Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 39

Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin


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1. Interview with Inscriptions Magazine

The edited interview appeared here - http://www.inscriptionsmagazine.com/2002-issue24.html

Q: How long have you been writing, both professionally and personally?

A: I started writing at the age of 4, when my parents bought me the latest in word processing technology - a blackboard and chalks. Later, they replaced it with a self-erasing, plastic board and I was hooked. My first professional (i.e., paid) ruminations were printed, when I was 16, in a regional rag and, later, I published short fiction in the army's bulletin.

Q: How old were you when you wrote your first piece? What was it? (Story, article, poem...etc.)

A: Hard to tell. But it would probably have been a poem. I was very much into Gothic, dark, and unrequited horror, thrillers, and sci-fi. This was followed by well-received mysteries.

Q: What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

A: My strengths are my weaknesses. I like to sculpt with language but this often renders my prose incomprehensible and irritating. I write profusely but rarely bother to proofread and re-write where necessary. This gives my writing an air of a convoluted first draft. In short: I am more into impressing my readers than into communicating with them.

Q: Hands-down, which author has inspired you the most and why?

A: I was - and am - awe-inspired by Douglas Hofstadter. He is an ingenious popularizer of the most intractable scientific concepts.

Q: You're looking into a crystal ball. Where do you see yourself in ten years and what will you have accomplished in your writing life?

A: The hundreds of published articles, columns, and opinions about international affairs and economics I so painstakingly will soon be forgotten. My Hebrew short fiction is good but a flash in the pan. I may be remembered for my poetry and - more likely - for the body of work about pathological narcissism. That is, if I am remembered at all. And, yes, I do believe that an author who is forgotten has accomplished nothing, never mind how prolific and profound his writing.


2. My Part of a Correspondence with Tim Race of the New York Times (partly quoted in the July 29, 2002 issue)

The Perpetrators of the recent financial frauds acted with disregard of both their employees and shareholders - not to mention other stakeholders - is a matter of fact, not of conjecture. Some - though by no means all - perpetrators of fraud and con-artistry indeed respond to the need to uphold and maintain a False Self - a concocted, grandiose, and demanding psychological construct. What fuels the False Self is known as "Narcissistic Supply" and consists of adulation, admiration, and, more generally, attention - even of the wrong kind. Thus, even notoriety and infamy are preferable to obscurity.

The False Self is suffused with fantasies of perfection, grandeur, brilliance, infallibility, immunity, significance, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. Reality is, naturally, quite different and this gives rise to a Grandiosity Gap. The False Self is never commensurate with the narcissist's accomplishments, standing, wealth, clout, sexual prowess, or knowledge. To bridge the Grandiosity Gap, the malignant (pathological) narcissist resorts to shortcuts. These very often lead to fraud, financial or otherwise.

The narcissist - being nothing but an apparition - cares only about appearances. What matters to him are the facade of wealth and its attendant social status and Narcissistic Supply. Media attention only exacerbates the narcissist's addiction and makes it incumbent on him to go to ever-wilder extremes to secure uninterrupted supply from this source.

The narcissist lacks empathy - the ability to put himself in other people's shoes. He does not recognize boundaries - personal, corporate, or legal. Everything and everyone are to him mere instruments, extensions, objects unconditionally and uncomplainingly available in his pursuit of narcissistic gratification. This makes the narcissist perniciously exploitative. He uses, abuses, devalues, and discards even his nearest and dearest in the most chilling manner. The narcissist is a utility - driven alien form, a semi-artificial intelligence, obsessed with his overwhelming need to reduce his anxiety and regulate his labile sense of self-worth by obtaining his drug - attention.

The narcissist is convinced of his superiority - cerebral or physical. He is forever the Gulliver hamstrung by a horde of narrow-minded and envious Lilliputians. Yet, deep inside, he is aware of his addiction to others - their attention, admiration, applause, and affirmation. He despises himself for being thus dependent. He hates people the same way a drug addict hates his pusher. He wishes to "put them in their place", humiliate them, demonstrate to them how inadequate and imperfect they are in comparison to his regal self and how little he craves them.

The narcissist regards himself as one would an expensive present. He is a gift to his company, to his family, to his neighbours, to his colleagues, to his country. This firm conviction of his inflated importance makes him feel entitled to special treatment, special favours, special outcomes, concessions, subservience, immediate gratification, obsequiousness, and lenience. It also makes him feel immune to mortal laws and somehow divinely protected and insulated from the inevitable consequences of his deeds and misdeeds.

