This is a phrase that gets cyclically dissected in social media these days. The last time its bones got picked, I saw it being portrayed as a phrased used by women to men as a defensive measure to make themselves look better. It was said to be a distancing tool, wielded to earn better treatment. As in, “I’m not like other girls, so don’t treat me the way you treat other girls. Treat me with respect.”
Okay. That is clearly true for others in situations outside my experience. But this is my blog, where I talk about me, and that narrative doesn’t match my life. So, let me tell you my story. Not interested? That’s all good. I am hardly a mainstream example of anything. Except, y’know, white, married, educated, employed, not-poor privilege. I’m all that.
I’m only saying, I did say those words, and I meant them, but it was never said(and I doubt was ever interpreted) with the meaning stated above. Bottom line, though: I’m not speaking for anyone else.
When I used that phrase with men (and I haven’t in over 25 years) I was saying it to reassure guys who were afraid to trust me. These were guys over whom I held all the power of acceptance or rejection in the social dynamic. They were accustomed to dismissal and outright derision from women who were not interested in scruffy-haired comic-reading, math-obsessed, Monty-Python-quoting fantasy-RPG playing men. I was saying to those men, “I know the rejection you feel, for I, too, am a social outlier.”
And in an aside, those same women were the ones who actively, vocally refused association with me because I was a scruffy-haired, flannel-wearing, moisturizer-indifferent science-obsessed weird girl. Just saying.
And back then when my overwhelmingly male social circle said disparaging things about women followed by, “but we don’t mean you, you’re not like them,” I called them out on it, oh, yes I did. Mostly by pointing out that I was indeed female and emphatically did identify with the “girls” they were dissing. Sometimes by simply tugging my collar and doing an ostentatious boob check. (how often? usually? always? I can’t judge from memory. I know I had a whole repertoire of comebacks memorized by junior year in college.)
I never felt “better than” other girls. I was measurably isolated in my differences. I had damned few compatriots in my limited peer group and fewer adults as role models. Until college, I knew three women who read SFF. My physics teacher, her daughter, and one classmate in a high school class of 700. (And four I met in summer camp. We shared two unforgettable, brilliant, giddy weeks fighting light saber flashlight battles and talking about The Dark Is Rising, but we had no internet to hold us together when the dream weeks ended, and we never saw each other again. The end.)
I met a couple more women SF gaming nerds in college. By which I mean two. TWO. But sure, there were always some other girls like me. When I said “I’m not like other girls,” to guys I was never declaring myself a unicorn who should be revered, just a member of a shared minority. And it was accepted in that same sense by guys who were not like other guys. Our geeky awakening was a shared, culturally alienated phase where all of us were truly wasn’t like almost any other people we knew.
The men I hung with, back in the day (and now) treated women with respect. No, really. They tried, to the best of their ability and experience and blind privilege. And when they didn’t get it right, they got read the riot act (and told me I was being emotional, got read MORE riot acts until they eventually learned.)
We stuck with our passions, me and my guy-exclusive social circle, the world turned around us slowly, nerd culture became mainstream, and I no longer had to reassure men I understood difference. These days I can’t swing a cat without hitting nerdly women and men in every walk of life.
If I was 20 years younger, I would’ve had girl friends who didn’t turn away from magic stories in junior high and start shunning me. I would’ve had Harry Potter-raised, video-gaming adept girl buddies. I never would’ve said I wasn’t like other girls to men, because my sisters in nerdliness would’ve stepped up beside me and I would’ve been like them all along, loving nerdy guys and girls right back.
The glory of nerd passion is that it can be discovered and embraced at any age, by anyone, so women of my advanced age have discovered SFF and video gaming and comics over the years too. (When curiosity meets ubiquity, magic happens) I am now like so many other girls it makes my heart sing and my head spin with giddy joy.
But. I do still use equivalents of that phrase with women to this day. These days, it is a different defensive shorthand, explaining in the language of the groups I move through that I don’t enjoy things theyassume (nay, insist) I should and must like because of my gender. What I actually say is something more like, “I know <X> is a popular thing, but it isn’t my thing.” They’re the ones who nigh-invariably translate that to “well, you’re not like other women.” Which is patently not true, and I will call it out when I have the energy, but there’s only so much ingrained prejudice I can fight. If they want to think me different, well, then, bless their hearts.
It’s easy, and if I can do it, anyone can. Read on, if you’re interested in the how-to.
