Why Do You Have To Quit Your Day Job?

Seriously, why?

I didn’t think about it before, but in the last week or so I’ve begun asking this question.

First I encountered a Kindleboards thread  asking how many on the forum had quit their day jobs to write full time.  Now, I used to hang out on kindleboards a lot.  But lately I find it boring over there.  A lot of the threads are repetitious and it’s sort of an echo chamber.  So I don’t spend much time there anymore.  But every now and then I slide on by to see what’s going on.  This thread stood out, so I clicked on in and said my peace.

Then earlier today I decided to catch up on The Passive Voice.  I love Passive Guy’s blog.  It was one of the first blogs I bookmarked back in Jan/Feb of last year when I was beginning to research writing.  But I don’t necessarily go there every day, and he posts a lot.  So when I go over there are lots of posts to read through.  So even though this post is a couple days old, I just got to it.

In discussing Kris Rusch’s last Business Rusch post about readers, some in PG’s comments stated that Kris is wrong because a writer needs to be able to quit his/her day job in order to be more productive in writing.  Or just, because.

Well more and more I’m wondering: because why?

Where is it written that the Holy Grail of being a writer is to quit your day job?  Ok, I got it.  With more time one can theoretically write more and produce more books.  But something tells me that the reality is people will not really write all that much more without day jobs.  Maybe that’s just because for most of December I essentially had no day job but I didn’t write that much more.  Hell, I wrote a hell of a lot more in November than in December.  But that said, I could not be representative of writers as a whole.

All the same, I kind of get the impression that a lot of people who yearn to give up the day job in favor of writing see writing as some sort of salvation from having to work.  I know I’ve thought of it that way once or twice.  But really, in order to keep from having to go back to a day job, one will have to work hard at the writing.  It will be your job, so you’d better treat it as such.  I’m not sure a lot of people really think that through very well.

So I’ll ask the question that I asked on the Kindleboards.  Why does a writer have to quit his day job?

I’m serious here.  The notion that someone needs to quit the day job presupposes that the person A) WANTS to quit the day job and B) would be better off if he or she does.  I don’t think that’s a given.  It seems to me that if a writer has a day job he likes that makes good money it would be silly to quit it.  Unless he is earning so much more money writing than from the day job that the day job becomes insignificant in his total cash flow.  But even then, if the writer likes his day job, keeping it for the satisfaction of doing it would not be out of line.  Job satisfaction is a good thing.  Plus, would the marginal gain of quitting really that great in that circumstance?  Then again, before quitting his job the writer should take a long hard look at the marginal gain or cost involved in quitting regardless of his writing income.

As far as I’m concerned, the question ought not be, “Have you quit your day job”.  It ought to be, “Are you satisfied with how your career is progressing?”  And I mean career both in writing and in the day job, whatever it may be.  Because any career takes work, a lot of work.  Writing won’t rescue you from that reality.

Better get used to having to continue to work.  That ain’t going to change whether you have a day job or not.

First Blood, Plus Some Changes

As you all know, I’ve been cranking on The Pericles Conspiracy for the last couple weeks.  Well, maybe cranking isn’t the best word to use.  The story was sitting at a bit under 29,000 words at the beginning of the month.  As of this morning, it’s at 39,132 words.  So 10,000 words in two or three weeks.  Plus about 2,000 words that I wrote after getting some feedback from a friend who read what I’d written so far.  At first I thought his feedback was sound, and certainly it was well thought out, but when I started writing with that feedback in mind, I found that the story was heading in a direction that was completely different from where I wanted it to go, and where it was supposed to go.  So I scrapped those 2,000 words.

So yeah, about 10,000 words total.  That’s not so impressive.  There are a bunch of reasons for that, but they don’t really count.  The real reason is I hadn’t given it the priority I should have all the time.  Plus, I hit that mid-story bleah stage – the stage where it just seems like a complete drag to even write a couple words down on this totally uninteresting story.  Not that the story is really uninteresting, it’s just this weird funk that always seems to happen.  From reading other people’s blogs, it seems this is a common occurence.

