[Or “And Why You Should Also Buy Our Book.” I mentally wrote this, what I’d been calling my “I Love Cracked Manifesto” about two years ago, because it was important to me to be able to concretely articulate why I was always comfortable spending more time working than doing anything else. As the release date of our book got closer and closer, (December 28th!), I realized that the manifesto, if slightly tweaked, could double as an absurdly long yet passionate advertisement. So here it is, my little tribute to Cracked/tribute to you spending money on Cracked.]
Once upon a time, struggling writers had to make cold submissions to major magazines and newspapers if they wanted to be published. They’d study their periodical of choice, they’d pay close attention to every issue and take note of the kinds of articles that saw print, and they’d look for opportunities; topics the magazine didn’t cover, but should. Then they’d pour their heart and time into an article. The writer would try to find the “sweet spot” in their article, the place where they’d managed to strike the right balance between the editorial voice of their target magazine and their own unique voice as a writer. They’d tirelessly research a subject, they’d write, they’d revise, they’d rewrite, they’d check the copy, they’d rewrite again, they’d eliminate needless words, they’d send it off to friends and beg for free feedback and then they’d read their article, again and again and again, until every word was memorized. Their ideas, energy and talents would be manifested in an article that they were proud of.
Then they’d send it to a cold and unfeeling faceless editor who may or may not ever read it. Sometimes if you don’t have the right connections or didn’t go to the right school or didn’t format your cover letter properly, the old guard of editorial will throw out your work without a second glance. The writer takes their labor of love and carefully submits it to some building full of random, anonymous editors and writers who might just carelessly gloss over an article before quickly issuing out a standard, impersonal REJECTION LETTER addressed “Dear Writer.” That is, if the writer is lucky. Most don’t get a response; they just wallow in uncertainty until enough time has passed that they can move on.
Submitting articles cold is awful. Pouring all of your efforts into an article only to have some institution say “Your baby isn’t good enough” in a depressingly unremarkable form letter is the biggest nightmare every writer faces. A lot of amazing writers will never see print simply because the fear of rejection is stronger to them than the drive to try. The terror of being turned down almost completely stopped me dead in my tracks, and I watched it paralyze dozens of other writers I’d met through class or workshops. Great writers. Writers that were, are, and always will be, much better than me.
From the beginning, Cracked.com decided it wasn’t going to be like the exclusive and terrifyingly robotic institutions of Old Media. At Cracked, you’re not dealing with a faceless editor; you’re dealing with four guys who are open and available on the Cracked.com forums every single day. You’re not one anonymous writer out of a million sending over an article to some massive building; you’re in a workshop full of other writers, all of whom are willing and, in fact, eager to support you on your quest for publication. There’s no reason to be afraid; our pitching and editorial process happens right on the forum, it is completely transparent and you will learn instantly that everyone is free to fail. There’s no giant institution eager to throw out form letters of rejection, there’s just a workshop loaded with writers and editors— all hanging out and talking together— working towards turning you into a published writer.
The Cracked.com Editorial Team knows how hard it is to be a struggling, terrified writer, because we’ve all been there, and now we see how unnecessary that system really is. Cracked takes away the fear. There’s no fear, there are no secrets, and there’s no elitism. We don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what your diploma says or if you even have a diploma. If you’re funny, if you’ve got some good ideas, then we want to work with you. We want to help take your ideas and put them in front of millions people and get you paid, and we want to make the process as fun and as painless as possible. We want to give you free training on how to write sharp, accessible, hilarious articles. We want to get you exposure so that you, like a lot of our writers, can use your experience at Cracked to parlay your way into a job as a full-time writer, or to create your own comedy mega-site. We want to turn you, a regular person with a good idea, into a paid, professional writer. It’s what we do every single day.
To me, You Might be a Zombie represents the biggest “FUCK YOU” we can muster for the old way of doing things. We used the Internet as our lab; we would experiment with our new way of content production, a way based on transparency that favored merit over connections, a way that worked with writers. We took the Internet, in all of its beautiful and unclaimed infancy, and said “This idea’s crazy, but let’s just see if it works…” And, of course, we succeeded. Our writers are everyone, from everywhere. One of them restores antique furniture in London. One of them teaches college level history. Several are unemployed. One of them is fourteen freaking years old. We gave them a place to be fearless and creative. We got them together and made them writers. Our crazy new idea for writing on the Internet worked.
With You Might be a Zombie, we’re stepping onto their turf. We’re not just publishing these writers on the Internet, we already won the Internet. We’re stepping out and proving that our system works everywhere. We’re telling the world of writers and would-be writers that they don’t need connections, or degrees or any other bullshit to succeed; they just need talent. That’s it. The best should be able to rise to the top and, at Cracked, we’re in a position to facilitate that. Maybe you’re a college student, or a bartender, or a dishwasher— that’s fine. If you’ve got good ideas, Crakced.com wants to put you in a book that’s going to be available in the same stores where you can buy a Stephen King novel, a Malcolm Gladwell book or the freaking Bible.
We’re invading the book world with our new system, a system that embraces merit over absolutely everything else. We’re elbowing our way in with every talented writer who was too scared to submit to a magazine and shouting “We belong here, too.” And the audience agrees with us. It might scare some folks. It might scare the old publishers, editors and magazines who relied on the old system. It will certainly scare the writers who got by on their diploma and ability to network. It’ll definitely scare them.