You Are Your Own Gatekeeper

8 April 2014 | 35 Comments

I was recently asked to speak at a special alumni day at my old high school, but the date fell right at the end of my Tuscany Kickstarter campaign (which has about 29 hours left as I write this), so I had to decline. I’ve been thinking about what I would have said, and I think it would have gone something like this:

(picture me nervously pacing the stage, not knowing what to do with my hands)

London - Buckingham Palace guardThere used to be lots of gatekeepers, entities that decided what would or would not be created for public consumption:

  • If you wanted to publish a book, you had to submit it to literary agents, who then would submit it to publishers.
  • If you wanted to be a journalist, you had to submit articles to the newspaper.
  • If you wanted to produce a video game, you had to submit it to a software firm.
  • If you wanted to release a TV show or a movie, you had to pitch it to producers.
  • And if you wanted to publish a board game, you had to submit it to game companies.

Publishers, newspapers, software firms, producers, game companies–these are just a few examples of the gatekeepers that had the power to decide if your dream project was worth making.

And look–I have nothing against those companies. My company is becoming one of those companies. But you can start to look at those companies not as gatekeepers but rather as maximizers. They might help you maximize your writing skills, or maximize your marketing efforts, or maximize your revenue. But that’s it. The gate is gone.

Look at what we have now: Kindle publishing, blogging, app stores, YouTube, and Kickstarter. There are so many ways to share your work with the world. The platforms are there.

So what’s the problem? Raise your hand if you’ve published a book or an article, produced a video game, released a TV show or movie, or published a board game. (Expect very few raised hands. If there are lots of them, panic and slowly sidestep off the stage.)

The problem is that you are your own gatekeeper. For those of you who didn’t raise your hands, you might have a dream project, but you haven’t created it yet.

And honestly, that’s okay. You’re in high school. Your top priority probably isn’t a dream project. It’s getting into college or making varsity or finally asking out that cute sophomore.

But we’re living in an exciting time. I hope you realize how amazing it is that you are the ONLY gatekeeper left. I also hope, though, that if you have something awesome to share with the world, you don’t wait too long. You owe that to yourself.

I waited until I was 27 to write my first blog entry. I waited until I was 30 to write my first novel. And I waited until I was 32 to publish my first board game. I hope you all don’t take nearly as long as I did to experience the joy of creating and sharing something you love.

Class of ’99! (drop mic on the stage and walk away)

35 Comments on “You Are Your Own Gatekeeper

  1. Have you emailed a link to that to your old school?

    I would.

    Actually, by this posts logic, I guess they’re one of the last gatekeepers. You really can’t go talk to a hall full of children without their approval. Come to think of it we should probably keep that one in place.

  2. Hi, Jamey,

    I am lurking for a while around here, reading pretty much every KS lesson you have as I am planning a campaign for a game of mine. Unfortunately, I am not experienced enough (or at all) to contribute much, but I do see that your link “Tuscany Kickstarter campaign” in your first paragraph leads to “https://stonemaiergames@gmail.com/”

    Maybe the lack of sleep got you :)

    Thanks for all the great content!

  3. Sorry, folks, but for book publishing, this simply isn’t true. The only people making money off of 100% self-publishing are pornographers (including that Gray lady), and people who at some point convert to or from traditional publishing. Beginner writers — those with no traditional VETTED and PAID publishing experience — should stay as far away from self “publishing” as possible. For one thing, the addictive myths and indulgences surrounding that set of pipe dreams only make bad writers worse. In addition, all that time and cash and good will wasted trying to sell unedited, unvetted slush to an unwilling audience could have been spent becoming a better, professional, traditionally-published writer. Most importantly, the ONLY way for a writer to show respect for their READERS is to, at some point in the process, seek and receive the acceptance of a professional publisher with a sufficiently reliable, established reputation. If I hear one more self “publishing” proponent talk about what this era means “for the writer,” I’m going to vomit all over my keyboard. For READERS, this era is pure hell. Trying to find a decent read means risking being pecked to death by dream-addicted self-published piranhas who become incensed if you don’t think their 100,000-word pornographic shopping list (or, whatever their great opus is…) is worth hours or time and $9.95 in hard-earned cash. There is no situation, no reality, no “era” where unvetted, self-indulgent crap will ever be anything other than destructive, and that described well over 99% of self “published” writing.

    1. Kell: I think you’re missing the point of this entry. The point is that there is nothing stopping any creative, imaginative person from making something and putting it out there for the world to see. In any of those categories, there’s the potential for a wide range of quality–that’s part of the reason why traditional publishers are still important. As I say above, “you can start to look at those companies not as gatekeepers but rather as maximizers. They might help you maximize your writing skills, or maximize your marketing efforts, or maximize your revenue. But that’s it. The gate is gone.”