So on Thursday, after trying for a half hour to make progress and failing miserably, I decided to say screw it and write something else instead.  Two reasons for doing that.  First is I’ve found when I get bogged down on a project it helps to shift focus to something else for a little bit.  Second, I read a comment that another writer made on Dean‘s blog.  The guy said he was publishing a new title each week.  I read that and thought, “Duh!  I should be doing that!”

I don’t know that I’m actually going to do it every week, but I decided that, while I’m going to focus on getting the sequels et al finished like I said I would in my annual and quarterly goals, I’m also going to take time every week or two to just crank out a short story.  After I do that, I’ll publish it on all the various channels and post it up here for free, just like Dean and several others do.  It’ll remain free here until I finish the next and get it up.  I intend to post the new stories on Friday, for Free Friday.  Look for a new page on my website here to contain the latest Free Friday story.

That said, on Thursday, I started work on a short story.  I decided to continue Larian’s adventures.  For those who don’t know, Larian is the main character in How NOT To Rescue A Damsel In Distress and Measuring Up.  I had long ago (spoken – about 6 months back) thought it would be cool to do a bunch of short stories that follow a single character in his adventures, a sort of serialized short story series.  But I never wrote anything about Larian after Measuring Up.  Well that’s changed now.  On Thursday I cranked out about 2,050 words.  Then yesterday (Friday) afternoon after work I wrote another 1,500 words to finish it off.

Last night and this morning, I spent a bunch of time on Dreamstine hunting down cover art, then I uploaded the story to KDP and Smashwords.  And so, without further ado: First Blood.

The blurb:

Intelligence told High Command that the Mar Tabban, arch-enemies of the Citizens’ Army, had moved into the territory garrisoned by Larian’s Regiment. In response, the Regimental Commander sent the scouts of B Company, Larian’s unit, out to locate the enemy intruders. On his first operational assignment with his unit, the scouts of B Company, Larian must overcome inexperience and his own fear and uncertainty to get the information his Regiment needs to emerge victorious.

First Blood is a 3,500 word short story and the third tale of Larian’s adventures.

Larian’s earlier adventures are described in How NOT To Rescue A Damsel In Distress and Measuring Up.

It’s now live on Smashwords and will be live on Amazon in a few hours.  Barnes and Noble and the other Smashwords distribution channels will take a week or two.  Check it out!

Even though it’s not Friday, I’m going to kick off Free Friday with First Blood anyway.  I’ll post it on the Free Friday page later this afternoon, for those who are interested.

But wait, there’s more….

I’ve been playing with GIMP a lot over the last few months and I’ve gotten better at making covers.  Not awesome, but better.  I’ve long intended to redo the covers for How NOT To Rescue A Damsel In Distress and Falling Softly because, frankly, they sucked.  But I never got around to it.  Well, this morning, I went ahead and bought some art and redid the covers.  Observe.

How NOT To Rescue A Damsel In Distress:

    vs    

And Falling Softly:

    vs    

I think the new covers are much improved.  They portray what’s going on in each story a lot better and are quite a bit more interesting to look at.

While I was at it, I went ahead and updated both stories’ front and back matter, putting in references and links to my other stories.  I also made a couple editorial corrections, as I found a couple oopsies that I missed last time.  (sigh)

So that’s what I’ve been up to the last couple days.  It’s been a good end to the week.  Fun and productive!

(Almost) No Writers Are Famous

Dean linked to a great post that Joe Konrath made yesterday.  In it, Joe talks about how, contrary to what some out there assume, he doesn’t sell a lot because he’s “famous”.

I love reading this from him.  It’s not the first time he’s said it, but it’s great to see him spell it out so blatantly.  Here is what I think is the main takeaway quote from his post:

I’m mentioned a lot in the publishing community, which is small, closed, and uninteresting to anyone who isn’t in it. But because we’re in it, and we care about it, we incorrectly assume that because writers know who I am, readers must as well.

Dean says this same sort of thing a lot.  So does his wife.  Two weeks ago, Kris Rusch talked about a similar phenomenon in her Business Rusch post.  She, and Dean as well, gets really pissed off when someone presumes to say that she sells well because she is well known and famous, and that new writers can’t do the same things she can because they don’t have the name recognition she does.

