Indie Authors Naked

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Indie Authors Naked, edited by Loren Kleinman, $16.99 (IndieReader)

As much as I admire self-published authors, Indie Authors Naked made me realize that I didn’t fully respect or understand what it means to be indie.

I’ve read many collections that take the reader through a famous writer’s disciplined schedule, offered up some advice on how to write like them and listed how many hours or pages they wrote per day, as if they are flawless, magical machines too great to replicate. None of that really matters or helps much. Why? Because there was no heart or feeling in such features. The genuine writer behind the story could not be found.

Loren Kleinman’s interviews feel like a conversation over lunch, asking writers the questions you really want to know.  Is it easy to write? Is the literary novel dead? How do you deal with rejection? When was the last time a bestseller was asked these questions? Just as the indie writer challenges the status quo, Kleinman steers from the pretty answers and wants the real deal.

Take for example, Ted Heller, son of Catch-22 writer, John Heller. The protagonist in his novel Pocket Kings, mirrors Ted Heller’s publishing experience. Kleinman boldly asks Heller if the main character, Frank Dixon, is a satirical look at today’s publishing industry. Heller replies:

“The main target of my derision in Pocket Kings, though, is not publishing…it’s myself and people like me: people who think that writing and publishing are part of a noble process and not a business. …I think at some point in the book Frank Dixon is talking to a sleazy publisher and they’re talking about how publishers today wouldn’t publish books like Blood Meridian anymore if they didn’t sell, that if an author wrote four or five great novels but they didn’t sell, his or her publisher would drop them even if the books were masterpieces.” 

Heller says he stands by that statement, even though 75% of most editors would deny it. It is a soul-crushing truth that he and many indie authors echo throughout the collection. Yet, it is their determination and successful testimonies—not in the sense of financial gain and popularity,  but knowing the book they wanted to write got in the hands of readers—that can start to sway the reader or aspiring writer to opt for self-publishing.

“As for being indie, it has changed my life,” says Raine Miller, New York Times bestselling author. “I have two conventionally published novels with a small press. Those two books had some moderate success and provided valuable learning opportunities for me about writing and publishing, but going indie for The Blackstone Affair, has opened doors for me that would never (have) happened if I’d submitted the books to a publisher initially.”

As honest the responses were, so too were the essays. Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, I was not impressed with James Franco’s whose essay on OHWOW Books sounded more like a commercial prop than a sentimental note such as, David Gatewood who developed a close friendship with Hugh Howey, to whom he sent an email with the subject line, “162 errors in Wool.” Howey asked him to proofread his next novel, First Shift.

Pilate’s Cross author J. Alexander Greenwood taught Eden Baylee that “respect transcends genres” after they began reading each other’s work “and an immediate bond formed.”

Holly Robinson went on a writing retreat where she met Blood Orchids author Toby Neal, in person, and discovered “at least one writer on the planet whose rhythms match” her own.

These personal accounts praising both the art of the writers and the friendship developed between two artists, are what make Indie Authors Naked exceptionally unique. It is one collection I would turn to and read over and over again. And there are few books that make me want to do that.

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MALMonique Antonette Lewis, founder of At The Inkwell, sits on the board of the New York Writers Resources. She is also the fiction editor and co-founder of the quarterly ezine, City Lit Rag.

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