    2. Kell, So a handful of people should decide for the masses what’s good for them? You don’t give readers much credit. Call me optimistic, but I like the idea that many more great writers will be discovered. Great job Jamey.

  4. This is great Jamey.

    The Panda Games team referred me to your blog, and I’ve been reading a lot of your KS tips for launching a board game. I stumbled upon this one and it left an impression on me.

    I’m actually going to speak to a group of high school seniors about entrepreneurship tomorrow morning – hope you don’t mind me borrowing your message.

    Thanks!

  5. Now I’m 32 and I’m working on my new board game project. I was 23 when I published my first board game “Dragon’s Ordeal”, quite a big game, especially I done it without crowd funding. If your blog would exist 9 years ago and I had the knowledge… hehe

    However, I like to say “it’s better late than later”!

  6. Just bought your book today, and decided to start reading your blog. I waited so long to start doing what I wanted to do, but I’m glad that I finally DID start. Thanks for providing such an awesome body of info. It’s a big, big help.

  7. I agree that we live in an amazing time for creation. Thanks to new platforms like the ones you mentioned above every year we have tons of awesome games, movies, etc. that may not have existed with the traditional gatekeeper module. btw I hope you end all your future speeches with this rock star stage exit.

  8. If you need feedback or proof readers, my wife an I love novels. We could help out that way if you want.

    Stephen King’s book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” is excellent for motivating people to start writing. I typed some notes on it. I will look for them and post it here. It may do some good.

  9. STEPHEN KING’S TIPS ON WRITING

    Start writing 1,000 words per day. When you are good enough it will go up to 2,000. He stops at 2,000. Even if it only takes him 2 hours instead of 4 hour.

    Lock the door in the room you write. No distractions.

    He doesn’t make plots or stick to anything. He thinks of a situations and goes from there (example: what if a dome covered a city). He just thinks out the bare bones of a story in his head first, and goes from there, he lets it flow, grow and change. For the reader knowing how the plot will progress from A to Z is boring. He believes that if he doesn’t know where the story is going neither will the readers. It’s more fun that way for the writer and the reader.

    Write the first draft as fast as you can. As fast as you can. Keep in the creative mind, don’y go into the editor mindset. Don’t change that sentence to something more amazing unless you want to finish your story years later, or never, instead of weeks later. Save editing for the editing phase.

    Wait at least 6 weeks to read it. And when you do just highlight things that need to change. Only make a note if you really need to. Don’t edit until after you have read it first. A reading mind and editing mind are different.

    Your second draft should be the first draft -10% in length. Cut, and kill things you love if it doesn’t help the story.

    When editing if the story allows for you to inject a theme or symbology (it can even be very simple) then do it at this stage.

    He writes the story first and does research later (if needed). And when you do put in the research keep the backstory in the back.

    After editing you can let a few trusted people read it, people who like reading novels. If a few say this doesn’t make sense, you will need to edit it. If 3 say it is good and 3 say it is bad, you win. Ties don’t need to be changed.

    He writes what he truthfully believes a character would say and do. Write the truth. Don’t be afraid to write. A psychopath might hurt animals, and a racist character will say racist things, a lovely honest person should not steal haphazardly unless they are suffering from some mental problem. He gets lots of letters explaining how he is a disgrace for hurting that dog. He has to remind them that the dog is not real, and that seen shows Johnny Stillson would not make a dangerous president.

    If you make a big stupid mistake just remember that someone designed the Titanic and labeled it unsinkable.

    ————————————

    I wrote lots more notes, too much to post here. The book is defiantly worth the read.

  10. First blog down, many more to look forward to. Picked up your book yesterday and it pointed me here. Much appreciate you sharing your insights as there are so many great nuggets of information.

      1. It happened to be via a boardgame Facebook group (can’t remember which one exactly), someone asked a question about Kickstarter and someone replied and linked to your book. I pretty much purchased straight away because I know I am going to need some major points on things like fulfilment etc, but once I started reading I realised how much more I just didn’t know or think about haha.

        From there I saw you had a blog, so I have set myself the task of reading it in it’s entirety before I look to go to Kickstarter if I am able to create something viable enough worthy of it. I am over half way through the book, just great stuff.

        I very much appreciate the information and insights you provide.

        Btw sorry I didn’t respond sooner, I thought I may have received some sort of alert to acknowledge a reply but sadly looks like I missed the little check box below, next time I will have to make sure it’s checked :)

  11. I had to laugh when you “dropped your mic”
    Reading through your blog, (i’ve already read quite a few posts) and it’s been an Incredible resource! Thank you so much for Giving back to fellow Game designers. I hope to do the same.

    You really make a good point here, “We are our own limit” so to speak. I’ve know this awhile but hearing it from another person is super appreciative. Can’t wait to read more of your posts!

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