Not to blow my own horn or anything (ah hell, who am I kidding?  You guys know I love to blow my own horn.) but in my comment on Kris’ post, I said the following after pointing out what she already knew, that she was not famous:

Hell, last February sometime, when I was starting to read writing blogs to learn how things worked (since I started writing my first novel over Christmas and then in January decided that I needed to know how the publishing business worked if I was writing a novel), I read or heard someone mentioning some guy called Neil Gaiman in their blog, or on their podcast, or something. My first thought? “Who the F^&K is Neil Gaiman?” I had never once, in my then 35 years of life, heard of the man or read anything he’d written.  Nor had I heard of Dean. Or you. Or any number of supposedly famous writers. And I read a lot of books….Seriously, writers know who the more successful writers are because they’re writers, and they hang out in writers’ circles and listen to what other writers do. Normal people do not. Normal people know the writers they’ve read before, or that their friends and family have read. Maybe they see a writer’s name on a movie credit and think to pick them up. Or maybe they just find someone at random. But aside from 4 or 5 HUGE writers (King, Patterson, et al), most people have no clue whether a writer is a best-seller or a brand new nobody like Michael Kingswood.

Sounds very similar to what Joe said doesn’t it?  I knew that without having to be told it, because a little more than a year ago, I wasn’t a writer.  I was a reader.  And aside from a few writers who I loved, and a few more who I knew were big (Robert Jordan comes to mind), I didn’t know who was what in the writing world.  But you know what?  Even those big name writers meant nothing to other people I knew.  I mentioned Robert Jordan to most people I knew and they responded, “Who?”.  That’s how it works because writing and publishing is a very small chunk of the larger world.

This is a fact that people in every industry can forget if they’re not careful.  Allow me to use an example from my day job as a submarine officer in the Navy.  How many of you people out there know who Red Ramage is?  Or Gene Fluckey?  How about Howard Gillmore, do you know him?  Those are three of the seven submarine captains in World War II who earned the Medal of Honor.  The other four were Sam Dealey, George Street (it was my honor to meet him once), Dick O’Kane, and John Cromwell.  In the submarine community these names are enshrined like those of Catholic Saints.  Everyone knows who they are.  But if you were to ask Joe or Jane Shmuckitelli on the streets who they are, you’d get a blank stare.

Time for a confession: I had to do a Google search for Medal of Honor winners to recall Dealey and Cromwell.  So even professional submariners don’t always remember the most famous people in their profession.

If the average person does not know the names of people who have won the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor, why in the hell do we think that the average person is going to know the name of a writer who happens to have sold a few hundred thousand copies of his/her book?  A few hundred thousand among three hundred million plus in the US alone, let alone among the almost seven billion people in the world.  Sheesh.  Writers really need to get over themselves and get some perspective.

I mean seriously, if any profession is completely insignificant in the sweep of history, it is the writer.  And don’t give me any of that tripe about how writers, by nature of their writing, change the world.  That is total bullshit.  Seriously, name me a fiction writer who, because of a work of fiction he or she wrote, changed anything in the world at all.  I can’t think of any.  I can count one or two non-fiction writers who had an impact on the course of history.  A little.  Thomas Paine comes to mind.  But then, he wasn’t a writer per say, was he? He was a political activist who wrote his political philosophy down and promulgated it in leaflets.  So seriously, what fiction writers changed the world?  None?  Yeah that’s what I thought.

Sorry if that offends any English majors out there who are desperate to think they matter in the grand sweep of things.  But sorry, you don’t.  You want to make a difference in the world?  Raise your kids properly, with a moral compass and a sense of honor.  That will have far more impact than any fiction you write.  Fiction is, after all, a lark.  A fun distraction from real life.  Entertainment.

So given that the average person on the street has no idea who the most successful writers are (not counting a very few who have become household names like Stephen King – they don’t count because they are the outliers of the outliers), why would their supposed fame be a valid reason for their success?  The short answer is it isn’t a valid reason.

That is very encouraging for a brand new nobody like me.  Maybe I do have a chance to do well, and make some good money, in this writing gig, provided I keep working at it and continue to improve my storytelling ability.

