Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Andrew Hilbert On Being Indie

On "Being Indie" is a blog series that introduces us to a wide variety of independent authors, publishers, and booksellers as they discuss what being indie means to them. 

Andrew Hilbert is a writer living in Austin, TX. His first book, Death Thing, was published in May 2015 by Double Life Press and is available on Amazon. You can keep up with all he's up to at www.hilbertheckler.com and follow him on twitter at @AHILBERT3000. 

It's not that I'm opposed to the big publishers or the folks that write for them. I like the big publishers. I like what they publish. I just think that there's a huge landscape of small presses and hardworking authors that has to get explored, too. I like the small press more. Plenty of people are well-read. Plenty of folks can keep up with NYT Bestsellers list and Oprah Book Clubs but there's frequently a very limited style of books to consume there. 

Long Beach, CA is where I claim to be from (really, I'm from a small suburb on the border of Orange County and Los Angeles County so saying Long Beach is just easier.) I went to college at Cal State Long Beach and studied History but I had always had an interest in writing and creating worlds; I just didn't think it wise to get a degree in Creative Writing. Looking back, neither was getting a degree in History. Gerald Locklin is a professor at CSULB and I've always admired him. He's a titan of the small press when it comes to poetry. He's been published thousands of times, has written thousands of poems, has a ton of books and chapbooks out, and they're all small press. When I first started writing to be published, I took his formula. I followed the trail of publishers listed in his recent books so that I could send my bad poetry there, too. 

Small indie press, when it comes to the Long Beach poetry scene, is revered. It's not looked down upon like many folks seem to do when comes to fiction. With fiction, especially what people call 'genre,' it's an uphill battle. A lot of small presses don't have expanded distribution so getting books into bookstores is a matter of walking in and putting them on consignment. When someone does that, people assume, "Oh, it's more self-published garbage." 

Indie presses need to work hard to differentiate themselves. I got extremely lucky having my first book published by Double Life Press. Craig McNeely is a phenomenal editor and publisher. He was with me every step of the way and he put down a huge sweat investment (not to mention a financial investment) on making Death Thing look great. Not all indie presses do that. The good ones do and Double Life Press is one of the good ones.

Small presses can take chances on authors. They can take chances on content. The market is smaller and more dedicated for small presses. The small press is a proving ground. 

I got my start sending embarrassing poems to small presses around the country to some success. I started moving into fiction and continued submitting to indies. Out of the Gutter online played a huge role in my development as a writer. Being indie is just in my blood. I love that I can send little snippets of bonkers ideas to Craig McNeely and he'll be into it. I love that my story "Two Cowboys Settle a Dispute" was accepted by Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts for Out of the Gutter Online. In a way, that story makes no sense for that site. But they took a chance. That's the freedom of the indies. 

Death Thing had to be published by a small press and I'm damn glad it was published by Double Life. 

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