Saturday, July 30, 2011

In The Beginning ...

I’m pretty excited about this e publishing thing. 

Maybe its because I’ve still got stars in my eyes. Or maybe it’s because, overnight, I have gone from being a frustrated writer to a published author (a title I heretofore denied myself because I’d reserved it for someone who had actually sold a book).

But an author I am. Or an indie author, as I now prefer to consider myself.

Oh, I know that many of you are rightly and justifiably skeptical. You’ll see, you’re thinking. Once the bloom of finally seeing your words set in a very flattering cut of Palatino fades, you’ll meet the same fate as every other aspiring author who has chosen the self-publishing route.

The path to publishing fame and fortune couldn’t possibly run straight through the heart of easily accessible, user-friendly Internet technologies and new fangled digital reading devices, you’ve no doubt decided.

Or could it?

All I know is that after banging my head against the walls of conventional publishing for the better part of a decade, I will soon be in the enviable position of having two professionally designed and formatted novels in the market. And with them, hopefully, a royalty stream that reaches beyond the charity of my family and friends.

Sure you can depict this as little more than a new form of vanity publishing -- as do those whose interest is served by the preservation of the status quo. Or you can look to the uneven quality of self-produced fiction and find glaring examples of shoddy work that barely deserves its ninety-nine cent price tag.

But to do so is to miss the point entirely. And perhaps that’s why I feel compelled to share my rather esoteric argument that the single most important outcome of the current e publishing revolution is that it will inevitably allow authors to reclaim their craft and to finally ... take back the book.

What do I mean by this? Simply, that for as long as there have been individuals compelled to attempt to capture their life experiences as literature or entertain us with their storytelling skills, there has been a shadow hand that has accompanied their efforts.

Literary agents and editors. Publishers and booksellers. Angels and demons. They’ve been with us every step of the way. They are the keepers of the keys to the publishing kingdom and, by default, they have been the arbiters of our literary taste.

By managing the apparatuses of production and distribution, they have controlled the destiny of everyone who has ever sat down to write a book. Bless the clever agents and brilliant editors. Curse the query skimmers that man the gates.

However, with the advent of electronic publishing, the future of the entire industry is now suddenly and violently in play. A glance at any recent issue of Publisher’s Weekly will confirm this.

Which is why I am willing to predict that from this tumultuous period will come an opportunity for greater artistic freedom and creative expression than at any time in the history of the printed word.

There will be an unprecedented demand for new writers, new voices and greater experimentation in the realms of both commercial and literary fiction. In short, a revolution that is long overdue.

I’d like to be clear. Mine is not an angry manifesto. I am simply stating that for much of the last half century, most of what has been written and published and passed off as literature has been significantly warped by market-driven forces.
I’m just wondering aloud whether so much formula fiction would exist without a self-validating feedback loop that rewarded familiar, easy reading over more potentially interesting work.

Similarly, I refuse to believe that there would be such steady, pounding demand for hyper violent thrillers and paranormal fantasy tales if giant booksellers, eager to maximize profits, didn’t presume and subsume our literary choices with mass-produced and distributed novels.

It would be shame if this outcome were the ultimate fate of e publishing, too -- that its promise is short-changed by cheap e-titles that exploit the aggregating power of the Internet to generate sales of substandard work. Or worse, that such work came to be viewed as the e publishing benchmark.

Trust me. I’m no literary snob. Sample my work and you can judge its merits for yourself. I just believe, emphatically, that the precious art form that is the novel can be so much more than it has recently been allowed to be.

By challenging my fellow indie authors to take back the book, I am simply inviting all stakeholders -- writers and readers alike -- to seize this opportunity to expect and demand more. To write originally, experiment more and explore the heretofore unexamined.

Personally, I intend to aim a little higher -- to try and seize the moment. Hopefully, by doing so, I will find and deserve an audience. That will be the final proof of my e publishing venture and the ultimate measure of my worth as an artist.

When I dream about taking back the book, I imagine the works of authors far more talented than I will ever be liberated to express themselves freely and without the necessity of having to hit one out of the park commercially – every time at the plate.