A Review Of Mixed Treats

A few months back, Alain Gomez over at Book Brouhaha sent out the word that she was looking for short stories and collections to review.  Being the nice guy I am, I sent her a copy of my short story collection, A Jar Of Mixed Treats.  She finished reading it and posted a very kind review this morning.  Reading her review was a very pleasant way to start the morning, let me tell you.  🙂  So go check it out.

In other news, I put So You Want To Be a Dragon Slayer back to free today, in honor of MLK day.  I also got to thinking some more about pricing.  In the last month, 24 people bought a copy of Dragon.  Pretty good, and Lord knows I’m not complaining.  But…  Several people have, in conversation, told me they avoid the $1.99 price point because it’s this weird place of limbo – it’s not the uber-cheap point that $.99 is (though let’s face it, in this day and age $1.99 is nothing) but it doesn’t give the royalty that $2.99 does.  Several have advised me to just skip $1.99 altogether.  Theoretically, I like the sliding price scale that I developed (I talked about it back in July when I went on my $.99 rant).  But it can’t hurt to experiment.  So post-freebee sale, Dragon is going to $2.99.  We’ll see how the buying public reacts to that price point.

I am, of course, continuing to write.  I am making progress on The Pericles Conspiracy, though not as quickly as I’d like.  I still plan to have the first volume done by the end of the month, and ready for release sometime in February.  My friend/beta-reader is still chewing on Glimmer Vale.  I suppose I SHOULD have been looking for cover artists for the last few weeks, but frankly…I haven’t.  I was thinking it would be cool to have a map of the region inside the book too, so I’ll need to contact an artist about that as well.  I really need to get on the horse with those two things if I want to get it out next month too.  And that’s the hope/plan.

Right.  Well, I guess I’ll get back to it then.  Cheers!

2012 Goals

So I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2012.  In the process, I’ve read a lot of other people’s blog posts with their resolutions, and of course Dean’s posts about how to set good goals and reach them.  

A lot of people are setting word count goals for the year, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea.  I would rather focus on projects, and how many I want to complete, rather than strict word count.  I mean hell, I could probably crank out any number of words if I wanted to and didn’t care if they were coherent or not.  Not that others don’t care about that, but you know what I mean.  Plus, strict word count seems a bit nebulous to me.  

So I’m not going to make word count an official goal.  Unofficially?  I got just under 230,000 words written in 2011.  I’d like to get up to 300,000 in 2012.  That works out to 75,000 per quarter, or 25,000 per month.  Extremely doable.  But I’m not going to concern myself if I don’t get there.

So what are my 2012 goals then?  Glad you asked.  I’m going to break them up into annual goals and quarterly goals.  Since I make it my practice to re-assess my progress on a quarterly basis, it makes more sense to focus on quarters more.  Plus, I found myself having to be very flexible with my annual goals last year as the various quarters went through their vagaries and changes.  If I do goals by quarter this year, it’ll be easier to hold myself to them (a shorter deadline) and allow for more flexibility.

First, the Annual goals:

