The Independents by Aaron Speer is a very short 27-page story not to be missed by the aspiring writer that many readers have morphed into. The Chapter One title, “How’s Your Career Going?” gives a subtle hint as to the success of Martina Johnson. She has written more than one book but nothing she writes is selling. She finds it easy to keep track of book sales when the number is zero. She has an agent who never contacts her and a publisher that won’t send royalty checks under USD 100. She has yet to receive a check. She knows the problem; she doesn’t know how to market her work or herself. There are kids to feed, an ex-husband reluctant to help take care of them, and bills to pay. What can she do?
Independent publishing seemed to be the way to go. She would write something new. The books she had written could stay on the shelf; she was embarking on a different path with different content. What was selling well? Porn, in its formal, socially correct description, erotica, seemed to be earning writers a lot of money. She would have to come up with a new twist in a genre known for many twists. Martina decided to write as if she were a man. There would be provocative, exciting covers. The phrasing in blurbs would ignite the pages and charge the batteries of Kindle reading devices. And she would market herself on social media.
For her plan to work, her real identity would have to be secret. Also, she didn’t want to sully her reputation as a “real” writer; she didn’t want her other books contaminated with her porn identity. So she created Damien. He was an instant hit. Women followed him, at first only the fake women Martina created by establishing several social media profiles. She had created her main character, why not create fans as well? Damien did not quite go viral, but there were daily sales. A street crew, groupies, loved the Damien books, gave great reviews, and ganged up on reviewers posting negative comments. As Damien’s fame increased, more and more attention centered on trying to get an actual photo of Damien rather than the avatar-like book eye candy.
And then the threat arrived. Sent by one person claiming to have discovered Martina’s identity, the message claimed to be from a group of independent authors who were offended by Martina’s aggressive marketing and the financial rewards that followed. The messenger demanded that Martina close all accounts and profiles; if not, there would be consequences. Martina responded, posting the threat and retweeting it to all her followers, her street crew. Her fans went into action blasting all possible independent authors they could identify. Martina’s fake profiles all received warnings, even her real accounts received the threats of more dire consequences. Martina contemplated new retaliation.
Before she could react to the latest flurry of messages and texts, her ex-husband died in a car accident. Or maybe it was not an accident. Martina became suspicious after a call from the police. They wanted to talk with her about the accident, but not on the phone. A time for the police to meet her at her home was set up.
Skilled social media manipulators will like this short story. Victims of social media abuse will empathize. Those dabbling with the idea of independent publishing will find this an enjoyable read … maybe. This is one of those short tales that make a Kindle Unlimited subscription worth the money.