Category Archives: Business of Creativity

My ConCarolinas Schedule!

Hey all,

If you’re in Charlotte, or can’t resist coming to town the first week of June,  come on over to http://www.concarolinas.org/

Here’s my schedule, or as final as they get before the fun starts. And FYI, I’ll be doing an hour long talk on Intellectual Property and protecting your art. Friday at 3:30.

Friday, June 2

3:30pm Legally Protecting Your Art  (Presentation)
6:00pm I, For One, Welcome Our Robot Overlords (Moderator)

11:30pm The Dark Side of the Internet
Saturday, June 3

10:00am Raising the Next Generation of Scientists (Moderator)

1:00pm Colonizing Mars (Moderator)

4:00pm Visiting Our Neighbors
7:00pm The Science of Star Wars
8:00pm Mental Health and Wellness for Creative People (Moderator)

11:30pm Evil Geniuses For a Better Tomorrow
Sunday, June 4

10:30am Hollywood and Science
12:30pm Folklore and Urban Legends (Moderator)
1:30pm How Science Fiction Influences Science Fact

Happy Valentines Day, And a Story!

It’s been a while, but it’s not because I haven’t been busy! Couple of big announcements and big projects finally coming to fruition. One of which is also now the launch of the first phase of http://www.thewritermind.com, a website dedicated to the business side of being a creative person. The first posts are up, the latest of which is on tax tips. The podcast and video series starts soon!

In any case, I did this little story for the 2017 Bloody Valentine Horror Event. You should stop by and see all the fun the contributors brought this year.

So here you go!

Consulting Cupid (c) 2017

Valentine’s day. The absolute worst of them all.

Cupid slammed the shot of bourbon down his throat and savored the burn before tapping on the chipped and worn bar for another round.

Maria, the twenty something bartender, leaned over to flash a little extra cleavage as she poured the shot. It was definitely working for a bigger tip, because he knew her type. Tall, dark, and assholeish, not short, fat, and a royal bastard like him. Her live-in boyfriend Jeff was exactly her type, and at that moment he was out with Maria’s best friend and they’d skipped the romantic dinner at the two for twenty special at the Italian joint and went straight for dessert at her place.

That was one of the joys of being a love god was seeing all of the love, lust, and deviant behavior in the human heart.

Maria was working him to buy a couple of shots for each of them when she stiffened and walked to the far end of the bar and started washing glasses.

The woman that sidled herself up next to Cupid was long and lean with curves in all of the right places, no matter who you were. Well, anyone but him.

“Hello Mother.” He tipped the last drops out of the shot glass, knowing Maria wasn’t coming back his way any time soon. “Care for a drink?”

Venus ran her long fingers through Cupid’s thinning hair. “My son, why are you in this dive? You should be out working overtime tonight. It is your day after all.”

“Not any longer.” He picked up the empty glass and wiggled it in the air, with a faint hope that went unfulfilled. “Cheap cards, cheap candy, and internet dating. Even if I fix two of them up, they’re just staring at their phones.”

“So cynical, my darling. How ever did you get this way?”

“Really Mother?”

David, the college kid that worked in the kitchen and had a major crush on Maria appeared across from Venus with a glass of wine. “On the house, ma’am.”

She traced his cheek with the edge of her nail. Cupid could almost see him having an orgasm right there. “How sweet of you.”

Cupid tapped the shot glass on the bar. “How ‘bout a little service?”

The kid couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as he walked back into the kitchen. In a far off voice, “Sorry, I don’t work the bar.”

“Thanks Mother.”

“You don’t need another drink.” She took a single sip from the glass. “And you really shouldn’t start fights between couples just to take a box of chocolate. I saw you take the Deluxe Whitman Sampler from that couple. You could have at least gone for someone with Godiva.”

“What. Do. You. Want. Mother.”

She flashed a smile that would melt any human being and most gods. “Since you have nothing better to do tonight, I need a little favor from my favorite son.”

“There’s a particular Senator who’s not paying attention to something I want, and I need to make sure he stops being a roadblock.” She slipped a picture in front of him with a few notes on the back and kissed him on the cheek. “See what you can do. And if you hurry, you can still get some real work done before the night is out.”

