I realized recently that if you want to be successful in life, you need to have one thing above all else.
Is it intelligence? No. creativity? No.
Courage, aggressiveness, perseverance? No.
Great physical beauty? A winning personality? A DeLorean equipped with a time machine that allows you to travel to the future and travel back in time with knowledge of upcoming events?
No, now let’s get serious.
The answer is the business model.
At its core, a business model is essentially a mechanism by which an entity can generate enough revenue to fund its operations, and ideally even turn a profit.
Many things that are important to me have been fighting their business models. For example, newspapers, like the one you are reading, have struggled for years to find a viable business model after their original business model based on advertising revenue was disrupted by the Internet.
Twitter, a place where I spend too much time but is still the main tool for people to follow their own writing, seems to be struggling with the lack of a viable business model for its new owners.
Another entity that lacks a viable business model is the literary magazine. Last December saw the end of Bookforum, the book review magazine that had been in operation since 1994 and produced some of the most in-depth and influential reviews in its entire existence.
However, when Bookforum’s parent publication, Artforum, was acquired by Penske Media Corporation without Bookforum, the cost of producing the magazine independently became too great to continue.
The average reader is likely not familiar with Bookforum, but as I have often said here, all of us who value books and reading are participants in a larger book ecosystem, and there are many parts of this ecosystem that we may not know. Not realizing it impacts our lives.
This literary magazine helps organize, nurture and disseminate books that strive for artistic merit. It was through these smaller, niche literary publications that authors such as Rachel Cusk, Karl Ove Knausgård, and Maggie Nelson were first introduced to a wider audience.
In fact, there has never been a viable business model for literary magazines, as they often had to make do with philanthropy, sponsorship, and publisher sacrifice. Bookforum managed to last longer than most similar attempts.
Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, you don’t seem to matter if you don’t have a viable business model. Can’t print a magazine and pay staff based on subscription revenue at the same time? They’re downtime, kid. There is no place for you in our world.
The truth is that various entities seem to be able to continue operating without a viable business model. I already mentioned Twitter, but what about Uber? A company that has not only lost tens of billions of dollars during its existence, but which many believe has no viable long-term profitable business model? However, many continue to invest in Uber because we can harbor a possibly fictional hope that one day it will recoup the money from that investment.
Uber’s losses in one month are enough to fund the entire literary magazine ecosystem for a lifetime.
The difference is that a literary magazine doesn’t pretend to one day make huge profits, so no matter how successful it is in its mission, it’s clearly not worth the investment.
That’s something I’m going to keep thinking about, maybe for the rest of my days.
John Warner is the author of Why They Can’t Write: Killing Five-Paragraph Essays and Other Necessities.
Book recommendations from Biblioracle
John Warner tells you what to read based on your last five books.
1. “Dr. No” in percival everett
2. “Valentine’s Day” by Elizabeth Wetmore
3. “The Violin Conspiracy” Brendan Slocumb
4. “Stoner” in john edward williams
5. “Echo Wife” by Sarah Gailly
—Jane W., Apache Junction, Arizona
I looked at the list, then at my bookshelf, and let my heart and intuition lead me to the book that Jane felt was right, and the answer was “Fate Will Find Their Way” by Hannah Pittard.
1. “Rogue” by Janet Ivanovic
2. “Dear” by Toni Morrison
3. “NYPD Red 7” Marshall Carp
4. “Iron Blue” Patricia Cornwell
5. “The Righteous Prey” john sanford
-Linda M., Chicago
The “Slow Horse” TV show starring Gary Oldman was really good, but it also reminded me of the book series it was from, which was even better. My recommendation is Slow Horses by Mick Herron.
1. “Moscow Gentleman” in Amor Towles
2. “One Hundred Years of Lenny and Margot” Marianne Cronin
3. “Britt-Marie is here” Frederick Buckman
4. “We Are Liars” by E. Lockhart
5. “Forever Happy” by Laurie Colwin
– Phyllis C., Chicago
During the cold winter months, I sometimes find myself drawn to books that really warm the soul, and I thought Phyllis would love my choice of book that does just that: The Minnesota Beer Queen by J. Ryan Stradal.
Read from Biblioracle
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