The West's is a narcissistic civilization. It upholds narcissistic values and penalizes alternative value-systems. From an early age, children are taught to avoid self-criticism, to deceive themselves regarding their capacities and achievements, to feel entitled, to exploit others.

Litigiousness is the flip side of this inane sense of entitlement. The disintegration of the very fabric of society is its outcome. It is a culture of self-delusion. People adopt grandiose fantasies, often incommensurate with their real, dreary, lives. Consumerism is built on this common and communal lie of "I can do anything I want and possess everything I desire if I only apply myself to it", and on the pathological envy it fosters.

There is one incriminating piece of evidence - the incidence of NPD among men and women. If NPD is not related to cultural and social contexts, if it has genetic roots, then it should occur equally among men and women. Yet, it doesn't. It is three times as common among men than among women. This seems to be because the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (as opposed, for instance, to the Borderline or the Histrionic Personality Disorders, which afflict women more than men) seems to conform to masculine social mores and to the prevailing ethos of capitalism.

Ambition, achievements, hierarchy, ruthlessness, drive - are both social values and narcissistic male traits. Social thinkers like Lasch speculated that modern American culture - a narcissistic, self-centred one - increases the rate of incidence of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

To this Kernberg answered, rightly:

"The most I would be willing to say is that society can make serious psychological abnormalities, which already exist in some percentage of the population, seem to be at least superficially appropriate."

Besieged and consumed by pernicious guilt feelings - some  narcissists seek to be punished. The self-destructive narcissist plays the role of the "bad guy" (or "bad girl"). But even then it is within the traditional socially allocated roles. To ensure social opprobrium (read: attention, i.e., Narcissistic Supply), the narcissist cartoonishly exaggerates traditional, social roles. Men are likely to emphasise intellect, power, aggression, money, or social status. Women are likely to emphasise body, looks, charm, sexuality, feminine "traits", homemaking, children and childrearing - even as they seek their masochistic punishment.

But, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Greed - one of the deadly sins - is plain old avarice, a perfectly human quality. Like other things human, this positive trait - the root of ambition, drive, and achievement - can and often does become malignant. It is then frequently accompanied by self-delusions, cognitive and emotional distortions, and flawed (irrational) decision making. But this is a far cry from narcissism, pathological or otherwise.

A jail term is a useless deterrent if it only serves to focus attention on the narcissist. As I told you earlier, being infamous is second best to being famous - and far preferable to being ignored. The only way to effectively punish a narcissist is to withhold Narcissistic Supply from him, to prevent him from becoming a notorious celebrity. Given a sufficient amount of media exposure, book contracts, talk shows, lectures, and public attention - the narcissist may even consider the whole grisly affair to be emotionally rewarding. To the narcissist, freedom, wealth, social status, family, vocation - are all means to an end. And the end is attention. If he can secure attention by being the big bad wolf - the narcissist will unhesitatingly transform himself into one.

The narcissist does not victimise, plunder, terrorise and abuse others in a cold, calculating manner. He does so offhandedly, as a manifestation of his genuine character. To be truly "guilty" one needs to have intention, to deliberate, to contemplate one's acts and then to choose. The narcissist does none of these.

Thus, punishment breeds in him surprise, hurt and rage. The narcissist is surprised by society's insistence that he should be punished for his deeds and be held responsible for them. He feels wronged, baffled, hurt, affected by bias, discrimination and injustice. He rebels and rages. Depending upon the level of pervasiveness of his magical thinking - the narcissist may develop a feeling of being persecuted by powers greater than he, forces cosmic and intrinsically ominous. He may develop compulsive rites to fend off this "bad", unwarranted, influence.

In many respects, narcissists are children. Like children, they engage in magical thinking. They feel omnipotent. They feel that there is nothing they couldn't do or achieve had they only really wanted to. They feel omniscient - they rarely admit that there is anything that they do not know.

(continued below)


This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Amazon (click HERE to buy a copy dedicated by the author)

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble

Click HERE to buy the print edition from the publisher and receive a BONUS PACK

Click HERE to buy electronic books (e-books) and video lectures (DVDs) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

Click HERE to buy the ENTIRE SERIES of sixteen electronic books (e-books) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

 

Click HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 1 and HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 2

 

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They believe that all knowledge resides within them. They are haughtily convinced that introspection is a more important and more efficient (not to mention easier to accomplish) method of obtaining knowledge than the systematic study of outside sources of information in accordance with strict (read: tedious) curricula.

