Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Punk Rock Artisanal Author

Having just put my book into the sea of published books-

Punk rock is one of my favorite rock movements. Punk Rock was going against the establishment. One could argue the moment they sign a record deal that they were no longer ‘punk’ but when the original movement happened the idea of  ‘doing it all on your own’ wasn’t particularly feasible. Do punk genre novels reflect this ‘against the establishment’ ideal? I’m not sure and I might write about punk genres being or not being like punk music another time.

In the book publishing world, one has traditionally, small press, vanity press, indie publishing, and… I would like to add artisanal.

The traditional and small press, on the author’s part, involve query letters, slush piles, money, and time. This is a team of editors, cover artists, and a promotion's agent. It is hard for the author to break into this world and once let through the doors, there is a possibility of being kicked out if your book doesn’t sell well enough. Traditional publishing is the studio musician who is well-trained.

Vanity press, yes it still exist, is paying someone to print your book. Some say Indie publishing is vanity publishing, but Indie publishing is more complex. Vanity press is like the guy who made a CD of himself playing music in his garage and then gives it to his friends and family.

Indie publishing is the author venturing out with their book and either creates an ebook from the original manuscript or hires their own team of editors, cover artists, and promotion agents. When the author hires their own team, then in many cases, they are their own agent and perhaps create their own promotions. This is the trend and there is a ton of people willing to take your money to ‘help’ you put out a quality indie product and promote it. Indie publishing is the rock movement of the book selling business and I really like many rock bands.

Being of the mindset of going against the establishment, of wishing to embody the idea of punk, I’m embracing the idea of being an artisanal author. The word artisanal is mostly associated with creating small batches of fine food to sell. In being an artisanal author, I'm not really screaming at the indignities of the world like punk music, but more like sitting quietly in the corner working on crafting a quirky story.

I have had help in producing my novel just as an artisanal food maker has help from the dairy farm, their neighbors, and the farmers market or small grocer. An artisanal crafter will give out samples to entice you to buy their product. My samples are the flash fiction on this blog. The artisanal crafter tries to make their product unique and use traditional methods of creating their product. I try to write stories that question everyday norms while working on not to ending a sentence with a preposition.

The artisanal, indie, and vanity press author is hoping to be discovered and read by millions and perhaps enter the world of traditional publishing with a big contract. After going through all of the steps to create my first ebook and soon-to-be paper book, I like the artisanal feel of being in control of every step even though those steps take me away from writing the next book.


  1. I like the distinctions you make here, Alice. Although, I'm not sure I see much difference between indie and your artisanal. Perhaps it is one of degree. Certainly many who self-publish want to make big bucks. Others are simply content to have their work available. Rather like desktop publishing of several decades ago. I do see a similarity between artisanal book publishing and say the person selling handmade soap at the farmer's market. A fine quality product, but probably not one that will pull in millions. That written I know of one soapmaker who ended up doing just that! So there you have it. :)

    More importantly, I think you hit on the key notion behind this battle between self-publishing and traditional publishing and that is the punk aspect of doing it on your own outside the mainstream and therefore not being subject to the mainstream rules.

    For myself, when I looked at the two the choice was simple. My sister had already been stonewalled by the traditional world because her YA book didn't fit the norm. It was too long. Great story, but too long for a never before published writer. Bunk. Pure bunk.

    The additional issue with traditional publish was they offer very little support to new writers. I, the new writer, must hire my own editor and proofreader and have my platform (social media network) in place and pay for my own advertising. Now how is that any different from self-publishing? It isn't. Except I make less money. Ten percent royalty, give or take, and pay the agent 15% of what I get. For decades everyone has known first books rarely make money. Depending on how bad the loss, the publisher may or may not want to see your next book. Bunk.

    As an indie author, I have nothing to lose. I control my own work. I can publish something the mainstream guys and gals wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. Or I can publish something they might love. I can advertise or not. But I never have to be in fear of the publisher remaindering my work. I'm in control of that too. I don't need someone holding my hand. I don't need someone's approval. Let the reader decide.

    Great post. I think your distinctions make sense and most importantly, spell out why doing it yourself is the better way to go.

  2. Interesting, Alice. I do like the distinction you make between Vanity and Indie. That's very good. It should become a definition. Still, looking at some of the writers that moan on Goodreads, I still see elements of 'vanity' in 'indie'... perhaps it is 'vanindie'?

