This week's willing victim/guest blogger is independent author David Mark Brown, creator of the Reeferpunk genre and author of Fistful of Reefer, The Austin Job and blog, Yarns from the Green Porch.
He agreed to add to the conversation about the best and the worst of the independent author. In return, he is publishing my post, this time on "what it is, and is not, to be an independent author," on his blog. Check it out! But first, read his words, below:
Warning: If this were a novel, its story arc would be unfulfiling and gimmickly gutless. But it's a blog post, so that makes it clever and honest. (I don't make the rules, I just manipulate them.)
Entering year three of my full-time indie career has given me good reason to contemplate the sanity as well as effectiveness of my career choice. It is not a simple decision to quit your reliable day job while several of your friends are being laid off, sell your home, move your soon to be family of four, and begin a new life that guarantees you no income for at least two years. But that's how I roll.
Now that I've eclipsed the two year mark it's time to come clean with the worst and best so far.
The Worst: Pushing content into the market place before it was ready.
The Best: Having the courage to jump before I knew what I was doing.
Yes, these are essentially the same things. But before you click away in disgust, cliché can sometimes be truth. Let me explain. Within the indie business dual truths are always at play.
- The professional shall differentiate.
- The stoopid shall rule.
Pushing out my first novel, Fistful of Reefer, with the wrong title and before I understood what sort of story it was, proved to be the worst decision of my fledgling career. To top it all off, I decided to create my own "Reeferpunk" genre thus alienating the vast majority of my readership before they dare read the first words. (As it turns out, folk in the United States are still rather touchy about marijuana.)
I failed to research the market and digest the hard numbers. Readers won't love something new the first time they see it, no matter how good it is. I wanted to be fresh/original while making a living as a writer. I'm not yet saying that these two desires are antithetical, but they require a long, hard look at reality. Porn and Mystery thrillers are were the money is, not in weird Western dieselpunk.
So, while Fistful of Reefer was ill-defined and ultimately unsatisfying for most readers, and marketed so poorly that many readers wouldn't touch it with a stolen Kindle, it was professionally written, copy edited, formatted and covered. Thus, Fistful was more of a sacrifice fly than a total whiff at the plate. This leads to the second truth within the indie business. The stoopid shall rule.
2.) stoo·pid/ˈst(y)o͞opid/(adjective): combination of ignorance and laborious effort. (Yes, I made it up. I'm just that stoopid!) In his recent book, Do the Work, Steven Pressfield discusses the allies and enemies of creative (and therefore heroic) effort. Number one on the list of allies is stupidity. He says:
"The three dumbest guys I can think of: Charles Lindbergh, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill. Why? Because any smart person who understood how impossibly arduous were the tasks they had set themselves would have pulled the plug before he even began. Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway. How do we achieve this state of mind? By staying stupid."
Thus, staying stoopid has easily been the best thing I've done. By summer 2012 I will have published three novels and seven shorts within the same alternate history universe and within the span of 30 months. I will have rebranded the entire series as "The Lost DMB Files" rather than "Reeferpunk," in order to reflect nearly a hundred hours of market research. I will have put the same energy and effort into the shorts as the novels. Every one of these works will include a new introduction written by a fictional character who will be the main protagonist of a new series of books (more commercially viable), the first of which will be released by the end of 2012.
Plus, I will release a re-visioned version of my first novel, Fistful of Reefer, that will finally reflect how it should have been written in the first place. And this sort of re-release is a perfect example of the evolving publishing industry. Never in history would such brazen flaunting of the rules be anything other than deadly. But in today's world, I can simply upload the new version, and only a few hundred people (now including you) will ever know the difference.
Sure, the last two years have been filled with ignorance, error and overreaching. I've at times looked the ass. But if the modern, entrepreneurial writer is stoopid enough to endure these failures and smart enough to learn from them, then success will be attained. Check on my progress at www.davidmarkbrownwrites.com and sign up for updates in order to join me over the rainbow!