To some extent, they believe that they are omnipresent because they are either famous or about to become famous. Deeply immersed in their delusions of grandeur, they firmly believe that their acts have - or will have - a great influence on mankind, on their firm, on their country, on others. Having learned to manipulate their human environment to a masterly extent - they believe that they will always "get away with it". They develop hubris.

Narcissistic Immunity is the (erroneous) feeling, harboured by the narcissist, that he is immune to the consequences of his actions. That he will never be effected by the results of his own decisions, opinions, beliefs, deeds and misdeeds, acts, inaction and by his membership of certain groups of people. That he is above reproach and punishment (though not above adulation). That, magically, he is protected and will miraculously be saved at the last moment.

What are the sources of this unrealistic appraisal of situations and chains of events?

The first and foremost source is, of course, the False Self. It is constructed as a childish response to abuse and trauma. It is possessed of everything that the child wishes he had in order to retaliate: Harry Potter style power, wisdom, magic - all of them unlimited and instantaneously available. The False Self, this Superman, is indifferent to any abuse and punishment inflicted upon it. This way, the True Self is shielded from the harsh realities experienced by the child.

This artificial, maladaptive separation between a vulnerable (but not punishable) True Self and a punishable (but invulnerable) False Self is an effective mechanism. It isolates the child from the unjust, capricious, emotionally dangerous world that he occupies. But, at the same time, it fosters a false sense of "nothing can happen to me, because I am not there, I am not available to be punished because I am immune".

The second source is the sense of entitlement possessed by every narcissist. In his grandiose delusions, the narcissist is a rare specimen, a gift to humanity, a precious, fragile, object. Moreover, the narcissist is convinced both that this uniqueness is immediately discernible - and that it gives him special rights. The narcissist feels that he is protected under some cosmological law pertaining to "endangered species".

He is convinced that his future contribution to humanity should (and does) exempt him from the mundane: daily chores, boring jobs, recurrent tasks, personal exertion, orderly investment of resources and efforts, laws and regulations, social conventions, and so on. The narcissist is entitled to "special treatment": high living standards, constant and immediate catering to his needs, the eradication of any encounter with the mundane and the routine, an all-engulfing absolution of his sins, fast track privileges (to higher education, in his encounters with the bureaucracy). Punishment is for ordinary people (where no great loss to humanity is involved). Narcissists are entitled to a different treatment and they are above it all.

The third source has to do with their ability to manipulate their (human) environment. Narcissists develop their manipulative skills to the level of an art form because that is the only way they could have survived their poisoned and dangerous childhood. Yet, they carry this "gift" and use it long after its usefulness is over. Narcissists are possessed of inordinate abilities to charm, to convince, to seduce and to persuade.

They are gifted orators. In many cases, they ARE intellectually endowed. They put all this to the bad use of obtaining Narcissistic Supply Sources. Many of them are con-men, politicians, or artists. Many of them do belong to the social and economic privileged classes. They mostly do get exempted many times by virtue of their standing in society, their charisma, or their ability to find the willing scapegoats. Having "got away with it" so many times - they develop a theory of personal immunity, which rests on some kind of societal and even cosmic "order of things". Some people are just above punishment, the "special ones", the "endowed or gifted ones".

This is the Narcissistic Hierarchy.

But there is a fourth, simpler, explanation: The narcissist just does not know what he is doing. Divorced from his True Self, unable to empathise (to understand what it is like to be someone else), unwilling to empathise (to constrain his actions in accordance with the feelings and needs of others) - he is in a constant dreamlike state. His life to him is a movie, autonomously unfolding, guided by a sublime (even divine) director. He is a spectator, a mere observer, mildly interested, greatly entertained at times. He does not feel that his actions are his. He, therefore, emotionally, cannot understand why he should be punished and when he is, he feels grossly wronged.

To be a narcissist is to be convinced of a great, inevitable personal destiny. The narcissist is preoccupied with ideal love, the construction of brilliant, revolutionary scientific theories, the composition or authoring or painting of the greatest work of art ever, the founding of a new school of art or thought, the attainment of fabulous wealth, the reshaping of the fate of a nation or a conglomerate, becoming immortalised and so on. The narcissist never sets realistic goals to himself. He does not occupy our universe. He is forever floating amidst fantasies of uniqueness, record breaking, or breathtaking achievements. His speech reflects this propensity and is interlaced with such expressions.