  1. Get back into Karate.  I love exercise, and martial arts.  But since I left Charleston, I’ve fallen away from karate.  Part of it was because I haven’t found a dojo up here in Saratoga Springs that I really like (and that teaches the same style that I studied down south).  Part of it was because I was busily cranking out my MBA while juggling three kids under age 4.  And part of it was because I was a slug.  I miss it, though.  My wife does too.  Plus my daughter is now old enough to start taking lessons (she will grow up knowing how to defend herself).  We’re getting transferred to Pearl Harbor soon.  When we get there, I will find a dojo that we can all train at and get back into the karate groove.
  2. Slim down.  This goes hand in hand with #1.  I’m not super tall (68.5 inches), but I’m broad.  No really, I’ve got some shoulders on me.  I’m also pretty muscular.  And I’ve got mammoth thighs.  Always have.  The Navy has these height-weight tables that it wants people to fall within.  For my height, the max weight the Navy wants is 184 pounds.  Above that, you have to get a body composition analysis done to ensure you’re less than 22% body fat.  The last time I made the Navy height-weight table was the beginning of my Sophomore year at BU.  I’ve pretty much always made the body fat analysis, though.  That having been said, a few years back, the triple whammy hit: I went over 30, I got married, and I went back to sea as a Department Head onboard a submarine.  When I rolled to shore duty in Charleston in the fall of 2008, I weighed in at 240 lbs and did not make the body fat standard.  Fortunately, it wasn’t an official weigh-in, but still it stung.  What the hell happened?  So starting in Dcember that year, I hopped on weight watchers, worked out a ton, and got down to 215 in about 3 months.  That’s more than I was in my mid-20s, but I could also do a lot more pushups and bench press one hell of a lot more (I increased my working bench press weight by 50 pounds in 2009).  I discontinued weight watchers, but kept up the routine until the last half of this year.  After Christmas, I weighed myself – 230!  UGH!  So it’s back on weight watchers I go.  It’d be cool to get back to 200 or below.  We’ll see how that works out.
  3. Triathlon.  I’ve run three marathons.  The last was in 2004, but I did it.  Last year, I rode a century – 100 miles on my bicycle around Lake Tahoe.  Sure, I could do another century or another marathon.  And I very likely will, because they’re wicked fun.  But this year I think I’d like to try a triathlon.  Olympic-length.  I’ve no doubt there will be opportunities aplenty in Hawaii to do that.  🙂  Who knows, I might like it enough to try for an Iron Man next year.  Those are touch though – 5 miles (? maybe 3?  I forget) in the water, then 126 miles on the bike, then a marathon.  I know guys who have done them but DAMN!  That’ll take some training.  I can totally do it, but it’d be hard.  For now, I’ll stick with Olympic length.  🙂

That’s it for the annual goals.

First quarter writing goals.  We’ll be moving to Hawaii this quarter, probably sometime next month.  It’ll take around a month to fully complete the move (it takes that long to get your household goods shipped there), so I doubt I’ll get much written once we head out.  Therefore, my goals for this quarter are going to be relatively modest.

  1. Finish the first installment of The Pericles Conspiracy.  I had to set this aside for NaNoWriMo, but it’s time to get back to it.  I’m only about 10,000 to 15,000 words from a good stopping point, which will put this installment at 40,000 to 45,000 words.  So I really ought to have this done by the end of January.
  2. Submit to Writers of the Future.  This goes without saying.  The Blob on the Rock was the shortest story I’ve sent in so far, at 5,000 words.  Probably whatever I write this quarter will be between 5,000 and 10,000 words.
  3. Begin the sequel to Masters of the Sun.  I say begin because I’m sure I won’t be able to finish it with the move and all.  But it’s time to get started on it.  If I can get 30,000 words done on it this quarter, I’ll be happy.
  4. Attend Dean and Kris’ Character Voice and Setting workshop (Tentative).  I listed this one as tentative because I really don’t know what my work schedule will be, or how much the move will cost (the Navy pays for most expenses, but things always cost money in ways we don’t expect, and that aren’t covered, when we move).  I’ve signed up for the workshop, and I really want to go, but I may not be able to get away in late March (or have the funds to get away).  I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but we’ll see.

Like I said, fairly modest.  45,000 to 65,000 words.  Doable?  Probably.  Depends on the move.

What about the rest of the year?  Here’s what I’m thinking, tentatively.

2nd quarter – complete the Masters sequel, the second Pericles Conspiracy installment, and submit to Writers of the Future.

3rd quarter – complete the sequel to Glimmer Vale and submit to Writers of the Future

4th quarter – write a ton of short stories as my NaNoWriMo project, the third Pericles Conspiracy installment (if necessary), and submit to Writers of the Future

I’ll update these as the year progresses and I see how things are going.

So that’s it.  Comments?

2011 Closeout

The door shut on 2011, so it’s time to assess how the year went.  No sense beating around the bush.  Let’s get to it!

First, the goals for the year:

1) Finish Masters of the Sun by the end of April

     Success

2) Finish novel #2 by the end of September

     Fail.  I only got around 30,000 words done in The Pericles Conspiracy before shifting over to NaNoWriMo.  So decent progress there, but not enough to claim success in this goal.

