2011 WRITING PERSPECTIVE A Whole Six Months Later (You’ve gotta be slightly stupid.)
I have a book out there.
It’s on Amazon.com and B&N.com and the Apple iBook store.
I’d call it an indie book, but some writers don’t want to let go of that term just yet. Small press writers mostly, it seems. They consider themselves ‘indie’ even though there’s nothing independent about their own publication process. They’ve been edited and had covers created for them. Most didn’t have a hand in any of their own distribution or marketing. The only thing indie about them is the number of books they’ve sold.
My book is self-published.
I published it myself. I built my cover from scratch. I formatted the book myself. Sent my book to readers and discussed changes and edits with them. I secured a few blurbs from some good friends who were willing to help a guy out. I sent review requests and .PDFs to hundreds of bloggers and reviewers. I’ve engaged hundreds, if not thousands of readers on Twitter, blogs and blog collectives.
I am an indie author.
I published my book myself.
Over the last ten years I’ve spent thousands of hours writing queries and synopses, researching agents and publishers, small and large, attending conferences and conventions, pitching, networking, working on my writing degree, writing and submitting short stories and non-fiction articles to magazines and newspapers.
Snooki didn’t do any of that, and Snooki has been published. Snooki is not a writer. Snooki, no doubt, has sold a few books.
I am prepared to defend my right to publish the way I want.
Why do so many writers hate the idea of self-publishing? I didn’t cheat to get my book out there. I didn’t lie to or sleep with an editor. I sat down at my laptop and wrote the hell out of it.
Why does the way I decide to pursue happiness even matter to you at all?
Maybe it’s because people are reading me. Maybe it’s because I’m spending more time working on my fiction than I am writing queries. Maybe it’s because I’m interacting with readers on a daily basis instead of waiting for the rejection that comes every 3 months. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned more in the last six months than I have in the last ten years about the industry and readers. Maybe it’s because I am having fun and am rewarded for my writing on a daily basis. I sure don’t know where that attitude comes from, but I’ve seen it enough to know it exists.
I have readers. A few. But I’ve learned more from a few readers than I ever did from an agent, and I’ve earned and cherish every contact I’ve made. There is a small, but growing, group of people who know my characters and my plot, who feel like they’ve been to the places I’ve written about. And I have a few people who can’t wait for my next book.
Now for the stupid part.
If you get a chance, read my earlier writing perspective to compare to this one. I start the post by talking about Joe Strummer’s band before The Clash and the independent nature of those early gigs. You see, I kind of admire Joe Strummer for doing it on his own terms. I like the way he stood for what he stood for without making apologies. He was a regular guy, just like me. When I started writing I always had a bit of an inferiority complex because I wasn’t an English or Creative Writing major. I got over that complex by doing what Joe did–playing to my own strengths.
It was Joe Strummer that said to make it in the music business, “You’ve gotta be slightly stupid.”
Publishing my own book may have been the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. Throwing a potential writing career down the tubes to do it on my own terms? Please. When you put it like that it does come off as pretty stupid. But I’d do it all again tomorrow in a heartbeat.
How do I know I did the right thing?
A few months ago I posted a link to some Clash bootlegs, hoping to establish the tone of my blog and get some good energy out there. This morning I woke up to a new comment on that post. A photographer who’d been backstage at a few of the Clash Bond’s Casino shows left a link to photos he’d taking during the set and after. I clicked the link, and there was Joe, looking back over his shoulder at me from 31 years ago this week. I got goose bumps. Like Joe had somehow reached through time and space to give me a slight nod of approval.
Something I had put into the universe elicited that response.
That’s how I know I am doing the right thing.
I am writing my future. I am not going to let it be written for me.
Jason Jack Miller is a writer, photographer and musician who has been hassled by cops in Canada, Mexico and the Czech Republic. An outdoor travel guide he co-authored with his wife in 2006 jumpstarted his freelancing career; his work has since appeared in newspapers, magazines, literary journals, online, and as part of a travel guide app for mobile phones. He also has several articles in the writing guide Many Genres, One Craft. He received a Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill where he is adjunct creative writing faculty and he is an Authors Guild member. He’s been a whitewater raft guide, played guitar in a garage band and served as a concierge at a five star resort hotel in Florida. When he isn’t writing he’s on his mountain bike or looking for his next favorite guitar. He is currently writing and recording the soundtrack to his novel, The Devil and Preston Black. Visit him at http://jasonjackmiller.blgospot.com.