J. Robert King

I’m on Broadway!: A Publishing Parable

I can’t believe it! All my life, I’ve been waiting for this moment. From my first dance lesson at age six  with Madame Brosier to this date, 20 years later—at last, I’m on Broadway!

“Welcome to the Great White Way! We can’t wait to see you dance.”

Thanks! I’m going to be appearing in the Majestic in a big revue!

“Um, well, actually, you’ll be appearing in front of the Majestic in your big revue.”


“Broadway’s not what it used to be, kid. There used to be all kinds of dough in it, all kinds of folks who made sure that acts on Broadway were first class. But that ain’t the way anymore. Before Broadway was a musical destination, it was just a street, and now that it’s no longer a musical destination, it’s once again just a street. Which means that everybody can appear on Broadway. Like you!”

Yeah, but, I’m not talking about the street. I’m talking about the legendary theaters on the street.

“They’re gone.”


“People don’t pay for shows anymore. They want it all free. All on the street. So all these theaters are in foreclosure. You can’t get in them unless you’ve got a hard hat. But good news for you is you can still be on Broadway by just being on the street!”

You mean, like a hobo.

“Course not. Hobos don’t sing and dance. They don’t have got a violin case for people’s change. But that, by the way, is all you get anymore on Broadway—change.”

So, now that the theaters are gone—after I’ve spent 20 years trying getting into them—and now that everybody expects entertainment for free on Broadway—

“Not for free. They give you some nickles if they like how you dance.”

—I’m supposed to be happy about this?

“You’ve been liberated from the system. You don’t have to wait for a director to pick you, for a producer to believe in you. You don’t have to rely on a bunch of marketers who don’t get you, a bunch of reviewers who don’t like you, and an audience who won’t pay to see you. Instead, you become all those things yourself.”


“You hold tryouts, for which only you perform. You are your own director, casting yourself in every role. You write your own script and build your own set and design your own lighting. You do all your own marketing and sell all your own tickes. You sew all your own costumes. You pay yourself to be ushers. You show yourself to your seat. You watch your own show and review it for the papers and interview yourself telling how great you are, and you make yourself your favorite star!”

Seems pretty narcisistic.

“THANK you! That’s the word I’ve been looking for. I knew it had something to do with a beautiful flower, narcissus, and you gave me the word. You’re even your own dictionary!”

I quit. This isn’t Broadway. This is hobos playing on Broadway for spare change.

“But remember: Hobos don’t have your talent!”

If I’m a hobo, they do.

April 14th, 2011
Topic: Uncategorized Tags: None

8 Responses to “I’m on Broadway!: A Publishing Parable”

  1. Allison Lassieur Says:


    Been a while. Nice web site. Congrats on your writing successes. I was wondering if I could bend your ear a bit about submitting to Tor and to WOTC (again)? I’ve been very successful with the nonfiction work since you and I worked together last, but I’d like to get back into the fantasy genre.

    I’m interested in writing for the Young Readers series. I don’t know if they work like they used to, when I was on their writer’s list and they’d send me calls for submissions. I’d also like a real person to send to, the last contact I had was Nina Hess. And Tor, how are they doing these days?

    I don’t have a current email address for you, so I thought I’d try here.

    Thanks, and hope to talk to you soon.

  2. Rob King Says:

    Hi, Allison:

    It’s great to hear from you–a long time since The Unicorn! I see you’ve written many nonfiction works for Scholastic. That’s great.

    Sadly, I don’t have any current contacts at Tor or WotC. My Tor editor, Brian Thomsen, died a couple years back, and my WotC editor, Phil Athans, left there about a year ago. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

    Thanks for stopping by the site, and good luck on your search!


  3. Denise R. Graham Says:

    Hi Rob!

    Nice place ya got here! And I love the parable.

    Hope all is well. Looking forward to seeing you later this year!


  4. Rob King Says:

    Hey, Denise!

    Great to hear from you! Yes, it’ll be terrific to see you and the old Scots Bear later this year. Thanks for stopping by!


  5. Jarrod Says:

    Sadly I don’t think Broadway and publishing are the only industries (?) heading down this path.

    As someone with dreams of getting published, it is disheartening, and I can’t help but feel that publishing boat has already sailed. Or at least it will have by the time I get published.

    Still, the creative process has its allure, and urge to tell stories is still strong, so that’ll be enough to see me through.

    The motivation is there, even if the destination is not… Will you keep dancing, regardless?

  6. Rob King Says:

    Thanks, Jarrod!

    I like the way you put that–“the motivation is there, even if the destination is not.”

    Yes, I’m working up some new ideas.

    And no matter what happens to the publishing industry, people will always need great stories and great storytellers. We just need to figure out how to reach an audience in this new world–doing what we love, which is writing.

    But I haven’t yet bought into the idea that I need to become my own publisher, promoter, and fan.

  7. Jarrod Says:

    Hi Rob,

    Just read your interview on thomasaknight.com, some good words of wisdom there, especially about getting into the heads of villains.

    You mentioned, very briefly, TSR – certainly the TSR era of AD&D novels based in the worlds of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft etc were (and still are) my favourite era of fantasy novels. What was it like, working with TSR during those halcyon *ahem* days?

  8. Rob King Says:

    Hey, Jarrod:

    Working at TSR was a great deal like going to Hogwarts. There were daily wonders and constant horrors. I witnessed amazing wizards at work and ran into cold-blooded creatures that could stare me to stone. My TSR years were some of the best and worst of my career, and I think most others who worked there when I did would agree. But I learned. A lot.

    I remember once wondering if a lawful good person could survive in a chaotic neutral organization. But TSR gave me my first chance to write novels. For that, I will be forever grateful.

    When I left TSR, we all ate aged steaks in a rented tent on the lawn, and a year later, the company was bankrupt. I enjoy pretending like that’s because of my absence, but honestly I got a great deal more out of TSR than it ever got out of me.

    Thanks for keeping your ear tuned to this blog. I need to be getting back to it.


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