"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, November 18, 2011

Popcorn for the brain

At one time in my youth, I pictured myself as a literary novelist. You know, the Serious Writer, who wears black and sits at the Big Kids Table. If you fast-forward a couple of years, you know that didn't exactly happen. I write humor and mysteries. They are not Deep Metaphorical Life Lessons. They are easy to read, digest, and perhaps forget. I only say that because, of all the mysteries I like to read, many of them are satisfying reads but few of them stick to my ribs.

I have no problem embracing who I am as a writer. When I am in the middle of writing, I am quite serious about finishing the piece, even if it is not a Serious piece. I do wear a lot of black because it's slimming (I'm told). And I don't believe it's sour grapes to think the Big Kids Table isn't as much fun as the Little Kids, where you get to tell jokes and spill stuff and then run off to play as soon as you've convinced the grown-ups you're FULL.

My son and I were talking about what it means to be an "independent" artist. There are people who grit their teeth and argue that self-published authors are NOT "independent authors". They equate the word "indie" with indie film and indie music, all of which takes a team of people and has some financial backing, so that more than one person has vetted the work and believes in it enough to get it in front of the masses. An indie author needs only to write a book, make a cover for it, and upload it on Smashwords. Ta.Da.

"Books and music are really apples and oranges," my wise, music-major son said. "Indie music was developed to fill a need for people who didn't fit the mold of popular, Top 40 stuff, whatever the style. It was for stretching the boundaries of what music should sound like. Although I'm sure indie artists wanted an audience, they were looking more for the niche, cult group of loyal listeners. Some groups even lost fans when they started to become more popular."

The other point he made about music that makes it difficult to compare is, with most listeners, as long as it's got a beat and the singer isn't godawful, it has a chance of being accepted. There aren't 'typos' or 'grammatical errors' to interfere with the listening pleasure, and it's so brief, compared to reading a book. It interests you for a few minutes or it doesn't and you move on. When you've invested several chapters into a book and keep seeing the author use it's for its, you get a little pissy. You don't listen to a song and tear at your hair, saying, "It should be E Major, you fools!"

At least, I don't.

This made me think about the music and movies made by "indie" artists. Sure, they're passed through a bunch of hands and developed using state-of-the-art technology and someone believed enough in them to toss money their way, but at the end of the day, they can still make dreck. Good-looking dreck, but it's like putting sewage in a Waterford glass. The packaging might look lovely, but the insides reek.

I think the self-published authors out there can call themselves Indies, without trying to fit into the film or music model. They are, for their own reasons, doing things the way they want them done. And no matter how many hands touch their manuscript, and how pretty the cover is, and how well formatted it is, they could be writing dreck. Vetting is no guarantee of quality.

So, just for the record, I'd like to state that I am an Indie author of mysteries and humor. My books are not going to fill your cultural cravings. They are popcorn for your brain.

Just like this:

BTW, I still don't know what it means, and I want the moves like Jagger.

Have a great weekend, and tune in on Sunday for another chapter of HIT OR MISSUS.


Tameri Etherton said...

I totally want the moves like Jagger, too!

Intriguing post, Gayle. You've got an interesting point about indie films and music ~ absolutely right that books are a whole different animal. I guess I don't understand the debate. I mean, indie or self-pubbed, why does one have to be worse than the other? Why are we writers looking for ways to tear each other down? Seems rather pointless.

I'm trying to figure out how to share this on Twitter because I think you're so awesome.

Gayle Carline said...

Thanks, Tameri. And yet, I never feel that awesome after I read your blog. Instead, I feel like folding my table and leaving the bazaar - you're such a good and funny writer!

I'm not certain who these people are, but I suspect some of them either have traditional publishing deals or they have been severely burned by self-published crap. I honestly don't think most people care how any book got published, as long as they like it.

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