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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Small Press Shoutout: Owl and Zebra Press!

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Longtime readers may recall the Small Press Shoutout series, in which I celebrated those independent, brainy, well-intentioned, focused, even more focusedadorable, craftsmanlike, inspiring, dazzling, successful, friendly, quirky, cutting-edge corporate governance-y small presses. Here’s a list, with links:  Continue reading

A Contest! Guess the Cover Art Themes and Win a Free Book

A contest! Let’s have a contest!

Wonderful Reader N asked this question about my book The Race:

Can I ask a quick question about the book cover? Was the design meant to suggestion a flag because it’s about elections? I am a little obsessed about book covers–maybe because my design sense is stunted from birth–and I’m curious where yours came from.

Great question! And yes! A flag is definitely one of the tropes. This is a story about America and its flailing democracy. But that’s not all! Here’s a reminder of the cover in all its glory…

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The flag is definitely a key – some versions had a capital building silhouette, some had a close-up of a smiling politician, and on and on and on. This is a former governor who’s now running for Congress, after all. Politics and flag waving. Speeches on the hustings. Apple pie. Kissing babies. Fourth of July. Etc. Etc. Etc.

But that’s not REALLY what the story’s about. Or rather, that’s not ALL it’s about.

There are two other elements of the story that are reflected in the cover. I’ll send a free copy of the book to whoever first guesses each of the themes.

For those who haven’t read the book, a set of clues from reviewer alinefromabook:

I found this book absolutely fascinating. There was no crime to investigate, no thrills, no action scenes, no romantic scenes just a compelling story that is a journey through what motivates a man to do what he does.

The story is told by a lawyer who is asked by a disgraced politician to help him organize his biography. Then the politician decides he wants to run for office again. He has no support from the media, no support from his party and especially no support from his family. Why? Because while serving as the governor of the state of Wisconsin he had an affair and disappeared for a few days to be with his mistress. Only in this story, his wife does not stand by her husband on stage or anywhere else and neither do his children. People turn away when he walks down the street. And yet he continues until the last moment to be optimistic that the voters will come through for him. Our storyteller is with the candidate through every step of his campaign because he has no manager and no staff.

I couldn’t help but feel that there is a lot of truth in the author’s portrayal of the candidate that confirms my personal opinion that some of them seem to live in a bit of a fantasy world. I also found the author’s writing style to be very approachable, like a friend relating a story. Bottom line, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to everyone. And since it’s a novella and doesn’t require a huge commitment of time, those of you that might not typically pick up a book in this genre should really give it a try. I hope to read more from Jacke Wilson in the near future.

Is that enough of a hint? Let’s see!

 

“Another Well-Written Novella”: Five Stars for The Promotion!

Here we go! Another great review of my book The Promotion, this time by the awesome More Books Than Shoes. And what a nice way for me to celebrate my Sunday. She enjoyed it!

The Promotion is the second novella I’ve read by the talented Jacke Wilson, and I didn’t think it was possible but I actually enjoyed it more than ‘The Race’

Wow! And there’s this picture – The Promotion on her Kindle:

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As is so often the case, the reviewer writes a description as good as any that I myself can come up with:

It follows the story of a lawyer who is tasked with the job of recruiting new attorneys to join the firm he works for. From the get go we can see he’s not having the best of times. His wife who became addicted to gambling has left him and his work life isn’t much better. The new job role gives him a sense of purpose, or passion, to try and encourage people to join the business, only after a few odd lunches with two other colleagues Jennifer and Martin, he can’t help but feel that things aren’t going too well.

He becomes obsessed with a woman named Mina Meinl and soon it is all he can think about, almost like one last hurrah, if he can solve the mystery of her, his life will improve. But underlying all of this is the story of someone who has lost his or her way in the world. I’ve seen some people describe this mans decline into madness, but what I got was the slow, subtle cracks of someone falling into a depression.

There’s more too. Head over to More Books Than Shoes to read the whole thing. And here’s the capper:

Another well-written novella, with many layers of thought threaded throughout. If you want something that you can read fairly quickly and keep you intrigued, this is the perfect book for you.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

How wonderful. I’ll be smiling all day. My thanks to More Books Than Shoes for a perfect way to kick off my October. Onward and upward, people!


 

Are you a reviewer? Do you like free books? Just let me know you’re interested and I’ll happily send you a copy. 

Today’s Comment of the Week: The Paralegal Checks In

Wonderful Reader K.C. writes:

The Promotion is definitely my next read. My “day” job is as a paralegal and the description is genius. Can’t wait to read.

Oh boy! A paralegal! Reading about “when big law meets big trouble…” This should be interesting

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It kind of reminds me of that time I walked into the kitchen at work only to find a paralegal sitting at a table, eating potato chips and reading a book called Kill All the Lawyers. I made a joke about it, thinking she’d quickly try to hide the cover. I thought she’d be embarrassed, having been caught reading this book at a law firm.

