On Publishing as a Form of Value Investment

value investment (n): a form of investment in which those who invest select companies’ stocks or other forms of financial receptacles that are either undervalued objectively on the market or have a yet-undiscovered or yet-unactivated potential, both relative to the potential as understood by investors

Value fund managers look for companies that have fallen out of favor but still have good fundamentals. The value group may also include stocks of new companies that have yet to be recognized by investors. (from this post on Merrill’s website)

As an example:

Say you have a human person who identifies a need, and then the mind model or conceptualization for the product that can meet the need.

I’ll share one company which I follow on Twitter, to which I gave a shout-out, given that great thriller or speculative writers might find something very interesting for themselves in this company’s work, if their plot development depends in any shape or form on cool IT or tech developments that have never been treated before in fiction: Axon produces technology to help protect the lives of police officers and others working within the public safety realm. (Check out the video on this page. Isn’t this the coolest?)

Using Axon as a purely theoretical example–I do not know the details of Axon’s own strategic planning or history, in terms of conceptualization-to-patent-to-product-development–this can be said: Before someone thought about the time that it takes a police officer to identify a person who observed a crime, to taking notes in an interview, to transcribing those notes for their own chief, to then moving on the transcription–a product did not exist that could aide police officers in saving this time.

Then someone figured the genius idea out, and then Axon moved on the concrete product development, and then it had to launch its own public stocks, and then people had to identify those stocks, and then invest in them. Before these stocks took on some form of public urgency, though–and certainly before the product was ever developed–the value of the product and thus of the stock was undervalued; by value, here, we mean its financial weight relative to other stocks on the market (it’s valued less than it ought to be, given the definition above). A good value investor, in doing his/her research, will identify products of this kind.

Find the newest, coolest need; respond to it; invest in it; and then watch your investment return significantly greater funds than investment in a product that meets a need that isn’t really a need.

Besides this form of dynamic financial value, measured at the level of the stock, there is also the value of the product or company understood in its human or aesthetic sense–the value met, in a personal way, of a product developed and used. It’s an interesting matrix, to think about both the value of the stock as it is, financially, and also the value of the product in human terms.

A long time ago, during my undergrad, I took a course in international development, and one of the questions treated in the course was micro-financing. I was fascinated, also, given that it made sense–both on paper and in experience, given huge case studies abroad–for an investor to pay $250 for a sewing machine, and give a woman a sewing machine, so that with apt sewing skills, she could maximize the value of the $250 over time with the development and sale of her own products (and the investment serving as a sort of guarantor of that kind of value-maximization over time), than to just give her $250.

Shocking, isn’t it, what a basic “mind model” distinction between pure funds and product value, in one form or another contingent on funds, can do to investors–as well as to the creation and maintenance of healthy infrastructure, over time?

If you think about it, book publishing is sort of like this–or could be like this, if writers, agents, editors, publishers, and investors in the book publishing realm thought about their own work with this kind of an acute sensibility and analysis of the kind of product being pitched. This applies, in a particular way, to non-fiction, especially non-fiction that is built and ordered toward the development and maintenance of longevity in infrastructure–a good book about tobacco as a public health concern will aide federal and state governments in responding to these public health concerns in actuality, beyond the theory about the issue and the theory about the necessary public health response contained within the book.

The book is both a product of theory as it is a product that opens up a demand–an undervalued need, say, before the book is published–among readers across the world.

One way to think about agenting on the non-fiction end is this: A primary underlying task involves sifting through huge quantities of research of diverse kinds (financial, creative, regional, personal, and more) to place the highest-quality products, unique in their content, before publishing houses for purchase, given the model above. The research is key to finding holes in published products. Why has the whole planet, for example, never published a book about some of the world’s most key, individual historical icons? You might be surprised about the depravity in biographies.

I, for example, with regards to the development of proposals from the ground up for non-fiction books, help academics sift through large quantities of data and their own research to shape an argument for popular/trade publication (think your big five publishing houses: Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc.). Buy this, because it is genius, and it needs to be published; it fits a need, and it creates an experience, and it moves readers over time to remain committed to a product and an imprint, to an idea and to a conversation.

[Read: At its heart, agenting and publishing in this way is a project of ‘long-term, value-only investment’ applied to a different form of creative work. I spend time with ‘companies’ (books) to place before ‘analysts’ (editors, publishers) to maximize authors’ returns (royalties, post-advance earnout) over time. Fun, isn’t it–what it does to the mind?]