That, I believe, is one of the unanticipated, but glorious opportunities of this brave new world. Or, perhaps, it's the point entirely.


Bruce Walker is the author of the recently released novel, Jesters’ Dance. Visit him at

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mad Men & Me

It’s Episode One, Season One, of Matt Weiner’s brilliant AMC hit, Mad Men.  In a tense initial meeting with the folks who manufacture Lucky Strikes, dapper Creative Director Don Draper takes a contemplative drag on a cigarette and pronounces, “Advertising is based on one thing – happiness.”

It’s a startling revelation. With his epiphany he nails the campaign, captures the imagination of the prospective client, and wins the day for his agency. He also succeeds in perpetuating many of the popular myths about the ad game – that it's a business of manipulation, deception and greed.

As someone who has spent much of the last three decades in the business I take exception to these broad characterizations – and one in particular. Wherever I've worked, Don Draper would never have been allowed to smoke in the boardroom. The rest … well … ah… so much of it is still laughably, deliciously true.

My name is Bruce Walker. For nearly twenty-five years I was a Copywriter, Creative Director and Senior Executive with several leading national and international ad agencies. Recently, I’ve chosen to offer up my own peculiar insider’s view of the business in a newly published novel entitled, JESTERS’ DANCE.

To be sure the world of Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Pryce is over the top in its campy retro-60’s way. And Jerry Della Femina once famously declared that creating advertising in the ‘70s and ‘80s was the most fun you could have with your clothes on. But what is the current state of the business? Are we still having any fun?

In JESTERS’ DANCE, I offer a perspective from all four corners of the floor as three agencies pitch for a miraculous new weight control product that will yield hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to a client who is literally teetering on the edge of sanity. Along the way I take a few swipes at the pharmaceutical and weight loss industries, too.

The point of this exposé is not to diss the industry that has been so good to me. Nor is it to insult the many fine clients with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years.

Neither was it my intention to blow the whistle on all the fun and games that I have enjoyed in the company of the wildly eccentric personalities and extraordinary talents that inhabit the business.

Instead, I suspect on most levels, JESTERS’ DANCE is an act of catharsis – an attempt to lay to rest a career that has shaped my character and consumed so much of my adult life.

The novel is dark. But then so is the noose and gallows that hangs so precariously over the lives of the people who create the funny little ads you see on TV or write the clever headlines that you finger past in magazines.

Advertising has always been equal parts voodoo and science. Does it really work? Or is just entertainment? In JESTERS’ DANCE, I’ll let you be the judge.

We all have horror stories from our adventures in the great world of commerce. Whatever your profession, you’ve likely had a moment where you wanted to burrow a hole into the carpet of the boardroom floor ... from failure, embarrassment, or just the magnitude and majesty of your own stupidity.  I called mine JESTERS’ DANCE.

That’s what I was trying to capture. Hopefully, it’s what I’ve achieved. The world of business is an endlessly fascinating place inhabited by endlessly fascinating people. And the dogged daily pursuit of fame, fortune and success inevitably yields outrageous outcomes.

From the claustrophobic cubicles of Dilbert’s world to Ryan Bingham’s artful assassinations in Up In The Air, the art of earning a living these days yields some pretty funny shit. And that is my quiet thesis.

Despite a deep-seated envy for Mr. Weiner's four seasons of success, I believe that I, too, have succeeded in cobbling together an advertising tale that is worthy of your time and consideration… whether you’ve ever given thought to the agency business or not.

And, although I’ve never enjoyed Don Draper’s luck with the ladies, I think there are enough sexy bits and other stuff that'll curl your toes  as you devour JESTERS’ DANCE on the beach this summer.

Let me know what you think. But please be gentle – it’s a debut novel.  While I may have acquired the hide of an elephant during my years in the business, and I probably have interrupted your television viewing pleasure a thousand times with my untimely interruptions, this is different. This is personal.

Bruce Walker is the author of the recently released novel, Jesters’ Dance. Visit him at