A few years ago a strange thing started happening in my life. Now, the world of a writer, especially a fantasy writer is always a little strange (you can’t steal fire from the faeries and not expect some comeback). But you learn to live with that sort of weird, you could even say that it is expected.
This was the other sort.
My family started expanding in number. First my sister had kids, and then my brother (or his wife did, anyway); and then they had some more, and now my Christmas list is a whole lot longer than it used to be.
I started thinking, as every disgraceful-writer-uncle does, about what sort of things I am leaving in the world.
I’ve Always Been A Writer.
Whether it was my younger fan out-takes of The Silmarillion, or my “other” official career (hush, no spoilers), writing has been something that I have always been doing. Sometimes I get paid for it, sometimes not.
When thinking about the sorts of things that I want to achieve, and leave in the world before I’m done – my first thought was books. Get that tale written, Iain. Get those characters out there. Share them with the others.
Indie Writing Offers You Control.
As an independent author, you have ultimate control over your story, your cover, your promotions, your release, your formatting (for better or worse!).
Other areas of the publishing world have different requirements – not to say that these are bad – they’re just different. They might be doing print runs in the thousands, they might be competing with some of the biggest named releases every cycle – all factors which mean they have to impose their own direction on the product.
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.
Of course, with all of that above artistic freedom comes the caveat: you’ve got to do all the work yourself! Or at least, hire the right people for the job yourself. This means time and money which most of us shoehorn in around our daily working lives – but it’s a chore that is also a labour of love, right? I like learning new things. I like improving my skills – and if that means spending hours, weeks, months learning how to use an image editing programme like Gimp, or html coding, then that’s all good. At the end of the day, you can look back at your book, website, community and go “yeah, I never thought I’d see it – but now it’s here!”
Indie Writing Keeps you Humble.
I remember listening to this little inspirational video once about writers, and the first thing it said was “You might worry that you’re being pretentious. Get over it. You’re a writer.” Which made me laugh out loud. The next thing it said was even more important: “Write a list of your favorite authors, and repeat a mantra every day: I am not Steinbeck. I am not Hemingway. I am not Stephen King. I am not…” you get the idea.
The great thing about indie writing – is that it is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s the story, and that’s it. It aims to please people, entertain them, punch ’em in the gut, or reach out to them in some way. If one person likes your story, or isn’t so bored for an afternoon, or smiles – then you’ve made it.
You’re in Great Company.
I love SF chapbooks. The sorts with lurid covers barely over 200 pages that were churned out in the fifties, sixties, all the way to the eighties. They wouldn’t call them indie writers back then but “pulp” writers (because so many of the books became pulp, and disregarded by the literary establishment), but I think that the modern indie shares a bit of the same DNA as these guys. Phillip K. Dick came up out of that field. Michael Moorcock. H.G. Wells, arguably, Sherlock. On the less masculine side of the fence you have Kate Wilhelm, Joanna Russ…
Indie authors and indie readers make great friends. Really. Go poke around the blogosphere for a bit and you’ll see what I mean. Now more than ever, the indie author doesn’t have to be starving in a garret, working three jobs and scribbling furiously in their spare time – or they do have to be doing all of that, but with a few clicks you are in touch with a whole community of other hard-working people who know what it’s like, and are willing to throw you high five’s or Vulcan salutes whenever called for.
…That is why I write indie fiction.