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A Spot Against The Sky.

Today a thirteen year old boy told me I was scary looking and, later, an eleven year old girl cried. It wasn't related to me--she'd just done badly with an exam. Still, I'm thinking a new kind of employment is required. One without humans. This shit is wearing thin.

However, I'd like to direct you all to the previous post on the independent and small press. There's some interesting things noted about why and how and terms (I'm quite taken with Jeff VanderMeer's idea that it should be called the independent press and not small, but I find that I can't quite see the local genre publications as independent, in the way that say, Wakefield Press could be seen). And, in line with that, you should check out Ben Payne's entry on the changing of one of the coolest titled 'zines out there, Potato Monkey. As for me, I'm going to write thesis notes and a bit of fiction and wonder what kind of shit kick human free work wouldn't cause me to kill you all with hate while giving me chunks of cash. I dream big.


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Aug. 28th, 2005 08:18 am (UTC)
>what kind of shit kick human free work wouldn't cause me to kill you all with hate<


>while giving me chunks of cash.<

Oh, right. Damn.
Aug. 28th, 2005 10:44 am (UTC)
i'm so boned.
Aug. 28th, 2005 11:32 am (UTC)
Personally i think both can be accurate. The "indy press" tag is more descriptive of places like Ministry Of Whimsy, Prime Books and Nightshade who publish stuff that wouldn't ordinarily been picked up by the mainstream publishers as it wouldnt' sell enough copies. The "small press" tag, when I use it deliberately, tends to refer more to POD publishers who just want to reap the success of the mainstream publishers for themselves so who just end up putting out more of the same crap that we'd be readin anyway - only it's often worse because it hasn't gone through the same editorial rigours.

I have far more respect for the Indy pressers because they are providing a genuine alternative for readers, often at the expense of their front-line costs whereas small publishers knock of similarly shitty books to the mainstream but don't even have the excuse of fiscal considerations to apologise for it.
Aug. 28th, 2005 11:56 am (UTC)
there are certainly small press places that just put out variations, it's true. for me though, i'm starting to think that small press is a term to signify a sort of breeding group of authors who support the products in terms of content and purchase, as a way to build their own voices and content. if i follow this line, i wonder how much of it would turn to self publishing if it didn't have such a bad rap round?

there's probably not any one way to look at it, though.
Aug. 28th, 2005 05:48 pm (UTC)
I've been on both sides of the fence with the small press/independent press/self-publisher argument. And yeah, if self-publishing WASN'T so stigmatized in SF, I think a lot of people would do it.

It's a perception issue, for the most part, not a quality issue. At the moment, if China Mieville self-published his next book, would anyone say it's because it wasn't publishable?

I brought up the point that Dave Eggers' work is always in McSweeneys - and an editor/writer friend said that it works for a literary press, but wouldn't in SF. My response: so if Asimove ran a story of his in ASIMOV'S MAGAZINE, it would be vanity?

One bookstore owner told another publisher (who writes) and I that it would be more professional for us to publish each other's work, instead of doing it ourselves; that even setting up a 'straw man' publisher would be better than our own names on the masthead.

I think that if it's publishable, that should be the sole criterial. He disagreed. But then again, he is a year overdue on two Argosy invoices and won't even respond to requests for payment, so I suppose he has a different standard of what constitutes 'professionalism.'

Aug. 29th, 2005 01:24 am (UTC)
yeah, i had the same conversation in one of my classes last week. one of the students is big in the comic scene, where self publishing carries (or it used to carry--it appears to be not so strong now) a badge of honour. to self publish was to have faith, to put your money where your mouth was, and resulted in some pretty impressive things. some crap as well, of course.
Aug. 29th, 2005 05:51 am (UTC)
Exactly why I don't agree with the SF community's assessment of self-publishing. I met with a respected comics agent way early on, and she told me all the things I needed to do to make my work suitable for the Big Companies.

I thanked her, and kept doing my own thing.

More than two dozen issues of STARCHILD, and collections in both hardcover and paperback, is what got me my first book contract - the editor was a STARCHILD fan. And the experience I got writing and illustrating that material is what pushed my work to a more professional and accessible level.

I don't know any other way I could have compelled that kind of training-under-fire.

Quality should be the only issue. And then the marketplace will determine whether it will succeed.

Aug. 29th, 2005 02:04 pm (UTC)
Indie Press
Also, I think there's a stigma involved with the term "small press," unfortunately. And that's the other reason I should have mentioned for "indie press" being a better term.