    I think I see what you're getting at regarding artisanal compared to indie. Money being the key. As I've said in a number of places, indie-publishing is very much geared to the wealthy. Not particularly those rolling in money, but certainly for those that have stable jobs with spare income or those who might be retired with adequate pensions.

    If you believe all the tweets and click-bait articles on 'how to become a better writer', then you'll know that you need money. Lot's of it. You are cautioned, usually by 'industry insiders' and roving bands of 'elitist' indie authors, that if you don't the spend money then your work will be deemed unprofessional, substandard, and unreadable.

    Of course, it's all hogwash. Yes, there are some dreadful books out there that have been published the very moment the author finished typing 'the end'. Yet there just as many beautifully formatted books that I would rather someone extricate my eyeballs with a rusty spoon than have to read another sentence. By learning our craft, we can improve not only our writing skill but also those skills that go hand-in-hand with it. It's too easy to hire people to do the work for you and you don't learn anything from it. Making mistakes helps you grow and the scars ensure you don't make them again. I think far too many people take the easy option that money can buy without ever considering D.I.Y. Probably because a great many are in it for the money.

    Personally, I see... well, I can't find a rhyming word for it... but I see artisanal as the 'bottom feeders' of indie publishing (I'm one of them) just like Punk was an offshoot of hard-edged rock that came out of the 60's and took root in the 70's by those that sought to eschew mainstream success. In this case, its focus is upon words.

    Despite that, I don't see anything wrong in approaching the 'mainstream' traditional route. Having a back catalogue of self-published work is surely of benefit when it comes to making that approach. It doesn't cost anything (other than a few stamps from my experience) and you can work on other projects whilst querying. If nothing comes from it then you can always self-publish. I have to say, I never encountered what CW Hawes has stated about potentially having to fund his own team. I'm sure it happens, but that is certainly not the case across the board.

    Hmm. Maybe we should start a group... "Punk Fiction"... "Pens n' Papers"... "The Clatter (of keys)"

    Sorry. I'm tired... please excuse me while I shuffle off ;)

  3. CW and Crispian, you both make great points. I, personally, don't want to be labeled in the slightest as being vanity publishing. I really feel as if I've done the work to produce a good story and I know it is not mainstream. Genre writing is hard to find one's niche, and therefore, hard to find an agent or a publishing house. On Facebook, I just read about an author getting a contract - Yeah- and then she stated the release date - 2017. Really! In the age of computers and ebooks, the traditional route still takes two years to put out a book. Especially a first book that probably has gone through beta's and editors already. It seems like that can kill a writer's momentum and she'll still have to do a lot of promoting her book herself. I admit I have a lot to learn in all aspects of writing and putting my work out to the public. It will probably take two years to have a handle on it. I've chosen this route and I would rather label it impatient, stubborn, indie, artisanal publishing than deal with the establishment...maybe I'm more punk than I think. ;-)

    1. None of us want to be vanity authors :)

      Interestingly though self-publishing, or vanity publishing as it was known, has been around for a great many years. Just like you, me, and CW (and a host of others), the frustration of publishing niche books or extended release dates encouraged others to put their work out there by whatever means they could.

      Where would we have been without those great authors that self-published some of their works? Authors such as Lewis Carroll, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Poe, and Kipling just to name a few. In 1901, a woman called Beatrix Potter self-published a story about a rabbit called Peter. Jane Austen even paid a publisher to print "Sense and Sensibility" back in 1811.

      Perhaps 'Punk' was born back then... and perhaps it's still alive today ;)

    2. Thanks Crispian, I hate to say that I was ignorant as to those big names of the past who have self-published.
      Yes, starting a group is a fine idea.

    3. Self-publishing is the original publishing. Homer didn't go to an agent or an editor at Penguin. Neither did Euripides or Plato or Seneca or Virgil or Dante or... You get the point. :) Indie publishing is nothing new. We all stand in a great tradition. It is those "traditionally" published folks who are really out of the fold.

      And you are right, Alice, 2 years to get a book on a shelf in this day and age is preposterous. But the Big 5 and even the small press are invested in the way things have been done for the last 50 or 100 years. They are invested in paper books and book stores. Nothing wrong with those and in fact a lot is right. But this is a new age and technology moves on for good or for ill.

      I'm not ashamed to have my name put along side of those authors Crispian mentioned. I hope my writing will be as good. They are certainly a fantastic inspiration.