You must read, you must persevere, you must sit up nights, you must inquire, and exert the utmost power of your mind. If one way does not lead to the desired meaning, take another; if obstacles arise, then still another; until, if your strength holds out, you will find that clear which at first looked dark. -- Giovanni Boccaccio
In my time on this blog -- in the self publishing arena in general -- if there is one thing that I have noticed about serious self-published authors is that they don’t lack perseverance. Notice I used the word “serious.” Just take a walk around the Lulu forums and you will see what I mean by not serious. Serious = Successful. There is a lot to deal with for a self-published author: they know the stakes and the stigma going in. They know it’s not just about working on your manuscript and slapping it up over on Lulu with a stock cover and then getting your friends and family to write reviews for you on Amazon. Being a successful self-published author is about more than paying a subsidiary press to do all the work for you, as well. A successful self-published author is not a stat monger either, nor is it about book sales or reviews or anything like that. A successful self-published author might even be a little nutty in the ole noggin. Why you ask, and what on earth does that have to do with being successful? Well, in my eyes, no matter the obstacles involved, the successful self-published author always seems genuinely happy with what they are doing and how they are doing it. Not in a trying to prove something to somebody sort of way, or a prove something to themselves sort of way, but a happy because they love what they are doing way. They’ll say it’s satisfying on whatever masochistic level you rate these things and that they are truly happy.
Being a successful self-published author is about more than a passion for the art. It’s about passion for the business model. It takes an ungodly amount of perseverance and it also takes an anarchist’s entrepreneurial spirit. It takes thick skin and broad shoulders, and more importantly, it takes humility, not vanity. Delusion doesn’t work, and the combative nature of arrogance doesn’t work well either. The writers I have reviewed on this site might think deeply and appear generally affected most of the time, but when you manage to wrench them away from their muse long enough to get a smile out of them, you know instantly where their heart is and why. It’s on the craft and anything that directly affects them. Anything that helps better their approach or get their art into the world is acknowledged and accounted for with style and grace.
I have met many such authors. Yes, you will rarely see a bad review from me on this site. I’ll be honest and say I don’t like wasting my time writing bad reviews, and I don’t like wasting the blog reader’s time either. The reason I don’t like writing them is that I am a hard-ass reviewer. I don’t have time to read crap, slapped together, poorly edited, poorly written and executed self-published work. I am not talking about a typo or two, those get by no matter what. What I look for in a self-published book is high concept and a command of the language. I want fearless, edgy, not necessarily overt, though I don’t mind explicit content. I want to think when I read. I don’t want to read a mass-market action-film styled book or some tarted up cliché romantic comedy or anything even remotely like *Twilight*. They might be good, but I am just not into them. I think Indie art is about being different than the mainstream, in subject matter and in narrative style and voice. That of course is just my opinion. I am sure there are Indies who write mainstream and do it well. It’s just not my thang. I am more of a drama gal, and I like books that dig deeply into the socio-political psyche of humanity: Think American Psycho or Fight Club and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what I like. I like gritty, satirical, overtly sexual, statement making books. I like ugly unsympathetic characters too, and I love high philosophy with the romantic leanings of an existentialist. I don’t need a catchy opening line, I don't need the characters' motivations drilled into my head, and I don't need a plot driven manifesto. I just need to feel that the author had command over and an appreciation of their concept, and I can tell that from the first couple of pages. During my tenure as a Peep, I have been lucky that most of the books I have read and reviewed have fit that dictate -- tall order that it is.
The reason why most of the books I have reviewed here fit is because the authors who wrote them are serious, and I selected them because I am a serious reader. These Authors are well read. They have a deep respect for the language and the craft, and they are savvy when it comes to the industry. A serious self-published author is always asking questions and looking for new ways to express their concept. They have tenacity and a willingness to walk down the less travelled path. They are also willing to make course corrections along the way.
With the ebook pricing war in full swing, Indie authors are in the best possible position when it comes to filling the market’s need for content at a reasonable price. Reading habits are changing; purchasing habits are changing, and I feel a short fiction revival coming on. Once Smashwords gets their distribution kinks worked out, they will be the premier Digital Distribution source for Indie Authors. Serious Indie authors are nimble enough and open-minded enough to seize the opportunities that the changing marketplace is offering. And they’ve certainly got the chutzpah to do it too.
Cheryl Anne Gardner
The Art this week is “Sisyphus” by Franz Von Stuck 1920