Two Kinds of Indies

Let’s have an itsy-bitsy, polka-dot bikini look at the Indie Writer Stigma Syndrome. Independent writers have to face its consequences everyday; indie authors are no good. Indie books are plagued with typos, grammar issues, poor e-book formatting.

Now let’s have a look at other indie areas like indie games, indie musicians and indie movies. There seems to exist two kinds of Indies, for there are very few complains regarding these other areas of indie publishing. Yes, there also are bad auteur guys in those areas but… why aren’t they as maligned as indie writers? I saw a horrid indie movie the other day; the direction was sloppy and there were holes in its plot through which you could fly a Jumbo jet… and yet the movie has achieved cult status. I also heard music samples from an indie band and, though they weren’t my cup of tea (they sounded like cats in heat trapped in the spin cycle of a washing machine), I was amazed by the following they had. Well, at least no one was actively tossing rotten tomatoes at them.

Why this difference between indies? There are some paranoid minds out there that suggest its a conspiracy from the Big Six publishing houses to prevent the indie authors from gaining the recognition they deserve. That the B-6 have online trolls on payola to slander the poor, poor indie writers. And other similarly crazy ideas. Please, guys… go to the lab and have the bolts of your tinfoil hats tightened a little bit. The Big Six are just shooting themselves on the foot by running obsolete business models and rushing shoddy, overpriced and poorly edited books into the market. In their hurry to find the next Harry Potter, they have overlooked the small to medium authors who could easily get them sales in the 100-250K copies range if only they paid them some extra care.

Another school of thought is that readers initially embraced  the indie books with enthusiasm… and got burnt by their poor quality. Hence the readers hit back with a vengeance by shunning indie writers altogether. This is simply another crackpot theory. With the advent of the e-book, the possibility of sampling extensive sections of any writer’s body of work (and the generous return policies most e-book distributors provide), any reader who claims that he or she had been had by an indie book is just a spiteful individual who was idiotic enough to not check the quality of any given writer’s books. Of course, there are a few indie books out there which seem to have been written by those nearly-proverbial million chimpanzees constantly pecking the keys of a million typewriters, but I’ve also seen a few indie typo-ridden novels that are moderate bestsellers. So please, any adept to this theory are excellent candidates for the bolt-tightening routine.

I bring this up because I read an interesting theory yesterday, comparing the indie musicians with the indie writer. This theory claimed indie music had little problems being accepted because it was a communal thingy; something you’d appreciate while in the company of others… something to be enjoyed and shared. Reading an indie novel was more of a lonely thing, which is the main reason why problems seem to loom on the horizon. Interesting theory; it exposes a few good ideas, explains a few other… but I don’t truck entirely with it.

Here’s how I see it and my theory encompasses all indie creation areas that don’t have to deal with the Indie Writer’s Stigma: Indie music, movies and games are things which are easy to absorb. Any moderately good musician only has to find that great and catchy (but elusive) tune that will become a hit with the masses, sit on a bench park with his or her guitar and start singing to casual onlookers (and you’re forced to hear, even if you don’t like it; you’d have walk very far… enough to stop listening). If the player is talented and is onto something good he or she may go home with more than a few coins rattling inside the instrument’s case. Same with movies; you only have to sit in a darkened room and start watching the images projected on the screen. Indie games have certain issues beyond the scope of this post, but if they’re well designed and thought out, you’ll be easily hooked to them with only a few minutes of actual play.

What’s seems to be the difference between these areas and indie writers? These areas rely on communicating their concepts through some very basic senses: music by listening, movies by watching (coupled with hearing) and games by the tactile function of hand-eye coordination. If you haven’t caught it yet, well, here it is: all these activities barely require any decoding in your brain’s cognitive areas.

Reading isn’t like that; in spite of its visual nature, you’re forced to nudge your brain into decoding all those silly black symbols in front of you…even with the most perfectly edited text (and the most shinning grammar ever), your brain is working hard to piece together meaning and intent in the text the damn thing is trying to read. Your brain has to recall whose auntie was killed in chapter three to figure out who will be pushing daisies after chapter seven. It also has to project a reasonably filled timeline to understand why the flashback on chapter fourteen has such a tremendous impact earlier on chapter eight. All this is some very hard work, which is the reason why reading is in such decline on these intensively audiovisual times.

But why pick on indie writers, you may ask. Well, you can write the most vitriolic and sadistic review for the latest Stephen King’s book… and neither Penguin Books nor Mr. King will care a fig for your opinion, even if you are right and the book is absolute crap. Mr. King and his publisher are one, two or three layers away from the reading public. They’re buffered against your opinion….

Ahhh, but write a similar minus one review on the sales page for an indie writer’s book… and you know you’ll hit him or her with full impact. You know you’ll have reach on the poor guy or guyette’s ego the moment he does his twice-daily check on his sales ranking.

And you’ll be perfectly anonymous by means of the magic of the Internet.

You filthy troll, you…

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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