Hot controversy on my column for Creative Loafing this week. I took umbrage with renowned philosopher, neuroscientist, NYT Best Selling opiner Sam Harris mass emailing his list of subscribers for donations to support his blog. My wife said, “Are you sure you want to do that?” Sam Harris makes a living debating people in front of Ivy League audiences, so I’m pretty sure he could drink two bottles of grain alcohol and still crush me in a debate about anything. I just think – nay HOPE – that when you’ve had 5 or 6 best sellers, the days of blasting your list for donations might end. Where’s the publisher who supports their chart-topping author? The man’s blog is his lifeline to his readers.
So my issue wasn’t much with Sam Harris, whose writing I enjoy, even if I often disagree with him. And my initial draft was pretty soft on him. Unfortunately, the editor at Creative Loafing, we’ll call her Cathy because that’s her name, is not one to avoid controversy. She hates dolphins and Publix – which should get her kicked out of Florida. She declared the first draft to be “milquetoast,” which is about the most offensive thing you could say about someone’s writing. So I edited the piece, turned up the snark a little, and she published it. I assume it fell somewhere between milquetoast and inflammatorily offensive.
I did not get hate mail from the Sam Harris fan club. (Probably because they read “Waking Up” and instead of getting mad, they crossed their legs and did 20 minutes of mindful meditation.) But I did get a very, very, very, very long comment from a reader who declared, “I want to puke when I see or hear the term ‘indie writer’ being used.” He then rattled off a rant that consisted mostly of inspirational quotes he deemed to be “words of wisdom” that should resonate “big time.” The commenter, Ernie, is a bit of authority as he has been self publishing since 1989, and has sold WAY more books than I have. His titles include, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free (score one for the Oxford Comma), Career Success Without a Real Job, Life’s Secret Handbook For Having Great Friends, and The Joy of Not Being Married. The man is also a lover of the Comic Sans family of typefaces and using as many as possible in one book cover. But who am I to judge? I’m just a struggling novelist who is married, not retired, with tons of useless friends.
Who knew that it would be the use of the word “indie” that would get me in trouble? I’ve used the term “indie publishing” as a way to differentiate between the old days of self publishing with vanity presses and authors stockpiling boxes of books in their garage. To be clear, I’m still learning the ropes and that’s precisely why I’m writing about it. I’m not a best seller yet, despite my day in the Amazon top 20 that bought me a decent lunch. I’m hoping people can learn from my successes and mistakes. What did we learn this week?
Stay off Ernie’s lawn.
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