Self-pub vs. Traditional: A Decision

Before I go anywhere with my decision (I’m sure you’re guessing where I landed here), I’d like to pose a quick question:

How do most writers earn their living?

If you didn’t say “Day job,” You’re in a minority. Yes, there are loads of professional writers maybe even one of them will read this blog, but if Twitter is any indication, writers with day jobs outnumber the full-time paid writers by something like six billion to 1. I’m absolutely no exception.

Last winter, the question of ‘making a living’ manifested itself under my bed and set-up shop, taunting me for nights on end. It all started with the comment: “I’d slit my wrists if I had to read much more of this.” As far as professional critical feedback goes, this is pretty much the pinnacle. The comment wasn’t the whole of it though, just the start. The other key part involved the addition of a new project at my day job which meant weekends being basically spoken for. With all of this on my mind, I concluded that not only is the quality of my writing improving much more slowly than I’d imagined, but also that my day job does, in fact, pay pretty well and is important to my family. This led me to the realization that I am absolutely not going to be able to replace a real paycheck with writing anytime in the near future. While I recognize it’s possible to work hard and shift careers like this, I’ve got way too many other responsibilities at this stage in my life for that to be truly practical. All of this led me to the understanding that not only is traditional publishing well outside the realm of possibility for me, I don’t really want to pursue it anyhow.

My logic is this: If I got an agent and a book deal (big fucking if here, I know), but if that’s what I worked to, the best case scenario* is that I’d be subject to deadlines I didn’t set, egos that don’t belong to me, and pressure to produce more or less the same thing I already did that everyone liked so much AND AND AND I get to continue working my day job to feed my family & put a roof over our heads….

Why would I pursue this again? To remove all of the enjoyment from something I like doing without even getting a real pay-check? No, just no. If I’m going to work a second job, it’s going to be on my terms.

This leaves self-publishing. I get the freedom to work with an editor of my choosing, have full oversight and final decision making on cover design, AND I get to choose to publish whatever the hell I like on my own terms. Yes, this is an expensive road and I’m conceding that the financial results are going to be underwhelming, but I think once I start getting my stuff out there and picking up readers, I might make enough to cover my costs and maybe make a bit more to cover the next project. PLUS, if I have to put writing aside for a stretch to deal with life, I can do that on my own terms.

Anyhow, with all that in mind, I’m going to start working with an editor in November to bring The Dark Queen of Darkness into shape. My target release is September 2019. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that as I being the process of working with an editor and getting set-up for self-publishing.

 


*Yes, there is another best-case scenario, which runs something like “…but J.K. Rowling… and now she’s got more money than the queen!” Okay, yes, that sometimes happens, but I’m not a J.K. Rowling and won’t ever be. I’m going to be Dave S. Koster (and sometimes another pen name), and that guy is pretty sure ‘viral success’ is always something that happens to someone else.

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Back in the captain’s chair

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Warning! This is not a blog post about writing or any of my current projects, even though NaNoWriMo has kicked off. It’s about life in general. I could have posted this on www.bakedgoodsandbourbon.com , but it didn’t feel like the right vibe for it. So here it is.

Today, I went to work as a ‘boss’ again. Not the boss, and not the chair I left just over a year ago, which is a position I still hold in high regard and sorely miss. There are so many ways the new situation is different from the last. First off, I’ve got a much smaller team, and that team isn’t really in my full charge. I’m more of a lead, I think. Further, I don’t have a budget and the constraints I have in terms of direction and strategy are far more restrictive. I can’t really see past February, strategically speaking. As part of the new gig, I’ve got a shiny new office that’s larger than any office I’ve ever had before. I feel like a solitary pea rolling around in a big unfriendly can.

