The Indie Revolution
By: Ashley Mackler-Paternostro
My whole life has been the process of digital evolution. I can mark my years by the advancements I’ve seen.
I’m older than the internet. I can still remember when the go-to source for information was the Encyclopedia Britannic not Wikipedia. I can recall the sound of a dial-up modem and when AOL ruled the world. I’ve seen the creation and rise of the iPod at the expense of the CD, and the cassette tape before it. I witnessed the boom and fall of big box book stores while in tandem mourned the loss and cheered the revival of the independent book seller. I have owned a tape player, a CD player, a VCR, a DVD player, a BluRay player and now, a subscription to Netflix. I remember the fifteen pound camcorder my father used to hoist upon his shoulder and have bore witness to my husband fasten his GoPro to the strap of his book bag. My life had been in an ever moving state of furtherance, but I have consistently always been one thing ... a reader. But, that too is changing. The way books enter my life has seen a shift. I am no longer a card holder at Barnes and Noble, Borders has gone the way of the dinosaur ... and me, I’m a prime member with a Kindle Touch and Fire.
Growing up, my mother had a rule -- while she may have said no to a toy or stuffed animal, she would never say no to a book. In the beginning, she forced books upon me ... in the end, I sought them out. It started when I was hooked on the Golden Books series with brightly illustrated pages and gold foil spine, eventually that trickled down into my love of all things R.L Stine and Fear Street, carrying right into Oprah’s Book Club and my discovery of Literary Fiction. I still remember the day I bought Catcher In The Rye at that second hand bookstore below Starbucks.
Reading was more than a hobby of mine, it was bonafide passion. My mother had cultured, with her rule, a garden. Reading became a place where I could feel comfortable and safe; books were a escape, a refuge, a home, an adventure. For me, a book store was a magical environment and the treasures kept inside were exceedingly exciting. The smell, the quiet, the feeling of crisp book pages under finger tips -- those distinct sensory feelings are nostalgic for me. The way Carrie Bradshaw felt about shoes or the way some women feel about chocolate or the way men adore their muscle cars ... that is the way I have always felt about books.
It wasn’t, however, until I became a writer that I truly understood the business of books. That this world I loved so much held an entire industry behind the printed page.
To a reader, the business begins and ends with the product: the novel. It’s all you really need to know of a world where deals are inked and dreams come true and stories are written and then printed in a series of runs. The thick book you lift up off the shelf at Barnes and Noble or an independent book seller or spy from the comfort of your chair on Amazon, that is your understanding of the world of the written word.
But to a writer, the business of books is beginning a cautious, systematic slip towards a dauntless new future.
As a writer, I can tell you, some things will never change for us -- authors will still be wordy, emotional, creative beings. We will remain expressive and verbal, artistic folk. But, our industry is changing and we will have to adapt to that. Gone is Borders, in tandum gone is the day of large advances. We are beginning to involve from the chrysalis of yesteryear in the dawn of the Independent Revolution. We’re now asked to be versatile -- to grab hold of our stories and the way we get them to the reader.
I am an Independent Author. My decision to become so was not an easy one by any means. I never planned this path for myself, it was more or less decided for me by the atmosphere of legacy publishing in 2011. But the new world of publishing is one that welcomes the brave willing to go it alone.
In the early fall of 2011 I began the tedious task of querying agents. I made my lists and wrote my letters and attached the required excepts from my novel The Milestone Tapes. I waited with baited breath for someone to find my novel charming and me exciting.
That validation never came.
Of course, I did have few full reads and a handful of partials, the experience wasn’t awful and I learned a lot by doing it. But the replies were always nearly the same ... Literary Fiction, in the market, is a hard sell. My book was decidedly not about vampires or shape shifting werewolves, or love triangles and I certainly didn’t have a show on Bravo or MTV to help me along. I was new author with no backstory, and the chance was just one no one was willing to take.
I then had to make a choice ... to decide whether I’d let my book die on my laptop, waiting for however long it took to spark the interest that would push it into a first run ... or, I could face the unknown with hope and try it for myself. When you have pour everything into a book ... when every single word of the 100,000 belongs to you, letting die is simply not a option. So, I went Indie.
You may have heard the term “Indie” bounced about or spied the unknown names on Amazon with their ninety-nine cent novels. And you may, on your own, have drawn conclusions about them.
“They’re not good enough to be really published.”
“It’s a hobby ... they aren’t real writers.”
“Their books can’t be any good if a publishing house didn’t pick them up.”
Well, I don’t blame you for thinking or feeling that way, if in fact you do. The truth is, even with my love of books -- all books -- I once felt that way as well. And why? I had picked up a discount novel on my Kindle and three pages in had to abandon ship. I made the mistake of judging the sum by one of it’s parts. To be fair, not all independent novels are good ... but, neither are all legacy published novels either. I’ve abandoned my fair share of legacy print novels as well. In general terms, as carte blanche and universal truths, those statements are erroneous. Some Indie novels are sheer brilliance, some unknown talents will blow you away. The new face of publishing is the Independent writer who has the shrewdness to chase a dream despite or because of what others believe to be true.
An Independent writer is a tireless worker. We take hold of our novels from conception to the finish line. We have our hands in and on every step of the process. We work two or sometimes three jobs to make our books rise up to meet your expectations. We work long, long hours worrying everything from the prose a sentence to the cover art and indentation. We stress over pricing structure and algorithms. We often are working on two or maybe more projects at a time. We hire editors and artists and formatters and publicists. Our days begin early and end late, we become reclusive in our home offices and work on our vacations. We understand how badly we want it, and run after it at full steam. We take ourselves very seriously, and we wear two hats while working in one business.
Because of you. You’re the reason we write and you are the reason we don’t accept no for an answer when agents and publishers didn’t believe. All along, all we want, is to reach a reader with our words and in that way, considering our traditional counterparts, we’re not so different.
This is an exciting time to be a reader. That’s the truth. We are all part of the digital revolution of the novel. This otherwise unchanged industry is getting a face lift. We are in an era, a place in time, when you can have books delivered in sixty seconds to a micro-thin eReader on the tarmac of an airport from the comfort of your seat no matter where in the world you may find yourself. You can hold an entire library in 7.5 ounces. And you finally have the chance to meet the worlds of unknown talent, and decide for yourself what it means to read a good book.
I’m going to leave you now with a question ... what are your feelings about the changes in publishing? Do you take a chance on Indies?
By Ashley Mackler-Paternostro
Jenna Chamberland never wanted anything more than to be a wife and mother. That is, until she realized that her life was ending after a three-year battle against breast cancer. Now, all she really wants is more time.
With 4,320 hours left to live, Jenna worries for her loved ones and what she knows awaits them on the other side: Gabe will have to make the slip from husband to widower, left alone to raise their seven-year-old daughter; Mia will be forced to cope with life without her mother by her side. In a moment of reflection, Jenna decides to record a set of audiocassettes — The Milestone Tapes – leaving her voice behind as a legacy for her daughter.
Nine years later, Mia is a precocious sixteen-year-old and her life is changing all around, all she wants is her mother. Through the tapes, Jenna’s voice returns to teach Mia the magic of life, her words showing her daughter how to spread her wings and embrace the coming challenges with humor, grace and hope.
THE MILESTONE TAPES is the journey of love between a parent and child, and of the bonds that hold them when life no longer can.
Ashley Mackler-Paternostro lives on the outskirts of Chicago with her husband and their three dogs. The Milestone Tapes is Ashley’s first novel.