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The Gatekeepers


A few years ago, I was talking with a young aspiring author about how traditional publishing, music and media industries were imploding and how the internet was changing everything.
I waxed poetic about how lucky she was that the gate keepers were dead and that the internet gave everyone an opportunity to broadcast their message and build their own audience.
She looked crushed.

“I hope it’s not dead. I want to be chosen.”
I wonder if she knew how unlikely were her chances of success in the traditional pathway versus what the internet now offers. 
Maybe she would have been chosen by the traditional publishing avenue, but it’s unlikely and the numbers were stacked against her. Severely.

©Audrey Kawasaki
 ©Audrey Kawasaki

The old reality.

I’m not trying to be negative, but the traditional media pathways were highly competitive and mostly insular.

In the children’s publishing industry, even the largest, most successful publishers (like Scholastic), printed only 10 – 20 new books a year (and that’s A LOT – most publishers were in the realm of 4-6, some as little as 2).

Most of these books were from authors and illustrators that were already proven in the industry. Some publishers refused to look at submissions from creators who were un-agented.   This worked for the publishers because an agented illustrator has been pre-selected as publishable by a reputable agency and was a better risk for their publishing budget.

©The Bloggess
©The Bloggess


Before the internet.

Profit-based, curated material was the standard of the old media gate keepers.

All media publishers; book printers, music, art galleries…etc. decided what we would see and hear, they decided what was popular, what would sell, they decided what got shared and promoted.
It was a very top-down decision-making hierarchy.
New, independent fresh voices, perspectives and images could only be found locally. There was no affordable way to market dissenting, imaginative and diverging creative work on a global scale.

It just didn’t exist.

All the broadcasting venues were held by large, rich, powerful companies and agencies that steered the course of public taste.

The "bird" is not for you. 
©John Cheese
 ©John Cheese

Enter the internet.


Seriously. In one fell swoop, the internet killed the choke-hold broadcast and publishing industries had over the creative content to which the public had access.

The gate keepers haven’t actually died, they’re still there, but their ability to control all avenues of broadcast media and publishing are completely over.
This is the best thing to happen to creatives, ever.

©David Wong
 ©David Wong

Broadcast yourself.

The internet leveled the playing field.

It gave everyone with access to the internet the ability to be their own publisher and global broadcaster of creative content. The internet provided an inexpensive global network platform.

The internet is amazing pants.

For the first time in history, the “regular people” can create writing, music, art, dance, performance and share those creations and ideas on a global level.
For the first time in history, we have tonnes of cheap (or mostly free) tools to help create a connected GLOBAL audience around our shared love and support of creative voices.

The potential for what can be created for artists is just staggering…  

YOU can do this. There are no closed doors to sharing your art with the world.

There are no gate keepers to prevent you broadcasting your message…

But there is a catch.

©Drew Brophy
 ©Drew Brophy

Now, it’s just a cacophony of voices.

The internet has given everyone the possibility to broadcast, so it’s pretty noisy out there.

It’s noisy and filled with a lot of crap.

The internet is not a quick-fix or a miracle tool that will catapult you to success.

If you make mediocre stuff, you will not be shared, you will not grow an audience.

However, the internet is pretty incredible about helping the good stuff rise to the top. That good stuff tends to come from people who have been pursuing their creative path with dedication and working on improving their craft. They are persistent and committed to their art.

A “meteoric” rise on the internet is almost always preceded by years of slow, organic growth in skill and exposure.
What characterizes success today, is someone who is willing to create their own opportunities and not wait to be chosen.

©Jason Edmiston
 ©Jason Edmiston

Just do what you do.

The new creative success model for most of us means creating online success first.

Start to publish and share your art. Promote it online and work your craft. Be persistent about making new art and sharing it and working on improving skills and sharing online.

This is a slow, organic process.

But it’s been shown again and again that building an online presence by doing what you do, CREATES traditional opportunities for you down the line.
The Bloggess, John Cheese, David Wong, Banksy, Sheperd Fairey, Drew Brophy, Audrey Kawasaki, Jason Edmiston… are all examples of writers and artists who use the internet to create and grow a loyal audience that in turn, brought them offline, traditional gallery and publication opportunities.
(Banksy and Shepard Fairey were both primarily street artists, but the growth of their audience was a result of sharing images of their art online.)

You are more likely to be picked up by a gallery if you’ve already got a large, active, loyal audience. You’ve already done all the building work for yourself. You’ve already got yourself out there and developed quality work that people want and share.

©Sheperd Fairey
©Sheperd Fairey

You and your audience are way more attractive to traditional media avenues than an unknown, untested creative.
Just do what you do. Do it with dedication. Do it to improve, to go deeper, to get closer to your vision.
Do it for public consumption.
Make it and share it. Create and share. Create and share.
That’s the key.
Just do what you do and create your success.

Create your own opportunities. Create your own audience.

You don’t need to wait to be chosen.

Choose you, and put it out there.


Take good care,  



If you're ready to share your art and build an audience, I've got some coaching options for you.

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