So much more could be said, but this is one of the reasons why I came back to book publishing. Really good books, fiction and non-fiction both, have a huge potential to save the world–good fiction aides culture, creates minds and hearts in a vision of humanity and the good; genius non-fiction helps us understand the structures we create and adopt, and helps us also run a thousand miles in the direction of change that brings true joy, and freedom, collaboration and acute responses, and moves those with minds and hearts for good conversation into those exact conversations.

I’ll leave these musings here.

“The Person Project”: A PDF That May Pose Hard Questions

Dear Beloved Readers,

I am fully aware that, if you put my name into Google, you will find quite a breadth of resources and links and articles and posts–over hundreds of different territories–about my life, including my work in agenting as well as my work in different contexts.

There is nothing that I desire to hide about any of it, even if some of it may require being put into context–especially given that we come to understand those things we do, and the ways in which we engage in them, in our own way. For me, my understanding of everything that I do has been shaped infinitely by a fundamental commitment to unconditional love, a radical preference for the other, and a radical preference for self-sacrifice.

One post that you might stumble upon in your research is this one, for a project that I designed and taught, this past April, at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. The project was called “The Person Project,” and it was styled after my undergrad degree.

I spoke about it to an agent friend of mine at a conference earlier this spring, and wanted to put this out there, so that there’s context to what I have done, who I am, and the disposition that I bring to the work I’m doing in book publishing today.

This is not an evangelical post, if we understand ‘evangelical’ to mean an imposition upon you of some kind of principle, or a movement toward an ideology. I define ‘ideology’ here as some kind of disproportionate or self-selected vision of the world, one that doesn’t fully correspond with the way and rules by which it’s structured, and in which it operates and unfolds; in other words, the adapting of some kind of a premise or truth that doesn’t actually show up in the world unless we imagine it, or force it to be there, because we want it to be.

I also think ideology arises when people aren’t honest about the content of their own experience, and those dimensions of experience that could be integrated, healed, or directed to a different end or content. For example, if you have anxiety, why not this question: Is anxiety all there is? And that’s it.

That’s all I do. I ask hard questions, and I look for answers that fit.

My work, therefore, is not evangelical work, if understood in the way above. Whether you profess a faith or not, whether you profess mine or not, I love you, and I respect you, and I appreciate your experience, and I want to know you and to understand you; to know you and understand your experience. If you don’t make sense, though, then you and I will have a bit of a pickle–and I’ll ask more hard questions; I prefer thought that fits, and thought that coheres what it itself professes, especially on the non-fiction end.

There is no writer, no agent, no editor, no publisher, or otherwise in this business who should be afraid that I would impose upon you a reality that you yourself have not chosen.

Ultimately, therefore, this is a post that is designed to prompt questions–and to share some new ideas–not with the intent of imposing, or ‘converting’; it is certainly not a post designed to judge, discriminate, or to condemn, because in this heart of mine there is no movement of this kind and never has been. It is a heart that loves your experience as it is, and is prompted only to ask, Can there be more? Do you have everything that you need and desire? Have you ever tried this experience, and is the pursuit of a new kind of experience something that might change your life forevermore? It might be worth it.

I was raised Catholic, by Polish Catholic parents; Poland is a country deeply Catholic at heart, and so it was a deeply cultural reality (in addition to being a deeply theological one), with Poland’s different political, social, and cultural movements informed by its profession of faith in a god: God, the Other, a trinity/unity of three persons, ‘person’ understood as a ‘phenomenon of relativity.’ In other words, to be person is to stand in relationship; to have relationship as something at the core of your very being, and that this relationship is a necessity for you and your life.

When I was an undergraduate in college, I had the privilege of taking an independent study course on the human person, from the perspective of the Catholic Church. Prior to then, I–despite being Catholic–did not know that there was a huge trajectory of philosophical, theological, and psychological content that underlies this understanding of the human person and human life, as well as the Church’s understanding of human potential.

To be a saint, as the Church understands it, is to love much. I fell in love with this concept, and to this day remain utterly fascinated with it: I want to love much. I want to love you, and to love you much. My heart is that you be fully provided for, and that I be present fully to you. I want to not come to you with any preconceived notion of who you are, or how or why you are the way you are; I want to be able to ask questions, and not offend you, and promise a lack of offense about any kind of question which you yourself might want to pose me.

I want to make sure that you are healthy, and integrated and whole, and happy. I want to make sure that you are spontaneous, and that nothing binds you, impairs you, or imprisons you; I want to see you free of guilt and shame, which are two realities inside of us that bind, impair, and imprison us, among others.

