The Indie Spirit: Martin Short and Harry Shearer

My name is Jacke Wilson, and I’m an indie author.

Yes, there’s a stigma attached to this. All those people saying: “Who do you think you are, Jacke Wilson?” and “There is no check on quality anymore! You can’t just SAY you’re a writer.” and “The self-publishing world is like an agent’s slushpile times a zillion!”

I’ve gotten over it. Mainly for the same reasons I gave in my support of NaNoWriMo. What’s the harm to you, Madame Slushpile? Who are you to stop me from writing and publishing what I want?

And also…I do have eyes, people. I’ve been to Barnes & Noble. I’ve seen what the gatekeepers have let through. If anyone think they provide a check on quality, as opposed to marketability…well, I don’t know what to say.

When I first cranked up this blog I posted several tributes to what I called the indie spirit. These were links to people – famous people, celebrated authors or artists – who took things into their own hands. Ezra PoundDr. JohnsonStéphane MallarméMarcel Proust. I had others as well – ten or twelve, I would guess. Some were people who adapted to technology before the rest of the field. Or who wrote a book that was claimed to be “unsellable” or “unpublishable,” but who found a way to sidestep the naysayers and get their voice heard somehow.

I posted a lot of these because I was trying to talk myself into why self-publishing was a good idea. Every success story heartened me; I drank them in, in the way someone afraid of flying might stop off at the airport bar for “shots of courage.”

Now that I’m on the other side (two books, a podcast, a blog, and lots more on the way), I consider my efforts a success. Success on a tiny scale, sure. But tens of thousands of readers and listeners is far more than I ever expected. Frankly, it’s more than most of my friends who have published with traditional publishers have. That’s the dirty little secret of literary fiction: A few Mobys. Lots of minnows.

And my experience has been better than theirs! Most of them hate their publisher: hate the contract, hate the lack of support they received, hate the cover of their book, hate the changes they were forced to make.

I am responsible to no one. I rise and fall with my own decisions. It’s liberating. It feels creative. It feels artistic.

Everywhere else in my life I’m governed by forces out of my control. But in this realm, where freedom is everything, I have it.

My friends have been told that their lack of success on the first book means that publishers won’t want to see their second. Does this have anything to do with quality? Is this how we encourage artists and writers in today’s world? It’s a ridiculous premise.

Most of my friends are so dispirited they’re ready to give up. I’m just getting started!

But set aside all that highfalutin’ puffery. Save that for the intellekshuls, as my beloved Flannery might say.

The main difference between the old way and the new way is this: I was getting nowhere the old way.

I had an idea for a novella-length piece of work. Ready to go! Fresh paper in front of me! Blue pen all revved up! Just a quick run to the agent websites to see where I’ll be aiming this when I’m finished…

Wait, what? A novella? About a hundred pages? You’re telling me not to bother? Nobody wants them? Publishers won’t look at them? Agents laugh behind your back for being so naive?

But…I like reading them. Don’t others like short novels? People are busy, no one has time for a novel…Wait, why the hell are you getting in our way?

Writers! Readers! The decision to connect or not should be their decision, not yours.

Because, Jacke. Just…because.

So then what? Set down my pen? Or decide to bring it out myself?

I brought it out myself.

And whatever you think about its quality, I think you would have to agree that it’s a better outcome than setting down my blue pen altogether. (If you can’t even meet me that far, if you’re going to tell me that I should not even bother writing anything if it’s a length that traditional publishers don’t want to sell, then we’re just not going to agree. Thanks for stopping by. You can go work out your daddy issues or whatever is forcing you into the comfortable thought that People In Charge Know What’s Best For Us. I’ll side with the artists, and the people, and the barbaric desire to create, every time.)

Here’s where Martin Short and Harry Shearer come in. Remember the Men’s Synchronized Swimming sketch? It struck the young me like a hurricane. I did not think I had ever seen anything this funny before.

I hope you’ve seen it. If you’re over forty, you probably have. If you’re a comedy fan, you probably have too. It makes it onto a lot of lists. In any case, it’s here if you want to take a look.

Here’s Martin Short describing his first year of SNL and the short films in particular:

I remember after we shot synchronized swimming, I said to Harry, What do you think we have here? Do you think these pieces are any good? And he said, “I don’t know, but all I know is that in L.A. I would have had two potential meetings about an idea and here at least we’re shooting stuff.” So he was thrilled about that, I remember.