Cupid didn’t need to watch her leave to know when she was out the door. Maria was filling his glass before he could pick it up again. “Who was that?” Even the bartender was a breathy. Venus had that effect at times.

Cupid stared at the glass, and downed it with regret. It might be his last of the night. “Business associate. Have to go to work.” He sprinkled a little magic dust in the air.

Maria smiled, “Don’t work too hard, and hurry back.”

 

~~^~~

 

The afternoon air was crisp as Cupid left the bar. At least he could take a hit off the cheap Churchill cigar. The picture was of Senator Bogsworth from one of the Midwestern farming states. Just proposed a bill making it illegal to hold hands outside of marriage, and had a rider about a virginity test before you could apply for the certificate. Four kids and number five on the way.

And he had a thing going with his barely legal newest Aide, the son of a preacher from his district. A kid named Bobby. There was some more scribble on the back, but had what he needed. Cupid worked a little mojo, and it took only a minute to find the Senator in his mind. It would take longer to get a cab than walk to the few blocks in front of him.

As is often to happen, Cupid sensed some carnal activities in a car parked in the alleyway next to the bar. It was something even he couldn’t resist. He pried a little into their minds, and lo and behold, it was none other than Jeff getting a little quickie from Maria’s bestie Ibbie. They decided to surprise her for VDay.

Cupid could sense Ibbie wasn’t all that into Jeff, but they were both bored. Cupid drew a couple of darts from his trench-coat pocket and tossed them through the window.

He was huffing from the walk and the jolt he got from being a voyeur when he spotted Bogsworth on the Capital steps surrounded by his wife, adoring brats all dressed like little adults, a dozen other politicians, pundits, staffers, and a whole lot of press.

It looked like the crowd was still gathering. It was about half rabid supporters and half protestors. And more media than all of them combined.

Cupid cracked his neck, and uttered, “Let’s make a little love. Do a little dance. Get down tonight.” He did a little shake that sent his whole body jiggling jiggling. It was a great trick when he did stints as a mall Santa, but right now, it just made him invisible.

A golden bow appeared in his hand, and a quiver full of arrows on his back. And there was the perfect perch on top of a news truck.

Bogsworth was prattling on by the time Cupid was comfortable. “It is with great regret, that I must admit defeat with the Bogsworth-Gerd True Love Only bill, and the Purity In Pants legislation….”

Cupid stifled a snort. The only thing pure on those steps was the bullshit. And maybe the kids.

And that’s when he spotted her. Standing amidst the throng of smiling supporters. Wearing a pantsuit so conservative the fifties didn’t want it back, and every one of her pearly whites aglow.

Mother.

“With the dee-cline of civilization, proven by my morality bill being struck down in this den of thieves and sinners, I have decided I shall, nay, I must run for President of these here United States.” Bogsworth grabbed the hand of his wife who looked like she could pop number five out on the steps and be ready for the campaign trail.

“Enough of this bullshit.” Cupid straightened his form and drew a golden tipped arrow. One with a little extra sparkle. And let it fly straight into Bobby’s heart.

The second one slammed straight into Bogsworth’s puffed chest.

“I love you,” Bobby shouted as he stripped off his shirt, and broke ranks to run at Bogsworth. A Capitol Policeman tazered him three steps from the bewildered Senator.

Stunned, Bogsworth jumped down and took the kid in his arms and started unnecessary mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. With tongue.

Bogsworth’s wife shouted and started beating on him with her purse. “Let’s give her a little more incentive.” The next arrow that flew was a little lead tip that just sent her into a fury.

Well, he thought. Mother did want me to spread the love. Faster than a human eye could have seen, if they were able to see the enchanted love bolts, golden arrows flew in a shower, with a healthy dose of lead tipped ones to create the right level of angst. Mother really did need a little of lovin’ on Valentines Day, so he made sure she had a lot of interested parties.

A little blue-haired lady wearing a Bogsworth’s my man button hugged a kid in a Free Love t-shirt waving a nonsensical sign. Cupid caught an image in his mind of her days in Haight-Ashbury.