So convinced is the narcissist that he is destined to great things - that he refuses to accept setbacks, failures and punishments. He regards them as temporary, as someone else's errors, as part of the future mythology of his rise to power/brilliance/wealth/ideal love, etc. A punishment is a diversion of scarce energy and resources from the all-important task of fulfilling his mission in life. This over-riding goal is a divine certainty: a higher order has pre-ordained the narcissist to achieve something lasting, of substance, of import in this world, in this life. How could mere mortals interfere with the cosmic, the divine, scheme of things? Therefore, punishment is impossible and will not happen - is the narcissist's conclusion.

The narcissist is pathologically envious of people - and projects his feelings unto them. He is always over-suspicious, on guard, ready to fend off an imminent attack. A punishment to the narcissist is a major surprise and a nuisance but it also proves to him and validates what he suspected all the time: that he is persecuted. Strong forces are poised against him. People are envious of his achievements, angry at him, out to get him. He constitutes a threat to the accepted order. When required to account for his (mis)deeds, the narcissist is always disdainful and bitter. He forever feels like Gulliver, a giant, chained to the ground by numerous dwarves while his soul soars to a future, in which people will recognise his greatness and applaud it.

Phenomenologically, narcissistic corporate executives, narcissistic leaders (Fromm), and narcissistic terrorists are, above all, narcissists. They have a lot in common: the diffused rage (channeled in socially acceptable ways by the corporate executive), the grandiose fantasies, the failing reality test, feeling immune and protected, above the law, untouchable, superior, historically significant and, thus, entitled. They all share an inability to empathize - i.e., they don't know what it is like to be fully human, what is the common denominator binding all humans. as a result, they are exploitative and treat people as disposable instruments and manipulable objects.

More here: http://samvak.tripod.com/12.html

The narcissist is a person whose emotional growth was stunted. He failed to develop a fully functioning self-system. Instead, to compensate for trauma or abuse and to shield himself, the narcissist develops a False Self. It is important to emphasize that abuse has many forms. Over-indulgence, pampering, smothering, over-expecting, and doting - are as pernicious as "classic" physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.

The narcissist is a drug addict. He is addicted to Narcissistic Supply - i.e., to input and feedback from other people who react to the False Self he projects. Thus, to the narcissist, appearances matter much more than substance. What people think is far more weighty than the truth. How he is judged by peers, the media, authority figures - is far more important than veracity.

Cooked books, corporate fraud, bending the (GAAP or other) rules, sweeping problems under the carpet, over-promising, making grandiose claims (the vision thing) - are hallmarks of a narcissist in action. When social cues and norms encourage such behaviour rather than inhibit it - in other words, when such behaviour elicits abundant Narcissistic Supply - the behaviour pattern is reinforced and become entrenched and rigid. It becomes a narcissistic routine. Even when circumstances change, the narcissist finds it difficult to adapt, shed his routines, and adopt new ones. He is trapped in his past success. He becomes a swindler.


3. Interview with Writing Tips

The edited interview appeared here - http://www.lifeandcareercoaching.com/writingtips.html

Q: Sam, I know you'll have something profound to say about a writer's motivation to keep going. What are your thoughts?

A: A real author can no more halt his or her writing than you can hold your breath.

Writing is a preferred - and usually exclusive - mode of communication, an instinct, and a reflex rolled into one. It is cathartic, elating, infuriating, binding, freeing - in short, it is the Universe in a microcosm. Works of art are given birth to. And the lowliest form of writing is still a work of art.

Of course, you could write, cook, make love, or paint merely and only for money. But this is as related to the essential, real activities of writing, cooking, loving, or painting - as a lithograph of a van Gogh is related to one of his voluptuous canvasses. It is fake.

Q: Tell us your secret for breaking into the writing arena. We know there are as many different ways to break in as there are writers. Specifically, how did you do it?  What was the most important step you took in becoming a successful writer or author? Please share your favourite promotional tip-your best way to get the word out about your work.

A: Composing words - the actual act of writing - is the tip of an iceberg of interactions. Promotion and marketing consume the bulk of an author's time - especially if he or she is self-published or published by a small and resourceless publisher. The keys to success are ubiquity and networking. The dissemination of one's work is a critical facet - free excerpts, review copies, a Web site, a mailing list, an e-zine or newsletter, links on other sites...

