Hey! I've gone and published a short story on Amazon! I didn't really plan to – it just sort of happened. It's called The Last Rail-Rider, and it's about the end of the world, and trains, and... other stuff. Here's the official synopsis:
He doesn't remember the days before the sickness.
He only knows the world since it went bad. The empty towns. The rusted-out cars. The corpses, everywhere.
He doesn't know why he rides the rails. He just does. The trains never take him away from the ruin. The trains never take him anywhere.
Until one day they carry him to a little town called Black Hole, Kentucky, and he meets a strange woman who knows him.
Who knows everything.
What's more interesting than the story itself – at least to me, and maybe to other authors – is just how quickly things like this can be birthed into the world. The Last Rail-Rider was written, self-edited, proofed, formatted, designed, laid out and published in a single 14-hour period. (And I was sleeping for six of those hours.)
This, I think, is the beauty of being an indie author. When the urge strikes, you can move quickly. There aren't any gatekeepers or hoops for you to jump through. There's just you, your story, and the tools you need to take it straight to readers.
That isn't to suggest that an author should publish rashly – there are risks to writing and publishing a story too soon after it's finished, before it's had time to cool and show its cracks to you. In this case, I felt quite comfortable with the rapid pace because The Last Rail-Rider is a story I've lived with for about twelve years. It was first published in an online magazine called Eclectica back in 2002. (You can even still read that version of the story.) The version that you can buy on Amazon now is completely rewritten, and is hardly even the same story. Its themes are the same, but that's about it. What I'm saying is that this is a story whose tracks had already been laid before I began writing.
Today I had an interesting chat with a fellow author. She approached me last year about designing a set of covers for a young adult fantasy series she had written. Since then she's been torn between the possibility of self-publishing and her interest in traditional publishing. I told her what I love best about being a self-published author, which is that immediate access to readers, the same thing I mentioned above. I asked her which she was looking for – the validation of an agent or publisher, or readers?
Which is not to say that I don't understand the appeal of traditional publishing. I was captivated by what I perceived the author lifestyle to be, based on various movies and books and author interviews I'd read – those lives filled with parties and publisher lunches and book tours and exclusive circles of friends and fat advances and press tours and lectures and readings and so on. When I was eighteen years old, I finished writing my first novel and made a promise to myself that I'd never work a day in my life past my twenty-fifth birthday. I figured seven years was plenty of time to become a publishing superstar. I'm thirty-five now, and not only is publishing superstardom the last thing on my mind, it's also uncommon as hell.
More important to me than anything are readers. I don't write stories for publishers or editors or agents. I don't write for awards or great reviews. I write because I want to share good stories with people who love good stories. If there's any validation and affirmation to be had in this world, then that's where I look for it. In readers like you.
Did I mention that I published a new story today? That's really all I meant to write about!