The Need for a Human Connection in Publishing

In the rise of technology, something frightening happens within human interactions. Automation becomes the norm. We’re used to dealing with non-human interactions over the phone and on the Internet. I’ve noticed it’s quite simple to go through a whole day (or two, or a week) without interacting with hardly anyone if I don’t want to – and yet still get a million things accomplished. I don’t have to talk to anyone to get gas. I can order everything I need online (even groceries). I can even publish a book without interacting with a soul. Amazing. This is all very convenient, but I’ve noticed in the past ten years of my life that it’s much too easy to distance myself from people. In all honesty, I’d rather talk to a human being on the phone than go through an automated system.

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine a few weeks ago about this automation in our lives. She said that she feels like it creates an us vs. them mentality, and she’s absolutely right. You get big corporations running all this automation, and all those hands and faces are unseen, and quite frankly, it’s easy to question their true motives. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen that humans actually like to interact with other humans. In fact, it’s a need. Most of us need to belong, and most of us need to feel like we are part of something important and personal. It creates a safety zone. For me, that safety zone is best when it’s small and intimate and within my control. I know motives. I know intentions, and those people know mine.

Ever wonder why zombies are so big lately? My friend pointed out that this automation may have something to do with that and all this dystopian craze going on. We’re scared. We’re scared of becoming so disconnected, that we are dealing with zombie-like systems because everything has become so automated. A theme I see far too often in stories is the us vs. them mentality with technology (especially a computer gaining too much intelligence and taking over). So overdone, but understandably so.

Where does publishing fit into this? When you step back and think about it, those Big Six publishers are pretty big. They might seem a bit faceless, and even automated, if you aren’t part of the system (or maybe even if you are part of the system, I don’t know). I think it’s impossible for them not to feel that way because they are so big, so there’s no way around that, but it explains why publishing might feel so impossible and frightening to a lot of writers. It also explains why agents are such a necessity in this business when dealing with larger publishers. Not only does an agent help an author navigate through those huge organizations, but an agent also provides that face – that connection between a huge faceless organization and the lone author.

This is why I’m much more comfortable with a small press where I can call up the president most times of the day on Skype and we can actually take face-to-face. It’s very personal and connected, and I need that in my career right now because, especially as of late, I’m beginning to see that I’m really not made of what it takes to jump into anything and make it huge right off the bat. I can see why authors working with larger publishers and very busy editors need that agent connection. It makes a lot of sense.

So I have not ruled out going with a larger publisher in the future. If I ever do, I will most definitely need and want an agent, but for now I’m really happy with the close, accessible relationship I have with my publisher – and for the first time I understand a different reason why.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle


Susan R. Mills

I had never thought of it that way, but you are so right. I see that as being a huge advantage of going with a small press.

Michael Offutt, Expert Critic

I like humans. I wish I had more of them in my life. For the record, I thought meeting you that one time was funner than interacting with the blog. So I definitely get the message.However, plain and simple…most people really don't want to interact with other people anymore. They'd rather email, check up on them with facebook, etc.Some of us live in cities and then build walls around our dwellings to keep the people out.Meh…at least I have the Walking Dead that I can watch on Sundays.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Susan: I hadn't thought of this way, either, but glad I do now. It makes a lot of sense.Michael: It was nice meeting you, too! If humans lost interaction with other completely, we'd all go completely insane, I'm afraid. Solitary confinement, anyone?Who are these Walking Dead you speak of?

This is a great post, and I agree I think everyone needs human interaction more then what social networks and blogs allow, even if (like me sometimes) I would rather think that I'm ok without it. I find when I do spend real time with my friends and family I always feel much MUCH happier after then just sharing comments back and forth over FB.

Linda Cassidy Lewis

Those are perceptive thoughts on zombies and dystopian trends, Michelle.When I think of it, it's scary how removed I've become from personal interaction. Hmmm.

