Change of Plans

Well, my initial tech upgrade did not go as smoothly as I had planned. It turns out I need a special device in order for my Mac Mini to interpret two monitors as an extended display. One company in particular has such an adapter, but I would have to mail order it. On a hunch, I tried a local Radio Shack and bought something I thought would have sufficed.

It didn’t. Instead of an extended display I got a mirrored one, meaning I saw the same thing on two separate screens. Fortunately, the folks at Radio Shack were kind enough to give me a full refund, and now I wait for the proper (and significantly more expense) gadget to arrive.

Also, I still haven’t bought a new laptop yet. I’m shopping around, but the Mac Air seems the best option right now. However there are rumors going around that there may be a never version of the hardware to be released in time with the newest version of OSX — aka Lion. That’s to come some time this month, so I figure waiting two weeks to see how the pricing falls out won’t hurt much.

Keeping with the theme of today’s post, last time I mentioned I was taking a different tack with my writing. Basically, the plan is to write a bunch of serialized novellas primarily for the e-reader market — something a person can enjoy over a couple of lunch hours or on the daily commute. I have several ideas for what I want to write, but publication is a different matter. I’m toying with the idea of going through a market that specializes in e-books, but self-publishing is also (now) a viable option.

Let me say that again: it’s a viable option. A way. Not THE way.

Five years ago I was very much against self-publishing, mostly because the people that I talked to who were advocates were of the “build it and they will come” mentality. That works fine for Field of Dreams but not so much for real life. There’s work to be done if you want to go that route, and quite a bit of it.

While the more traditional venues of publishing may be floundering and flailing in the face of e-books, it’s still a workable means. The money’s not great, but I don’t think it ever will be. Never look to the massive success stories that media homes in on. They aren’t the rule.

What publishing houses provide is editing, layout, printing, and even some publicity, all under one roof. That leaves you free to write and rewrite your next piece of work. If you go the self route, all that is on your shoulders, and it’s not an easy haul. With that in mind, if you as a writer look into and research the amount of work that goes into self-publishing, understanding what you’d be getting into and actually DOING said work, then you’ve got an option that might just do it for you.

Howard Tayler of the web comic Schlock Mercenary is someone I point to as the prime example of doing the homework and accepting the responsibilities.

He started the comic as a hobby in 2000, deciding to leave his day job four years later to attempt going into comics full time. He wanted to find a publisher to make print editions of Schlock. It wasn’t panning out, so he did his research and decided to self-publish. For five years he worked 80-100 hour weeks on the comic both on the site and in print, until his income grew to the point where he could make ends meet and pare back his hours to a more traditional work week.

That comes to about 23,000 man-hours of work over the course of five years, just to grow his comic to where he can make a living off of it. And in all this time he has not missed a single day of the comic.

That’s the sort of effort you could be looking at if you self-publish. I’m not saying that to scare anyone off (although it does make me nervous), but it should be something to consider.

While I’d love to become a rich and famous writer, I work in genre fiction — speculative fiction to be precise. We’re talking a niche within a niche. I don’t expect I’ll make the big bucks, but I’d like to see my writing pay my mortgage and bills, feed myself and the cats, and maybe include a little extra for some fun.

It’s going to be a lot of work getting there. Probably 4,000 to 5,000 words a day at least. While it may slow down my progess on painting that army of Wood Elves on my game-room table, there’s just no way around it.

Gotta write.

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