Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The eBook Revolution and the New Writer - Part 2

If you've already read Part-1, welcome back. If not, don't worry. I'm sure you'll figure out what's going on. On second thought, this is a bit of a tangent before I bring it all together, so maybe read Part-1 first after all.

Here's a short tale, beginning with a quote from Peter Egan:
"In any contest between the two, doing beats having every time."
I've been a gearhead for almost as long as I've been making up stories. In my misspent youth, I used to devour every issue of Road & Track. The first thing I would read in every issue was the column by Peter Egan, called Side Glances. The columns easily equaled (and many times even surpassed) the thrilling racing reports, luscious Lamborghini photos, and retrospectives on such classics as the '38 Phantom Corsair. Side Glances often had humorous stories about old sports cars (usually British) combined with little nuggets of wisdom about life. It always related to cars in some way, but you never knew exactly where it would end up. A side glance as you travel down the road of life, I guess.

I liked some of the columns so much I would cut them out and put them on my fridge. One of my favorites was when Peter told the story of what happened when he and his friends were testing some cars at the local race track. It's been a while, so my apologies to Mr. Egan if I get the details wrong.

Some guy rolled up in a 300ZX or maybe it was a 944 (I told you it was a while ago.) The guy started chatting with them about cars and racing etc. Then he said something to the effect of "Ya know, I've always wanted to go racing..." Which of course, pushed the wrong button for Peter's friend (sorry, nameless friend, Google wasn't much help this time.) Peter's friend had probably heard some version of this a thousand times. One thousand and one was apparently one too many. He said to the guy: "No you haven't. You haven't always wanted to race." The point being, if this guy had "always wanted to go racing," he would have. But he didn't.

Instead, this guy chose to do other things with his time, money and effort. Which is perfectly fine, of course. But he enjoyed believing that someday he would choose differently and actually go racing.

The rest of the column was about how we all have things we might like to say we've always wanted to do. But truthfully, we really didn't always want to do them. Instead, they were just things we'd idly think about once in a while. And usually that thought would involve the word "someday." But you can't put "someday" in your iCal, can you?

I'm sure many philosophers or self-help gurus have already covered this ground, but it seems to me that people eventually end up just where they really want to be, whether they want to admit it or not. So Peter told about things he'd thought he'd always wanted to do and the things he actually did. Some things, like skydiving, were just occasional thoughts he would have, but other things, like racing and writing, were passions. You see, life can interfere with the best laid plans, but where passions are concerned, you find a way.

It may involve sacrifice and setting priorities. It might even take a long time. I'm sure when Peter's friends were going out to dinner, driving brand new cars, and buying new houses, he was perfectly happy with the beat up old station wagon that doubled as a tow car and spending all his disposable income on used tires and other parts for his race car. Instead of having stuff, Peter chose to do his passion. I'd think he'd say it turned out pretty well. By the time he wrote that article, he was living his dream, testing cars on a race track and getting paid to write about it. Something he probably would have gladly done for free. He's continued to live that dream in the decades since then.

But, it's not as if he just magically woke up one morning and found he was working for Road & Track and suddenly living his dream. He'd been living that dream all along, even when subsisting on PB&J while sleeping in the back of his station wagon on race weekend, before he "made it big." And it was all because he believed doing beats having.

So the moral of this little tale, and how it relates to ePublishing and the New Writer, is this:

If somebody (such as imaginary Bart from Part-1 - see, go read Part-1 if you haven't) has written a book and published it on Amazon & Smashwords, etc., that's only the beginning, not the end result. Bart is already beyond the "someday" phase, which is great. But he needs to keep going. If his passion is writing, then he needs to just do it and not worry about sales and how many followers his Facebook and Twitter accounts have. What he does need to do is write more books and have an idea what he will be writing next month and next year. Writing and finishing a book is a great accomplishment. I am sincere when I say "Congratulations." I am sarcastic when I say "Now go celebrate it with a million other people in exactly the same boat as you."

Note: I am not saying "Build it and they will come." I'm not saying marketing isn't important. But look at the big picture. Don't get caught up in the hype of this new thing called ePublishing. If writing is your passion, then make it your career. You're not going to be able to quit your day job overnight. But have a plan. Literally make a business plan. Google it. Figure out where you want your writing career to be in a year, three years, five years, ten years from now. If you want to have the success of a pro, then act like a pro and be a pro. Set your goals, then make a map of how you want to get there one step at a time.

None of the ePublishing success stories happened over night or in one month. They all required a lot of hard work, time, and effort. You might have to sacrifice some things. Maybe you have to get up an hour or two earlier to find the time to write. Maybe you will need to pass on that new TV and invest in better cover art or editing for your next book. Doing beats having.

The New Writer is the same as the Old Writer, except now we have more options, and more control. With this new power comes new responsibility. Instead of getting caught up in who has what sales, take charge of your own writing. Make it as good as you can. The New Writer is their own CEO and the head of their own marketing and art departments. Delegate to others if you have the budget, but remember it's all up to you, so you better be prepared.

So I would say to Bart, don't worry about whether you sell 10 books in a month or a hundred. You will do fine if you think long term. If this is your passion, then you're here to stay. You're doing your dream. If you keep doing that, then success will come.

But, what do I know -- it's taken me 30 years just to get three short stories independently published ;)


  1. You've mirrored most of my own thoughts here. I believe in doing, not talking. Acting and not just dreaming. Great post!

  2. Thanks, Libby! Sometimes all the hype and arguing about ePub gives me a headache. I had to get this off my chest ;)

  3. Good post, Jon. It's like we always hear folks say, "I always wanted to write a book." It's a long journey. I got your stories. I look forward to reading them. :)