Aug. 30th, 2005 12:34 pm (UTC)
Yup. "Small" carries a definite stigma, I think; you might as well call it "Amateur Press" and have done with. I can't help but imagine just what kind of shitty impact Jim Jarmusch, Richard Linklater, the Coen Brothers, and so on might have had if we saddled Indie films with the label "Little Cinema". And I think the same principle could be applied to the music industry; I just can't think of Rough Trade, for example as a "Minor Label". So from a purely commercial "branding" viewpoint, I would have thought any producer working in whatever media would be in a whole lot better position when it comes to dealing with distribution and retail people if they see you as Indie rather than Small. Small implies Amateur / Hobbyist / Vanity. Indie implies Cult / Young / Hip.

But basically, it seems to me that it's a sensible terminology (rather than just shrewd marketing) because I think there's a comparable aesthetic or approach at work in movies, music and fiction. Major studios / labels / imprints have identities and those identities have limits; you're not terribly likely to get a movie about a transvestite serial killer coming out under the Disney logo, for example. And even working within those limits there's bound to be pressure from the marketing men and executive philistines keen for category product formulised to sell, sell, sell... and pressure against anything not currently fashionable. Rom-Com's are in. Girl Bands are out. High Fantasy's hit its peak. And so on. I can't see Sony signing up a barbershop quartet anytime soon.

So you have smaller-scale, independent production companies set-up by entrepreneurs who want to focus on the niches these bigger players haven't cottoned on to -- c.f. Island Records -- or by auteurs who want to free themselves from pressures to commercialise their work -- c.f. Zoetrope. Either way, that DIY spirit of "Fuck that shit, I'm going this way" seems to me to be a core strength shared by all the independents, no matter what media they're working in. Why book publishers don't play this angle for all it's worth is a mystery to me. I'm not suggesting heavy-handed posturing ("Yeah! Nobody tells us what to do! We're rebels!"), but surely it's just savvy to say "We're the literary equivalent of Rough Trade or the Coen Brothers" rather than "We're the literary equivalent of some kid playing with a four-track or a Super 8".

I'm tempted to go even further, in fact. I've taken to referring (in a vague hand-waving sort of way) to Indie Fiction -- as an analogy to the music/movie situation, where the term "Indie" has gradually shifted from originally simply referring to the production company to now referring to the underlying aesthetic of the creators. Such that we now have Indie bands like Nirvana released on DGC, or Indie movies like Lost In Translation financed by NBC Universal. I think you can map that aesthetic to a literary "Indie fiction", a sort of cultish / arthouse fiction, which is identified less by category definitions and more by the individuality and eclecticism in terms of influences and styles. But that's probably a whole 'nother conversation.
Aug. 30th, 2005 12:56 pm (UTC)

it'd be interesting to see how many authors have gone away from mainstream publishers for their publications, essentially going the indie road. i suspect there'd be a few. i didn't even bother with mainstream publishers when shopping round my book. the publishers are tiny (the colony exists still) and, i believe, ultimately conservative. after a couple of agents told me it was too niche, too dark, i just didn't bother.

but, that said

>Either way, that DIY spirit of "Fuck that shit, I'm going this way" seems to me to be a core strength shared by all the independents, no matter what media they're working in. Why book publishers don't play this angle for all it's worth is a mystery to me.<

i know a fair few authors i've met see the small/independent things as just stepping stones. use it to climb here. to build and audience. to get into a big publisher, where you can be seen more. there's nothing wrong with that, of course, but yeah, that's the general impression i've been left with.
Aug. 30th, 2005 03:12 pm (UTC)
>i know a fair few authors i've met see the small/independent things as just stepping stones. use it to climb here. to build and audience. to get into a big publisher, where you can be seen more.

Sure. The same can be said of Indie directors (like Roberto Rodriguez, for example) who make a feature or two off their own dime then jump at studio deals... or bands who build up followings while signed to a high-kudos, low-cash Indie label, then jump ship to Sony or EMI when offered the chance. But I guess I'd say Indie can be as much about self-starting entrepeneurs as uncompromising auteurs. And as you say, nothing wrong with that.
Aug. 31st, 2005 01:50 am (UTC)
that's true. it'd be a much more interesting thing to see, rather than the amatuer label that is so often thrown round, and which is perhaps connected to the money that is paid in the independent operations. in this genre at least, there's a big stigma against self publishing and low paying outfits--and sometimes with very good reason, of course.

anyhow, it's good to see you round, man.
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