Observations on an avocation

Because people have actually paid me for doing this stuff for over a decade now, I consider freelance writing to be my side hustle. But with a steadier full-time job, I really hadn’t taken the craft seriously enough until I got closer and closer to finishing The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party – in part because I didn’t wish to repeat the mistakes I made with my first book seven years ago. (As part of taking it seriously, Lord knows the tempo of posting here has slowed to an agonizing crawl, right?)

So this year I had a door opened as I found out the Eastern Shore Writers Association was hosting a self-publishing track as part of their annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. I hadn’t previously been a member but now I am among their ranks, and it’s an interesting group – as I found out last Saturday.

One feature of their conference is a bookstore of their authors’ products, and I learned that, for the most part, my peers in the group work in fiction and poetry. It’s not something that I have an issue with at all; in fact, I salute their creativity and imagination in pursuing their craft. However, it should be said that I am probably the outlier when it comes to both genre and viewpoint – I tell people I’m “barely left of militia” but my observation was that most of these folks are likely left of center – and a few barely this side of Stalin.

But I think all of us share a goal of getting out our story, whether it be a fictional figment of wild imagination or a historical and political documentation like Rise and Fall. I know it may not have the audience of a Tom Clancy thriller nor the reach of someone who’s a known figure and can negotiate a $65 million advance. (Heck, I would have done cartwheels for a $6,500 advance – or maybe even $65.) Still, I was a bit disappointed that no one really wanted to take a chance on being an agent for the book, but I shouldn’t have been surprised given the hundreds of thousands of titles produced annually, many by already-established authors.

Fortunately, I have an available outlet in self-publishing and over the six hour-long seminars I attended I learned a lot about the ins and outs of selling that way. One author made her series of romance novels a hit by studying the trends of well-selling similar books and adding those elements into her stories, which are set on the Eastern Shore. Another shared her insights on producing a good finished product, still a third talked about the art of face-to-face hand-selling of hard copies, and so on. I have pages of notes and several handouts to guide me. Now I have a strategy in mind for marketing, incorporating some of the elements I already have in place such as my book website.

So now I’m doing the final edits to Rise and Fall, among other things taking care of one maddening aspect that I found to be an easy enough fix. But I suppose I can let it slip that Rise and Fall won’t be the last book I do, and hopefully in about 18 months there will be a companion to it on fine bookshelves and e-readers everywhere. At this point that’s all I will reveal.

All in all, the Bay to Ocean event was good for me, and hopefully you’ll soon agree that it made me a better writer and marketer. I have definitely found more appreciation of craft after the event.

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