Friday, October 3, 2014

Independent Authors? Not Really

"What have you written, madam?"
"A...a book. I call it a novel."
"And for whom do you write?"
"Literate Society."
(brain fragments)

I've been arranging my blog tour for Anon, Sir, Anon. The "birthday party" will extend from the release date (November 5th) through the course of a week (November 11th). There will also be a super fun giveaway, so please keep your eyes out for this. Also, I got the proof of Anon, Sir, Anon in the mail. I am now reading through it and seeing what needs tweaking before sanctioning the thing entire.  Yesterday, I crept into a real-live library with my proof copy and wandered among the stacks feeling terribly clandestine. I also made the "mistake"  of picking up Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye and flipping to the first page. I have this thing about the beginning of novels. I like to see how great writers achieve what they achieve. Gosh, he's good:
"There was a girl beside him. Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Roll's Royce look like just another automobile. It didn't quite. Nothing can."
Stephen King talks about good description making a reader "prickle with recognition." That description up there made me prickle. I love being in awe of certain lines. Of course, Anon, Sir, Anon doesn't measure up to Raymond Chandler--I don't pretend it does--but I was still proud to carry it into that library and leave with it in my hands and think quietly to myself, "November fifth is not so far off."
Feeling awkward while posing in a parking lot after a long workday. Hence, my scarf is awry.

There is a common failing among young authors who are striving to find a balance between humility and pride in their work, and this failing could be labeled as "comparison". The prideful crowd always overestimates the value of their literary contribution and seems to think that they've written something award-winning (it happens, but rarely). The humble crowd lets comparison become the thief of joy and can barely lift their heads to realize that they've gifted the world with something better than Captain Underpants, and there's something in that. My natural bent is to fall in the latter category, but as I've grown in my craft and as a person (the two often entwined) I have come to realize that you have to have a bit of both. And it can be hard. I am easily swayed into thinking little of my writing when I read something like old fancy-pants Chandler's Roll's Royce line, but the thing that really gets my goat is when I read something fabulous by one of my "colleagues." It's easy for anyone to admit that Raymond Chandler is a better writer than most. I mean, really now, how many people have reached that level of legend? But when you get "pen-slain" by a someone in your genre, your age-group, or in your pool of writing friends, it can be debilitating. I know I am never more vulnerable than when comparing my work to the work of someone in my world. It's really a hard-scrabble thing. We're both young hopefuls who have poured a considerable amount of time, effort, creativity, (and money) into the product we present to the public...and we are, after a fashion, competitors. I don't have a fighting spirit about most things. I take simple pleasure in lines of my own that I think are especially good and I am just as quick to applaud someone else. I've never understood the shrinking-pie mentality of some people that make them reluctant to interrupt their blogging schedule to announce a colleague's release, or refuse to mention a contemporary's book they've read and enjoyed for fear of distracting the readership down other avenues than their own novel.

We call ourselves independent authors but we're really terribly dependent on just about everything except a publisher. We depend on readers to buy our books, we depend on readers to review our books, we depend on readers to recommend our books. We depend on bloggers to blog about our releases, giveaways, or sales, we depend on fellow writers to let us peek into their pool and share a little of their untapped resources. The prideful among us keep these resources to themselves and do well for a while--I am reminded of Dickens's description of Blandois in Little Dorrit:
"He had a certain air of being a handsome man--which he was not; and a certain air of being a well-bred man--which he was not. It was mere swagger and challenge; but in this particular, as in many others, blustering assertion goes for proof, half over the world."

By putting themselves out as as the best thing since squeezed lemons, the prideful crowd gains a following. That following, however, grows very slowly. The prideful crowd wants homage paid, but refuses to pay for homage. They are never against being featured on a writing blog (provided it has at least five-hundred followers), but as to featuring someone on their blog, well they really couldn't possibly fit it in anytime in the next three months. The humble crowd, on the other hand, is easily immobilized. They forget all about networking, being involved in a community, and publicity of any sort because, really, who would want to bother with their book when there are so many others--much finer--in the world? 

Surely there is a peaceful shore between the two. I am constantly striving to think enough of my work while still admitting the extent of my talents and abilities, and I have so much enjoyed becoming a more active part of my indie-author community. We do depend on each other and none of us are so fabulous as to be able to succeed without a boost from our companions. That being said, The Inkpen Authoress is available to help those of you who need that hand. I want to lend my blog space, my readers, my friends, my community to support up-and-coming authors. I couldn't succeed in my indie-publishing journey without you. You can't succeed without others either. Let's stop comparing and continue working together.

Much Love,


Unknown said...

Great post. I agree with you a 110% It can be very humbling to read great writing from peers or friends. Especially if, like in my case, some of your friends happen to be several years younger. I can't help but be in awe at how fantastic some of the younger generation can be. :) It makes me sad to think that there are some writers that, because of their pride and selfishness, will never find joy in sharing the journey with their friends or helping others to succeed. To me, there is little better than to have a circle of friends that can applaud each other's achievements, lift each other up when we criticize our own work more than we should, and give input to help one another improve! I love the idea of sharing your blog. We could all use a little more of that spirit in the writing community.

Suzannah said...

Rachel, I've learned an enormous amount of things about self-publishing from you, and this is not least among them--I was so encouraged by your email soliciting advance reviewers for ASA, in which you said something like, "I'm sure you must all know how impossible it is for me to do this without you."

Because it's so true :).

Hayden said...

Oh, how true this is. I was just thinking about it the other day and trying to find that balance in my own writing.

But thanks for this post- it's definitely been encouraging. :)

Rachel Heffington said...

@Julieann, isn't the younger realm fascinating? I am always challenged!
@Suzannah, I am glad I've been on some help...I have had so much help myself. I'm pleased to have the chance to spread it!
And Hayden, aren't we all always striving for that balance?