Friday, May 13, 2011

Michael Davidson On "Being Indie"

On "Being Indie" is a new monthly feature that will be hosted here on TNBBC. We will meet a wide variety of independent authors, publishers, and booksellers as they discuss what being indie means to them.

Meet Michael Davidson. He and his girlfriend started a DIY Press called {Tiny TOE Press}. Every copy of their books are handmade on their kitchen table. They design their own covers and print them on cardstock. Their first title was written by Michael. It's called AUSTIN NIGHTS. I have a copy of this book and it's absolutely lovely. This month, Michael shares his thoughts on what he believes indie stands for.

I don't know what it means to be indie. When I think of an 'indie' writer, no image comes to mind. I can think of 'unforgettable' writers, and I can think of 'fan fiction' writers, and I can think of 'aspiring' writers, but I can't think of 'indie' writers. I guess their image falls through the cracks. Even though I would prefer to be an unforgettable writer, at the moment, in this very specific dimension, I am probably best described as an indie writer. I simply don't have the readership required to be any other kind of writer.

There are, as of today, 100-150 copies of my book in the hands of gentle readers. I created each of these copies of Austin Nights with exacting detail on my kitchen table, and I will continue creating copies every week for as long as I can. No small press represents me. I am not a 'small press' writer. I have signed no contracts. Nor do I pay any kind of printer to make my books. I am unbacked and self-made. This, more than anything else, is what makes me indie (if I must be something other than unforgettable).

Indie writers create their thing on the outside, prepared for a litany of small failures. Indie writers know that to put their book in front of readers is really just a matter of doing it. There's infinite hope, infinite ways indie writers may not have seen or tried yet. Whereas traditionally published writers are more at the mercy of the contracts they signed with the so-called publishers that do everything they can to get their book in front of readers, indie writers are self-reliant, with no one to blame but themselves.

This is probably why no one really believes in indie writers, at least not until they prove their merit in some significantly quantifiable way. Indie writers are buskers on the corner of busy streets, alone and open to the caprice of the world, performing for themselves and any stranger who has enough compassion to listen. Indie writers rely very much on compassion. This is their currency. Often indie writers are in love with everything around them, firm believers in the inherent goodness of life. Without this kind of faith, they wouldn't be able to roll against the odds.

At the risk of sounding desperate, indie writers sometimes qualify their 'please' with 'pretty.' They don't assert themselves or stand up for what may in fact be theirs. They don't believe they deserve anything at all and, apart from becoming unforgettable in the long run, they don't really care about much when it comes to their reputation. Although indie writers are entitled to nothing, they leave 20% tips at coffeehouses and hand bums beautiful apples. They are fond of smiling when getting stomped on. Indie writers are this way only because they are immeasurably grateful to be their own person every minute of their lives.

Becoming an indie writer isn't a feasible investment for most people to make. Capitalists look at indie writers and shudder deeply and feel completely flummoxed. None of the economic theories they worship apply a lick to this lot. Indie writers transcend discovered laws. They care only about producing iterations of themselves, fully aware that each 'unit' is a small piece of their own death. But they are all right with this.


  1. Hi Lori

    Interesting feature here. Lots of places to take the idea of being indie... Looking forward to seeing what others have to say.

    "Capitalists look at indie writers and shudder deeply and feel completely flummoxed." That's kind of funny, but true. I have no problem with publishers, they do a lot of good work and publish a lot of good books. But increasingly, publishers are being run at the behest of managers and financial people who really don't know much about books. Or so it seems to me. It seems as though small presses like Counterpoint, Graywolf, Clockroot and Red Hen are stepping up in an attempt to fill the gap.

    I don't know if their writers qualify as "indie" though, since after all, even small presses offer contracts and so on...

  2. David, thanks so much for your input here! I value your opinion and am flattered that you stopped by to check out the series.

  3. Hey, I enjoyed this. As an indie writer, I find great pleasure in working alone with the language of the book as it's created and then the collaborative nature of what happens afterwords with the publishing team, bloggers, and finally the readers. As you obviously get, there are so many more measuring sticks than $.