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Entries in career (2)

Thursday
Dec292011

Things I've Learned as a Modern Author

   Coming into writing as a youngling, I had many preconceived notions.  Some of those are very common.  For one, I thought I would become a renouned besteseller after submitting one query to a publisher.  I believed my words would inspire the downtrodden, and weary consumerist driven individual to exclaim, "Holy crap!  I have never seen such words strewn forth upon a page!  Why! This shall be greater than Tolkien!  This will be greater than everything!".  Who hasn't had such dreams?  Needless to say these were just that: dreams. 

    I began my journey to publication at the age of twenty-one.  I had just finished my first novel, a fantasy entitled (and, yes, I am using the word entitled despite some embittered agent's recommendation that I not use it because "it makes it seems like one is entitled to something in return"...sheesh!) "Zurigan's Child".  Summoning every ounce of courage I had (which wasn't much at the time), I wrote and re-wrote query after query, synopses after synopses to present at conference after conference.  Alas, to no avail.  Most often I was told, "What an interesting story, but it's not what we're looking for right now.", or "We don't buy fantasy, only science fiction." even though they were agents listed as scifi/fantasy agents in the catalogue.  Many a time I was even openly mocked in front of agents I paid to have time in front of.  Such is the life of a young, aspiring author. 

    I turned then to the "Writer's Market Guide" book, and spent the better part of two years writing short stories and fine tuning my queries to suit the markets wherein, all the while continuing the saga of Caroline in the Assaudian War series.  Again, no avail.  I amassed a great deal of "We love your story, but it doesn't fit our market right now" rejection letters (what the heck does that mean anyway?!), and found myself doubting my talent.  This happened for a long, long while.  It wasn't even a matter of the feedback being negative because it wasn't.  It wasn't as though the editors and publishers were saying, "Hey, your work sucks and there is nothing we can do with it." or, "Get yourself a copyeditor." or, "Get a day job.".  They had positive things to say.  The worst they said was, "It's not what we're looking for."  So vague.  It was like they expected me to read their minds, or be part of their club, or screw their publicists for tips.  I didn't get it.  I still don't.  I felt like an idiot.  It was like I was missing this one mystical key that would open the door to everything, and no matter how hard I tried over the years, I just did not get it.  Over and over, I did not get it. 

      So I stopped submitting.  I said, "Screw it.".  I couldn't figure it out, and it was tormenting me beyond belief to the point where I was doubting my abilities as a writer (which was one of the things that made me truly happy), so for years I submitted absolutely nothing and focused instead on writing more of the novels for the Assaudian War series, a stand alone novel entitled (there's that word again!) "The Scourge of the Bone Cages", one called "Kraysh" which is one of two, and a bunch of shorts...oh!  Plus I made a movie because I got sick of the book bs and decided to try my hand at the movie biz.  I hooked up with an old friend of mine, Billy Garberina, via an old writer author of mine, Bob Vardeman, and got in touch with local indie film guru Scott Phillips.  From that, "Black" was born.

      I am currently self-publishing via Amazon, Lightning Source, and Kindle, and am finally getting my works out for the public to see.  My faith in the old method of submitting to agents is no more.  With more and more of the publishing houses merging together and fewer and fewer of them publishing new authors, the chances of new authors seeing print through them is so slim it's ridiculous.  The chances of seeing a regular income is even more ridiculous. 

      My initial goal was just to see my books in print so people could read my work.  I didn't care if they thought it was like so-and-so's work.  I didn't care if they thought it was too wordy, or too...whatever.  It was mine.  I wasn't trying to cater to a market, or to anyone's tastes, or to inject it with a literary botox.  I was writing to make a statement and express what I wanted.  I believe the same now, and I'm glad that I still can.        

      Much has changed since ten years ago, but not that much.  Publishers are still looking for the next bestseller.  They want who they can tag as "the next so-and-so".  Whoever sells the most is whoever is marketed the most.  Sometimes there is a "runaway", but it is rare, and it is nothing to count on.  It is definitely nothing to bet your career on, and even then, the career is probably fleeting.  Don't sacrifice what you don't have to.  I really don't think it's necessary anymore.     

Tuesday
Sep062011

Addendum to the Goal

   It's easy enough as a teenager or twenty-something to say that a main concern in life is to "do what I want in a career that will make me the most content".  It is a noble want and definitely seems much more practical than, say, wanting to be a millionaire or be famous.  Put up against the desire to make good money and have a stable job, however, the choice becomes a little more difficult, but not so much at an early age. 

