Nov 07

The fiction writing experiment

Credit: Ben Sutherland on flickr

Credit: Ben Sutherland on flickr

Way back before I ever heard of the Smart Passive Income blog, or The 4-Hour Work Week, or Rich Dad Poor Dad, (maybe 1998-ish) a few of us engineers would sit around at lunch and talk about some of the same topics we would later hear about there: how to get ahead, how to stop working for the man, how to get out of trading dollars for hours at our day jobs. We worked in the manufacturing world, and there wasn’t an easy way for us to become our own bosses. The barriers to entry were huge: a couple of engineers starting out can’t afford the machinery we’d need to build things. So I was attracted to the publishing business-model. I’d always liked to write anyway, and the work relationship seemed better than what I had. I commuted every day, to sit in a cubical and design machines. When I stopped working, they stopped paying me. On the other hand, The Author (in my mind anyway) writes the book once, and keeps getting paid as long as the book keeps selling. The publisher prints copies out by the thousand, while the author sits on the beach. The cost to print up more and more copies is pretty small. But publishing was not easy to get into: the companies that controlled the printing presses and distribution called all the shots. So, while I enjoyed writing fiction, it was something I did for fun, with no real hope of making money doing it. Now, almost 20 years later, things have changed a lot. The internet in general, and Amazon in particular, have made everything different.

The New Paradigm

In the old days, to publish a book you needed to query a bunch of agents, hoping one would represent you (an unknown writer), and the agent would approach publishers with your book idea, hoping one would agree to publish it. The odds for an unknown writer clearing both of those hurdles are not encouraging. In the brave new world of self-publishing, gone are the days of endless submittals, hoping to get an agent, and hoping to get published. As the Self Publishing Podcast would say, the gatekeepers are gone. Anybody with the drive to do it can now publish a book and see if anyone likes it. And with ebooks, the cost to make another copy of your book is just about zero, no printing press required. So with reproduction costs gone, self-published ebook authors stand to keep a bigger percentage of their sales than traditionally published authors. Suddenly my little story writing hobby seemed a little less frivolous. So I’ve been trying to learn about this stuff; listening to the Self Publishing Podcast, reading Hugh Howey’s blog, etc. And the enthusiasm is getting to me. Even if it goes nowhere, it’s inspired me to write more, which is fun.

Getting Stuff Done

Over the past several years, I’ve (very) slowly written a few short stories. With no real plan to get them published, I was in no hurry to finish them. Last month, I saw that our local free alternative paper was holding a Halloween short story contest again this year. Then I saw the entry deadline was just a few days away. In past years, I usually said, “I don’t have time to write anything by then,” and gave up. But, inspired by Pat Flynn and the SPP guys to get things done, I cranked a story out in 2 lunch hours, and sent it in. And I won! The story is here if you want to read it. And if you like the story, keep checking back here (or subscribe). I plan to update this blog with my adventures in self publishing. Maybe I’ll even set up a mailing list for people who want to get updates on my journey. My longer term plan is to self-publish a collection of my science-fictiony short stories on Amazon sometime soonish.

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