Search Google for "Sam Vaknin". I am mentioned 23,000 times. This is the result of 4 years of tireless and shameless self-promotion. At any given time I have 12 of my titles available for download free of charge - full fledged e-books, with ISBN and all. This is called "viral" or "buzz" marketing. More than 500 of my articles are available to Webmasters as free content. I encourage people to mirror - i.e., to copy - my Web site.

I wish I were as good on the human side of it. My interpersonal skills leave a lot to be desired. My exposure is substantial - my Web sites receive c. 8000 page views per day. But I don't particularly like people. I am a recluse. Word of mouth is the name of the game in this business. Inevitably, people, having been rebuffed by me, grow angry and bitter and I sometimes garner negative publicity.

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest downside of being a writer?

A: The emergence of vanity publishing - a lot of it electronic - and the Web have inundated the market. It is nearly impossible to be heard above the deafening noise. Publishers react to this graphomaniacal avalanche by resorting to safe commercial bets. Writers today should be ready to weather exceedingly tough competition for attention, let alone recognition. It is an injurious and discouraging process.

Q: How did you learn to write well? School? Trial and error?

A: Practice makes perfect. I am very far from perfection, of course. But I am a lot better than I was only 4 years ago. I blush when I am forced to revise or edit my old articles with their tortured syntax, mutilated grammar, poor vocabulary, or verbose pyrotechnics. Writing 1500 words a day for professional, edited, outlets such as Central Europe Review, United Press International (UPI), and PopMatters has improved my writing quite a bit.

Q: What's the thing about writing that you still need to learn (if anything)?

A: My writing is too narcissistic. I am too in love with my own voice and its reverberating echoes. I'd rather stun and impress - than communicate and convey. I use obscure words, my sentences are florid, my arguments convoluted. I often lose half my readership - and I may well be optimistic here - by the end of the opening paragraph.

Q: What was the turning point in your writing career when you realized you were a success?

A: When I won the 1997 Israeli Ministry of Education New Prose Prize for my tome of short fiction "Requesting my Loved One" and when my book "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" began to be consistently ranked among the first 1000 in Barnes and Noble.

Q: What's the biggest plus about being a writer?

A: It is the only way I can talk to myself and to others. Without my writing I would have been completely cut-off from the world. It is my umbilical cord.

Q: What mistake did you make early on that you'd like to warn new writers about?

A: I was too eager, too pushy, too self-centered. An author should, to the best of his ability, cater to the needs and wants of his readership. Authorship is not merely an autistic exercise of self-gratification. It is an intercourse and a discourse. Monopolizing the conversation is not only bad manners - it is bad for sales.

Q: What's your best tip for writers who want to stand out but are stuck in the pack? How can they become known for their work?

A: If an author is looking for short-term gains and if his biography or traits warrant it - he can try to convert himself into a celebrity of sorts. Instant celebrity - even on a local level - translates to product differentiation and enhanced sales.

In the long-term, though, what matters is brand. The books should do the talking, unobscured by the author. To achieve that, they need to meet a few conditions:

  1. The titles need to cater to a niche market, preferably one hitherto neglected by other publishers and authors.
  1. They need to contain practical information, based, wherever possible, on proprietary data (the author's first-hand account, surveys conducted by the author, folk traditions, interviews, etc.).
  1. The author needs to generate a continuous stream of updates and apply the content of the books and their subject matter to topics in the news, or to newsworthy issues. Free content on a Web site is a great way of achieving this goal of synergy. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of a continued, consistent, and reliable presence.
  1. The author should interface with the media on a regular basis but only when warranted by the topics of his books. Seminars, lectures, guest appearances, columns and other promotional methods should be applied liberally.
  1. Collaboration with other, better-known, authors and authorities in the relevant field can generate a beneficial "coattails" effect for the author and his or her books.

Q: What's your opinion on writing for free? Should a writer ever write just for the exposure?