I thought she might apologize. I thought her face might turn red.

Nope.

She looked at the cover, looked back at me, and shrugged.

And now, the powder keg of The Promotion rolls its way into a firm, looking for a good spark. I’m sure K.C. will find much to enjoy. I’m sure she works with some crazy people, and she will enjoy finding that all the lawyers in the book are crazy too. Unless only some of them are. Or maybe just one.

In any case, I hope she reports back on whether she recognizes anything familiar. (And for her sake, maybe I should hope she doesn’t…)

If you’re a lawyer and/or you hate lawyers, or if you just work with them and hate them (no or in that clause!), or if you’re indifferent to those questions but you just like the idea of a modern-day Edgar Allan Poe character let loose in a law firm to cause whatever mayhem he can while still trying to pretend nothing is wrong, you may enjoy The Promotion, the book that’s been called “an exceptionally fast read” and described as having “humor, depression, and hope all together in one short book.” Amazon’s running a sale on it, people. A buck for the Kindle version, and $4.49 for the paperback.

That’s right. It’s a promotion of The Promotion. A phrase I try not to overuse but which always reminds me of this, which makes me laugh, so I guess it’s okay:

Coming Soon: A Goodreads Giveaway!

Readers, big news! I just signed up for a Goodreads Giveaway, which means that FIVE SIGNED COPIES of the paperback version of The Promotion will be given away FOR FREE to Goodreads members who sign up for the contest. That’s right, soon five lucky readers will be given the chance to immerse themselves in 105  pages of misery, obsession, and madness. (“Laugh-out-loud funny,” a reader told me last night. There are a lot of miserables in this world!)

So why post now? Well, I just thought I should give a heads up to all my readers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Free books are on the way! Oh, and of course, the giveaway is open to all my readers in THESE countries too:
Continue reading

The Kingdom of Publishing

My biweekly trips through the New York Review of Books are often filled with pleasure, amusement, fascination, and appreciation. And then there are those rare occasions when I’m completely befuddled.

I think I understand most of Jason Epstein’s tribute to Roger Straus (of publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux). But what to make of this thought experiment?

The United States, and indeed the world, without a viable book industry and leaders like Roger Straus to energize it is awful to contemplate.

Epstein distinguishes this from today’s world:

Roger was a brilliant businessman dealing with skill and passion in a product of marginal financial value but of limitless value in itself. In the digital future, who will be his successors?

I think I get it: Epstein is (sort of) coming out in favor of the king theory of books and literature. The Internet, and the digital future, have “the masses” as a successor. But that’s not good enough for Epstein! He favors a few wise and benevolent kings to be in charge of publishing.

Okay, I guess. The rest of the review makes Straus sound like a petty tyrant more concerned with chasing secretaries and drinking himself silly at lunch – in other words, like a parody of the gatekeeper-kings who turned New York publishing into a kind of select club for them and their friends. I guess that’s “energizing” in a certain way.

But then Epstein goes on with his parade of horribles:

Within a bookless generation, or two, or three, human beings would have lost the better part of the knowledge acquired by their species over millennia, from making an omelette to parsing the universe and removing an appendix.

Granted! Books preserve knowledge. Except now… the Internet preserves knowledge too! And furthermore – it does a much better job at that! When’s the last time you relied on a book to get a recipe for making an omelette? How many maps do you keep in your glove compartment these days?

But furthermore – Straus was not doing this job at all! We hear elsewhere in the review that he eschewed the “textbooks” and other moneymakers that Wall Street preferred, instead focusing on award-winning fiction, usually relying on Susan Sontag’s advice (and thereby overlooking Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose in favor of Sontag’s choice, an author named Salvatore Satta, whose book she was certain would sell better because The Name of the Rose had passages in Latin). All due respect to the brilliant and idiosyncratic Susan Sontag, but can you imagine a worse choice for picking books based on what’s likely to appeal to the masses?

And then we hear that Roger

would not have welcomed digitization and could not have imagined his function in a world in which all books, old and new in all languages, are stored and delivered as digital files at virtually no unit cost for storage and delivery, and reproduced on demand wherever connectivity exists either on screens or printed one copy at a time in bookstore, libraries, schools, airports, and so on, and where success or failure is for the most part determined instantly by the Web, the ultimate word-of-mouth medium but where second and third chances are possible since nothing in cyberspace need be destroyed.

Why exactly are we lamenting the loss of this figure? Why are we afraid of losing a world in which guys like him dominate the rest of us? Epstein may be nostalgic for his own (what sounds to me like a terrible) past working in King Roger’s shadow. That’s not a surprise: former prisoners often feel this way; it’s called Stockholm Syndrome. But for those of us peasants who never lived in cowering fear and secret admiration of the Skirt-Chasing Poobah ruling literature from his high perch on the Upper East Side, it sounds like a system that deserved to die. And shedding tears for the lost kings aren’t going to bring it back.

King Roger. Image Credit NY Review of Books