What does it mean to be an “underground” author in the age of the internet?
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of and about Charles Bukowski. Largely ignored for most of his life, he submitted his rough, distinctly “low-brow” poetry to independent and small press journals. Through these he gained an “underground” following that slowly grew by word of mouth until other independent and small press publishing houses printed his works in book form for that “underground” fan base. Bukowski’s work caught the eye of other writers and musicians, mostly in the L.A. and San Francisco areas, until eventually he caught on nationally and even internationally.
But in today’s media world, what does it mean to be an “indie” author or to have an “underground” following?
This indie author, whom you are now reading, dear valued patron, has a substantial following, or, shall I say, a much larger following than I ever imagined would sprout from my initial blog posts about Lola. As I have explained in various interviews elsewhere, this compulsion, which borders on graphomania, came into being because, after a few months with Lo, I discovered that there was almost no literature out there about being in a relationship with a nymphomaniac. Since no one else was writing about it, I figured I’d toss my hat in the ring and give a first-person account of what it’s like — the proverbial trials and tribulations as well as the orgasms and titillations.
Before I knew it, I was suddenly gaining a following and garnering the praise and accolades of other fellow sex-bloggers. Women were sending me fan mail and nudes of themselves, much to the consternation of Lo. Men and women were writing to Lo and sending her all sorts of salacious selfies, much to her lurid enthusiasm.
Our subscriptions and unique visits to our blog went up and soon we were being featured on sites like Bustle and Top Sex Blogger lists.
I compiled various stories into books and those sold swiftly. And now, today, we have over 20,000 followers on our various media outlets.
However much those numbers might dwarf the reach and following of a Bukowski back in the day, with the potential of today’s technology, that seems far less impressive than it would have been when the only way to get your writing in front of a reader was through the mimeograph machine.
Are you, dear confessional confidant, part of an underground audience? Does it even make sense to speak of such in today’s complex and multilevel media ecosystem? Or is “underground” just a term that is used retrospectively to describe a core following of people that read a certain author before he or she hit the mainstream? Is it something that can only be applied with hindsight?
I don’t know the answers to these questions and I suppose, on some level, it doesn’t matter since I write about what I love and I love what I write about — Lo. As long as the love is good, I feel the writing will be good as well. And though the letters and gifts from the readers are flattering and the money (what little there is) earned from the writing is appreciated, what matters most is that I really enjoy doing what I’m doing.