A: Freebies are an integral part of the marketing mix and strategy. Free book excerpts, free downloads of the electronic edition of a print book, free articles and other types of free content constitute cheap, covert - and, because they targeted, effective - advertising. Still, I think that the extent of content made free and its timing should depend on the following:

(continued below)


This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Amazon (click HERE to buy a copy dedicated by the author)

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble

Click HERE to buy the print edition from the publisher and receive a BONUS PACK

Click HERE to buy electronic books (e-books) and video lectures (DVDs) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

Click HERE to buy the ENTIRE SERIES of sixteen electronic books (e-books) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

 

Click HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 1 and HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 2

 

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook (my personal page or the book’s), YouTube

 


a.      How well-known, established and authoritative are the author and his work? What is the marginal contribution of yet another free article to sales?

b.     Releasing too much material to the public domain is counter-productive as it reduces the incentive to pay for the commercial portion held back.

c.      Offering free content must never be seen as an act of desperation, intended to counter waning sales or anonymity.

d.     The material made free should be selected carefully to reflect the nature and content of the author's work. It should appear to be credible and well-researched - though never exhaustive, thus luring the reader to seek more and, hopefully, pay for it.

Does free content sell? Here is a free article I wrote about the subject... :o))

The answer is: No one knows. Many self-styled "gurus" and "pundits" - authors of voluminous tomes they sell to the gullible - pretend to know. But their "expertise" is an admixture of guesswork, superstitions, anecdotal "evidence" and hearsay. The sad truth is that no methodical, long-term, and systematic research has been attempted in the nascent field of e-publishing and, more broadly, digital content on the Web. So, no one knows to say for sure whether free content sells, when, or how.

There are two schools - apparently equally informed by the dearth of hard data. One is the "viral school". Its vocal proponents claim that the dissemination of free content fuels sales by creating "buzz" (word of mouth marketing driven by influential communicators). The "intellectual property" school roughly says that free content cannibalizes paid content mainly because it conditions potential consumers to expect free information. Free content also often serves as a substitute (imperfect but sufficient) to paid content.

Experience - though patchy - confusingly seems to points both ways. Views and prejudices tend to converge around this consensus: whether free content sells or not depends on a few variables. They are:

1.     The nature of the information. People are generally willing to pay for specific or customized information, tailored to their idiosyncratic needs, provided in a timely manner, and by authorities in the field. The more general and "featureless" the information, the more reluctant people are to dip into their pockets (probably because there are many free substitutes).

2.     The nature of the audience. The more targeted the information, the more it caters to the needs of a unique, or specific group, the more often it has to be updated ("maintained"), the less indiscriminately applicable it is, and especially if it deals with money, health, sex, or relationships - the more valuable it is and the more people are willing to pay for it. The less computer savvy users - unable to find free alternatives - are more willing to pay.

3.     Time dependent parameters. The more the content is linked to "hot" topics, "burning" issues, trends, fads, buzzwords, and "developments" - the more likely it is to sell regardless of the availability of free alternatives.

4.     The "U" curve. People pay for content if the free information available to them is either (a) insufficient or (b) overwhelming. People will buy a book if the author's Web site provides only a few tantalizing excerpts. But they are equally likely to buy the book if its entire full text content is available online and overwhelms them. Packaged and indexed information carries a premium over the same information in bulk. Consumer willingness to pay for content seems to decline if the amount of content provided falls between these two extremes. They feel sated and the need to acquire further information vanishes. Additionally, free content must really be free. People resent having to pay for free content, even if the currency is their personal data.

5.     Frills and bonuses. There seems to be a weak, albeit positive link between willingness to pay for content and "members only" or "buyers only" frills, free add-ons, bonuses, and free maintenance. Free subscriptions, discount vouchers for additional products, volume discounts, add-on, or "piggyback" products - all seem to encourage sales. Qualitative free content is often perceived by consumers to be a BONUS - hence its enhancing effect on sales.

6.     Credibility. The credibility and positive track record of both content creator and vendor are crucial factors. This is where testimonials and reviews come in. But their effect is particularly strong if the potential consumer finds himself in agreement with them. In other words, the motivating effect of a testimonial or a review is amplified when the customer can actually browse the content and form his or her own opinion. Free content encourages a latent dialog between the potential consumer and actual consumers (through their reviews and testimonials).

7.     Money back warranties or guarantees. These are really forms of free content. The consumer is safe in the knowledge that he can always return the already consumed content and get his money back. In other words, it is the consumer who decides whether to transform the content from free to paid by not exercising the money back guarantee.

8.     Relative pricing. Information available on the Web is assumed to be inherently inferior and consumers expect pricing to reflect this "fact". Free content is perceived to be even more shoddy. The coupling of free ("cheap", "gimcrack") content with paid content serves to enhance the RELATIVE VALUE of the paid content (and the price people are willing to pay for it). It is like pairing a medium height person with a midget - the former would look taller by comparison.

