Hello to all of Briana Morgan’s readers! Our host has been gracious enough to offer me space here to write a guest post, so here it is. By way of introduction, my name is Kelly Sedinger, my official website is ForgottenStars.net, my personal blog is Byzantium’s Shores (byzantiumshores.blogspot.com)
It’s been a dream of mine to be successful enough to be interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Obviously now that can’t happen, but…here’s how it might have gone down:
JON STEWART: My guest tonight was supposed to be a young singer, very promising, named, uh…[checks piece of blue paper]Beyonce. She couldn’t make it tonight, and apparently neither could anybody else, so we have here an author I’ve never heard of and neither, likely, have you!
JON STEWART: He has one book out, called Stardancer, and he’s here to talk about self-publishing. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kelly…Sedinger!
[Nobody notices that he mispronounces the surname. I come out, shake his hand, and wave to the baffled-looking audience, which is applauding politely but still making clear their disappointment that I’m not Beyonce.]
ME: Thanks, Jon.
JON: Hey, like I said, I have no idea who you are.
ME: That’s gonna make this interview hard to get off the ground.
JON: You’re telling me.
[We stare at each other.]
JON: Uh, why don’t you tell us about yourself?
ME: My name is–
JON: How about this. Tell us why we should read this book.
ME: Well, it’s about…it’s…well, the hell with it. It’s awesome. I wrote the shit out of that book. Seriously. If you like stories about princesses who are lost in space, this is the book for you.
JON: I didn’t have time to read it.
ME: Well, I hope you will. [I face the audience.] Goes for all you people, too.
JON: Princesses. Lost in space.
ME: Yup. I love space opera – that’s the part of science fiction that’s about, you know, big ships and galactic wars and lost alien civilizations and all that. I’m playing at the Star Wars end of the pool. And if you like strong female characters, I’ve got those.
JON: Yeah, why are the characters all women?
ME: It’s sort of an homage to the films of Hayao Miyazaki. He’s always been great at writing good female characters, women with agency and with strengths and flaws who don’t take back seat to men. I like to think that if Miyazaki ever made a space opera film, it would look a little like Stardancer.
JON: So here’s the question. If it’s that good, why did it have to be self-published?
JON: No, really, I’m serious. There’s a perception about self-published books that they’re the books that nobody wanted to publish because they–
ME: They suck?
JON: I wasn’t gonna say suck. [laughs] Yeah, I was gonna say, they suck. [Audience laughs] Or that there’s a drop in quality, without the professional work being done to make the book really good. Is that fair?
ME: Nope. Not even close, Jon.
JON: OK! Tell me why I’m wrong.
ME: Well, for one thing, let’s stop calling it “self-publishing”. I think a better term would be “Independent publishing”.
JON: Isn’t it the same thing?
ME: Well, here’s the thing. We love independent film. We love the idea of a nobody named Kevin Smith, deciding that he’s gonna make a movie and he’s gonna max out his credit cards to do it and that he’s gonna wind up with a movie called Clerks. Right? And we love independent music, too. Everybody knows that really good local band, right? The one that makes its living touring and playing gigs and selling CDs that they make themselves because they’re not sitting on a big contract with Geffen Records or whoever. Maybe it’s a bit more esoteric, but independent comics are a thing, too. Go to any big city comic book convention or a nice-sized comics store and you’ll see independent comics, stuff not published by the Marvels and the DC’s and the Dark Horses of the world. See what I’m getting at?
ME: That’s OK.
[Jon laughs. I’m starting to win him over.]
ME: Independent film, independent music, independent comics. Why not independent books?
JON: So, why then has there not been independent books until now? Why now?
ME: I think it’s about infrastructure, Jon. Independent film can be a thing because every city of any size, or any small city with a big university, will have film festivals or film clubs where small pictures can be seen. We all know how independent music works – local festivals, selling CDs and MP3s on your websites, touring, playing shitty gigs and not-so-shitty gigs. Comics, same thing. But until now, there really hasn’t been that same kind of infrastructure for independent books. That’s finally changing now, with print-on-demand and with e-readers.
JON: So it’s been a matter of availability.
ME: To a large extent, yes, I think so. The only way to sell books, for the most part, has been for people to walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelves. That’s pretty engrained as our way of buying literature in this world. But now, things are shifting. Bookstores are still huge, and that’s a tough nut to crack, but we’re working on it. Anyway, it’s possible now to sell a book in a real independent way and do well with it. Maybe not like a new Stephen King book, but who knows? Maybe we’re just not quite there yet.
JON: OK, that explains the entire self-publishing thing.
ME: Independent, Jon. Come on, now.
JON: OK, independent. I’ll bet your teachers loved you.
ME: Not really, no.
JON: Well, that’s surprising. So why didn’t your book sell, though? Is self-independent publishing for people whose books aren’t quite good enough? How do we combat that?
ME: By doing the hard work of selling our own books and advocating for other independent authors and letting word-of-mouth work its magic. It’s hard, but we’ll get there.
JON: But back to your book–
ME: I don’t know why it didn’t sell. I do have some ideas. In terms of writing and reading level, I think it’s YA – that’s Young Adult – but it’s way too long for a standard YA book. Maybe JK Rowling can come along with a 250,000 word Harry Potter novel, but she’s JK Rowling and she didn’t get to do that until the fifth one. I’m only me. So there’s that.
JON: Why not just write it shorter, then?
ME: Because I’m stubborn and pigheaded and I’m willing to take a risk on my own behalf. Industry standards are industry standards, and when you flout them you’re rolling dice, obviously. But they’re not immutable laws of nature. Look, the great William Goldman said something famous about Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything.” They don’t know why anything ever really clicks with the public or why it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean they can just make any piece of crap they want, but nothing ever goes the way they think it’s going to go. Everybody thought Titanic would fail, until it went out there and beat everything. You never know.
JON: What’s that have to do with–
ME: I don’t know why the book didn’t sell. They don’t tell you when they reject you. But writing and publishing aren’t like baseball. Getting published isn’t like when a Triple-A player gets called up to the Majors, and independent authors aren’t lesser writers. Publishing is a business, and a lot of good work goes unpublished for lots of reasons. My book is a space opera. Maybe the publishers I submitted to had enough space operas for one year. Maybe they just bought a book kinda like it. Maybe they only had budget for one more book in their fiscal year and someone else’s was better. And maybe it just didn’t click with the editors. There’s always personal taste involved. But none of that means that my book isn’t worthy of being read. And none of that means that any book is unworthy of being read. If an author has skill, and if they have worked hard to make the book as good as they possibly can, then who knows? The gatekeepers are still there, but it turns out that the gates aren’t the only way into the Promised Land. The flip side of all this is, though, that maybe your book is really good and disappears without a trace because you’re bad at marketing. That’s the part of the game I still need to work on.
JON: So, what you’re saying is–
ME: My book doesn’t suck.
JON: OK. What’s next for you?
ME: Book Two, later this year. It’s called The Wisdomfold Path. Next year, Book Three, and a supernatural thriller I’ve been working on. And there’s a long-term fantasy adventure novel I’ve been kicking around, but that’s a really big project.
JON: So hopefully we’ll all have heard of you soon?
ME: That’s the plan.
JON: OK. The book is Stardancer, available online. Author Kelly Sedinger, everybody!
AFTER THE COMMERCIAL BREAK
JON: Here it is, your moment of Zen.
[CUT TO a funny video of something….]
What do you think of Kelly’s imaginary interview?
In this funny guest post for @brianawrites, @Jaquandor imagines what an interview with Jon Stewart would be like. (Click to tweet)