I, as I mention in my bio, reject any and all discrimination; I also reject any and all ideas that are proposed without a deep, thorough examination of their rationality and their consequence upon the person, with his/her experience.

Knowing that there are contentious questions that are always prompted, I will say simply this: When it comes to questions of trauma; sexuality and gender; abortion, euthanasia, etc.; and otherwise, I am beyond persuaded that persons’ experiences of these items and the related actions they take are so complex, and diverse, that there is no easy way to articulate their ‘structure’ universally (from where this action comes, how it’s taken, the degree to which one is conscious of it and a volitional participant in it). The structure of the experience in context of any of the specific actions taken is vital to determining the ethical value of that action, taken on behalf of any individual person.

Pre-requisite to any action is the inherent goodness of our person (which takes a particular kind of experience to fully know, and to internalize–modern psychology gives us this evidence, showing that without affection and tenderness, human beings wither), and I would agree with the fundamental position of Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, who argued that we become who we are as ethical agents through the choices we make/actions we take. We make ourselves, in some sense, who and what we are. If, then, there is any reason to think that any of the actions related to the phenomena above decrease love, integrity, unity, and a healthy, spontaneous participation in relationship, I would say there is grounds, right there, to start asking hard questions.

Over the years, I’ve done my research–across dozens of different religions, different experiences, different ways of experiencing reality, of different positions on the nature of ‘virtue’ (which I have come to understand as nothing more fundamental or interesting or difficult than actions that create and maintain in us the experience of unity), of different positions on ethical questions and issues, and more, and I’ve come to a place in which, tested by intellect/reason and experience and choice, I have come to personally prefer a whole series of positions on these questions, and I wanted to share them with you.

I trust you to respect me for these positions, if you were to consider them. I consider every position that comes my way, ask where it comes from, and “mind model” it into a logic model, as best I can.

I prefer them because I have tested them by experience, and they have crystallized my mind–I have experienced a greater clarity over my mind, my choices, my commitments, my friendships; they have taken away fear; they have prompted and opened me to generosity and love, in a freedom and a self-possession that I did not know was possible.

Here’s the PDF with resources.

All of the content within the PDF is mine, unless otherwise noted (in other words, the overview/outline, the annotations, and the overview of the resources are all written by me; the excerpts from Attachments, the spiritual theology manual, and the Heart of the Father ministry resources were generated by those cited). It was a project I launched in a former workplace, but never completed there, given that its design and implementation was rooted in my own degree and experience; I now house it on my own.

Read the PDF this way:

+ In the outline for the content, which I taught from memory, you’ll find this: The Church teaches that there is a structure to all things, and a cause for all things. All things come to be because of something else, and thus we are and become causes for things we bring into existence–including our books.

+ In the excerpt from the book on attachments, you’ll find this: The degree to which we have been loved informs the degree to which we have an easy time being in relationship with other human beings, and the degree to which we have an easy time in relationship informs the degree to which we have an easy time in romantic relationships and marriage, especially.

The degree to which we have an easy time in these relationships is the degree to which we have an easy time raising our kids, and if we cause things, then the way we are as parents informs the way we create/form/shape our children. I owe my love of my life to my mother and my father, and my mother in a special way, given her radical and heroic peace during years of ovarian cancer; she testified that a peace that surpasses understanding was possible, and I have sought it and love it and know it and prefer it.

+ In the account of ‘sin’ from the spiritual theology manual (which can sound like it’s judgmental and condemning, when at its foundation, it is a reflection on a spectrum of different kinds of experiences as understood by saints of the Church), you’ll find this: The promise of an experience of deep prayer that is formative and creative, received and deepened over time; a form of prayer that leaves an impact. I know this kind of prayer by experience.

+ In the account of different lies or forms of spiritual bondage (which can sound a bit dramatic, but is not, if you know people who are deeply wounded–and/or if, in thinking about it, you acknowledge that you have had or even now have something of this interior experience), you’ll find this: An account of people’s experiences, this way understood; these kinds of experiences manifested, in some kind of bondage, or denial, or pain, or otherwise, about which the Church would say, to your heart and mind, This is not everything there is; there is more, and you can be free.

+ In the booklist, you’ll find this: An account of my own understanding of reality, in simplified form, which has proven true to my intellect/reason, to my will and the choices I have made, and to my entire life, with all its experience and its desire for integrity, because integrity gives me peace, makes me happy, perfects love, and gives me an energy that is unceasing–I love the life I have led, and I have lived it with no regrets.