I think what Michael said is true, "most people really don't want to interact with other people anymore. They'd rather email, check up on them with facebook, etc." I think 'people skills' have really suffered with technology/automation. And if a person is already inclined to prefer limited one-on-one interactions, it's too easy to disconnect altogether.I hadn't ever really thought of automation as creating an Us vs Them mentality, but I suppose anytime interactions are 'dehumanized' it's easy to forget that there are real people amongst 'Them', and that 'They' should never be considered food, lol (a poor attempt at zombie humor–sorry). Nevertheless, I do think there is a lot of dehumanizing going on these days, and yes, it's a little scary.And I love the humanization of a small press publisher! 🙂

Zombies and automation – yep, they do go together……..dhole

((Forgive the slight tangent, but these were the thoughts foremost in my mind…))Hmm, I must be a limited edition Human Being. On the care instructions it says "Keep dry", but I seem to function with lots of water. Besides being mostly made of water, there is lots of sweat, tears, and (my favorite) long hot showers. Plus if you are what you eat, I'm less than 100% organic with all the preservatives (mostly sugar/chocolate) that make up what I am. They got the weigh about right, though.Somehow I think you are a limited edition Human Being, too, Michelle. Because you contain about 200% of a normal Human Being. There is so much more faith, trust, love, and being so genuine than most of us are willing to risk being. I, for one, am in awe.Thank you for being your amazing, Michelle!

Michael Offutt, Expert Critic

The Walking Dead is a one-hour television show that plays on AMC on Sunday nights. It is an amazing zombie series and is in its second season. They just had the mid-season finale last week and are on hiatus until mid-February 2012.Michelle, it honestly has some of the best writing I have ever seen. I strongly urge you to check it out.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Alyse: I agree with you that I always feel better when I actually talk to people in person. SO much better. 🙂Linda: Yeah, I have become a lot more removed than I'd like!Bridget: I'm happy you're part of that small publisher with me!Donna: Yes, they do. It was a great realization for me.Alicia: LOL, love your tangent. And thanks for the kind words. You're so sweet! And not because you eat a lot of sugar. 😉Michael: Sadly, I don't watch TV except through Netflix, so if it's on there, I can see it…

Karen Amanda Hooper

I was at Home Depot today and the only lines open were the self-checkout. I screwed something up, so a real human (a sweet older woman) came to help me. I told her I wished there were more humans operating real registers. She laughed and said, "Me too, honey. Me too." So sad. I like human interaction too. So rare these days.

200% agree!!!

Linda Cassidy Lewis

What Karen said reminded me of the sad day my branch library went to self-checkout. Now I hardly ever see or speak to my favorite librarians. I miss them.

Catherine Stine

Wow, I never thought about zombie trends in that way, but you're surely right about their representing the deadness of mass automation. As for me, I'd rather talk to a real person on the phone any day.

Martin Willoughby

It does depend on the person and the mechanical method. Blogs are electronic and we miss the important parts of human interaction, but are they less 'human' because of it?Some are, some aren't. It depends to a large degree on the response to comments. I know I feel better about a person's blog when they respond to most, if not all, comments.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Karen: Ugh, I hate those self checkout things! Something always goes wrong with them for me. I have bad luck, or our technology just isn't as good as I thought. I just *love* that we have economic crises in our country with jobs, yet we rely on technology to take over a lot of the jobs. WTH?Leah: Yay!Linda: My library has that, too! Happily, I see plenty of librarians still running around, but still.Catherine: Glad I'm not the only one! I'm always highly irritated with machines on the phone.Martin: I think blogs can be "less human" in a way, but not in all ways. I don't want to diss on technology to the point where I'm not grateful for it, because I am! I just think it needs to reach only a certain point before we're all too distanced from each other. I definitely try to keep my blog "more human" by always responded to those kind enough to stop by here. 🙂

Donna K. Weaver

A lot of good points here, Michelle. And I love the zombie reference!

Very well said.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Donna: Yeah, the zombies really pulled it all together for me. Just really made sense. 🙂Dawn: Thanks!

Michelle, thanks for bringing this issue to the fore. I think that everyone is somewhat desensitized to the lack of human engagement because it happens so often and we're simply used to it. I can understand why involvement with a smaller publisher is inviting due to the personal relationship. Thanks for sharing.Karen J. Doniere

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Karen: Thanks for stopping by! Yes, desensitized is the thing, for sure. I just don't buy that it's a good thing not to talk to people face to face much anymore – or even over the phone.

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