Building Dreams Out of Candy Bars

 

Building Dreams Out of Candy Bars

 

I used to eat lunch with this guy at work who would always toss his vending machine change to me and chuckle while saying, “Here, go buy yourself something nice.”

 

The guy was a goofball through and through. Every time he tossed me his change, I’d just smile, nod, and put it in my pocket for safekeeping. See, I understand the value of pocket change. Once it adds up, it can buy you all sorts of great things. Like dreams.

 

Fifteen years ago, I married my high school sweetheart. We were a happy couple, but we barely had two nickels to rub together once the bills were paid. All through the week we’d make a concerted effort to horde pocket change. If we found a dime on the sidewalk, we’d pick it up and add it to our change stash. Same goes for the pennies that would inevitably fall between the couch cushions. At the time, money was so tight we couldn’t afford going to the movies, or any other likely date night destination.

 

On date nights we would walk to the convenience store, and using the pocket change, buy each other a candy bar. Candy bars are an extravagance when you don’t have much money. This sort of date night was a staple back then, and even today I’ll buy a single Snickers bar and leave it for her to wake up to when I’ve already left for work.

 

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably asking yourself why I’m rambling on about candy bars. Well, because you can build dreams out of candy bars. Or rather, the pocket change that you’d spend on a candy bar can buy just about anything if you have enough of it. That’s why I think authors have such an advantage in today’s indie publishing world. Pocket change can buy you a candy bar, or if you love books, it can buy an ebook. Ebooks bring you joy and satisfaction that spans hours. There is no better entertainment value on a per hour basis. Nothing else comes close.

 

Fifteen years ago, when we’d save our pocket change to spend on our “date night,” I was just starting out as a writer. My wife stood by me, encouraging me when the rest of the world offered silence. Now, people send me their pocket change, and in return, I give them the best-valued entertainment available. I feel blessed. People read my words, they identify with, and sometimes hate, my characters.

 

Before I decided to put out my novels myself, I had “sold” The Nightmare Within to an up-and-coming small press. When I’d first heard the news, you could knock me over with a feather. So what happened after receiving such joyous news?

 

Nothing. Nothing at all.

 

Wait, you’re probably wondering, a sale is a sale, right?

 

Long story short, the publisher thought better of putting his money behind a book by a relative unknown. So you might be wondering why I didn’t just send the novel back out to the next publisher on my list. Well, the whole ordeal that I had just gone through, from submission to the eventual cutting-of-ties, had taken three years.

 

THREE YEARS!

 

That’s three years in which I wasn’t connecting with readers. I decided I didn’t want to go through that again.

 

That’s where Joe Konrath comes into the picture.

Long before I even submitted my novel to that welcher of a publisher, I belonged to a critique group that met at the College of DuPage. Though I didn’t get much from the critique group, after one particularly unsatisfying meeting, I came across a catalog of upcoming courses at the college. I didn’t know it at the time, but coming across this catalog would change my life.

 

As I flipped through the newsprint pages, I came across this listing:

 

“Get Represented: How to Land a Literary Agent”

 

The teacher, of course, was Joe. The objectives of the class were as follows:

 

1. Build critiquing and editing skills.
2. Research and select likely markets for specific genres.
3. Master query letter formats.
4. Master submission techniques.
5. Submit one completed manuscript to a professional market.

 

I list these objective sto show just how far publishing has changed in a handful of years. Those tenets seems so trite and outdated now, don’t they? Really, only the first objective still applies. I never did sign up for that class, but I did notice that this instructor was also an author. I wrote down Joe’s name and tracked down a copy of Whiskey Sour at my local Borders. I also started following his blog.

 

When the deal with the small publisher fell through, being a devote reader of The Newsbie’s Guide to Publishing, I said screw it, and I published The Nightmare Within myself (Kindle and Smashwords). Since then, I’ve made more money than I ever would have with that entry-level small press deal. Not that it’s a lot of money, at least not yet. It’s candy bar money, really. But it’s a start and candy bar money adds up. I’ve also released a second novel, Where Darkness Dwells (Kindle and Smashwords) which has gotten even better reviews than The Nightmare Within.

Where do I go from here? I’m hard at work wrapping up projects with the goal of increasing my virtual shelf space. I want to double my available titles over the next year. And as long as my readers continue to enjoy my tales, they will trade me their candy bar money for a few hours of entertainment.

 

You might be asking yourself what I plan on buying with my candy bar money. Well, I have an idea, but I’m not going to tell you, at least not yet. But I’ll give you a clue, it’ll be built from dreams.

 

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About glenkrisch

Writer, freelance editor, runner, family man, wanna-be farmer, neo-luddite
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9 Responses to Building Dreams Out of Candy Bars

  1. Excellent post, Glen. I’m right there with you. I don’t look at a 200 sales month as $80.00 (thereabouts), I look at it as 200 readers and 200 chances that they’ll pick up my next book. I get a few candy bars and keep plugging away at building a backlist. I think ours is the realistic approach and with hard work and dedication, I believe it will pay off.

    • glenkrisch says:

      Hi Belinda,
      I’m so bad about replying to my own blog. Bad blogger, bad.
      I agree. Slow and steady is best. Hitting a home run would be excellent, but it would be foolish to actually bet on one.
      I’m trying to decide if I want to self-pub a couple of novellas I’ve recently completed. What do you think? One is 17k, the other 29k. I could even put them out individually, and then also put them out together, thus adding three titles to my virtual shelf space. I was hoping for a traditional deal on one of them, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

  2. Bethica says:

    I think the e-reader is the way to go. The old fashoned publishing complanies wont be able to hold on to paper for much longer. Take the virtual shelves and run with it because now’s the time for the new and upcoming indie author.

    • glenkrisch says:

      I’m firmly in the indie camp, but my issue is trying to get my work in front of readers. It seems like when someone reads at least a sample, they will purchase my work, and when they read one of my books to completion, a large majority are overwhelmingly positive in their reviews. Perhaps I need to figure out a better way to market my work. One of the reasons I enjoy writing so much is because it’s a solitary pursuit; marketing is definitely not.
      Thanks for stopping by, Bethica!

  3. Mari Stroud says:

    My dad kept a giant jug (the size of a Culligan water jug, only made of thick glass) in his bedroom. For more than ten years, he tossed pennies and the occasional nickel into it. At the time of his death, there was over $2000 in that jug. Hell, yes, change adds up.

    Great post, and I agree completely with the philosophy behind it. Tiny steps don’t seem like a big deal, until suddenly you look around and see how far you’ve come.

    • glenkrisch says:

      Little steps can take you far when they add up! Thanks for the comment, Mari, and for subscribing. This has been a year of taking little steps for me, steps that are building a foundation for the years to come.

  4. Great post and a good lesson for anyone just starting out. Writing and publishing isn’t easy, no matter how you go about it, so you just have to keep plugging away.

    By the way, The Nightmare Within has an EXCELLENT cover.

    • glenkrisch says:

      Thanks, Brian. I’ve been at it quite awhile, but have only turned to indie publishing in the last year. My first short story sale came in 2001 to The Dream Zone. If I remember right, I shared a TOC with Carlton Mellick, among others.
      By the way, I enjoyed the heck out of BLACK FIRE, and “Answering the Call.”
      My covers are generally done by Kealan Patrick Burke. He’s a pretty talented dude, huh?

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