anyone working in digital publishing that has the answers  about how the professional infrastructure of this industry can scale and be replicated on a broader level.. And if they do, trust me, there’s  something they are hiding.

On a personal level, though, especially as I see the new (er) generation of writers and indie publishers also start to burn out and lose hope, I start to think about what can be done. We lose so many great voices and promising publications to this mess of a profession, we already have.

And now, with social media, we have a whole slew of brilliant voices who deserve platforms to refine their own voice but instead are encouraged to give what they have away, in aid of a publishing model that will never repay most of them. So what do we do? Here’s my plan.

LOL, psych!  Hell, I don’t know. I don’t have any answers to this. I am working it out. Here, on TLF, through TLF. But the fact that I am still writing, still publishing, and still want to do it, and still see hope in the people who are still here too, that’s something of a start.

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