I’m a bit of a weird kid. I’m the kind who looks at the way things are going and wonders how and why things could (should?) go differently. I’m the kind who is unafraid to make dreams so big they might very well be unattainable, and I’m even less fearless to share them with you. I’m the one who looks at something established and sees it for its merits but looks at something new, unheard of, and risky and gets way more excited at the possibilities.
This came to light in a conversation I had in San Jose with Pam just this month, when I sat down with someone from my publisher and talked to her about why we’re in this publishing game, why we’re excited to be the new kids, and why I went the way I did.
The word indie has a lot of connotations these days. You hear it and, if you’re like me, you might get a bit excited. You might wonder what an artist completely unconstrained by the rules of the music/publishing/film establishment could create. But it has a lot of negative connotations too. You hear indie and you think… what? Self-published? Unedited? Unaccomplished? Unmerited? Certainly not worth your time? If you’re a book blogger, how many books from an indie publisher have you read this year? And compared to those from the big six? When you go looking for cool new books to read in the coming year, do you just peruse the catalogues the majors put out? And do you wonder at all what you’re missing by only doing that?
Probably not. And I understand it. I heard at BEA that over three million books were published last year. Major houses put out enough to keep you reading day and night, so why look any further? Especially if you’ve had a negative experience with or opinion of an indie before. But sometimes, where indie can mean all those not-so-nice things, it can also mean independent in a more powerful way. An innovative way.
When I started the rounds of trying to get The Survivors published in 2009, I had a lot of weird ideas. I had a lot of, daresay, innovative ideas. I believed that books could be more immersive than they are currently. I believed that innovative technologies could allow us to do all kinds of crazy things with stories. I believed that stories could be told in so many fashions—none of which would replace the book experience, all of which would enhance it.
And some people—media people, tech people, business people, cool forward-thinking people—they’d hear these ideas, and they’d get excited. But publishing people? They’d look at me like I was crazy. Pat me on my head, send me on my way, and tell me that if I could just forget all these weird ideas I had, if I could let go of all this unnecessary extra creativity I wanted to harbor, then, hey, I could be a good author, and all would be well.
That put me in a rough place. My whole life has been a search for creativity. The more creative outlets I have, the better I feel. The more creative an endeavor can become, the more successful it is in my mind. So to give that up? To erase parts of my plan, parts of myself, to do it the conventional way? That just didn’t seem like the path for me.
So what are these weird ideas I had? There were a few… Every now and then these days, you hear about an author who makes a Twitter account for his or her characters or will answer questions as a character on Twitter. We’re starting to hear the buzz on those things, and people are starting to embrace it. Me? Well, I started my characters on Twitter in 2009 and tweet as them in sync with the story timeline. They’re not people who will answer your questions or talk to each other one night. They’re people. Who had lives before the pages of the books, who have lives outside the scenes that make it in the book, who say things outside of the dialogue in the book. Now they have Facebook pages too so you can know all you want to know about them—the music they’re listening to, the books and magazines they “Like” (Facebook style), just what their interests are in a very real way. My characters exist outside the pages of the book. I hear that’s weird, but it seems very normal to me. They exist in your head once you’ve read it. They’re meant to. Why not take that a little further?
There are more weird things, of course. Things that would have cost publishers time and money to produce, and that no other publisher, outside my gallant indie, Chafie Press, would take on. I write songs, and I live in Nashville, TN, a.k.a. Music City. Songs are stories. Short stories with powerful emotions and an atmospheric impact. A song about characters in the books? Even better. The book enhances your music experience or the music enhances your book experience, but either way, it’s a win-win. But the traditional people wouldn’t embrace this. It was too weird! Chafie Press? Well, they’re a part of Chafie Creative, a creative group that encompasses the publisher; a record label, FPR records, so we could record and produce this music at a top-40 radio level; and Point of Origin Music Publishing so I could own my own rights to the music we write and produce for these projects. Chafie has fully embraced my vision, and as a result, we have two existing singles out with music videos—“Pretty Girl” by Glee’s Chris Mann and “Breaking” by Canadian powerhouse Jess Moskaluke who just won a Canadian Country Music Award. Next up is “Who You Are” by Patrick Thomas who you might remember as a finalist on The Voice! and Jenny Gill, whose dad you’ve probably heard of. Making The Survivors a transmedia experience was what I wanted to do, and it’s so fantastic now that it has happened and is happening. But if I hadn’t gone indie, it never would have happened.
Our next step will likely be the weirdest of all, and it’s something Pam got a glimpse at over that cup of coffee. Next, The Survivors is coming out in a fully immersive, completely interactive book form. Is it a game? No. Is it a novel turned into something with pretty pictures that no longer feels like a novel, and so you’re not interested? No. Is it something that you’ve ever seen before? Something you’ve ever dreamed of? No. It’s a new experience. I think you’ll love it, and, man, I hope you embrace it. After all, stories just keep evolving. This is just the next step.
Pam suggested I write this post to tell you of my very deliberate choice to go independent, to let you know that it was by choice that I wanted to work with an innovative creative group to put out this book and the subsequent projects, to realize my dream of innovative storytelling. We wouldn’t be here talking about all this if I hadn’t gone indie. If I hadn’t betted on the odd horse out. If I hadn’t had a lot of faith to jump off this particularly precarious cliff. And you know, you’ve probably not heard of me. Or if you have, maybe you thought, That’s an indie. I’ll get to it if I get to it. Or yeah, but no one’s talking about that one, and so you ignore it. And, hey, that’s okay because now you know that this indie kid is all about innovation, and aren’t second chances great? I hope you’ll explore all that the world of The Survivors and Chafie Creative has and will shortly have to offer.
Because it’s only the beginning.