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.
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.