Monday, April 30, 2012

Confessions of a Small Business Owner

It's surprising to me, though it really shouldn't be, how much time I'm spending on the business -- the busyness -- of writing even though I'm not writing.

I think that's maybe one of the hardest jumps for writers to make -- even writers who hope and plan to make money at their writing one day. It's hard to move from thinking of yourself as a creative person -- an artist -- and start thinking of yourself as a business. Not that you're not still an artist just because you become commercially successful, but it's definitely a different skillset.


When I originally anticipated going on sabbatical, I was sort of vaguely thinking I would just pull the plug and disappear for a year. But that's not practical, given that I earn my living writing. Oh, the books will continue to sell without my doing much, but they sell more when I'm out there twittering (I am such a BAD twitterer, aren't I?) and Facebooking and Goodreading and blogging. That's just the reality. It pays to advertise. So disappearing really wasn't an option, and frankly, I'd probably have got a little bored anyway by the total solitude I initially thought I needed. Still, I have pulled back a lot and there are days when I don't do much more than check my email.


Anyway, the business of writing. Last week is a good example. I was coordinating getting cover art for the three titles that revert in June, I was coordinating the different files and formats I would need for the titles reverting in May. **Stop! That reminds me. May is when the rights to Fatal Shadows and A Dangerous Thing revert to me. I plan on breaking up that omnibus and selling the first two novels separately again, so I want to make sure that word goes out on that. It was a very nice deal for readers, and I hope everyone (well, not EVERYONE) took advantage of it while it lasted. 


Back to the busyness. There were signed books to send out, a newsletter to put together, the question of Japanese translation rights. Which reminded me about those Dutch translations rights. I needed to send a letter to Liquid Silver that I wanted THOSE writes back. I investigated getting audible books made (and, yes, maybe I've found an answer on that one). There was email to answer (that doesn't count though because we all have email). There was setting up a CreateSpace account and starting to get these reverted titles into print.


You see? I'm on sabbatical, but that just means I'm not writing. Every day I'm working. This is not a complaint, although maybe it sounds like one. I'm running a small but thriving business and I can't just go on an indefinite holiday and hope it all works out. Even if I never write another word again, there is still this business to run.

I sort of always knew that, but now it's more firmly established in my mind.

And then lo and behold, the night before last, I actually devoted a few hours researching "A Perfect Day." I told myself I wasn't going to write anything, that it was still too soon to be thinking of that, but the research always seems to stimulate imagination.

Speaking of which, I was struck again by how time-consuming research is. Well over an hour disappeared while I tried to figure out the exact right yellow wildflowers that might be blooming in Eugene, Oregon in May. Why does the exact flower matter so much as long as it's in season? I don't know. But somehow it does. Have I always been this obsessive? I fear so.

It was such a relief to remember that it didn't matter how much time I was taking -- no deadline is involved. Maybe I finish this story for May. Maybe I never finish it. It just doesn't matter.

But then yesterday I woke up and I thought...well, I'll just fill in a few of the blanks. And 2,000 words later, I realized I had been writing. And enjoying it.

But what I most enjoyed was that when I was tired and wanted to stop, I could. I could close the file, turn off my computer, and go pester the SO.

It felt good. I can still write. That's a relief. And, er, I can stop anytime I want to.  That's a relief too.


37 comments:

  1. You're laying a lot of groundwork now that will make the business run more smoothly later on - when you are writing again and don't have as much time for the business end of it. Very smart, even if you didn't plan it that way...:-)

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    1. That's true, Alex. And when I look at that way, it's almost a luxury to have this time to plan and think -- as oppose to race to the next deadline.

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  2. It makes me happy that you're content. I never had a doubt that you'd want to write again. I'm hoping the audio thing works out! I find that almost as exciting as the thought of something new. ;-) Be good to yourself!

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    1. The SO and I had a chat about audiobooks this morning. He's doubtful there could be any real demand. But then he's someone who doesn't listen to audio books -- while I'm someone who loves them.

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    2. I had that same conversation with a lady in B&N. My favorite books, I have always bought in paper and audio. I spend hours in the car when I go visit family. I love to listen to books in the car. It's getting so you have to special order them now. It's a tough call to know whether they'll be worth the trouble and expense.

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  3. P.S. I LOVE your spring picture! Pretty in pink!

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  4. So good to hear that you enjoyed writing - and was able to stop too :)

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    1. It was kind of a relief, Anne. I think I had started to build it up in my mind as A Thing. But in fact, it was just like always.

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  5. I am so happy for you Josh! It's wonderful that you've been able to find your joy in writing again. And audiobooks are a great idea, I know I would buy them.

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    1. Thanks, Breena31. The story has been on my mind ever since, so I know that desire to write is coming back.

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  6. I bet you're having a strong desire to take a trip to Oregon.

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    1. Oh yes. In fact that strong desire was part of what led me to set the story there. ;-)

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  7. Josh, glad to hear that the juices are starting to flow again!

    And if you need help with the research, I have a totally awesome friend in Eugene, OR who'd be happy to fill you in. And her husband is a cop, if you need those kind of local details. Nothing like volunteering a friend, but like I said, she's awesome! I bet she'd be thrilled to help.

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    1. Oh! Well, believe it or not there is no cop in this book -- for once -- but yet I may call on your and your friend. There are so many little details, you know?

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  8. Just glad to hear you are starting to feel like picking up threads again. And realising that there is NO pressure. When you get next years calendar, remember to give SO the big black pen! Research is fun :-)

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    1. True! And I do love research. I only start to get tense when I think about the time I'm taking. But the time is no longer really an issue -- unless I make it one. So that was instantly calming.

