How to escape the day-job

Because there are very few people actually listening, I can pretty much talk about anything here. Those of you paying attention, feel free to offer suggestions, advice, and/or winning lottery tickets… 🙂

For any creative type, the struggle in life is always the mundane versus the exciting. There are all these stories that I would like to tell, but the day job inhibits me. It requires so much of the life and energy of many artists, to have to put food on the table and a roof overhead. Mazlow covered this.

There are some who have what we call a “supportive spouse,” which is the person who goes to work and supports the household so that we, the artist, can pursue our dreams without having to be taking orders, moving boxes, or writing code all day. Those people are worth their weight in dreams.

Some of us, however, do not have that luxury. Or, in my case, I’m the supportive spouse so that Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) can do her thing.

Eventually, my goal is to not have to get up in the morning and go to work. To get there, there is a number. I’m not sure exactly what that number is, but I know it exists.  I know the amount of money I make monthly at the day job. While it would be utterly fantastic to be able to replace that with other income streams, I’m not anywhere close right now in terms of monthly book sales. But I don’t have to be, because if I’m not buying dress shoes, not commuting to work, not being all those things, I can live much smaller and still fake sanity.

At the same time, I am selling books. (Thank you, by the way, for reading them, and telling your friends.) That is a second stream of revenue that helps me pay off the credit cards and other things that came up in 2015 as I built a house, got married, and had a few other interesting adventures. It will get me there.

Fabulous Publisher Babe and I were talking about how to achieve other revenue streams on this last Saturday with a group of like-minded weirdos that we collectively refer to as the Bellevue Writers Lunch. (Because we started out having a business lunch once a month and Bellevue was central for everyone. Saturday was in Lynnwood.) We talk writing, but more we talk about publishing, and advertising, and other stuff. How to do better covers, better blurbs. Better discoverability. We talk about how to make ourselves better as business people.

All of that translates into money. Money translates, in this particular instance, into the happiness of being able to walk away from the day job and just write and create full-time. (I am a storyteller. I have always been one. But I would love to be able to make a living at it.)

Andy brought up the topic of a Patreon. Fabulous Publisher Babe and I had been talking about her doing one, featuring, among other things, early access to her catalog of never-been-seen-before short stories, months or years before she publishes them for the rest of the world to see.

Other artists, especially other writers we know have tried this. Some of them have had some modicum of success. You almost certainly won’t make enough money from a monthly Patreon to walk away, but it becomes one more stream of nickels. And those nickels add up. Because you add them to nickels from books, and from magazine sales, and and and…

But her advantage is that she writes short stories. She has a compact object that she can share with her supporters as a reward for someone giving up a starbucks or three every month to support the arts.

But I wanna play, too.

It’s not so easy for me. I have written short stories in the past (and not so short ones), but I don’t have a ready back catalog of things to share. (Sure, I could comb through hundreds of old poems I wrote when I was a very angry young man, but I’m not sure that it would appeal to anyone enough get them to cough up money monthly for them.)

If I took the time each month to write a short story, that would also cut my productivity on the novels by about a quarter, as I can write a pretty good story in a week.

Another option Linda suggested was to serialize a novel.  Take something that is done, but has not been published yet, and put it up a few chapters at a time for my fans, so they can read it before anyone else. They would also see it in the much rougher state than the final, and could offer suggestions, corrections, and thoughts. (My novels are pretty clean when I get to the end, but that means it makes sense to me. I still rely on several First Readers to go through the text and point out all the places where something that was in my head never quite made it onto the page.)

The downside to serialization is that I tend to write pretty quickly (as you know), and then work fast on the First Read, Copy Edit, book design, and publication.  It’s not like Traditional, New York, Publishing, where I might finish a book and send it off to the editor, for it to come out on the bookshelf three or four years later. I wrote and published the following in 2015: The Mind Field, Moonshot, Queen of the Pirates, The Story Road, Last of the Immortals, and The Gilded Cage.  And I’m racing myself against the clock to finish the current novel, because I think I can finish the first draft before January 1. It won’t come out until spring, but I count the words against my annual total.

Next year, I won’t be building a house, moving into it, getting married, honeymooning, or a few other things, so I ought to be even more productive.

What weighs on my soul is what we call in business “opportunity costs.” I could write fewer novels, and more short stories, and possibly build up a Patreon base that might cut down on the number of years until I can quit working for the man. But at the same time I might just plow ahead and write as many novels as I can, hoping that they establish a sales baseline that provides me a random collection of nickels from a whole bunch of spines each month, growing as I put more product into the bakery for the casual reader wandering down the street to smell.

But I’m not alone, here. I’m surrounded by a wonderful collection of friends who help. I have fans who will even possibly read these words and weigh in with their entirely different view of things as a reader. (Thanks: K & B) I have connections on social media that might show me a radically new way to do things that I’ve never come across.

It helps me to think, when I put words on paper, even electronic ones. I don’t have any answers. But I don’t have to. I have stories. I have dreams. I have plans.

Thanks for letting to talk your ear off. I look forward to any advice you want to offer. The good ones will even get published, as I presume the rest of you can find all the male enhancement drugs and such you need on the interwebs without my help. 🙂


West of the Mountains, WA

2 thoughts on “How to escape the day-job

  1. Barry Melius

    Noticed an up and coming scifi writer few years ago,good writing-fresh and entertaining,just what I look for. He worked like a dog pumping out new product more frequently,spent a lot of effort establishing a fan base,worked a lot of the angles to get his stuff noticed. Over time i could see his sales ranking go up,multiple good reviews and readers seemed to follow him. He appeared to be finally making at least a good starving artist’s living. To me his books got repetitious and boring over the same passage of time. Stopped reading him.

  2. J. D. Brink

    I hear you, brother! I’m a fellow indie writer struggling to escape the gravity of a day job too in order to reach the stars. And I’m also the primary bread winner, which makes it way more difficult. (Plus I’m in the Navy, so you can’t just up and quit that, either.) It is an epic struggle, to be sure. This year my writing made more than any previous, but still not as much as one month’s income on the day job, so I have a long way to go. But I know that if I stay on this path (actually up for promotion soon, into the senior officer range too) I’ll have less and less time for my family and for writing. So do I stick with the sure thing for 10 more years to get a nice pension but never be home, or do I go with my dreams? And I answer without hesitation, my dreams. So I’m fighting to be more productive too. I know if I had more time to write, I have like 40 books in mind already. Just no time. But I’m trying to be somewhat realistic and hoping that by 2020 I can at least be working part-time (no longer in the Navy) and supplementing with my writing. But I have a long ways to go.
    But we keep going, right? The slow but steady trudge up the snowy mountain. Sounds like you’re off to a much better start than I am, and you have the Bellevue Lunch group too. You’re doing it, sir! Don’t get discouraged, just keep trudging along.

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