Life is Funny

On Being a Rebel and a Writer


Would I sell out to traditional publishing? Hmm, if there were a decent payday…I might. Although I’d probably hate it.

They have rules. They have practices of acceptability…that’s PRACTICES OF ACCEPTABILITY (turn up nose, place hand lovingly on Miss Primm’s Snobbish Guide  To Acceptable Behavior for Authors.)

In traditional publishing  they focus on popular (synonym for sales). They have fresh-faced agents who write in polite lines of dismissal. They amuse themselves over Chi tea by tossing that blood you’ve spilled on the page into their “slush” pile because…well it says right in Miss Primm’s Primer…unsolicited works have little value and it says, the world has seen enough of “this stuff” (insert the genre they’ve decided the world has had enough of).

I’m a renegade. I only like rules because they are something I can break.

For me, “two roads” always “diverge” and I prefer the one “less traveled.” I’m not trying to be bad…just a bit naughty. I think the day I stop being a rebel, the day I conform, that’s the day I start to wither.

Being a rebel, doesn’t mean I can’t own a suit or six, it doesn’t mean I can’t drive a Mercedes, and it doesn’t mean I can’t look…well whatever part the occasion calls for. Being a rebel and a renegade is a state of spirit, a state of mind that says: That well-worn path is for other people, I’m going this way.

Award copy

That’s the thing I love about Independent Publishing…it’s independent. But I can see that it’s becoming something else…something we might call “modern traditional.” And I therefore cringe, because without all the mousetraps where is any of the fun?

A full-blown cottage industry has arrived. The independent publisher/writer supported by hundreds of services and thousands of advice columns. A growing list of “rules” for independent publishers.

Rules? But we’re rebels.

We’re fighting tradition. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder, something to prove, we’re the big F-You to all those rules and entry points and gate keepers….right?

People rarely talk anymore about the differences between Trad and Indie. We’ve won our acceptance. For now, at least, and because in part our explosive growth has stopped, our market share established, and the rebellion has come up short of overwhelming the traditional publishers…or maybe it’s just a common thing now.

Oh I know people still complain about Indie’s. There are still axe grinders patrolling the depths of Good Reads. But in fairness, acceptance never meant crappy writing would be honored or that a twenty thousand word short story would pass as a “novel.” But mostly, people don’t care what you write as long as you don’t keep talking about it.

We’ve won our small little niche and the only race left is the marketing race. Indie books are on par with every traditional book below the #25 mark on the NYT bestseller list in terms of marketing. Below that number and it’s all DIY. Below that number 70% will never make up the advance o11217538_505426876304888_6778126839115221941_nr the dollars invested. Rebels…we don’t care about that stuff though.

So things are a lot more balanced….and I don’t like it.

Independent Authors have an opportunity to change the narrative. We can do what we want, when we want, how we want…but they’re trying to kill us from the inside. Well intentioned folks with helpful advice and services. They offer “better” ways to write, to query, to create characters, they offer writing groups (god forbid) and writer’s workshops (you are getting very sleepy, when you wake you will be like everyone else), and… by telling us what are the right and wrong things to say, to do, and to post (you will conform, you will be a part of the collective, resistance is futile.)

But the rebellion has other troubles…

First, we got divided by the rise of the B squad. The small press publishing movement. Writers who just needed that outside affirmation and writers who needed a name on the book… beside their own… to feel “real.” They were never rebels.

Look, I get it. It’s nice to be accepted, to receive love affirmations for your work (I’m proud of my three book awards). And for those who are offered and accept a small press agreement I say, if it works for you then do it.

But…but….and but…it in no way makes you better, more important, or more legitimate than those of us who choose not to pursue such arrangements. We’re not rebels because no one accepted our work. Rebels just don’t spend precious writing time on query letters or spend marketing dollars on self -addressed stamped envelopes. We have things to say and we don’t need someone’s permission to say it.

By the way, my next novel (outside of the Creepers Saga) will be published by a small press publishing company. Ravens Pointe has offered me a full contract, will pay all costs, let me keep all the rights, and collect 100% of the royalties. How did I negotiate such a great deal? Well I’m a rebel so I filled out some paperwork, wrote a check…and started my own company.

The rebellion’s second trouble was a bigger deal.

Amazon started paying for pages instead of downloads in its unlimited program..

Not only is that the fairest of propositions, but it actually demonstrates respect to the best writers. Those who can carry the reader from page one to page three hundred and twenty. And it contemplates an incredible idea…that a novel of three hundred pages has more financial value than one with seventy-five pages….oh no, no more splitting that 300 page book up into five books to game the system.

Writers were so out of their collective minds over this change, no one considered the bigger reveal….umm…Amazon knows how many pages you finished of every book you’ve purchased. What else do they know? (Seriously, I accidentally started that Prime movie—Necromancer and Nymphomaniac look similar on the App…really…I swear…you guys should fix that.)

Don’t get me wrong. I am happy over the acceptance of independent writers. I mean I like to write about plagues, but I don’t want to be treated like one. And it’s probably a good thing that those early adopters who thought they could throw words on a page and make a million bucks have moved on. But, the thing is, we have to remember the reason Independent Publishing started…beyond Amazon’s dream to make it happen.

It started because we thought our work had value, because we didn’t believe the gatekeepers were correct in their evaluations, because we wanted to say things our way and let the market decide the merits of our work. It started because we were, in our hearts, rebels and renegades. And for a brief moment we had everyone talking.rebel 2

That’s the spirit that we need to keep alive. That’s the place the next great novel rises from. It’s in that rebellious heart of yours….where your dreams will take root and grow.

4 replies »

  1. I haven’t picked up a traditionally published book in the past two years that didn’t break at least three or four supposedly critical writing rules. Sometimes it was for the worse. I didn’t finish several of these books because of the rules they broke. The point is, despite what the experts tell us, books that broke rules in a bad way still got published. Which makes the rules irrelevant, no, if traditional publishing is the goal?

    My rules for myself are: write stories with characters that feel real, don’t waste time on pointless details, and create self-driven plots. Other than that, I write best without feeling encumbered by how someone else thinks I should write. The four stories I was able to get published were the only four that I didn’t ask anyone to beta read. Anytime I’ve asked for critique and made changes, my second round of beta readers all told me I should have done what I had actually done the first time around. For example, one story compelled my beta readers to complain about the ambiguous ending and that the story should go out with a more dramatic bang. Being a tragedy, going out with a bang meant death and violence. Next round of beta readers, who were unaware of the first group of beta readers, told me the new ending was too shocking and upsetting. Thanks?

    Enough about me: Good luck with your next novel, and keep doing it your way.

  2. “The rebellion has other troubles . . .” XD

    Well, Mr. Renegade, first things first: *cheers* with that shot . . . because, well, as a writer, I have priorities 😛

    We’ve fought to be where we are, and we truly have only marketing to deal with mostly, and things keep changing to include us . . . just look at Amazon’s new Kindle Scout Program. Trying to win one over the Small Press and the indies . . . so . . . an in-between?

    Either way . . . I guess I’ll tune in to see how you’ll keep going against the crowd 😉

    :::Long live the rebels!:::

    • When writing I couldn’t decide if I was hearing more “Star Wars” theme music or Renegade by the X-Ambassadors lol. And yes, Cheers–I may write sober but my best ideas come from those shots!

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