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  9. Josh, that's so cool to hear. Everything, but especially that you're writing about Eugene. ;-)

    I'm glad you got your art back. (Get it? It's sort of a pun...never mind.)

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    1. Ouch.

      Keep the writing gig and do not go into stand up comedy, Anne. :-D

      Thank you for the good thoughts.

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  10. I'm so happy for you! I'm reading director Kevin Smith's book "Tough Sh*t" right now, and he's already said in the first chapter that he's pretty much done with movies now. Why? Because it's become *work* - and it no longer makes him happy. I think he's right, too, about finding something you love and making a living doing that. How lucky you are to not only love what you do but to now have the time to relax! I certainly hope there's a way to write and run the business when you come off sabbatical...maybe a manager of sorts? Even a part-time office assistant might help :D

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    1. Thanks, Traci.

      Life is too short not to enjoy spending it on what you love. It's fine if your job is just a job and you spend the money doing what you love. But writing is not just a job -- it's all consuming and it takes up the majority of your life -- so you damn well better enjoy it. ;-)

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  11. I can't really add anything to the comments - pretty much everything has been said. I'm just glad that you're happy.

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  12. First off dear, dear Man,

    I could jump at the phrase "2,000 words later I realized I had been writing". I could--I did! I could tell you that my heart leapt just a little...that for a moment every overwhelming selfish thought jumped it's way into my head and I did a little dance singing to myself, "we're gonna get a book, a Josh Lanyon book!" And that would be true---but I am glad to say that was a very brief moment--for here is what I really focused on...

    "And enjoying it."

    Ah...now that dear man, that made me truly happy...happy for you! To hear that once again, for that shining moment, joy and writing took your hand and led you to a new adventure...well that is really worth celebrating, isn't it?

    So, I leave you with this from Mr. Yeats:

    Joy is of the will which labours, which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph.
    William Butler Yeats

    Today and always Josh, I hope that joy is your constant companion!

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    1. Thank you, Sammy. Wise words as always.

      I am happy. And what's better is I'm conscious of being happy. It's a very good place to be.

      It makes me wish happiness for all my readers.

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    2. Well that says it all doesn't it dear man?? That right there has made this sabbatical a priceless gift--that you are conscious of being happy--who could ask for anything more really Josh?

      I am beyond happy that this is now your journey--that now you are in a place where something as simple as a cup of coffee and a moment to garden has become a joyful experience. And as much as I love your word, and I really do dear man, I would not have you trade that feeling for another word on the page. For you are what is most important--the work? Well that is simply a way of glimpsing your heart, your imagination and while that is so very lovely--a happy Josh Lanyon cannot compare!

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  13. Yeah, Josh!

    Sounds like you had a great writing sesson. Finding that joy again...

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    1. Thank you, VS!

      It felt great. So good, in fact, I'm almost afraid to test it again. :-D

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  14. So glad to hear that the joy is returning to your writing, Josh.
    As for audio books, I do hours of mindless bookwork for our business and audio books are how I get through it, so you have a taker here.

    Also, I think that knowing an author is creatively fulfilled and not drained by their work, makes the reading even better.

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    1. I used to buy lots of audio books. I still love them but now, as I don't really drive anywhere, I only listen to them before bed. So I have a lot of them I haven't even listened to yet! But I keep buying them. :-)

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  15. The prospect, however distant of a new addition to the canon is immensely cheering. Even better is the fact that you are enjoying yourself again. Life is too short to spend being miserable and in pain if there is any choice in the matter. Short pause while I climb on my soap box and put on my health and safety hat:

    While you are organising your business, please make time for a proper assessment of your workspace. Make sure you have a chair that supports you properly and if you need one a foot rest, a wrist support and a keyboard that really suits you. Get a dictation programme, so that you can talk to the pooter, rather than having to type everything, so if you go back to the world of deadlines and some are inevitable, you are a) not getting back on the crazy merry go round, and b) have a work environment that reduces the physical stress.

    Gets off soap box:

    This is you understand enlightened self interest, I want more Josh Lanyon books! Write with joy and vim, it will come out in the writing and win you more fans!

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    1. So true, AM. I think I really wrecked myself when I started typing on the sofa instead of at my desk. That many hours in that poor alignment was bound to catch up sooner or later.

      Anyway, thank you for the kind thoughts!

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  16. It's good to hear you're enjoying writing again. Hopefully, when you finish your year off, you will regain that enjoyment on a permanent basis by being your own boss. If you're the one publishing, you're the one who sets the deadlines, and whilst there's still pressure in the sense of needing to work and pay the bills, you're the one in control of the pressure. Lack of control over deadlines of any kind is what often makes for extreme stress and takes the joy out of work, even work you love. I do so hope it all works out - and that we get some more Josh Lanyon books before too long!

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    1. You're right on every count, Liz.

      I have to say that I think the break really is starting to pay off. I was working in the garden today and I had what I think is a brilliant idea. I can't think of the last time I had a writing idea that I actually thought was brilliant. :-D

      Proof that rest and relaxation does have practical results.

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  17. I just started my grad school program in Business of Art and Design and one of our workshop speakers, a published writer, told us "As a writer, you'd think that I wake up at 11 am and sit around in my pjs all day writing... that's not what happens," to which I said "Darn it!" Lol!

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    1. :-D

      I think there are few jobs more imbued with false glamour than writing. Infact, I think many people convince themselves they want to be writers based on a misconception of what a writer's life is really life -- not to mention a false conception of how much money writers make.

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  18. Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Okay everyone... 21 days to go on the kickstarter campaign. We need to pick up the pace a bit. If you want the product before everyone else and get a great discount, back our campaign by going to kickstarter and searching Tidy Snap . Tell everyone you know smile emoticon.

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