The good news: I didn’t do the reading and recording. (If you want to learn voice acting, and invest in equipment, great! I sure as hell didn’t, and I was damned sure no one wanted to listen to squeaky-nasal me read anything.) So I had to find a voice actor and learn how the audiobook creation process worked.
Recommendations from other indie writers pointed me to a site called ACX.com, which pairs up authors with people who want to do audio. (ACX calls them “producers.”) The site also sets up the production contract, distributes the final digital audio to assorted venues, and handles the financial side of the whole process, including royalties.
There are other ways to make audiobooks, I’m sure. If you make one some other way, ACX offers distribution options. There are undoubtedly other ways to distribute audio to sales channels. I can’t speak to those topics, because I liked what I saw at ACX, checked and found no huge red flags that said AVOID! AVOID! and signed up.
Note: ACX.com is one node of the many-tentacled monster known as Amazon, and so is the subscription/sales channel Audible.com. In case that’s a factor, pro or con. Like Createspace and KDP, ACX offers exclusive or universal distribution options. Like them, it can be considered a great service or an exploitative one. I respect those who choose to avoid Amazon on principle. Me, I gain enough from their exclusive services to accept the terms. Yes, I’ve done the math, and I’m good at math. I am not being exploited. I am an unknown independent author likely to forever remain obscure. Gift horses and mouths, beggars and choosers, etc. Pick your saying.
ACX worked for me because they offer a contract option called “royalty-share.” Instead of paying someone to deliver a finished product for a fee, which I would then own outright (aka “Work for hire”) the producer makes an audio of the book on spec, and then the author & producer split profits for all sales of the finished product.
This admirably suited my lack of up-front budget. I couldn’t afford to make an audio if I had to pay for a reader and/or the after-reading production. Good narrators charge $50- $500 a finished hour, and my novels run 10+ hours.
Using ACX start to finish meant the whole process cost me no money. Let me emphasize that: the audiobook of my first novel cost me zero $$ out of pocket. I won’t say it was free, because I invested my valuable time in the process, and the loss of “potential profit” created by sharing sales equally with the producer is impossible to calculate. Not to mention that I haven’t bought an ISBN for this edition yet.
(Spare me the lecture on the importance of owning my own ISBNs and blah blah blah. I KNOW. I AGREE. I plan to buy my first 10-batch this year and put out new editions of my titles with my own owned-ISBNs. I will. BUT. When I first published, I didn’t know if I would ever bother doing a third ebook, much less multiple formats for multiple works. At that point–and for the first year of publishing–investing even $100 in ISBNs looked foolish, and having to buy them probably would’ve scared me away from publishing at all. But I digress. As one does, on a blog.)
Bottom line: I didn’t need to have cash on hand to open up a whole new market to my writing. That’s a thing.
And right now I want to run in circles and roll around on the floor like a cat high on catnip. See, MY AUDIOBOOK IS LIVE! Look, here’s a picture of the cover:
Pretty, isn’t it? Okay, okay, I’m distracted. Back to how-to.
Two practical concerns for DIY’ers like me: 1. It’s square. 2. the narrator’s name is prominently displayed with mine, which means I couldn’t just squooze my book cover into the right dimensions and be done. I won’t inflict a “how to make it” guide on anyone. Too much depends on the resolution and size of the book-shaped original, not to mention differing access to graphic manipulation programs and potential rights tussles over the cover imagery. But I will tell you what I did.
I read the ACX production guide to cover requirements, went to free graphics site Canva.com to make the text block, and used free graphic manipulation program GIMP to resize my ebook cover and add the new material. NOTE: I own the cover design outright, which simplified that issue. Only use graphics you have the right to use commercially.
The cover doesn’t tell you anything about the contents, but a simple click sends you straight to the Audible.com page where prospective customers can read the same blurb they’ll find on Amazon.com and listen to a sample.
And that’s all the attention span I have for this edition of “What Contrarian Karen Does As An Independent Author.” In a while I will revisit the topic with a Part 2 on how I wrote my ACX pitch, the joys of auditioning narrators, the fun of communicating with narrators, and the nitty-gritty of getting the final product up and running.
Meanwhile, if you want to read Controlled Descent with your ears rather than your eyes and might feel inclined to write an audiobook review, leave me a comment or a message with an email addy. Audble.com supplied me with freebie codes so I can entice people to listen and leave reviews. They even gave me specific how-to-redeem-your-freebie instructions for doling out along with the codes.
Fair warning: my narrator Brendan McKernan has a phenomenal voice.
And full disclaimer: if using the code from me makes you fall in love with Audible.com and you get suckered in buy a membership after the free trial, I get money out of the deal.