+ In the resources, you’ll find this: A list of resources for different kinds of healing; know that some of these ministries are contingent upon what Christians may call the charismatic or spiritual gifts. This offers an interesting set of experiential testimonies; I know the fruitfulness by experience, also.

I don’t need you to ‘convert.’ I just ask that, if you have some free time, you take a look at some of the books. I love The Religious Sense, and I love Theology and Sanity, and I love I Want to See God and I Am a Daughter of the Church, and you might just be surprised to find something much more intelligent, and clever, and broadly-minded in Catholicism than you might expect.

Note also that I offer this as a post to any of you who have been damaged by the ideology that persons who profess a faith, be it Catholic or not, sometimes create and induce in the lives of human people; they say they believe, but they do not, and they say that they love, but they do not, and they say that they will be unconditional before you, but they are not. They dismiss testimonies of experience, and they dismiss their own experience; they dismiss their own limitations. I would go so far as to say that deep prayer, over years, imprints in me the experience of total, actual, easy unconditionality, and the lack of any kind of emotional or other trigger before others.

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979)

Fiction, of every kind, has opened my entire life to each of you–to the life and imagination of my clients, and to my favorite authors, and to authors whom I have a hard time internalizing, all at the same time–and so while I partake in fiction, also, I offer here this more extended list of non-fiction loved and internalized over the years, to add to that list of non-fiction for which I am seeking actively: anything that starts a conversation, and anything that really challenges you, as everything that I have ever read and preferred has challenged me.

With all my love,


P.S. This is partially inspired by the work of Rachel Wahl, PhD, on receptive learning during political crisis:

Drawing on Charles Taylor’s conception of the primacy of moral identity and his assertion that ideals can be best understood through the study of how people enact them, Wahl argues here that some aspects of the secular liberal imaginary can hinder noninstrumental engagement, but that such engagement may be precisely what is needed to bridge the deepest divides.

P.P.S. I also would encourage reading something like Love Thy Neighbour (Convergent/Penguin Random House, 2019), a beautiful testimony from a Muslim medical doctor about his own profession of faith, in small-town MN. Derek, its editor, recommended it to me weeks ago, over coffee, as a testimony worth hearing.

“The Power of Vulnerability”

Nine years ago, this TED video blew minds, and now ranks as one of the most-watched videos on TED, with 41+ million views.

I highly encourage it. One of the conversations that I have often, with those who are willing to embark on this conversation, is about their experience–the “structure,” you could say, of their experience. Brené Brown’s work treats, in one primary way, of vulnerability, as the fruit of the healing of shame and guilt interiorly.

One common conversation that can be had is the degree to which one possesses shame and guilt, and the degree to which the possession of this reality interiorly impairs (debatably, of course–see thoughts that follow…) or affects one’s daily experience. Brené’s question was, and remains, “Is your experience, minus guilt and shame, any different in quality or type than one with guilt and shame?”

Better yet: Have you ever tried an experience without these interior realities? Or, better-better yet-ish: Did you even know that you’re living out of really deep interior shame, guilt, a lack of self-possession, and otherwise? Ah-ha! Maybe, if someone pointed it out to you, that this is the way that you live and/or experience yourself, in an act of love, trust, and vulnerability, you’d understand that there’s someone out there who’s making a proposal and who’s had a different experience of reality.

Given that shame and guilt are universal potentialities (everyone in the world has the potential for this kind of experience, and it’s a rare person who hasn’t had it), it’s an interesting and easy place to start: I know what this felt like, once, and I sought to be vulnerable, and integral, and simple, and it changed my experience. Or something like that that. Who knows?

I encourage her writing. Reading her changed my life, and confirmed a desire to read and live in a particular way.

She now has the coolest documentary about courage available on Netflix, and I highly encourage it.

“Why Economists Need the Arts”

I’ve been working through some excellent non-fiction recommended to me by an acquaintance at one of NYC’s ‘Big 4’ consulting firms, written by philosopher and consultant Christian Madsbjerg, founder of RED Associates. The firm, as far as I can tell via the public front, gathers different forms of experts in the humanities to apply the study of phenomenology (experience, in a nutshell) to the advising of firms on the construction of products.

Philosophy, applied to business.

These two books were Sensemaking, on one hand, and The Moment of Clarity, on the other. I encourage the both of these books, as they are aides both to business strategy and work as well as to personal life, if applied correctly.

Bringing to consciousness the awareness of one’s own experience as such (in other words, analyzing one’s experience, or reflecting upon it, once it has happened) is a first key step in the acquisition and possession of a deeper self-knowledge, and the way in which people experience themselves and the products they consume–and, you could say, the books that they read (the reader’s experience, in a nutshell)–helps explain why certain things sell, and others don’t; why certain products shape a preference for a particular kind of experience, and therefore a particular way of living.

