This time around, on Get Jack’d, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the more interesting indie authors out there, Athanasios Galanis. Let’s see how this broke down.
JW: You and I sort of write in a similar genre – The Apocalypse. For me, the attraction to the genre was a wide open play-field that allowed for not only the breaking of rules, but the making of new rules. The same goes for the zombie genre. Readers don’t seem to be so hell-bent on rules and myths. Of course, you add a messianic figure to the mix, which was probably quite a challenge. The closest thing I have come to in that vein was Josef Mengele, of Nazi Germany “fame”. That was a tough one because, for so many people, the very name Mengele brings up such hatred, rage, and venom. But who better dredge up from the “recent” past than Mengele when needing a mad “doctor” to create a virus to wipe out the population.
That is one of the joys in writing, in creating – using non-fictional elements, placing them in a fictional environment and imposing your own will upon the two to create something all together different.
AG: I think on the surface our writing may be of similar genres but the raison d’etre of Mad Gods is to avoid the Apocalypse as much as possible, instead of reacting to it. Fate has dictated that my AntiXos Adam is to do the opposite of Xos did, who is reputed to have saved Mankind from sin. Unfortunately nobody has come up with a definitive explanation as to what that means. There are many thoughts on the subject all falling short of agreement yet most have a general agreement that as the opposite of Xianity’s Messiah Adam should want to destroy Mankind.
Your bringing up of Mengele is quite topical as I’m working on the Mad Gods sequel, Commitment. In it we are introduced to a newer evil drugged up out of hell by Lucifer himself. He has become dissatisfied with the long-standing incompetence of his earthly minions and seeks to promote from within, and he chooses the newest elite member of hell, Adolf Hitler. Who is summoned to earth by some of his surviving cronies.
JW: I have always been tempted to write a series of books set in Hell. In fact, I do have one in the works — The Nails of Cavalry – which turns the whole of religion on its head. It’s a big challenge for me, since one of my favorite writers, Edward Lee, already wrote a series set in hell (Infernal Angel series) that does such a perfect job of setting the scene that is the machinations of Hell. It would be a challenge to improve upon what Lee did.
But that’s one of the beauties of being an indie author – not feeling as trapped as one would in a traditional environment. I say these books tend to be trans-genre which many traditional publishers wouldn’t touch. Lee managed to be traditionally published because he made a name for being the King of splatterpunk. But even that genre must be challenging for publishers at this point. In fact, I would assume, thanks to indie authors, traditional publishers are even more hard-pressed now to take chances on a manuscript that doesn’t adhere to the standard genre definitions, or an author that doesn’t come with a proven track record. And now, with the announcement of Borders closing, this will probably be made even more challenging.
AG: I wish what you’re saying was true. I just don’t know that any traditional publishers, agents or distributors are looking at most indies as more than upstarts who couldn’t make it in the big leagues. That may or may not be true but the latitude we’re lucky enough to write with is liberating. In the past anybody who didn’t conform to the confines of what could be marketed or sold to readers was treated with disdain and was never heard from again, unless they hit the lottery and some equally insane industry member gave them a chance. Each then would be lauded as geniuses that were true mavericks and couldn’t be dissuaded by conformists.
Two of my favorite success stories are JK Rowling, for obvious reasons and Charles Bukowski. I don’t need to espouse on JK but I would like to give some background on Bukowski. He labored on his work for years before a single person took a chance on him and published only his work. As far as I remember it, this man, his publisher, John Martin was an insurance man, don’t remember what he did within that industry, but he believed in Bukowski enough to back him and publish him. Now this fell short of the much debased stigma of self publishing because it wasn’t Charlie who did the publishing but starry eyed Mr Martin but he went on until Bukowski became a much respected writer and both were critical darlings.
Does that mean anything to our conversation? Maybe not, but to me it only proves that at the end of the day, NOBODY really knows what will hit big or not. It’s all guessing, but if writers do what they believe with their work, and are really honest with themselves about its quality they’re going to have a measure of success, whether that is financial or critical or both. I’m completely convinced on that, yet at the end of the day, I’m also convinced that I could be completely full of it or utterly wrong.
JW: Clive Barker’s story was similar. His Books of Blood couldn’t seem to find a home until he was recommended to a publisher who was willing to take a chance. Most publishers weren’t publishing short stories at the time, but because of everything Clive had been doing (mostly involving theatre) someone was willing to take a chance. These types of stories are rife within the world of publishing and it just shows how blind publishers can be.
What I honestly believe is this: At the end of the day, quality will bubble up to the top and it will not matter if you have been published traditionally or through the indie route – readers will only see one thing, a quality product. And, just like in the tradition publishing, the cruft will sink to the bottom of the sea of words. I really don’t believe the readers care how a book was published. I believe they care about: Price and the quality of the writing. And I believe the average reader will forgive some quality of writing if the story is good enough. I don’t believe the opposite is true. A brilliantly written book will not be read if it’s only well-written words hiding a poorly crafted story.