3) Win NaNoWriMo

     Success!  As I talked about before, I crossed the NaNo finish line with a few words to spare.  Glimmer Vale ended up being just under 54,000 words total.  My friend/first reader is reading it through now.  I’m looking forward to his comments.  🙂

4) Write 25 Short Stories.

     Fail.  Counting the three novelettes, I’ve written 10 total this year.  That’s good – much more than I’ve ever written before.  But it still didn’t meet the parameters of my stated goal.

5) Set up a company and start e-publishing.

     Still a success!

6) Stop rushing.

     Success.

7) Submit to Writers of the Future each quarter.

     Success.  I submitted my story for the last quarter of 2011, The Blob on the Rock, on the afternoon of the 31st.  Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right?

So a mixed bag, as far as the goals go.  Let’s look at statistics.

New Writing in the 4th Quarter

  1. The Pericles Conspiracy – 4,870 words (in progress)
  2. Glimmer Vale – 53,576 words (complete)
  3. The Blob on the Rock – 4,964 words (complete)

   Total new words – 63,410 words

   Words/Month – 21,136.67 words/day

   Words/Day – 689.24 words/day

New Writing in 2011

   Total- 229,287 words

   Words/Month – 19,107.25 words/month

   Words/Day – 628.18 words/day

With the NaNoWriMo win, I would have thought this quarter was a sure thing to be my biggest writing quarter of the year.  But to be honest, I didn’t do much writing in December, just about 8,500 words.  Holidays, family, getting ready to move (we found out we’re being transferred to Pearl Harbor in a month or so, so we started inventorying our house and selling a ton of stuff that we simply don’t need), and general life just had more of a priority.  Oh well.  I am a little surprised about October, though.  While that month was going on, I could have sworn I wrote more than 4,870 words.  Although I do recall it was hard to make progress, though.

Still, even though this wasn’t my biggest quarter (the first quarter still has that title), it was a good one.  Winning NaNo alone dictated that it would be, even if I’d written nothing else.  🙂

So that’s good and all, but there’s one last metric to look at: financials.

2011 Sales

Traditional path – none.  Oh well, maybe next year.

Indie – check out the graphs

My indie sales were modest.  Undetectable in the big scheme of publishing, really, but I’m happy with them.  Writing the stories is fun, but earning money from them, even a little – that’s sauce for the goose.  🙂  In 2011, I earned $124.28 in royalties.  That’s a fair amount of sauce, or in my case, beer, wine, and scotch.  🙂

As you can see, Masters of the Sun is my top seller, and by far my largest royalty earner.  No big surprise there.  It’s a novel, and it’s priced appropriately for its length.  The novelettes are next, though Delphinus lags the other two (I actually think it’s the weakest of the three, truth to tell).  How NOT To Rescue A Damsel In Distress is my most popular short story, and why not?  it’s a fun little tale.

The big story for this quarter, at least as far as sales go, is So You Want To Be A Dragon Slayer… .  I released it on 14 December, to zero sales.  As I discussed before, I decided to give it a free promotion after Christmas to see how that works.  And it worked well.  🙂  On the 26th and 27th, 275 people downloaded it in the US, 141 in the UK, and 1 in Italy.  Wicked cool.  🙂  After the promo ended, it sold 9 copies (and two borrows) in the US, 3 in the UK, and 1 in Italy.  Since the New Year started, 2 people bought it and 1 borrowed it in the US, and 1 bought it in the UK.  So I’ll call that promotion a success.  Because of it, December was my biggest month in terms of units sold (though not in royalties earned.  Not even close) and over 400 people got exposed to my writing who never heard of me before.  Not too shabby.  🙂

So yeah.  2011 was a good Rookie year.  Maybe not as good a Rookie year as Ryan Kerrigan had for the Redskins, but it was still good.  I think (hope?) 2012 will be even better.  I’ve thought through my goals for the year, and I like to think they’re suitably ambitious.  But I’ll tell you all about them in a later post.

Happy New Year, everyone!  Many happy returns!