Or: Still doing it all wrong and getting it right.
So, last January, I posted about how I spent very little money on my first book as a contrast to fellow author Lisa Medley’s post on the costs she incurred in putting her first book together. Everyone’s path is different. Lisa paid for some things I wouldn’t have, while I didn’t hire out some things I really ought to have.
My original point was that you don’t HAVE to pay out a thousand dollars on a book if you don’t have it. You have other assets at your disposal. It is probably one of the most popular posts I ever did, and it was reblogged by Passive Voice. I wanted to show people what you are capable of when you put your mind to something, that a lack of money can be overcome.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t what most people took away from that post. The big takeaway was that “He doesn’t value his time and effort.” Why did they come to that conclusion? Because I didn’t put a dollar value on it.
In spite of the fact that I listed it as an investment.
So, I want to set the record straight on this. I don’t put a dollar value on my time and effort because I have a hard time coming up with numbers large enough to accurately express how much I value it. I also didn’t put a dollar value on my time and energy because at the time I invested it, I don’t know what my return was going to be. The first year I invested time and energy into my books, my total ROI was under ten thousand dollars. Last year, that return was over sixty thousand dollars. Next year that return could be much higher or it could be much lower. But the REAL value of my time and energy can’t be assigned a meaningful number of dollars in my head. There just isn’t enough money in the world. To paraphrase my friend Roanen Barron, until I earn a billion dollars a second for the time I could be spending with my friends and family…I’m underpaid.
Now, other people may value my time less than I do. And the truth is, when you’re trying to negotiate a wage, you’re not trying to convince them of what YOU think your time is worth. You’re negotiating to THEIR value of your time.
So, when I post my time and effort as an investment, don’t think that because I don’t put a dollar value on it that I don’t value it. The opposite is true. I value it too much to relegate it to mere dollars and cents. That’s why it has a column all its own, because it’s my most valuable asset, and as such, it’s priceless.
Wow. I keep saying that, but it’s been that kind of year. Last year, leading up to Vision Con, my whole world was on the precipice of a huge change, one I had been hoping for but didn’t see coming. I guess I’d always seen it as happening more gradually. But over the space of one weekend, at Vision Con, was where my life actually changed. Vision Con has always been special to me. It was my first science fiction convention, and my “home” convention. But last year’s con was even more special to me.
The Friday before, this was my life: I had a decent paying job, no car, and just enough money to pay the bills most months without getting overdrawn. I was still in the churn phase with my writing, where everything I earned from my work pretty much went back into the next book. I had recently released The Demon’s Apprentice, and it was doing rather well, breaking into the top 1000 on Amazon in the days before con. And I thought THAT was about as cool as my life could get. Mentally, I was far from planning regular convention appearances or attendance as a vendor. I had intended to hit a couple of cons later in the year, and I had to base THAT on if I could get a ride and plan it around getting vacation time from work. I was planning on releasing the next in the Demon’s Apprentice series at con, and looking forward to a little extra money coming in from that. It was doing well in pre-order, and I was hoping it would hit the top 100 like its predecessor had.
Friday came and went, and I was making some sales. Things were going well enough. Saturday came, and it was a full day as I adapted to the new sales environment, tying to sell books with two other authors at the table. Now bear in mind, these two other authors were talented, articulate, pretty women…at a convention full of geeks. Needless to say, there were times when I felt almost invisible next to these two ladies, but hey, at least I was in good company! We joked with con goers, did a couple of podcast interviews and in general had a great time selling books. Then came our panel, one of the most fun panels I had ever been a part of, the Publishing Panel. The energy in the room was high, and all three panelists were feeding off of each other and the audience was getting in on the fun.
Afterward, a bunch of us went to a nearby restaurant to east. And this is the moment where my life changed. I was sitting at the table, taking the first free moment I’d had all day to FINALLY checked my sales. I had expected a big jump in sales because of the preorders all hitting my feed that day, but when I checked my sales RANK, I was literally stunned.
Page of Swords OWNED the top spot in Paranormal and Coming of Age, and it was ranked at number 187 on Amazon. I sat there for a couple of moments, unable to do anything but stare at my phone and wonder if I was looking at the right book. Was this actually happening to me? Was this MY life I was in the middle of? Evidently it was.
It became a little more real to me when Gerry Kissell, an artist friend who had done one of the covers for my zombie series, asked me if I was okay (evidently, shocked and stunned looks the same if it’s something good as it does when it’s something bad). I tried to explain what was going on coherently, and eventually I got the point across, because Gerry brought me back to reality with a simple phrase: “I knew you’d get there.”
See, at the previous Vision Con, Gerry had encouraged me to have faith in my work, because if I didn’t give up, I’d make my dream of writing for a living come true. And damn if the man wasn’t right.
About three months later, I bought my first car in years, quit my job, and began to do this writing thing full time. Now, coming into Vision Con for 2016, I’ll be there as a hybrid author, writing both my own series, and writing for New Babel Books in a spin-off series for the Apocalypse of Enoch. I’m a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, a dream of mine since I first heard of the organization. My whole life has changed since last Vision Con, and that is where it started. Going to Vision Con this year is going to be returning to my roots, as it is every year, but it’s also going ot be where I come full circle.
I can barely imagine where I’ll be next year.