My first novel, Chasing Down the Moon, is now alive and kicking its little feet over on Amazon (e-book up now, p-book to follow shortly).
If anyone had told me when I started writing Moon that I’d end up indie-publishing it, I would have laughed heartily, laughed in some way that characters in books aren’t supposed to laugh: chortle, perhaps. Or guffaw.
(Actually, I would have said, “indie WHA?” Then I would have laughed.)
Have you heard the old song/poem about how the revolution won’t be televised?* Or John Lennon’s assertion that life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans? Well, apparently the world of publishing underwent a revolutionary and untelevised shift while I was busy doing other stuff.
There are a couple of reasons that publishing my own work comes as rather a shock.
First, I had an unpleasant run-in with some self-published books that skewed my perception. Some years ago I wrote regular articles for my local newspaper pertaining to arts and entertainment. One day my editor asked me to write a review on a self-published book that had been sent in by the author. I was interested.
The book, a memoir, was not badly written. The author had some writing ability and was writing about some interesting life experiences. The book had problems, too, not egregious, but visible. I did what I was being paid to do: I gave the book a fair and honest mixed review that proceeded to royally piss off the many local friends of the author, who railed against me in letters to the editor. Apparently they were expecting me to say only wonderful things, or to keep my big mouth shut.
Clearly, they’ve never met me.
A couple of weeks later, my editor got another review request for a self-published book. Then another. I saw that they were all published by the same vanity press (AuthorHouse). This was pre-Amazon KDP, and money-up-front vanity presses were the only option for self-publishing. The books had okay-looking covers and internal formatting, but the content was pretty scary. I’m talking big, glaring typos and howling grammar errors, starting on the first page. I had to tell my editor that I just couldn’t review these books—it would be like shooting fish in a barrel and I wasn’t up for any more hate mail.
The other factor in my strong previous bent away from indie-pubbing has to do, in part, with my formation as a writer. I got serious about writing and about college pretty late in life. I very purposely shaped my education around creative writing, and in the halls of academia creative writing instruction is strongly informed by a literary canon that eschews popular and/or genre fiction and a writing ethos that is, shall we say, rather high-minded.
(And the winner for the internet’s most extreme understatement goes to Carla Baku!)
In the aforementioned circles, the whole topic of publication is weirdly fraught; admitting one’s desire to publish is sort of like going to your church’s abstinence-only youth group and talking about how much you want to have sex.
Similarly, when you are ready to go all the way—all the way to publication, that is—there is the proper way—traditional publication—and there is that nasty, illegitimate way that isn’t mentioned in polite, literary circles—independent publication.
Chasing Down the Moon got its start in the most traditional way imaginable: input from venerated writing teachers, querying of and representation by a strong literary agent, and (eventually) a publishing contract offer. It was all set to be a proper little debutante of a novel.
Then I veered off-road and went all Thelma and Louise with this thing.
I don’t know what the outcome will be. This novel may end up in La Paz doing shots of Cabo Wabo, or it may make a spectacular nose dive into the Rio Grande. Either way, it’s a fun ride.
I’m old. What the hell. Pass the lime?
*Gil Scott-Heron, 1970.