Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spinning Plates

by D.R. Shoultz
              

Do you remember the ‘60s act on the Ed Sullivan Show where a tuxedo-clad performer spun plates on several wobbly, six-foot long sticks positioned across the stage?  He started at one end, placing what looked like an everyday dinner plate on the top of the first stick, spinning it until the momentum kept it atop the pliable pole.  He then proceeded to other bowls and plates on the stage, positioning and spinning them on these flexible sticks, periodically returning to his earlier spinning props to give them a boost, just as it looked like they were about to crash to the stage. After a couple of minutes, frantically running back and forth, the act ended with the entire stage filled with spinning plates and bowls. WHA-LA!
 
Well, if you do remember, it means you’re either collecting Social Security or you're darned close. It also means you’ll appreciate using this act as an analogy to launching a first novel. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you can check out the spinning plate act at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zhoos1oY404. 
 
As I’ve mentioned in my prior posts, I self-published my first novel about six weeks ago.  With a decent pension from a prior career, a fair amount saved, and a working spouse, my writing gig is clearly more of an avocation at this point.  Nonetheless, I’m serious about it.  I want to produce quality work, have people read it, and have them like what they read. 
 
What I have discovered is I may have underestimated what it takes to write, edit, publish, market, and distribute my first work, all while I’m attempting to write a second book.  Over the past six weeks, I’ve begun to better appreciate the effort.  Carrying the spinning plate analogy a little further -- and I recognize I run the risk of overdoing this -- what I now have is one finished novel spinning on a stick. I’m trying to spin out my second book, but I need to keep running to the sticks supporting the elements of my wobbling sales and marketing plan.  Fortunately, my wife is an experienced editor, so I do have an extra set of hands tending to that particular spinning plate.  But writing press releases and delivering them to newspapers, setting up and maintaining a website and blog, preparing and entering my work into book reviews, continuing to read and learn about my new avocation, and finishing up my second book, are all plates that on occasion wobble badly in need of renewed spinning.
 
I know I’m not alone.  Author websites and blogs are filled with first-time, self-published authors who lack the support of editors, publishers, and agents. They, too, work their way back and forth across the stage as they spin and re-spin plates.  I’m sure we all would like to someday experience that WHA-LA moment, where we look across the stage to see all our plates, spinning in harmony atop their respective poles.
 
Better yet would be to look across the stage and see our editor, publisher, and agent tending to our wobbling plates – someday maybe, someday.    

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wants Versus Needs

by D.R. Shoultz

It’s been nearly a month since my novel, Corrupt Connection, was published and advertised for sale on Amazon.com. So far, it’s sold less than 100 copies. After launching my website and blog, having a press release printed in my hometown newspaper, advertising in some of the electronic media outlets (LinkedIn, Craigslist, etc.), and offering to participate in local book signings, I’ve managed to sell less than 100 books. And all this after spending nearly a year writing, editing, re-re-editing, and publishing my first novel. So, how would I rate the experience? I’d give it an A+.

Why so high?  Well, I think it has to do with “wants and needs”.  I clearly can’t speak for everyone, but I know I spent a bulk of my adult life chasing needs.  Sure, I wanted to get married, I wanted to have kids, I wanted to have a home in the suburbs, but from that point on, the needs took over.  I needed to get a job, and not just any job, a well-paying job.  I needed to prepare to send my kids to good schools.  I needed to pay my monthly bills associated with that big house I wanted.  My wife and I needed to prepare for our future.  Every day another need seemed to pop up – braces, vet bills, furnaces failing – always something.

I retired nearly five years ago at 55, after working 31 years for the same company.  Some would argue I retired pre-maturely, too early for today’s volatile economy, but it has been a decision I’ve never regretted or had second thoughts about.  The day I retired I started doing more of what I wanted to do, not what I needed to do.  Am I selfish?  I don’t think so.   I worked long, hard days and weeks for over 30 years to get to this point, and I was, and remain, willing to balance my needs within the framework of my retirement.

Now, I fill my days with what I deem as meaningful activities. I write because I want to write. The 12 months writing and editing my first novel seemed to fly by, with each creative, peaceful morning pushing any stress aside. So, after all the time and effort I’ve put into it, am I disappointed with selling less than 100 books in the first month?  Nope, not one bit.  I don’t need to do this -- I want to.