    It's not even a matter of work, so laziness does not play in here.  To establish a career as a writer, for example (and I'm going to continue using writing as an example because, well, this is a writing blog after all) takes a tremendous amount of work.  There's not only the time to write the material, but to market yourself and attempt to connect with publishers...the outcome of which is not guaranteed no matter how diligently you try.  (I've argued the statistics on this with many.  If you aren't working among all the variables that will produce publishing success then it will not happen no matter how many times you submit, so sometimes you can't say "Keep trying!  It's bound to happen someday!".  And it may have nothing to do with quality.  The same, I'm sure, can be said of any art which is why some masterpieces only became known after the unfortunate artist died.  Ugh!)

   Alot of times the choice to do what we want while young stems from witnessing those who are older as they look back on their lives with regret.  So many evaluate their present careers which may or may not be producing enough to keep them financially stable (or more so), but don't seem to be keeping them emotionally and spiritually fulfilled.  Some may think, "What if I had continued with my dream of becoming a rock star?" or an actress, or screenwriter, etc. etc.  They may think success would have befallen them in that career, or maybe at least that they would have been more fulfilled.  Heck, sometimes people abandon their current careers and pursue the dreams they left behind.  A few do so with hopes that are too high (ie- I'll become the next Michael Jackson), but most who do so in the middle age are quite a bit more humble and take it on as either a hobby or something a bit more down to earth (ie- opening a modest restaurant to start rather than being the next Gordon Ramsay).  I personally remember, though, remarking on this particular regret and vowing to never experience it.  Thus my own personal choice to pursue a writing career while working retail jobs that allowed the freedom to do so. 

    It's easy enough to continue this lifestyle for a while, and some can maintain it for their entire lives.  What passion fulfills us is definitely worth alot, but sometimes many of us who made this decision do not end up obtaining the "American Dream".  We aren't the rock stars or Stephen Kings.  We make choices that keep us within our own moral boundaries, but sacrifice opportunity, and others that open doors to exceptional experiences, but may pull us back financially.  Not having this ideal "American Dream" may make some feel like failures.  Others may not care at all, for they're doing what they love.  Regardless, there is one thing that beckons to everyone at some point or another, and it has nothing to do with stardom.  It even has little to do with success on a broad level.  It's all about financial stability.

   On my own personal level, I was fine with what I earned in retail for years.  In my early twenties, earning anything above minimum wage was fantastic.  It meant I was exceptional.  If I got a dollar above it...Holy crap!  I was living the high life!  Obviously I had no understanding of economics at all.  (What they don't teach you in school: wage comparison and what income is allocated for.)  Of course, I didn't really need money for much.  I shared an apartment.  I didn't get sick much.  (Who needs health insurance?!  I'll just cross my fingers that nothing happens to me.)  I didn't get much time off, so vacations were out of the question.  I didn't have children.  Savings account?  (I still ask, "Wtf is that for?".)  And debt...well...I just figured that since I had no kids it would just poof! into oblivion when I died. 

   That, however, was in my early twenties.  Later on when I started watching my friends buy houses, multiple cars, go on expensive trips, buy tons of new shit...then I started thinking, "Hmmm.  Maybe this starving artist lifestyle isn't so great after all.".  A couple of years of financial crises later and I really started re-evaluating my situation.  I started thinking a few very pertitent things like, "I really enjoy having functional teeth.", "It's great having a reliable vehicle.", "I am getting tired of hearing my apt. neighbor's singing in the shower at 6am.", "It would be nice to afford new furniture instead of always having to get hand-me-downs.", "Why is everyone telling me I'm too skinny?", "I'd like to not have to save up to go to the movies.", and most importantly, "I'm just pretty damn sick of dead-end retail jobs.".  Now some people may enjoy the starving artist lifestyle.  More power to them.  It's really not for me, though.  I'd like to not have to take out a loan to pay for a root canal and crown...and new tires for my car.  That kind of sucks in my book. 

  So although the initial dream of doing what would fulfill me sounded great, and it was, there was an additional part to that dream that didn't fulfill.  It was the actual job part.  I might not be a famous author, but I'm still working at the writing part.  Zurigan's Child is an ebook, and I've just submitted the form to Ligntning Source that they have to approve so I can get it available in physical format without having to spend thousands of dollars.  The only thing I'm changing is the second part that I discovered I was so unhappy with.  That, unfortunately, involves the arduous task of going back to college for a degree in Biology.  Then there's an even more arduous task of grad school for a more specific degree in...well...I'm still trying to decide.  It'll have something to do with genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, and/or neurology.  I've got a bit of time.  Maybe a year before I'm no longer an undergrad anymore. 

  Either way I'll have a different "real job" in the end.  Maybe then I can get better dental care.  Or maybe I'll just go to dental school instead and do my own damn teeth.