Before you publish, Part 14 —The elephant in the room: Money

Before you Publish - 14

I had this whole other blog post prepared for today covering working with contractors. I even spent my few breakfast minutes before work cleaning it up. But as the day wore on and my anxiety level ratcheted up, for no apparent reason, I felt like that post wasn’t what I need to be talking about right now. What I want to talk about is money. I invested a substantial amount of money in The Dark Queen of Darkness. I’d hazard a guess as to say the amount of dollars I put into this project this far exceeds what most indie authors could afford by a wide margin, and I’m not done yet. I saw it as something of an investment, but looking back on that investment, I’m questioning it. Granted, I’m only a few weeks in, but the mountain I’ve got to climb just to recoup costs may not be surmountable.

This topic kicked off in my head last night during an exchange with a fellow author. I’ll leave their name out of it for the moment because it wasn’t the most upbeat discussion. To be clear: This person is helpful, present, and someone I look to for guidance. It really hurts me to see them in the place they are in as a writer. What it all boils down to, however, is dollars. More specifically, the dollars we spend, without seeing any sort of Return on Investment (ROI).

We all want to live the dream: be a writer full-time. I realized a few years ago, that it wasn’t practical for me, even going traditional. It might be for a lucky and persistent few, but not for most of us. My revised plan revolves around having a substantial catalog by the time I retire in some 15 or so years. I think most writers don’t think this way, and rightly so. We want to do this professionally, are willing to put in the hours and legwork, but can’t scratch up enough of an audience to make it happen —Even really quite talented writers fall into this category.

So. Is it worth it?

Some context first. I have two books currently in the universe two more in the pipeline for the next 12-24 months. More money will need to be spent to launch these and I want to know if it’s even worth thinking about. After all, I have a job, and it’s a rare good one. I don’t really need to jump into something else. The only thing I can say to this is that I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA. None at all. I often repeat the phrase “luck favors the prepared.” I say this because you can’t win the lottery if you don’t play, you don’t win the football game if you don’t show up, and you sure as hell can’t become a professional writer if you don’t write.

What I’m getting at is that it’s my belief, right or wrong, that not doing something you’re passionate about leaves you with 0 chance to succeed at that thing. Giving it your all, whatever that looks like, gives you the best opportunity to capitalize on a lucky break. You might never see a lucky break. Loads of people never do, but how awful would it be to get one and not be able to run with it?

So, to swing back around to dollars (or Pounds or Euros or whatever the hell spends in your part of the world.) Put in what you think you can, or what’s necessary. If you have $3000 to drop into a book and have a reason to —do that. Do it to make your work professional, findable, and something you’re proud of. If you have $0, it turns out that you too can publish. Your returns will stink, but know this: You’re $3000 up on some other ding-dong selling precisely the same number of books.

So, should we keep on throwing our work into the universe with no expectation you’ll attract enough readers to pay the bills? The answer, if you’re an indie, is YES. Do this. Don’t give it away, of course, get paid for your work when you can, but don’t not do it if you love it. In the end, you may be upside-down dollar-wise and will have proven to yourself that it was not, in fact, worth it,  but you tried.

To put one last analogy on this, and be perfectly frank with folks, I am the ding-dong who spent about $3K on The Dark Queen of Darkness, and I think the production value shows. But I will never make back that investment on this book. It simply can’t happen without a VERY lucky break. I’ll work my ass off to sell copies to try to at least break-even and get it into the hands of readers, but it’s not really in the cards here. However, if I had decided to open a home-brew supply store, one of my hair-brained ideas from years ago, I would have to invest TEN TIMES that much and might wind up in exactly the same boat. So, yes, you’ve put in the time and didn’t make any money, but literally every other investment you can think of is no different.

Best of luck, writer friends. If you’re thinking about publishing and you’re on the fence about spending money, spend if you have it, if not, don’t. Either way, please don’t give up, the odds are tall and you may never get to do this professionally, but tell your stories. The world needs them.

To see the other blog posts in this series, check here.

Why do you have a tattoo of a lemon on your left butt cheek?

lemon-1117568_640

This is an excellent question, and based on completely false information. I don’t have a tattoo of a lemon on my left butt-cheek, but I wanted to see how many people clicked through from such an absurd title. I’m a total stats nerd and so if more than one person took the bait, I’ll be analyzing every bit of information Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress can give me about who took it. Once I’ve done that, I won’t put that information to any other use.

The truth is that I haven’t posted a blog in about a month and it’s time. It’s not that I haven’t written one, because I’ve written several. All of them are whiny, stupid rants about not finding an agent or feeling sub-standard. And it’s true, that’s what’s going on and how I feel about it. But, having a pity-party for myself is a stupid asinine waste of time, even though I do it routinely –I just can’t help myself. In fact, today was one of those days where my ego fought itself relentlessly because my everlasting low opinion of myself may, in some instances, be a tad unfair. I didn’t receive another agent rejection, and that felt good, but I didn’t receive a partial or full MS request either. I didn’t really accomplish great things at work, but I did my best to get folks what they need and may have even made one person happy with the work I have done. I was contacted by someone with Google (the result of my playing of their foo.bar recruiting game over the winter -for those unfamiliar with Google, this alone was something of a feat), and I also got word that business cards for another effort have arrived – Maybe more on that later, still need to get things squared up with work before I can actually being working on the new thing.

All that being said, I’m still feeling down because the one thing I desperately want to succeed at doesn’t show the slightest shred of evidence that it’ll pan out for me. Perhaps that’s what really hard. I’m the sort of guy that will do shit once provoked. It’s vaguely like when you hit a hornets nest and those little bastards will chase you down and lay siege to your house until you starve to death. They just don’t quit. So, when I hit something where I no longer have the control to achieve success, it’s a painful blow.

Before jumping to conclusions about how it is I waste my time, I have not given up. I haven’t given up on the querying, even though it’s feeling like a Sisyphean task, and I haven’t given up on writing. It’s true, I’m not nearly as in love with my current projects as I was with Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, nor am I as committed to finishing any of them. In some ways, I’m still looking for the right story to work on. Book 2 of Wine bottles is where my heart is, but I don’t want to spend six months hammering out another book that is DoA. I’ve got three other book projects in the works, but only two have much of a plot-arc mapped out and the one of them has a YA feel, which I’m not 100% comfortable with just yet. Plus there are some short fiction projects, one of which I’m committed to finishing, but it’s more literary and I’m not equipped to tell the story that I want to tell.

And that’s my writing progress report. It’s not awesome or productive, nor does it cover anything at all relevant to tattoos of lemons on butt-cheeks, but it’s where I am. Maybe one of these days I’ll have something better to report.