This all started coming together some weeks ago and has been in motion for months. Even after I was given the new title and a modest pay-rise, the whole thing remained in limbo. Even right now, I’m still not really sure I understand why, but I have some guesses. Even in my new spot, with my new badge, there are still irregularities that have me assuming I’ll be bumped back to my cube by next week. In truth, this ‘boss’ thing doesn’t change much, it’s the same situation I had last week excepting that I now have authority to directly delegate and assign tasks. I don’t know that my authority extends beyond that, and that’s okay, but it gives the whole thing a different flavor.

Tuesday this week was a hard day because it was the first day I’d taken up residency in my new office. I’m going to be honest. That didn’t go well. The space has been vacant for a year, and was beginning to attract a lot of attention. There also happens to be a certain emotional attachment some folks have to the place because of it’s previous occupant, whom they all liked very well. To complicate things further, I am nearly the most junior member of my larger group, yet I am among the most seasoned supervisors in their ranks (one of my new team members is, I think, perhaps as experienced in this realm or possibly more.) In any case, just moving into the office seems to have lobbed a political hot-potato over an already uneasy fence. If rumors are true, and I suspect they are, that potato was more of a dirty bomb, and I still have yet to see the full effects of the poison. My least favorite comment started with, and yes this happened, “Don’t Take it personally but…”

I took it personally.

It may be the person who said those words even reads this blog, and will be offended, but frankly I’m not certain I care, I see it as the height of unprofessionalism to waltz into someone’s office, someone who heartily believes he has done what needs to be done to demonstrate the best possible qualities necessary to do the job, and tell them they should not be there. Regardless of who you’re mad at, that’s personal.

I made it through the day, did what needed to be done, spoke to one of my new team-members (she was finally notified of things), though everyone else had to hear it through rumor, which is also going to make life difficult over the coming weeks and months. I made it through the next and into this morning.

Today, I sat down in my chair, fired up my computer and had a visit from the other new team-member. She had finally been told what the plan was, and asked if she was going to be okay with it. She was. For my part, this removes all ambiguity from our working relationship. I have been in a position where I necessarily needed to give tasks, guidance, and make decisions for a few months, but it’s been an odd dance for me not to over-step, as I may have done when I was in my 20s. I now finally get to do that without the reservation of treading on my supervisor’s authority, even if a bit of dancing remains necessary.

By this afternoon, I remembered why it is I enjoy this role. I remembered how being ‘the boss’ give me satisfaction in my job that’s impossible to describe. To be clear, it’s not about taking credit for a project or product, that’s always a ‘we’, it’s not about being in charge for ‘power’, because being a low-level manager is never going to get you that anyhow. To me, it’s about being the guy who helps facilitate the team’s work in a more abstract manner. I like being the guy the team can go to with a question and get a reasonable answer with background, without double-speak or obfuscation, and with certainty that a decision or discussion will not be reversed without a specific explanation, or even the person who isn’t just going to turn a problem about into ‘your problem.’ To me, it’s a good day at work to have a team member come and say – ‘I think we should do it this way,’ and be in a position to respond with. ‘Yes, that’s a good idea, do it.’

Before today, I never felt I had a team in this job. Sure I’m in a team, but they never took to me. Even my most trusted source of information and guidance tells me things like ‘your project is going to fail,’ routinely. This feedback only manages to come across as ‘I like you well enough to be honest, we don’t like you here and really don’t like what you’re up to’ Nothing makes it clearer that you’re in the out-group. So, it feels good to be with a supportive team again, even if the team too small to accomplish even half of what we have ahead of us in the next four months. Sitting in that over-large, unfriendly office where covetous stares challenge me while I sit at my desk, and many co-workers, uncertain of my status, pass awkwardly by, and others who stop in shock realizing the office is no longer empty and possibly available, I am reminded of what it is that makes me smile in the face of a challenge.

If nothing else, this situation is teaching me what I really want out of a career, what really give me motivation when I drop into my seat in the morning. With all that off my chest, I’m off to NaNo!


Photo credit: Tom Mrazek Sit down and watch the world pass by… via photopin (license)