Sunday, May 11, 2008

Talk is cheap; action entails costs

The past six years have been a remarkable period of reinvention, as well as self-discovery for me. Prior to that I was stuck in a pattern of working in jobs that sucked the soul out of me, crushing my spirit, and causing me to dispair that I'd ever find a place where I belonged.

For me, life truly began at the age of forty, as I am the classic late bloomer that you occasionally read about, or listen to interviewed on a talk show.

I remember vividly, beginning a quest to find myself while assembling contracts at Unum-Provident, in 2001. Beginning with Gregg Levoy's book, Callings, and setting my face towards developing a career focused on writing, I've made steady progress toward my goals, some of them written down on a piece of scrap paper, during my solitary lunches outside of the gray, glass and cement corporate prison I was forced to endure.

Book #2 is now in the can and at my designer, waiting to be prepared for printing. This is my second book that I've put together (with a third on the way, in October). Additionally, I published someone else's book last summer, which helped me to realize that I'd rather focus on my own writing/publishing. I have plans to begin a forth book, in the fall. This is all taking place while working a demanding daytime job that is fulfilling and helping me to keep my writing financed and viable.

I don't spend as much time as I used to, being irritated that other writers get recognized, or featured by Maine's literary community. Occasionally, I do feel irritation when I peruse the list of featured writers at events like the upcoming Maine Festival of the Book, and see names of people that routinely sell a fraction of what my first book sold. While this event has some stellar talent, there are many local authors that would make for a more realistic sense, in my opinion, of who is writing about Maine, and what that writing looks like.

These seasons of frustration and the sense of being ignored for what I've accomplished grow wider in duration, however. One book doesn't make for a writing career, so I'm using that major-league chip on my shoulder to motivate me, and keep me outworking my competition. (Shhhh! Don't tell anyone my secret.)

As I grow in experience, I'm learning that I have much greater control over my own direction and success. Working a full-time job has given me a freedom to no longer worry about outside forces that I have little, or no control over, anyway.

As I continue down life's corridor, having passed the halfway marker, I'm confident that in another decade, I'll have a substantial catalog of books, both varied, and successful in whatever niche that I choose to target, festival invites, or not.


Mark LaFlamme said...

Good stuff. Almost like self-psycho analysis. And it hits on the key point that a good 75 percent of writing success has to come from promotion rather than simple talent. Some are better than others at the marketing end of things, of course. The good news is that both groups are entitled to a flukey break every now and then.

Jim said...

I hear 'ya on the promotion part. Small press publishers won't survive unless they are relentless on the marketing and promotional side.

The first book probably doubled its sales on the mere strength of guerilla marketing and the cultivation of relationships with book stores; the independents, as well as Borders, who btw, have been great to work with and do support local authors.

All of that takes time, which sometimes interferes with the writing, so that's the flipside of the independent publishing world I live in.

Mark LaFlamme said...

I found Borders to be much more accommodating to local authors than some of the local chains. The mom and pop places are generally good to work with, too.
It's funny that we exert so much effort into courting the brick and mortar stores these days when the bulk of your sales will come through the Internet. Have you experimented with Google Adwords at all?

the blue state blogger said...

I worked at UP for 2 years, and I would not wish that hell upon anybody. Corporate prison doesn't begin to describe it.

And like you, I've finally found a place of at least professional contentment.

Jim said...

While you and I made it out of UP, I was always amazed by the amount of co-workers (most of them, women) who had been there for a decade or more. In fact, when I was contemplating my escape, and spoke my intentions to members of my work team, I would hear the common refrain, "You're lucky. I wish I could leave here, but I don't know what else I could do and make the same amount of money," as if I was doing something magical. Then, there was an entirely different group who couldn't understand why I would want to leave. I imagine most of both types are still there.

weasel said...

I take my cues from George Orwell's briliant creation, Gordon Comstock.