9.     Price rigidity. Free content reduces the price elasticity of paid content. Normally, the cheaper the content - the more it sells. But the availability of free content alters this simple function. Paid content cannot be too cheap or it will come to resemble the free alternative ("shoddy", "dubious"). But free content is also a substitute (however partial and imperfect) to paid content. Thus, paid content cannot be priced too high - or people will prefer the free alternative. Free content, in other words, limits both the downside and the upside of the price of paid content.

There are many other factors which determine the interaction of free and paid content. Culture plays an important role as do the law and technology. But as long as the field is not subject to a research agenda the best we can do is observe, collate - and guess.

Q: In this challenging economy, how can a writer best stay afloat? What can he or she do to get more paid work and exposure? Or is it a good time to consider a "survival job" until the ship comes in?

A: Balancing the mind and the heart is always a fine act. Whatever you do, keep writing. Allocate a time in the day - early morning, late evening, weekends - to keep your creative juices flowing. Practice makes happy. Regrettably, the industries that sustained us, the authors, have all collapsed simultaneously: the media, the Internet, and the publishing arena. But this is a temporary nadir. Perseverance is the foremost qualification in a writing career.

Make sure you get your work published - self-published if need be, on the Web if nowhere else. Feedback from your readers is an essential ingredient in honing your skills and maintaining your craft. Send letters to the editor, volunteer to do odd writing jobs, establish a discussion list, correspond - write, write, and then some.

Keep applying for jobs. There is still demand for corporate literature, stringers, or ghost writers. Granted, it is not as glamorous and as rewarding as you hoped it would turn out to be. Never mind. Being there is half the trick.

And when the wheel turns, you are bound to be rewarded with a better assignment. It is this inevitability that keeps all of us going. In my advanced age (42), I know that a happy end is guaranteed to those who endure the entire motion picture...

Q: What do you do to publicize you and your writing? Do you actively promote yourself to media, or use a publicist to do it for you? Or do you just leave it all to chance?

A: There are three keys to successful publicity: URI - utility, relevance, innovation. If your work helps people better their lives, if it is useful and beneficial, if it shows the way and warns of pitfalls, if it proffers advice and guidance - then it is bound to attract the media's interest. This is the utilitarian aspect of it.

If your work ties in neatly with current events, hot topics, recent themes, people in the news, and prevailing moods - in other words, if it is relevant - it will garner the attention it deserves. The media seeks out added content and added value to augment its news coverage. My topic is pathological narcissism. Thus, I get interviewed is when narcissists rob their companies, abuse their nearest and dearest, or go on a rampage of serial murder. I am able to shed new light on the disorder and its sad and antisocial consequences.

But you are unlikely to be sought if what you have to say is trite, hackneyed, and stale. Even the most pedestrian banalities can be refreshingly recast. Enlighten your readers by innovating, by providing new angles, by repackaging the tried and true. Sometimes, merely restating the obvious is sufficient to attract the media's attention.

Questions answered in an interview granted to Wendy Burt of Ask Wendy

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

 

I start the day coping with my copious e-mail (c. 600 messages a day). I write a little, read online a lot, read offline (about one tome a week), participate in discussions in various support forums, grant interviews to local and international media and, then, usually exhausted, crash to watch a film or two.


4. Describe your desk/workspace

 

You don't want to know. For some reason, I always find myself confined to the most dysfunctional, narrow, cluttered, and unappetizing surfaces, masquerading as working desks. My hardware consumes the bulk of the space and I end up contorting and (literally) sweating in order to make use of the rest. The results: carpal tunnel syndrome, back pains, and a hunched posture.

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

 

A. I suffer from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (see my journal here: http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/journal1.html and a description of this mental health disorder here:  http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/npdglance.html )

 

B. I haven't seen my parents and haven't been to visit my homeland since 1996. I have spent the last 13 years living in various destitute corners of the Balkans, Central Europe, and Russia.

 

C. I did time for securities' fraud in a string of hellish Israeli prisons.


7. Favorite quote

 

"I have seen the enemy and it is I".

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience. Can be funny, embarrassing, inspirational, etc. ("I once pitched an agent at a urinal. It did not go well.")

 

I won literary awards in Israel, but the ceremonies have always proved to be a painful embarrassment. I either end up viciously attacking the hosts; or absent; or seething with envy; or feeling victimized and downtrodden for not having won the top honors.

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Lasch - The Cultural Narcissist

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Internet: A Medium or a Message?

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A Macedonian Encounter

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