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 Pound. Dr. Johnson. Stéphane Mallarmé. Marcel 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?
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!