Yes! Yes! And to that I can say, “Stigma? All I know is that in the past I’d have spent a hundred hours writing synopses and cover letters to agents and this way at least I have actual readers.”

So who cares if Grandma’s memoirs go online? Let’s let freedom ring! Let’s let creativity rule! Let’s seize the power! And the day! And the reins! Let’s seize whatever we can get our grubby little artistic hands on!

You’re telling me that books can’t make it in the world without the stamp of someone official? That the author’s imprimatur is insufficient? I refute it thus, Madame Slushpile!

   

Onward and upward, people!

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33 thoughts on “The Indie Spirit: Martin Short and Harry Shearer

  1. Great post Jacke! I read somewhere that it took three years (or something like that) of back and forth between Harper Lee and her editor to whip the final, amazing story into shape. No editor/agent will take that sort of time with a writer these days, known or unknown. So, that means that a lot of great literature is falling by the wayside with regards to traditional publishing. If I’m honest with myself, I want both, the air of respectability that traditional publishing brings and the freedom to write what I want.

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    1. Great point. I think it’s sort of a myth that editors and agents like to promote. And I’m sure sometimes they do provide that service, or something like it. That’s great! I hope it leads to some good books! But it’s not the ONLY way to do things, at least not anymore…

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    1. Oh, that makes me so glad to hear! First, that the books will be part of your Thanksgiving break (my favorite holiday and probably the best season for reading). And second that you like the covers! I’m doing my best! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. This cracked me up – I don’t know if anyone reliably makes me laugh as much as you do, Rain, Rain. By the way, I hope you enjoy the book – I just sent it in the mail yesterday. But I might have to send you the other one (The Promotion) because I suspect you’ll like the deeper and more twisty story. 🙂

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      1. Nothing would please me better! And I’m looking forward to reading the first.

        Also, much as I approve your proposed means, you should please be careful not to bruise your foot refuting Madame Slushpile.

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  2. I don’t want to be critical of traditional publishing but Amazon and B&N online are WORLDWIDE. Anyone can order your books along with James Patterson’s or Dr. Phil’s. Only their fame drives volume of sales but the quality between the covers limits it. Who knows, if your books have the right stuff your sales volume may be very respectable. But you got there on your own and split the money a few times less than they will. But you got there, on the website ready for buyers. No agent, no publisher no roadblocks to creativity.

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  3. I agree 110% A camel is a horse created by a committee. If you want your book to reflect your vision, self publish it. Books are coming out of publishing houses without even decent copyediting, with no marketing support, with no anything except a resemblance to some other book.

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    1. That’s right. Benefits (marketing, editing, etc.) should outweigh the creative costs, or that’s the argument, anyway. But when it’s clear that they don’t…other options look a lot better!

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  4. hear ye hear ye….well spoken ( ooops written) in australia, i too have been checking out the novels on sale and it is always the same old same old. Sorry Rachael Treasure but your getting like Tim Winton and loads others. it very paint by numbers.
    I might give a novella a go.

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    1. Oh, I totally agree. It makes all the sense in the world – a book that can go a little deeper than a short story, but not one that monopolizes a month or longer for a busy person. A two or three hour read. Something that grabs you by the lapels… Now if only my sales supported this with a little more hard evidence! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I also like the freedom. For me, it wasn’t about egos and publishers.. just sharing my words to help others. I knew they could help a few people and that was enough to do it. When I started my project someone suggested I check if people wanted what I was doing. I thought that was so silly. I know from my own experience it hasn’t been about reaching a lot of people.. but reaching someone.. perhaps a few deeply. Thanks for the visit.

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  6. I’m very interested in the world of indie publishing, but there’s so much range of information out there, it’s hard to find out what works, what doesn’t.

    I’m hoping you have some posts about this whole biz and how to navigate it with success. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Yes, I do have a few. In general I recommend Joanna Penn’s site and podcast for lots of good free advice and links about the world of writing. Guido Henkel’s site was hugely valuable to me for formatting tips. And I think David Gaughran is a pretty good resource.

      As far as what works and doesn’t – I’m not sure anyone really knows! I’ve found it helpful to envision an end product and then just jump in, both feet first. Be ready for lots of little stumbling blocks along the way but keep going until you wind up achieving what you most hope to achieve. (And by that I mean the work output, not the fame or fortune or success or whatever. I don’t know how you set about achieving those things, I think you have to focus on the work itself and let the other stuff work itself out.) Good luck to you!

      Liked by 1 person

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