A long time ago (the 90s) in a land far, far away (Nixa, MO), a much younger me worked at a monotonous job doing something monotonous. Seriously, we did the same thing hundreds of times an hour, thousands of times a night. It was an entry level job that was guaranteed to pretty much stay entry level forever.
I'm not there any more, and soon, I could be making enough money with my books to make an actual living at it. I beat some pretty long odds just getting to where I am now. So, the question some people ask me is "How did you do it?"
I wish I knew. I wish there was a formula for success I could just write down for you...hell, I wish there was a formula I could write down for ME! But if I could give you one piece of advice that I think would make everything else work, it's this:
Start chasing contrails.
See, back when I was working at the monotonous job, my best friend Roanen and I would do something different on our breaks than anyone else there. We'd walk around the building and dream big. We'd look up at the sky and see planes flying overhead, and we told each other we were going to be one of the people on those planes some day. We would talk about how our current project was going to help us become one of those people, going to conventions, having fans all over the US. We had no idea how we were going to do it, but we were sure we COULD do it. We had a dream, we had talent and we had determination. Who cared if we didn't have a clue? We knew we'd figure it out.
One night, we noticed something else, something that made us stand out from everyone else there. Other people were having very different conversations than we were. We talked about our dreams, we talked story, we talked style, we talked about art and whether or not to do our graphic novel in black & white or in color. We made plans. Big plans.
The people around us talked about each other. They complained about their neighbors, their job, their family. Their conversations never left the world they were in, except when they joked about winning the lottery.
I think that if I had to pinpoint one moment when I knew both Roanen and I had a shot at beating the odds, it was during that one night. Because our focus was always on our dreams. When everyone else was looking down, focusing on things within arm's reach, we were looking up and we were chasing contrails.
And we never stopped.
So, at the end of each day, think about where your focus was in your free time. Was it on your dreams? I know, there are a thousand things that might demand your attention, but make room for your dreams. Look up sometimes, and never settle for what's in arm's reach.
As an author, there are moments when your life changes noticeably. The first time you type "The End" on a rough draft and realize you just wrote a novel. The first time one of your books gets published. Holding the first copy of one of your books in your hands. Big, exciting moments.
For me, one of those moments happened on March 6th, 2014. What happened that day? Several things all at once. Zompoc Survivor broke the 10,000 ranking on Amazon. It also broke into the top 100 in the post-apocalyptic genre. It even spent some time in the top 10 in both the post-apocalyptic and the dystopian genres, and it was the number 2 new release for a week or so.
Sounds like I'm bragging. Okay, yeah, I am. Just a little.
Today I also realized that I'd passed a sort of milestone recently. See, as I write this, I am comfortably on the far side of eight weeks in that same zone.
And this is where I REALLY brag, but not on myself.
It's no coincidence that the same day Shawn Chesser mentioned Zompoc Survivor on his Facebook page that my ranking skyrocketed. Nor is it a coincidence that people have had good things to say to me about my cover after Tony Baker helped me refine the design for it.
Every time David Forsyth mentions my book (and he has several times, not to mention giving a great review of it) more people seem to buy it. Likewise, Jeff Clare, the mastermind behind All Things Zombie page on Facebook has been a huge help in keeping ZS: Exodus and several other zompoc books visible with his efforts.
Because of the terrific work Linda Tooch did proofing Zompoc Survivor, it also stands out among self-published books as being remarkably error free, and readers notice that. Danielle Pascale's ATZ Book Club has also been a huge help for me in seeing how readers experience the story, which helps me immensely in the process of writing the next book.
Once again, it all comes down to community. The zompoc and post-apocalyptic community is very close knit, and without the help of a lot of people, I wouldn't have the success I've enjoyed.
So, yeah...I have the beginnings of a writing career now. Because I'm part of a community.