Naming Myself, sans Animosity

In the evenings, Mr. Aniko and I cook dinner together. As the ingredients come together to form our meal, we share the stories of our days. We talk about work, about things we overheard, about the strange dude who always dresses like he’s planning to hike Mt. Everest and is never, ever sans black-rimmed goggles. We also discuss things we’ve read. It should come as no surprise that I read a lot about writing and publishing. One question I brought to a recent dinner-prep discussion was, “Does the term ‘indie writer’ confuse you or anyone you have spoken to about my writing career?” Mr. Aniko paused by the stove, wooden spoon in hand. “No,” he said. “Why?”

I gave him a quick recap of Jonathan D. Allen’s riposte to Sarah LaPolla’s assertion that calling myself ‘indie’ “only confuses people who want to self-publish and pisses off actual independent publishers.” According to LaPolla, the term independent is reserved for small presses, and that authors who follow the publication route I did with Stolen Climates should refer to themselves as self-published. That is not a new definition of either of those terms and, in fact, is not really interesting. What is interesting is that LaPolla’s main point in her post is that  there needn’t be animosity between the big publishing industry and those of us who go it alone. Yet in something that reads more like an afterthought than a legitimate part of her argument, LaPolla writes “AND STOP CALLING YOURSELVES INDIE [sic caps].” In both content and delivery, the phrase comes across as calibrated to provoke.

I don’t harbor any ill-will towards traditional publishing or agents or the entire money-plex that is publishing. I choose to publish my books myself, not out of desperation, but because I do not want to take the traditional route. I am not tired of waiting to get an agent or a contract – those aren’t things I even want.

No. I want full creative control. Independent self-publishing gives me that.

I don’t view myself as stigmatized, held-back, unprofessional, impatient, bitter, in a civil war with legacy publishing, or any of the other terms LaPolla uses to characterize some sub-set of non-traditionally published authors. I would like to think that if LaPolla knew my work, my ethic, and my honest dedication to the craft,  I would be one of the independently self-published writers giving her hope. Her hope, however, is ancillary. As a writer, I don’t want my words to confuse anyone:  not other writers, and certainly not potential readers.

Is it confusing when I say I’m an independent author?

I take full creative risk. I take full financial risk. I am an entrepreneur. I am sole proprietor of a legally recognized LLC that handles the business aspects of publication. I am a manager, contracting out and coordinating cover design, editing, beta reads. I choose to create something maybe only five people in this world will ever truly love, and I do it because I believe in my vision. I work weekends. I write in the pre-dawn dark. I skip lunch dates, happy hours, picnics, and movies – both to save money to put towards my editing fees, and to buy myself more time to write. I don’t ask anyone for permission to bring my dream to the world. I decide for myself. In every way I can see, I am as independent as the singers and the film companies that fly the indie banner. Independent isn’t an industry term that legacy publishing can demand I relinquish as if I am impersonating a small press. In fact, I am a small press; my LLC exclusively publishes works by Aniko Carmean.

You can call me what you want, but I’ll call myself indie.

In the very lengthy and active comments column, Sarah LaPolla acknowledges that maybe the term is changing. I quote her,

“I’m getting the sense that the “self vs. indie” label is one that’s currently in transition, and that I just haven’t made the shift yet. Like many others in the business who were only familiar with the traditional definition of “indie,” I probably won’t come around to it for a while. “

LaPolla isn’t alone. Big media of any type is not keeping up. That’s why we see indie artists producing break-out hits like The Guild web series and best-seller books like Ania Ahlborn’s Seed. Yes, both of these examples have led to contracts, but they started as people following their own dream, and working outside of the confines of their media tradition. The independents are agile in their response, and understand that the audience isn’t “out there,” but here – right here! – interacting on the web. Authenticity, agility, and direct human access to the audience are changing the shape of entertainment. Unlike LaPolla, I wouldn’t characterize this as civil war. I call it revolution.