I’ve been an “independent publishing professional” (i.e. author and freelance editor) since 2005, which is to say that checking the mail has become extraordinarily important. Payday comes when it comes, just like the work itself. And the business side of a creative mind must be minded, too. I mentioned last week that I’m not agented, so after a new book comes out and gets its few months in the sun with help from the publisher’s marketing department, I’m virtually on my own for generating promotional ideas and calling to set up signings, readings, special events, and school visits. I’m my own webmaster (although I feel I need to hire a hand there), and I occasionally involve myself in book sales, which means you’re the cashier most of the time, too. And then there’s following up on invoices, another necessary evil.
On the other hand, this arrangement allows me the privilege of taking care of delightful grandkids and attending sporting events and getting the dog to the vet, etc. Yet I can let the house go because “I’m working,” you see? It’s not unusual for ideas to take shape when I’m vacuuming, however.
Often I’m asked to describe a typical workday. First off, there’s no such thing as “typical.” This week, I saw the final round of page proofs for my new children’s book coming out in a few months. They came as pdfs with hi-res art and the last of the little typographic changes in place. Looks good to me. And for a 32-page children’s book, the proofing turnaround time is fairly fast. We’d already done the grunt work months ago. As it happens, the major back-and-forth with the editor happened back in May, when I was traveling the Alaska Highway to update the current edition of that travel guide. Overlapping projects isn’t unusual, of course, and the schedule for each book demanded equal time. So as we chose where to camp, I paid close attention to which campgrounds had wi-fi, and I had to block out time to work intently on the children’s book.
I spent the summer working on the highway book, so while everybody else did their summer fun thing, I was slogging along, fact-checking and updating, writing captions and sidebars—I moved my little office out to the fifth-wheel in the driveway to get away from the house full of people and pets. I was a load of fun to be around. Anyway, yesterday I received the first set of printed color proofs for that book, and I have a couple of weeks to pore over them. Then sometime in the coming week, I’ll be reading the final-final of a memoir I’m editing for a Portland publisher, so more overlap. A week ago, I turned in color proofs of a cookbook on Oregon fruit, which was funded in part by a grant from the Oregon Department of Agriculture and written by a couple of Oregonian foodies. So another round of page proofs is ahead sometime; don’t know when.
And lastly, I’m the developmental editor for a lavish book on entertaining, with suggestions for parties, décor, menu, wine, and specialty cocktails. The on-site photography took place last week in San Francisco, and the food photography is still ahead (separate photographers). I helped shape the structure, and will be looking at sample chapters soon as our contract writer gets underway.
So there are a lot of fly balls in this little corner of the freelance world. Editing pays better than writing out here, but I still love to entertain children, especially, with the written word. When I chat with people outside the industry, I’m constantly correcting the notion that authors are rolling in dough. Where did that come from? And that booksignings are a boost to the ego—I’ve had feast or famine at those, too, like the time I arrived at a store, and the clerk said, “Oh, is that today?” or when a shopper stopped at the table to ask the way to the bathroom. Other times, there’s a line (to me, not the bathroom). Go figure.
In the end, I feel blessed to have work that’s so satisfying and at times just really fun. The people I get to work with are just pros and I’ve developed deep friendships. Plus I’ve become accustomed to the blank page that lies before me: next month, next year, next project. Less often do I say, “Maybe I need to get a real job.” (But I do still speak the words, particularly when the taxman cometh.)
So you with the “real job,” how’s it going with your own writing and/or editing (not the stuff you do on the job, but what you want to write)? Are you getting fed at the workshops, conferences, writers’ groups?
What do you need to do to finally break out, and how can 49 Writers encourage you? Let’s hear from you.
About November’s guest blogger:
Tricia Brown is the author of four children’s books and many nonfiction books for adults, all on Alaska subjects. In the spring, Sasquatch Books of Seattle will release her newest children’s book, Patsy Ann of Alaska, illustrated by Jim Fowler; and Fulcrum Publishing of Golden, Colorado, will release the fourth edition of Tricia’s travel book, The World-Famous Alaska Highway: A Guide to the ALCAN and Other Wilderness Roads of the North. Her website is http://www.triciabrownbooks.com/.