Another kid took off his “Free the Whales” T-Shirt and dropped his “Let me Pee Where I Be” sign, and approached his congressman about getting a job in his office. Unfortunately for him at that moment, that congressman was rubbing Mother’s feet and trying to work his way up.

The anchor of the CAN DO network disappeared into a news van with the lead political reporter from HenHouse News. Both of their cameramen taped it and gave it the MST3K treatment. The rocking, however brief, almost knocked Cupid off his perch.

“Little Willie is Free.” Shouted freshman Senator William McBane, the future hope of the conservatives for president. He’d stripped down and was streaking until he found the “Free the Whales shirt.

Speaker of the House Dan Cullen crossed party lines and left hand in hand with Minority Whip Angela Primm, who dropped her briefcase on the sidewalk and pulled the pin out of her bun.

With the cork removed from the pile of angry and repressed humans, Cupid puffed on his cigar and grinned while he watched a breakdown of party lines like no one had seen since the orgy after Julius Caesar’s assassination. While this was nowhere as nearly as lurid, you can only do so much in one day. Sometimes you just have to give people permission to be themselves.

Sometimes Cupid surprised even himself.

 

 

 

~~^~~

 

The news was nothing but the mayhem at the Capital. There was more blurry dots everywhere from half naked people. By the time it was over, they had a full blown 60’s style love-in going on the Capitol steps.

And Ms. Bogsworth did pop out number five with the help of a Capitol Cop.

Cupid couldn’t stop smiling as Maria poured him another shot of bourbon. Cupid was so proud of himself, he didn’t even pay attention when Maria didn’t flash a little bra. He hadn’t had that much fun in years, so he really didn’t care.

Until his godly powers and the tear streaks in her makeup told him something was askew. He even felt a small spark of compassion. “What’s wrong?”

“My boyfriend is an ass. Ex-boyfriend. I caught him out back fighting with my best friend. Ex best friend. Seems they’ve been sleeping together, and she got a conscience while they were out behind the bar. I went out to break up a fight and caught them. Told them both to get out.” She filled her own shot glass and gave him another hit.

Cupid took both glasses and the bottle from her, filling them both. He put a little extra mojo into her drink, and slid it over. “I’m sure true love will win out kid.”

Maria downed the shot, and perked up a little. “Why are you so cheery? Job go well?”

Cupid looked at the TV. “You could say that.”

The door to the bar crashed open.

Cupid turned to look. Venus’ long blonde hair ran in every direction. The coat to her little suit was gone, and one heel was broken. She hobbled in and sat at the bar.

“What in Hades do you think you were doing?”

Maria bumped into David triggering a few sparks as she rushed into the kitchen and away from the yelling.

“You asked for me to mess up their little game, so I did.”

She took the shot glass of bourbon and downed it. “Did you even read what I wrote on theth, boy toy, make a mess.” Cupid stared at the empty glass. “The usual.”

“You moron.” She shrieked. “You were supposed to break up the Senator and his boy toy. Not get them together publicly.”

“Huh.” He pulled the picture out of his pocket. Right there, make sure the Senator went back to his wife and Bobby was to find a nice little girlfriend. “One problem Mother.”

“This had better be good for the mess you made.”

“That’s not where their hearts were.” Cupid took the bottle off the bar and filled the glass before sliding it to Venus. “Who am I to break up true love?”

“I should have known.” Venus scowled and downed the shot. “Sending the three most powerful people in congress to lap at my feet was a nice touch, even if they’ll never look me in the face again.”

“Nothing they didn’t already want to do for you mother. You know the rules. I can’t mess with their free will.” Cupid patted her on the cheek.  “Always lovely seeing you Mother.”

Venus removed her shoes, ran her fingers through her hair, and stood up. “You too, son.” She kissed him on top of the head and stumbled outside.

David walked down to where Cupid sat. “Everything okay down here?”

“It’s fine.” Cupid tapped the glass.

David poured the shot. “She get caught in the mess up the street?”

“Something like that.” Cupid reached into his trenchcoat pocket and pulled out a dozen roses and a box of handmade truffles from the local chocolatier.  He slid them over the bar, and poked him with a golden arrow. “I think you’ll need these.”

David held the flowers and chocolate in his hands, and a little glow in his eyes. “What do I say?”