AG: I totally agree. That’s why the newfound, bogus adage of without the keepers of the gate at traditional publishing the literary world will be drowning in complete crap is both true and false. Yes there will be PLENTY more terrible writing, plot and writers out there but there will also be amazing work that didn’t fit the narrow confines of the publishing world, which was never interested in producing literature as much as selling paper at a higher premium.
I also believe that now they’re using the indie publishers as their own slush pile where the cream that’ll rise to the top will be looked at for their reaping. Our very own Jessica Meigs & Mark Edwards who published indie and are now going the traditional route have proved this. I’m very happy for both, wish them the best of luck and am only using them here as examples.
Then there’s the rest of us who some are yelling like carnival barkers to try our work. It’s trying some times but it’s also very satisfying that you’ve got nobody but yourself to count on. Your work will live or die on your efforts and ingenuity. We’ve become lucky enough to stumble upon a Facebook group that is filled with like-minded people who help each other but we’re on our own. I wouldn’t know how to act otherwise. I’ve been responsible for trying to get a publisher, an agent and now trying to get reviewed is almost like mini-querying. Sometimes when I get a rejection from bloggers I’m surprised, aghast that faceless, entitled literati are still rejecting me. Then I have a beer and calm down like a baby with his bottle. Querying isn’t over folks its still alive and well but now we’re querying to get reviewed.
JW: You make a good point. No matter what level we find ourselves working on, we will always be at the mercy of others. Whether it’s publishers, agents, reviewers, readers…there will always be someone that writers will depend upon to help get the word out. A part of me wishes that the standard social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler) would be sufficient, but the reality is…it’s not enough. Without the help of reviewers, word of mouth, or other channels of advertisement our books would stagnate. But I do believe that word of mouth is one of the best avenues of publicity for our books. Even more so than reviews, when someone actually speaks the words “You should read this…”, I believe that verbal recommendation carries more weight than does a review.
But honestly: Whatever. It. Takes.
I had hopes the video trailer would be a wonderful means, but I have come to realize that, in order for a video promo to actually be effective, it has to be stunning. I have discovered that podcasting can be an effective means because it allows you to possibly go deeper into the characters or the story. That is what I am doing with Zombie Radio. This was the brain-child of one of my beta readers and it allows the listeners to follow the Zombie Radio DeeJay from my soon-to-be released My Zombie My. With this I am using snippets from the actual text, snippets from the first book (I Zombie I), and original dialog that can not be found in either book. Couple that with some music, and you have an interesting glimpse into the world of the I Zombie trilogy that can not be found within the books themselves.
AG: There is the possibility of over saturating yourself too. From what you’re listing there I’d be careful. Not that you will, but that you might. The reason being that the tools we’re employing to get ourselves noticed are well known by the people we’re trying to reach. So if we’ve reached them by 2 different avenues, social media, Facebook & Twitter, and a more direct one of blog, do we want to keep giving the same message?
I’m trying to be subtle, and use what I think is the web’s strongest asset the intimacy of a one on one connection. No matter how many people will read Mad Gods on their kindles, iPads, nooks, or their computers I & every other author will be reaching them from a single screen for each reader. That is a very private relationship and if you show them who you are as a person, i.e. that you’re the same as the voice that created the book they’ve connected to; I think that’s magic. That magic will then garner you a die-hard fan that will read and sponsor most of your endeavors.
We’re on a verge of a new kind of celebrity, and a lesser financial success for some, more for others. The difference between the Dan Browns, Tom Clancys & Stephen Kings of the ebook age, and their named predecessors are that we’re gonna be more be much more intimate with our readers. They’ll feel a closer bond to us because the nature of our work will demand it, or we won’t be as successful as we would if we don’t. Sounds crazy and confusing but hey that’s my bag, I look at things in subtly different ways.
For instance I’ve not directly referred to my book, or tried to be overtly plugging it because I think that’s crass. I’ve named it in the context of reference but whoever wants to know Mad Gods, should seek it out on the basis of my merits as a communicator of ideas. I think we’re both doing this very well in this venue.
One of my favorite people is Howard Stern. I’ve been a mega-fan since I started listening when he came to Montreal in 1998. His entire presentation has always been to do an organic show; whatever will happen on air is what should happen on when Howard is being natural on air. So in a manner of speaking I try and do just that. Whatever will happen for Mad Gods should happen for Mad Gods by my showing myself to whoever will listen and contact me about it.
More about Athanasios Galanis:
Athanasios has been interested in religion & faith since childhood. This led to studying a bewildering variety of beliefs from pagan, wicca, judaism, christianity, islam, to hindu, buddhism, shinto, luciferianism & much more. The interest made its own momentum & brought Mad Gods.
His other interests include most entertainment, from film, to television & books. He won’t try video games for the same reason he doesn’t keep his favourite booze in the house; he would do nothing else. There was a short time that he was into World of Warcraft but that became the obsession he
knew it would be. He had to leave it for a deeper & more engrossing one: