But when you’re an orthodox Jewish writer writing in English - and your brand of orthodoxy isn’t so mainstream frum either - well, good luck shifting ten copies of your latest offering.
The Forward won’t be interested in promoting you and your books, with all your backward ideas about God actually existing, and about people having souls, and about them having a mission in life that extends beyond being famous, thin or rich.
And mainstream orthodox magazines like Mishpacha won’t be interested in you either, because you don’t paint a picture of Yiddishkeit that is uniformly monolithic and unbending, where all of the orthodox Jews in the world are apparently all keeping all of the 613 explicit mitzvoth, all of the time, and NEVER having even the tiniest little spiritual struggle or crisis of faith.
And yet, the English-speaking orthodox Jewish world is crying out for these sorts of words from the heart, and this sort of honest self-expression. If the mainstream orthodox magazines won’t give voice to this, then who will? And if you’re not being covered or reported on by these magazines, then how on earth is anyone even meant to know who you actually are, or what you really stand for, let alone be persuaded to buy your books?
Another huge obstacle that orthodox authors have encountered is that many of them try to spend as little time as possible on the internet, which they (often rightly) view to be a moral swamp, a sea of evil speech and a massive waste of mankind’s most precious commodity, i.e. our time.
Relatively few orthodox Jewish authors have the same interest or motivation to ‘be online’ and to do all the things that network-savvy authors are supposed to do to sell their books, like sticking up Facebook posts, or servicing a regular blog, or sending out clever Instagram pics of their book being read by minor celebrities.
Not only that, a large swathe of their target market are also adverse to the internet, which means that even when an orthodox Jewish author does do all these online things, finding anyone out there to actually connect to is still proving to be quite a struggle.
Add all these things together, and you arrive at a number of formidable obstacles stacked up in the path of an orthodox Jewish writer who doesn’t have a comfortable ‘label’ to fall back on, or a standard ‘box’ to fit into.
But when, o when, did real change, real creativity, real society-transforming prose and poetry ever sprout from the midst of a comfort zone?
Which kind of sums up the problem. And until now, there really hasn’t been much of a solution, but hopefully, what I’m about to tell you is going to start changing the picture for unorthodox orthodox Jewish writers.
The glimmer of light at the end of this very long tunnel is called Sassonmag.com.
Sasson Magazine has a very simple premise: to pull some of the English-speaking orthodox world’s most talented and creative writers together into one place, so that they can find their target audience, and so that their target audience can also find them.
The site is being bootstrapped into being by around 15 committed Jewish writers, who are freely sharing their time, energy and creativity to get Sassonmag.com off the ground, and into Jewish reality.
Issue one came out at the beginning of October, and contained an eclectic mix of poetry, prose and fiction. Issue two is already well underway, and there are plans afoot to start a podcast interviewing Jewish authors, and a fiction and poetry workshop, which will help new writers really hone their craft.
The founders are also trying to encourage creative expression by doing things differently from most other websites out there, Jewish or not. For example, Sassonmag.com welcomes pieces that you’ve already posted up on your own blog or Facebook page, and you retain the copyright on anything that appears on the site.
If you’re being paid for a submission to a publication that’s one thing (and also, lucky you! That’s an increasingly rare perk in today’s world where words are cheaper than they’ve ever been.) But if you’re anyway volunteering a piece, then why on earth should the publication that publishes it claim ownership to it?
You care about your writing much more than they do, and you’ll probably do much more with it, if they let you.
The nascent site also contains a library where featured authors can upload their book titles, and interested readers can click straight through to buy them in their thousands. (A girl can dream).
It’s early days still, but the process of real change nearly always sprouts in a quiet, gentle way initially. So if you’d like to be part of Sassonmag.com, please go check out the site HERE, check out the Submission guidelines HERE, and get in touch!
There’s thousands of English-speaking frum readers out there who are really struggling to find decent stuff to read, and tens of orthodox-friendly Jewish authors who are struggling to find their audience. So let’s make the shidduch, shall we?