“Whatever’s in your heart kid.” Cupid dropped several hundred dollar bills on the bar. “I’ve got work to do. You two go and have a Happy Valentine’s Day.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dive right in, the water’s….

I’m not the biggest fan of the Olympics. I’m not against the idea or the ideals, I’m just not all that interested in spending 24 hours a day for two weeks glued to mass media to watch athletic events I’d never watch otherwise. So far, I’ve seen a couple of hours worth, but mostly that was sitting at the bar to grab dinner while on the road.

 

And is want to happen, I started thinking even before the debacle in Rio started about how this really represents the current status of the planet and society.

 

Here’s a few highlights. The divers plunging into a swimming pool where the water was so green that Kermit the Frog could get lost in it. Kayakers ran into a couch. Distance swimmers being told they had a 99.9% chance of catching something nasty in the open waters. Body parts being found all around events. I think they could add the lumberjack events because the waters are thick enough to walk across.

 

You’d think this was Newark in the 1980’s.

 

But no, this is 2016 and Rio. Zika virus, the Olympic Village walls leaking like a horror flick, and the mayor rewarding the Australian’s complaints by suggesting a kangaroo might make them feel more at home. On the plus side, they did give every competitor 42 condoms. Not sure if that’s an answer to the universe, or just getting them ready for a big bang.

 

But I digress.

 

Why would I say this is an excellent microcosm? The world has brought their top performers at the peak of their game to represent their countries. Then they asked them to compete in what should be a showcase of pride and excellence, but thrown in the deep end of a cesspool wrapped in pomp, circumstance, and media. Instead of lifting up one of the growing markets of the world, they spent billions to still not create a safe and welcoming place for the world to visit. And in short order, I expect the temporary buildings will be reabsorbed into the muck and mire of Rio.

 

Rio is a beautiful city, with a vibrant people and rich culture. It’s government leaves a lot to be desired.

 

The IoC has proven itself to be corrupt and self serving. Now it’s on display for the world. I would not call for the Olympics to be disbanded because I believe it does create an environment every four years where countries and national pride can shine. People get to learn that it’s just people everywhere. Even in 1936, the Nazi’s awarded Jesse Owens trees in recognition for his accomplishments, along with every other gold medal winner that year.

 

I believe that there should be permanent sites for the olympics, built and maintained for competition. Different nations could host and put their culture on display, but not bankrupt them to have to build the extravaganza. And the IoC might be able to be cleaned up a little.

 

Beyond that, the competitors who have made their way to Brazil have proven something most of all. No matter the adversities, corruption, and adversities thrown their way, top performers will always work to excel.

Arrgghhhh, Pirates on the horizon

Here’s another drafted segment from the upcoming (and yet unnamed) Business 101 for Writers.

 

As you move forward in your career and get your work out there, you’re more likely to find your work borrowed, plagiarized, stolen, or outright pirated.
Arrrgghhh.
With the exception of a few Luddites and saints out there, we’ve all done it, whether it was copying a song off of a friend’s CD, ripping a movie from a torrent, or downloading a book. And I hate to be the messenger, but you stole it from the creator(s) and owner(s) when you did.
Now that you too are a creator of content, it can happen to you too. Once it happens, you need to carefully consider how you react.
If you are friends with or at least follow any number of writers and artists online, you may have already seen someone who’s not only had the problem, but has aired it out on their blog and all over social media.
In 2012 when I’d just started seriously writing again, a friend of mine who is a non-fiction writer posted a small rant about having found a book being torrented on a file sharing site. Then the second post hit. And the third. After a couple of weeks with at least one post a day, detailing what was a virtual seek and destroy mission, even tracking down some of the people who’d done the downloads and hitting them with an invoice.
Seeing this, I reached out to him and we had an informal chat to try and talk him off the cliff. As I dug in, it turned out it hadn’t been going on for weeks, but over two months.
I told him that as a friend and a writer, it it painful and feels like a violation. I then told him that if he was my client, he was being an idiot. For the record, it didn’t go over well.
After he calmed down and called me back, he told me that there had been over ten thousand downloads, and his percentage he wasn’t getting was nearly $30,000. His advance had been based on 5000 copies, and that still hadn’t earned out.
At that time, I made the following observations and I still think all of them hold true;
He had not written a word not aimed at the problem in over two months and was behind on deadlines.
His public reaction on social media had gone from where he had some sympathy to one where even his friends and family were tired about hearing about it, and he’d lost some followers of his work.
He had by far done more than required to protect his copyright, and had spent a couple of thousand dollars with his attorney in cease and desist letters.
And most of all, he hadn’t provably lost a dime.

