Alison Armstrong is a gifted author I met through online fan groups for Michael Easton, the General Hospital actor who inspired my vampire soap opera thriller Hope Dawns Eternal. Alison and I met in person at a GH fan event in New Jersey in 2014. This morning she’ll be meeting Michael and his GH buddy Roger Howarth at another event in New Jersey. Since I couldn’t afford the trip this time around, I sent Alison a copy of Hope Dawns Eternal in hopes that she can hand it to him directly, along with a letter and a couple of poems I hope he’ll enjoy.
Back on October 8, 2016, Alison and I both participated at an Indie Authors Day held at libraries nationwide. Soon after, at my request, she sent me the following post about the event:
Having attended an Indie Book Fair recently as an author, I learned some valuable information regarding marketing and distribution; however, the overall message of the advice left me feeling disheartened regarding the arbitrary standardization of the publishing industry and upset about the commoditization of the arts in general. Instead of focusing on creativity and literary talent, the speakers at the book event emphasized orthodoxy in page design (justified text, avoidance of stylistic content-driven page and paragraph breaks, etc.) .
Although I support the importance of proper grammar and punctuation and feel that these aspects, along with originality in content, expression, and style, are essential in quality writing, I do not believe that standardization of font, margins, and other traditional publishing practices should be given such a high priority. Nevertheless, despite the increasing numbers of indie authors, the publishing industry persists in perpetuating typographic conventions that are usually not used in Word or other common writing programs. In so doing, the publishing industry imposes an arbitrary standard to differentiate between traditionally published and print-on-demand authors so that the “indie” writers may feel pressured into purchasing services to make their work appear more like traditional published materials, thereby making their work less independent, more restricted by financial concerns. Along with the standardization of text format , book publishers seem to be promoting an increasingly conventional approach to cover design, resulting in a glut of covers featuring monotonously similar figurative clichés associated with the book’s genre, such as the faceless torsos displayed like slabs of cosmetically enhanced meat on the covers of lurid romance novels.
The arts in general, especially in the United States, are generally viewed in a similar way as those hunky yet generic slabs of flesh, something to readily consume as entertainment or profit from. Favoring the familiar, the already established, the tried and true moneymakers, publishing companies, recording companies, and movie studios sign fewer new authors, musicians, and filmmakers. The newbies and the “indies,” therefore, seek new ways of gaining exposure for their work. However, as with the “indie” book fair example, even some resources and organizations presuming to work on behalf of the independent artists devalue certain aspects of individualistic expression.
Independent authors, musicians, artists and filmmakers represent a challenge to the financially-driven industries that struggle to maintain a monopoly on the arts by propagating lookalike, superficially pleasing but often substanceless clones. The literary renegades, such as William Burroughs and J. G. Ballard, the ravaged voices of Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, these muses of rebellion and individuality epitomize the freedom, intensity, and expressive potential of the independent, creative spirit.
Inspired by artists such as these, I have created the Independent Creators Alliance group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/269464480120915/ ). I invite creators in any of the arts to join in solidarity, supporting each other and the ideal of artistic freedom. I envision this group as a place to express our ideas regarding the arts and integrity to our vision while connecting with other creative people. It can be a place to network, brainstorm ideas, share sources of inspiration, and collaborate perhaps on projects. In these rather depressing times, we need the arts more than ever to heal the soul.
Alison makes some provocative points that are deserving of further discussion. I’ve joined her Independent Creators Alliance group on Facebook, and I hope you will too. And by all means check out her books Revenance and Toxicosis, both available on Amazon. But don’t confuse her with the other Alison Armstrong, who writes books about how women can please and communicate better with men. That’s definitely the wrong Alison!