Yeah, it’s been a while. Between a crazy November, the fact that I keep December decidedly low key(and fail miserably at it every year), and a January that started with an awesome weekend at Illogicon and ended with the flu and Bronchitis, I’ve been tied up.
Well, not literally. Though I do like to keep an open mind.
This year I’ve got all kinds of stuff happening. I’ve got an event or two almost every month, and I’ve started a new novella series(because I am an idiot). I plan to run those by a publisher, so, while I can hope all I want that it’ll come out this year, it’ll likely be 2019 before it sees the light of day.
That’s kind of what I wanted to touch on. I got a few hard knocks last year as a professional. Some I couldn’t really argue. Some, frankly, fucked me up so bad that I didn’t talk to anyone for days. But then I realized something: If you don’t tell me, I don’t know. And I’m not the only one going through it. Then, whilst whining over dinner with a friend in the industry about why I wasn’t making a shitload of money and negotiating television deals, I got a one-liner from him I’ve never gotten before.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
I’ve been at this for a couple of years now. My first book came out in 2015. Bad Movie Beware! was more of a novelty. It’s a collection of reviews from my other pet project, Fail-Flix. The book didn’t sell for shit, and I didn’t expect it to. It sold to a very niche crowd, people who know me, and it gets looked at on Kindle Direct every now and then. It’s not a bad book at all. Actually, I’m really proud of it! But it’s a select market, and I was aware of that.
Rifle, on the other hand, could’ve done better.
The Rifle Chronicles was my foot in the door on publishing fiction. But the reality is that people generally don’t purchase short stories one at a time. They like to wait and get them all at once. I’m just as guilty. I have all three Bubba the Monster Hunter collections by John Hartness, but I only have a few of the stories from the first season, and I got those when he put them on special for free here and there.
I felt disappointed at Concarolinas 2016 because I sold two books the whole weekend. One copy of Saloon Opens at Five, one copy of Bad Movie Beware. How did I handle it? I drank like hell and self-destructed. You know: professional.
I cleaned up my act and got back to it. Mostly because my wife and all of my friends kicked my ass. Even my non-writer community kicked me in my ass. One of my coworkers and good friend, Marcus, just kept telling me: “Keep. Writing.”
Clockworks of War Book 1: Gaslit Insurrection has been a HUGE success for me. Now, let’s be real: I ain’t making a fortune. Not yet. One day, maybe, but I’m not holding my breath, and I damn sure ain’t quitting my day job over it.
See, I’m still trying to run this marathon. Now that I know it’s not a sprint, I can find a steady pace and roll with it. But I also am new at this. I have one novel, a short story series, and a stories in a handful of anthologies. it took me a WHILE to get this far, and I ain’t far.
Real talk, people: If you’re writing for the money and glory, you need to stop. Step away from the keyboard. Close Word. Rethink your priorities. If you do it solely for money, you’re going to hate it, you’re going to be sorely disappointed, and you’re going to end up quitting, which is way worse. Also known as a Sad Pen-Monkey. If you’re in it because you love to tell stories, and that’s how you aspire to EVENTUALLY make your living, then you now have permission to get back to work. That will help make you a happier Pen-Monkey. Frankly, I don’t know any serious writers who hate doing it, so yeah: do it for the love first.
Secondly: GO TO CON. Yeah, that shit is expensive. Hotel, tickets, food, and be real: you’re going to buy something in the vendor room. I always pick up something myself. Typically it’s for my kid, though not always. But con is also the best place to do two things: learn, and network. Panels can be great fun, but make sure you take in panels that are informational. As much as I love doing Geeky Rants and Best of the Worst Movies, you’re going to learn more about Godzilla and how much I despise Tom Cruise than you are about how to get a book out there. Take in panels about publishing, pitching, and technique. Take in workshops. BE SOCIAL. Talk to authors and make friends. Go to the bar with them and chat. That author might also be the owner of a booming press that is always looking to buy new authors. That band you became fast friends with might share your stuff on Facebook(make sure you return the favor), and might even want to work with you on a project! That fan guest might have access to a slew of people who happen to love your genre. And if you’re a guest there, don’t ever go with the idea of making money. Ever. You’re not going to. Not at every con. Some, yes, but not reliably. You’re not there to see how many books you can sell. You’re there to get exposure, market, and network so you can grow professionally. It’s an investment. Unless you’re a publisher, you’re not there to fatten your wallet over the weekend.
Third: Realize that your book is not going to sell itself. If you’re not at minimum blasting Facebook and Twitter with blurbs, “buy my shit,” and links so people can buy said shit, then no one is going to buy your shit. People in your life who hit your feed every day, even members of your family, probably don’t even know you have a book out. Put on your slut-suit, and whore yourself online. If you can afford Facebook ads and such, great! If not, Hootsuite is free. Do SOMETHING. Likewise, if you’re at con, your book isn’t going to flag people down and tell them about itself. It’s certainly not going to pick itself up and put itself in their hands(and if it does, run like hell, that shit is HAUNTED). Hence, if you aren’t at a panel, you need to be at the table if you have one. Period. You’re working. People aren’t typically going to walk up, look at the cover, and go “I want that.” You need to talk to them, be personable. I catch a little shit from time to time because I sell a lot of books when I go to an event(not anyone being mean, just called a whore. because I am one). Background check: I worked in sales and customer interaction for over twenty years. My dad sold cars my entire life. Kind of trained in sales over here, people. One of my author friends is a former military man and a practicing medical doctor. He listens to a potential fan’s interests, diagnoses their tastes, and prescribes them a book off his table that fits them. I’m not kidding. It’s fucking hilarious to listen to. And it works.
And realize that you’re going to work at your day job for a while. You’re going to be the new kid and groupie for a while. You can make two choices: You can stay the groupie, pub the occasional book, and just putt along smiling at one con a year and leave upset because no one bought your books. Or, you can pound it, absorb what people more successful than you are doing, emulate the shit out of it the best you can, and never stop learning and developing. Again, you are not J.K Rowling. Your little book is not going to sell like hell and make you millions. It’s not happening. It’s NOT. NO. And if it does, then great! You were the anomaly just like her! But be realistic. I would LOVE Clockworks of War to get picked up by New Line or Disney and get made into a feature film. I ain’t holding my breath. It’s great to think about how cool that would be, but it ain’t gonna sell books. I have a friend who’s self-pubbed series is in the works to become a Netflix Original series. He got lucky, but he worked his ass off for years to be in the position to get lucky. I have another friend who sustains herself off her writing. It took her thirty years to get to that point. Some can do it sooner. But they all know the same truth, regardless of who they are and how they got where they are. It’s a truth that got beaten into my head with the business end of the Reality Stick. And it’s a solid, proven truth.
It’s a Marathon. Not a Sprint.
Keep writing, people!