It’s a project of its own, to understand how you, as a writer, for example, are responsible for building out a project that opens up a new kind of experience in the reader, or one that brings to consciousness a more classic experience: a sense of nostalgia, or basic childlikeness and wonder before a story that feels familiar, and more.

I was pleasantly shocked by these books, given that my undergraduate degree was in the philosophy of the human person (a study of the person, and in its own implicit way, a study of experience).

It’s a bit late for July 4th, but the below is a sort of shout-out to why the American culture can and ought to take the arts more seriously–and this will include, without hesitation, the best fiction. It’s, once more, why I. Love. Agenting.

Enjoy. It’s only 13.5 minutes long.

On Functional Scaffolding

In my free time, which is really time not spent working on strictly agenting-related things, I love to read and do research. One of the lessons I learned a long time ago was the worthwhileness of doing research about one’s own person, and one’s own mind–how I work, how I function–in order to elevate the quality of one’s own life: how I live, can live, ought to live.

Here’s an abstract for an academic, heady article that I stumbled upon, once upon a time, doing some basic research in psychology, on “Functional scaffolding and self-scaffolding,” published in New Ideas in Psychology:

Models of the nature of representation and cognition ground and constrain models of the construction of representation in learning and development: models of what is being constructed ground and constrain models of the processes of construction. Insofar as the notion of scaffolding is intended to refer to particular kinds of supports for learning and development, it too will be variously enabled and constrained by underlying assumptions concerning representation and cognition. I will argue that action based models of representation, which have their own powerful supports, also make possible a functional notion of scaffolding that, in turn, makes sense of processes of self-scaffolding as a central field of development.

A basic translation (in its utter, kindergarten-level basics): Scaffolding is a tool for representing and understanding content learned, through theoretical models to capture and process that content.

One of the most basic examples of a self-scaffolding is a to-do list, but even more specifically, the categories that a person might use within their to-do list. A parallel concept for it is a mind model, or a theoretical framework that is developed to help a person think about the content and set of observations before them about any given question. (An acquaintance of mine once sent me this link to describe a range of ‘available mind models.’ I thought this was the coolest tool ever.)

With to-do lists, a person sort of self-engineers or self-creates a mind model to think about the necessary components of the tasks that stand before them: the content, the deadline, the structure, the framework for engaging in a range of different kinds of conversations that need to move the necessary theoretical pieces, etc.

For example, my to-do list (to be transparent, of course–except not, because I’d have to give you a whole existential spreadsheet if I were to break my to-do list in public!) looks something like this:

  • D4EO/Clients
    • Client Name
      • Client Project/Deadline
    • Client Name
      • Client Project/Deadline
    • Client Name
      • Client Project/Deadline
  • D4EO/Networking
  • D4EO/Market Research & Tracking
  • Non-Profit Support/Accounting
  • Academic Work/Research
  • Academic Work/Writing
  • Book Reviews/Reading
  • Book Reviews/Writing
  • Travel/Misc.

Certainly on the non-fiction writing end, mind models and scaffolds are terrific tools for aiding comprehension, as they are tools for scaffolding in the classroom. (Scaffolding is a classic pedagogical tool.) You can find some links to a few relevant pieces, for some guidance on what this kind of a scaffolding exploration might look like, here: one, two, three, four.

In fiction, a lot of scaffolding work can be done to tier in the release of plot or pacing-related information, such as in really solid thrillers–those clues planted, then pulled together/integrated, etc. The same thing goes for scaffolding out history of the characters and the world, as well as world-building. You want to give just enough for the reader to wrap their mind around the essentials, and keep in the rest of the information until it’s necessary. The author should always know and understand more about what’s on the page and evolving than the reader.

Beyond this, scaffolding aids your own life, and I’d encourage checking out some of these pieces, personality profiles (Myers-Briggs, Greek personality tests, enneagram tests), IQ tests, and otherwise, in order to then do the more important, practical project: figure out how you work, and figure out what best form of self-scaffolding aids your time.

Sometimes, I shock people with the amount of work that I do, editorially, agenting-wise, and writing-wise, but rather than it be a sort of shock to the system, it honestly is for me a project of systematic scaffolding and re-scaffolding, self-learning over and over again, playing with different mind models over something as simple as my inbox and categories for emails received, and otherwise. It’s a good, healthy, and totes existential project.