Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lessons in Publishing from WWII

In 1943 my grandfather drove an ambulance into war and carried wounded and dead soldiers out of battle and drove them to safety. 

Bullets flew past his ears, bombs exploded nearby, and men screamed, searching for lost limbs, fighting for their lives.

When he returned home, he said very little about his experience. Truth is, like millions of other unsuspecting soldiers, men and women, he likely suffered a bout of post-traumatic stress disorder.

War does that. 

Gene Spica was one of millions who fought in WWII and returned to quietly live the rest of their days as hard working individuals. Thus, they were named the “silent generation”. They were, and continue to be strong, patriotic, hardworking and independent men and women. 

Since then, much has changed. Some aspects of life are easier and some are harder. But one thing is for sure, my grandfather’s legacy has taught me how to work hard and that I can do anything if I’m willing to put forth the effort.

As an author, I’m carrying the strength of the silent generation, like many other writers I know, into the digital era. We are diligent, technically savvy, creative, and yes, independent, a word that not too long ago left readers with a bitter taste in their mouths.

The notion that “indie” or independent is a sign of weakness or poor quality is very puzzling to me. I’ve always been taught that it’s not only important, but a sign of excellence when one demonstrates a skill, coupled with the ambition to bring a project to completion on his or her own. 

That’s what my grandpa taught me anyway. And I will always respect ambition coupled with talent.

Benjamin Franklin is a perfect example of a man who took his destiny into his own hands, worked to get what he wanted out of life, buying his own printing press, producing his own publication and selling his work to a world hungry for content. 

And here we are in 2012; a year many thought would never come (Except the Mayans). Books are on our computers, on our phones, and in small digital tablets where we can store thousands of titles in the palm of our hand. No doubt the day will come when we download ebooks directly into our mind via Amazon’s Whispernet!

Nonetheless, the time for the indie author is now.

The time for men and women to pull their manuscripts from their dusty closets has come.

The battle is on, and those who are strong, shrewd, and with the least overhead will be the victors. If you understand the qualities of the silent generation, you have what it takes.

But remember, in World War II, where there was a soldier, there was a medic; where there was a medic, there was a driver; and where there was a driver there was a doctor.

Independence doesn’t mean a solo act! It doesn't work that way - not well anyway.

Independent musicians need bass players (God help us) and drummers (God, please help us - I know, I am one).

Independent filmmakers need makeup, producers, actors and key grip (whatever that is).

Being independent is not about being a rebel; it’s about being a cylinder that doesn’t fit into the square provided, in our case by traditional publishers.

All to say, don’t go indie alone. Do it with resilience and the guts to pull your story together, even if, and you should, use a team of likewise talented folks (art, editing, formatting, writers in your genre). Then, if you play your cards right and get a nod from the Good Lord or catch some good Karma, you might even sell a few books.

I have to say, I’d probably stick with writing queries everyday if things were not what they were, because that would simply be the right way to get published.

But I don’t have to. Times have changed.

So often it feels like indie publishing is an "us" vs. "them" battle over who will ultimately gain control of their destinies - traditional or independent authors. But we are not at war, we are simply in the middle of changing times and we are all subject to the next technology, or Amazon trick, or take your pick from a number of things that are out of our control. Things; I know that is such a simple word. But I'm simple and like you, I don't know what is around the bend… unmanageable things.

But you know, in the midst of these unsure moments, times that many would consider far less treacherous than other points in history, I can hear the ghost of my grandfather whispering to me, “Charge forward, JP, and take the bastards down!” 

And so, I am… charging forward. 

Now you might think I’m fighting alone because I claim to be an indie author, a lone soldier. The truth is, if I ever need an ambulance, I have a driver, a medic, a foot soldier and a doctor nearby at all times. These are my writing friends, my connections, my posse. We have each other's backs. And we keep each other informed. Like my grandpa used to say, "This ain't no game for a blind man."

Jeff Bennington  is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.  


  1. What an intensely inspiring post! I absolutely agree. Every time I get a little emo about sales or visibility (what, you mean I can't set the world on fire just by showing up?), I remind myself of where I would be without indie publishing: querying endlessly and being rejected, without the exciting opportunities and rays of hope that I have now.

    1. Thanks for saying this was "intensely" inspiring. I think that is needed in this business, regularly. The good thing about the new landscape, is that I can write, produce a book, and get back to study/writing without wasting the hours and days querying, waiting for a sign. What a waste of our valuable time. I haven't done it yet, but I'll keep indie publishing until I write something that can no longer be dismissed by the mainstreamers. That's the hope anyway.

  2. One of your best post, ever! Great analogy and I could so relate.

    1. Wow! Thank you, Jean. Best ever? Really? Now I'm inspired.

  3. Terrific, Jeff. We can draw so much inspiration from history. Thanks!

    1. I couldn't agree more. Thanks for dropping by, Carol. And thanks for the comment.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, Martin. I appreciate the read.

  5. Great stuff Jeff!

    History is full of events and people to inspire us - and I always believe that history is made special not by the leaders or the kings or queens, but by the people - the nameless, silent people. That is the fascinating thing for me. I'm more inspired by the story of the ordinary man turned terrified warrior than the leader who takes all the glory.

    I guess your post has sparked a bit of belief in the book I'm writing. It is inspired by my Great Grandfather's diary from the trenches of Ypres. His diary tells the real story - the worries, the love of those left at home, the painful want for a simple letter. It is about the people who were so important but rarely remembered - their simple acts in the bigger, more famous picture.

    Yep, more inspired now! If ever there was an analogy to get me going this is it!



    1. That's cool, Neil. Sounds like a great story. Glad I could inspire you.

  6. Lessons from the greatest generation. Thanks Jeff.

  7. Great post, Jeff! I have to agree, especially with the last paragraph .... I have a group of author-friends who are my go-to girls in times of crisis and celebration! Essential for the indie author. Lauren

    1. Thank you, Lauren. Glad you stopped by.

  8. As a fellow indie writer I know all about the struggle. It may be a cliché to describe writing, publishing and marketing as a journey, but that’s exactly what it feels like to me. When I started out on my journey, I had no idea how long the road would be. It would be a lonely and perhaps impossible trip without the help, support and advice from my fellow indie writers. You’re absolutely right Jeff… ‘Independence doesn’t mean a solo act!’ Thanks for the inspiring words.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Graham. It always helps me, when other writers share their experiences. Glad you read the article and I'm glad I could inspire.


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