We’re nearly at the end of Indie Author Month – IAM2013 – and to close the event we’ll be featuring some special posts today from the authors who contribute most frequently to Aside from Writing. For our first feature of the last day, regular Tony Talbot is here to tell us why he is an indie author.
Believe it or not, way back in the mists of time (I’m talking pre-2009), there was a mark of shame upon certain writers.
This mark meant they wandered the literary world, lost and forgotten, their voices echoing, unheard. They were The Unworthy, the ones who failed the climb The Five Steps of Publishing. Instead, they toiled in the mines and the valleys and could only look at the shining lights on the summits, dreaming and writing their dreams.
They were The Self-Published.
They all dreamed of one thing, these lost men and women. They dreamed that one day they would find themselves the most precious gifts of all – an agent and a publisher – and their voices would be heard across the world.
Those on the mountains scorned those below. Not good enough, they would shout, loud enough to be heard in the valleys and the mines. The insults would fly from the hills: Self-published! Vanity Press! Might as well throw your money away! No one wants to read what you’ve written! Not for us!
The music makers and the dreamers of dreams below would tell themselves anyway that they were good, they were worthy, that one day They Would Find an Agent, that someday their voices would be heard. They told themselves that, and toiled on.
And so it began to change. There were whispers of rebellion down in the mines. Fires were Kindled. Words were Smashed. In Nooks and crannies down in the dark, things began to change. Slowly at first, but they changed.
The men and women of the valleys slowly stormed the hillside Palaces of The Agents, broke down the Gates of The Publishers and simply rolled over them. No longer would they be needed.
The Lost had found the power of digital light in their hands, and the light was good, the light was powerful. The light had set them free.
I was one of those who toiled in the valleys and looked skyward. I was one of those who dreamt of agents and publishers, of seeing my name on a bookshelf in a bookstore (They still had those in 2010, would you believe).
For a while, I think I was getting there. I jumped through all the hoops the agents wanted, some of them incredibly restrictive: Submit only one story at once, double spaced, one sided, loose leaf, first three chapters only, Times New Roman size 12. We do not accept emails. (Seriously. What century were these people in?)
I got a few interesting replies, but if an agent looks at an extract and thinks it won’t sell a million copies, they aren’t interested, and they weren’t. Fair enough; they have mortgages to pay like the rest of us, but what that lead to was a blinkered vision of what they wanted.
You have a short story of 3000 words? Forget it.
Book of Poems? Hold the phone away from your ear until I stop laughing.
Want to publish your book on the 19th century sewage system of Vienna? No chance.
And it was a stigma, that’s what the writing magazines and books called it, a mark on your failings as a writer and human being if you couldn’t get an agent and had to…(rinses out mouth)…self-publish.
It was a dark time for the rebellion.
It took me a while to realise I didn’t need an agent. I’d already written two books and was starting a third when I read a magazine article about electronic self-publishing. That was when I decided to join the revolution and storm the gates. (This same magazine was one of those who looked down upon the self-published as the lowest of the low – I picked it up again recently, and how their tune has changed!)
So I joined Amazon’s publishing program. I joined Smashwords. Later, I joined Goodreads and Facebook and Twitter and Booklikes, and I did guest posts and blog tours and all the other electronic stuff I do alongside making people and places up for fun. I joined them because I wanted to be in the revolution. I joined them because I wanted my voice to be heard.
I self-published my first short story on Amazon – The Trunk – on Christmas Day, 2010. Mainly because my mother-in-law had received a Kindle for Christmas and I wanted to see if I could send her the story, and it seemed a good place to start, with something small like that.
Something small. The Trunk is a VERY short story – about 2000 words – about a small boy who hides from the Holocaust. No conventional publisher would ever have touched it; there would be no profit in printing something that short.
I’ve made about $40 from sales of The Trunk, but more importantly to me, there hasn’t been more than two months when I haven’t sold at least a copy. I’m as delighted to sell one a month as when I sell twenty.
Even more important to me, I’ve had reviewers comment that it made them cry. My writing is out there, it’s in the world and making people cry, it’s making them think. I’m pretty proud of that and not ashamed to say it.
And not an Agent in sight.
The Agents told me I was not good enough, that self-publishers were the lowest of the low, with no talent and no voice. The people who matter – the readers – tell me the opposite, again and again.
Yes, I stormed The Palace of The Agents. I screamed with the rest of The Lost that we are good enough. We will be heard across the world.
I’m proud to be an Indie. Hear me roar.