Tuesday, 27 July 2010

5 Things Spider-man Can Teach The Independent Author

Admit it. You've thought about it. In the deepest, darkest depths of your procrastination, the thought has occurred to you. What can be learned from Spidey?

Well, laochs, we're here to tell you what Spider-man (as presented in the movies) can teach you.

Just Because You're Young Doesn't Mean You Can't Kick Ass

There's a scene in Spidey two when the hero is unmasked. Folk on the train he is on are shocked by his age, with one dude commenting that Spidey is the same age as his kid. Yes Spiderman is young, but the villains are always older (with the exception of two, one of whom is redeemed and the other who is symbiontly joined to an alien creature that is possibly very old).

Spider-man is very much youth vs age.

Indie Publishing of the type practised by Scathach and others is in its infancy. But that doesn't mean we can't kick ass. We can kick ass in the form of getting loads of sales. We can kick ass in the form of standing up to the Agency 6 and tell the money-grabbing, tight-assed loathsome bean-pushing bureaucrats who have stolen everything beautiful from literature that enough is enough. Money can no longer be the bottom line.

It is telling that Authors don't give a shit about the money. If we did, we'd all be Publishers and no one would write. It is telling that Readers only give a shit about the money when books start costing ridiculous prices. We've given control of an industry where the money was always the least important part (the most important part being good storytelling) over to people for whom the money was always the most important part (fucking bean-counters) and now everyone bitches about how stories are
  • conformist, mass-marketing junk
  • no one writes cool, edgy, challenging things anymore (a misconception, it is written, just not published)
  • dudes like Dan Brown gets a contract
That last bit so was not jealousy. Here at Scathach we do not want to butcher our stories to make them fit someone else's idea of what will sell. Because taste is subjective, and when you try to make literature as appealing to as many people as possible you are often instead left with something bland and generically unappealing to everyone.

Of course, readers still buy it because the market is saturated with this piss, and there is nothing else to buy. So publishers in turn think this works, and keep mass-producing turds inside book covers.

(There are some good books out there, sure. Each of them has around 15 clones).

In the face of certain death, crack a joke

Spidey is always sarcastic, especially when his face is being pounded to pieces. How telling is that every Indie author Scathach has come across lists sarcasm as part of their talents? Check them out on Twitter, sarcasm stands out on everyone's bio.

Sarcasm, the ability to rip into someone else, to withstand them ripping into you, and to do it all in a good natured fashion, is very important to the indie author. If you give a shit about what people thing of you, don't publish your own work. By being bland and conformist and let agents and editors and publishers put you into all sorts of weirdly contorted positions no one will hate you (quite possibly no one will love you, either).

Look at the most popular authors. JK Rowling, Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, Patrick Rothfuss. They started out blazing their own trails, they didn't conform. People came behind them and copied the shit outta them, and you won't have heard of those folk.

If you go your own way you may well build up your own fans. On the other hand, some people will hate you. They may even take you to an undisclosed bad man's lair, cage you, and threaten you with lava traps a la Episode 3 of Zoe Who? Try it, you'll love it.

It's usually wannabee traditional authors, to terrified to take the chance your taking. Scared stick-in-the-muds who will insult you rather than doing something worthwhile. Keep your sense of humour, and know that indie publishers will get the last laugh.

Flexibility and Speed are More Important than Strength and Size

It is interesting to note that in the combat scenes, Spider-man doesn't ever use his strength to win. Sure he is super-strong, but not as strong as the Hulk or Rhino or even the Green Goblin. He is strong enough to survive their hits, but not to beat them.

Spider-man wins his fights by always moving. He is small, fast and flexible.

Just like a single author project. It takes years for a big publisher to put a book onto the shelves. It takes time for them to respond to the market, for them to change the way their business operates. This is evident right now in the catastrophe they are making of e-books. So many individuals have to be convinced that the new way is the right way. The old way has to be wound down and stopped. They are like Rhino, always in mid-charge.

But the Indie Publisher can be fast and flexible. The Indie Publisher can change much more quickly. Can have books out much more quickly. And if your readers are getting a book every 4 months instead of 1 a year, they will love you for it.

Don't Let It Consume Your Life

For a while, Peter does too much. No one knows his secret. He can't keep a job. He is struggling with college. His lecturers think he is brilliant, but lazy. It all gets too much and he eventually loses his super-powers (like impotence, its in his head).

But they come back in time to save MJ and after she learns his secret, he is happier than he has ever been for a while.

Make your work the best it can be, but don't make it the only thing you ever do. Remember your loved ones, spend time with your family.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

I saved the most obvious one for last, but what you gonna do?

As an Indie Publisher, you have power, and you have responsibility, and this is completely free of bullshit. People will read your work, and you may influence the way they think, the things they do or say or believe. If enough indie publishers unite, it may change publishing forever. We stand on the precipice of the future, and it is up to us to turn back or to hold hands and jump.

But if we jump, you and I, who knows who else will be following. In two years e-book sales will be 50% of all book sales in America. How high a percentage of that will be indie authors remains to be seen but we are
  • cheaper
  • faster
  • more flexible (on the ball, upto date, concurrent)
  • connect more with our readers (not mentioned on this post but we will do a reader connectivity post at some point
  • and (when it comes to Scathach, at least) much, much sexier
You have the power to change the world. You have a responsibility not to fuck this up.

Good luck with that, laochs.

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