Frederick Douglass: Orator, Abolitionist, and Writer. His life is a true inspiration.
When I was about six or seven years old I wrote my first book. It was titled, "The War to End All Wars," and was a picture book about World War III. I stapled the left hand side in three places so it would open like a real book. The pictures inside were slightly better than stick figures with machine guns and army helmets traveling along side tanks that appeared to be rectangles not quite connected to some primitive version of a track with a pipe sticking out of it. The verbiage was a sentence, maybe two, that contained very little action, description (that's what the pics were for), or suspense. I wrote many other titles and dreamed of being an author some day. As I got older and entered high school I took a journalism class and enjoyed writing pieces for that class. I still have some of those old papers. I had the opportunity to interview my step-father and write an essay about him - it was our first real connection. I still have that as well. From the time I was about fifteen until my early twenties I wrote a ton of poetry that my wife has put on disk for me and created a wonderful memory book that's truly one of my most prized possessions. I remember watching my speech and debate teacher in high school and thought, 'I want to do that.' I figured I could write in the summers and teach during the school year.
After my early twenties life got in the way. I stopped reading and writing almost entirely and settled for excuses on why I didn't do some things and why I did do other things. The dream of being an author completely vanished. The idea of teaching was quickly wiped away with two futile (and that's being kind) attempts at college where my BAC was much higher than my GPA (shh, don't tell my students). Life had gotten in the way of me living my life. I had settled for running my mouth instead of defining myself through my actions. I had given up and yet I would tell you how great I was going to be, or could be if only someone would give me the chance to write the book that lived inside my head. I was going to be great if only you (or anyone) would just let me loose on the children - the education and knowledge part would have to come later - after all, I still needed to eat and buy stuff and get the latest Billy Joel album and have all the comforts I felt I deserved. "Oh," I would say, "and have I told you how great I will be at it?"
I tell you all this really to say that it is never too late. My attitude and approach to life has changed and as a result I began to realize some of those dreams I assumed were lost forever (one lost forever is becoming the starting centerfielder for the Chicago Cubs, I'm okay with that). I could do what anybody else is capable of doing but I had to realize that I had to do what they did to get there. As I begin to reflect on what I've accomplished later in life I can see it happened because I've done my best to be honest, hardworking, take responsibility, and trust in God. That was my path - find yours.
I want to write about the business of writing today. Before my dad died just over four years ago whenever I had a question about business I would call him. His business was helping you sell your business. Just like 96% of all father/son relationships we had our issues (I hear 68% of all stats are bogus) but when it came to business I grew to respect my father and his way of practicing it. He wanted his customer to benefit from the service he was providing. Certainly, he wanted to make money but I believe deep down my father's real pleasure came from watching one of his customers become successful because of his product.
The books I have recently read about the business of writing are filled with great ideas. But I do disagree with some of their ideas and opinions. Certainly you can draw your own conclusions but as they had the opportunity to share their opinions I'm going to share mine. One source uses the approach of publishing your book unedited to motivate the writer to get busy making the changes. Another book really was an attack on the fact that it costs money to publish a book if you want to be successful, and then it still isn't a guarantee. Finally, there are a dozen or so thoughts on how to get cheap services done throughout the process. It probably doesn't come as a surprise to many of you but I am a Capitalist. The idea that anyone can publish is a good thing. The free market will take care of the garbage and allow the best to rise. I feel that I owe the reader the very best. I certainly demand a quality product from Stephen King or any other authors I buy a book from. It drives me crazy when I read some of the indie books out there filled with typos and confusing sentences. To not take the time to make sure you have done everything to produce a quality product is to tell your customers (the reader) you don't care about them. You may not like my book, you may disagree (or agree) with my ideas, you may say 'it's just not my kind of fiction,' but what I don't want to hear is that I was sloppy and produced an unprofessional product. I spent good money, time, and late night discussions with my wife grueling over my cover. I read through the book twice and made changes and corrected spelling and had some friends read over it and still sent it off to a professional editor (writtendreams.com did the cover and is doing the editing). I am working on the copy inside and outside of the book and the different options on how I get the product to the reader. I am spending time praying and discussing how much I plan to sell the book for. I don't believe I have to sell my book 'cheap' as some suggest but instead sell it for a reasonable price. I worked hard. No matter what I sell it for there is a very good chance it will not be a financial success. But I still owe to those willing to spend their money a product I'm proud of. Self-publishing is starting your own business and should be treated that way. That means there will be an investment (no, not taxes) that comes with risk. We named our publishing company John Galt Publishing (I know Ayn Rand will be rolling over in her grave when she sees my logo but would forgive me due to my belief in laissez-faire capitalism). Yes, we have made quite an investment even before our product is available for purchase.
I feel I am producing a product my dad would've been proud of advertising. That is the best gift I can give him as he looks down on us.
Until next week... God Bless!