There are different kinds of pioneers: the pioneers of invention, who create something new, and the pioneers of re-invention -- who recreate something new from something old or bring back something that was thought lost.Once upon a time, a storyteller told stories to an audience. The cavemen drew stories on walls, making them the original graffiti artist storytellers: they did not need a literary cave agent to get him a traditional cave publisher to give him permission to do it. No best-selling cave lists promotional cave tours, or Oprah's cave club, either.
Stories were told to groups, then came tablets, papyrus, and theatre. Then along came the printing press, but as literacy was a luxury not everyone had, stories were passed down with new generations retelling the stories they heard from older generations.
Some storytellers had patrons. Some, such as Aesop, were slaves who made their ways as storytellers.
But for those who chose to be storytellers, they were independent.
Eventually, publishing houses came into being and evolved, and with it, came those who could convince gate-keepers to let their clients in and so the book agent was born. The system favoured those who could convince a publisher to validate their work.
Anyone who took the self-publishing route was stigmatized, and more often, taken advantage of by dubious vanity presses. Some had their works published by friends who were in publishing, and while they self-published by proxy, they could hide their little secret and pretend it was an accomplishment, and avoid the D-list status.
No one saw those who bypassed the system as an independent author.
I had three books published the traditional way: Two nonfiction books by the New York City publisher The Disinformation Company and one fiction book by a British publisher called bluechrome.
I had enormous leeway and freedom, but not as much as one would think. The freedom I had was with *content*, but not *structure*. There, the author was on a choke collar. I still had to conform in many ways and while I am grateful for the experience, I also knew the creative art of storytelling was stagnate somehow, but how pit was stalling was hard to see, especially as I had to focus on producing books.
Then I began to think about the problem in earnest after my third book was published.
I was blogging at the time with my own hard news website, but somehow I began to veer into fiction as well. Blogging was fun as I had no one setting rules for me...and with the freedom, I began to wildly experiment.
It always came back to the fiction, and eventually, I wrote a book that was a series of interconnected short stories that could all be read separately, but together, formed a cohesive novel. I was extremely happy with the results, but I immediately took the manuscript to the way I knew cold, the traditional publisher, in my case three publishers.
They loved the concept, but always had some sort of stipulation that irked me. The protagonist wasn't slutty enough -- or she wasn't wussy enough, depending on who you asked. She was atypical as a character, a prim and proper punk as I refer to her. Magnus Lyme drinks tea and looks like a dainty fashion plate, but she is a world-class computer hacker and kicks bad guys in the groin when they threaten her. She loves to look after rescue animals and make jewelry, but she also loves her profanity-laced Swedish punk, science fiction novels, and puts global bullies and tyrants in their place, making it no wonder she is known as The World's Most Dangerous Woman.
An atypical character like that told in an atypical structure like that is not going to be easy to place, but I had another puzzle: how do I put out a book like that? Do I compromise, changing her into some slutty wuss/wussy slut (whatever *that* means) and just go the old way?
Not Alexandra's style, kids!
What about self-publishing?
There is that pesky stigma, for one. And for another, vanity presses overcharge and under-deliver, though these days, some self-publishing companies can offer more than *any* Canadian book publisher, for instance, which is saying something. There was no way I was gong to ignore what I knew about self-publishing and take a gamble.
But I was willing to take a risk.
What if I could take the best of both? EBook publishing could turn a published author into an *independent author*: I could be a free agent, putting out my own stories on my own schedule in my own way.
Suddenly, I could see why publishing was so stagnate: authors were so creative with their content, that they forgot to question being creative with their *structure*, taking it either for granted, or seeing it as some divine truism that would make their stories fall apart if they were tinkered with or completely gutted and remodelled.
I had the experience, focus, and discipline to wade into the anarchy and see a new way of doing things. I was free and I was wild, playing with structures, finding one I loved, dubbing it Matriarchal Storytelling (if you want to find out what that means, I have links to my thoughts on the matter at the bottom of this entry).
I did not know what to expect, but considering my stories were being read, at least I knew that I was on the right track, and I have put out print versions of some of my stories without a vanity publisher to do it.
It is not self-publishing: it is learning to become an independent author. I know I am not the only one, but the notion of the indie author is still in its infancy. It takes a different mindset to understand the differences, but if artists do not need a publisher to sell their works, then authors do not need a traditional or vanity publisher to do it, either.
What indie authors need is a reliable way to do it without the old stigma of self-publishing.
We need our outlets, venues, promotion, and marketing. We need our own platforms to explain our work. We need our own showcases to introduce our writing to audiences, and we need the freedom to experiment and create.
But most of all, we need to embrace the notion of being an independent author. It is not the same as being a traditional author; it is better. We are the visionaries, experimenters, incubators, inventors, trendsetters, pioneers, and risk-takers. We can create new genres, schools of style, structures, and gold standards to creativity. We need no validation. We need no permission.
What we need is to push forward as we forge our own new path in order to take off and take storytelling to the incredible heights they can go by going back to our roots where stories where shared without anyone meddling and getting in our way.
*Musings from the Tower of Babel: Matriarchal Storytelling*