First and foremost, I did not come up with this explanation. Did you think I would? If so, you haven’t been paying attention. My explanations tend to ramble on and on until I get caught in a web of Futurama and Simpsons quotes that grow more and more obscure, then everyone leaves.
No, this came from an avid reader in Canada named Ryan Foster. Great guy.
Basically, we were trying to explain what is so good about self publishing to a traditionally published author and his fans. Naturally, I went with a grandpa Simpson reference.
Ryan’s example was that the world of books was akin to music venues and acts.
You can go see a big time show in a huge venue with a big name. Since Ryan is Canadian, I’ll go with Rush. A Rush show is cool as all get out! The ticket will cost you a pretty penny though and you can probably guess accurately at the set list.
Or you could go see the band at the tiny venue in town. Sure, they might have to stop in the middle for a quick 1 minute tune of an instrument. They are small and can’t afford 10 guitars in case one falls out of tune. The ticket will cost you 5 bucks and you might end up running into the opening act at the bar and buying them a drink. If you stay after the show you can almost certainly walk up to them and say you liked what they did or take a picture with them. This is almost certainly how Rush got their start, but I wasn’t born at that time.
In my mind, this is self publishing perfectly defined.
I was a bit (ha!) of a tie dyed, long haired, freaky person in college, so naturally, I went to lots of shows. I remember a few of them. Here is an example.
I went to a Keller Williams show at Mississippi Nights in St Louis. It’s gone now. It was a terrible venue. It was cramped, smokey as all hell, they had a “drinking cage” for when people wanted to drink at an underage show. For whatever reason, Most of us in St Louis loved that place. Anyhoodle, I went to see Keller, but the opening act was the Charlie Hunter Trio. They seemed pretty cool. Then, for only two songs during the opening act, this gorgeous lady walks out and they announce that she is touring with Charlie Hunter and was going to play a song or two. (opener for an opener, kind of). She brought up an electric piano and proceeded to sing with the voice of an angel while tickling that keyboard like a pro. She played this weird mash up of country and jazz with a hint of funk rubbed on it. I was blown away, as were many of the people in the venue. She played two songs and then stopped. To this day I have never heard a voice as sweet as that.
Later in the show I left the drinking cage to get another drink (weird, isn’t it?) and ran into this honey-voiced beauty also walking up to the bar. I told her how much I loved her songs and I how talented I thought she was. Corny, I know, but I meant every word of it. She squeezed my shoulder and thanked me profusely for the words of encouragement. Then, being a gentleman, I bought her a drink. No, no, this isn’t that kind of story, I was dating my future wife at the time. Eyes up front people! No, I just wanted to thank her somehow and buying a drink seemed like the right way. We chatted for a bit in the drinking cage and then she had to get back on stage for a big ensemble thing. She shook my hand and reminded me her name was Norah.
Two years later this woman won 5 Grammy Awards and all kinds of other craziness. It was Norah Jones.
Now, I’m not saying that all indie authors are going to have this track, although Hugh Howey kind of does. These two artists are outliers in the data. Most will be more like Charlie Hunter and Keller Williams. They are excellent musical acts that are approachable and won’t break the bank. You never know what they are going to play from one show to the next. You can grab tickets at the door (usually).
The same goes for self publishing. We are not all perfect. The vast majority of us won’t be superstars. We might mix up genres on you, and we’re usually happy to talk to you. We’re approachable. Sure, we might need to stop for a few seconds and tune an instrument, but it’s all part of the show.