I sense a number of you out there tensing up on my last statement. My argument is this. Having been in, around, and worked in technology for over thirty years, and raised in small business, theft is a cost of doing business. I’m not saying it’s right, but locks only keep out the honest and the lazy.

Having gone on this long rant has taken away sympathy for the problem, and makes you sound whiny and bitter. That doesn’t do much to keep customers and readers, much less attract new ones.
And knowing enough people that regularly torrent movies, music and books, I have a few observations:
A large percentage of material ripped from the Internet through file sharing is never seen, heard or read.
Of those who do consume the material, the ones who enjoy what they find usually also buy the movie or the book, or at least subsequent work.
Those who aren’t going to pay for it, never were anyway, and can always find something other than your stuff to rip.
Print media is not immune. Technology today makes it easier and faster than ever to scan and publish printed work.

Again, I’m not endorsing or condoning it, I’m just being a realist. And it may be a shock to you that it may not entirely be a bad thing when this happens to you. Just think, someone thought enough of your material to put it out there in the first place.

Now that we are all aware that some people in this world do not always act legally and ethically, here are some ways to take advantage of the systems and processes that allow for pirating of work.

Make sure all of your work includes links to your website, social media accounts, mailing list, podcasts, and anything else you can market.
Solicit reviews in your work. If they are going to steal it, at the minimum they can leave  you a review.
Use torrenting and other sites to circulate short stories and other mediums to attract followers and drive traffic to you.
Use the same sites to circulate promotional materials and solicit speaking engagements. Use it for free advertising.
Use them to circulate short videos and podcasts publicizing your work.
Circulate samples of work. I may, one time, have released a copy of a book where it cut off in a pivotal scene, and then had links where you could buy the full copy.

At the end of it all, you do have to protect your rights, and your property. In this case it’s your work, and your art.  At the same time, you can’t expend so much energy in the process, that you do nothing else. Creators must create. South Park may have given one of the best examples in the episode, “Christian Rock Hard.” One side was rampantly successful in spite of itself, and the other side refused to create in fear of theft and streaming.
But the good news is, if you don’t produce anything, there’s nothing to lose. And no way to gain either.
Arrgghhh, me maties.

The hard truth of the financials for authors…

 

Once again, the cycle has come around, and it’s come in full force.  It’s about supporting your favorite authors, buying their stuff, and not stealing it.

First, let me say, I believe the vast majority of people are good and well intentioned. It only takes a very few people to convince you though, the world needs a good cleansing zombie apocalypse.

I did X-Con at myrtle beach a couple of weeks back, and had a table talking about my books, and even selling a few. A girl in her late twenties walked over to the table and asked for one of the scattered candy bars on my table, and I told her to help herself. She did.

She wanted to know about the books, and we talked for about fifteen minutes, in which time she ate every one of the candy bars on my table (about 10) and then no so politely told me I needed to give her a free book because she couldn’t afford it. Not even the eBooks, but a paperback. I politely declined, she told me to “fuck off then” and left the pile of candy bar wrappers on my table.

I tossed the wrappers, had a small internal meltdown, wrote a few notes about how this self-entitled whiny bitch is going to wind up dying in a future book, and moved on. Never piss off a writer with a twisted sense of humor, miss going to die by starving to death while being dipped into a vat of molten chocolate, allowing it to harden, and watching you starve to death while ants eat the chocolate away. #RantOver #SanitizedVersion

At the same time, a very lovely young lady came to my table several times, a fellow writer, and we talked a lot through the weekend. She bought my eBook, and I gave her a print copy so she’d have a signed one.

I’m mostly a business and tech guy, and I’m using my knowledge and experience to write a 101 type guide about the business of being an author or artist. And yes, writers are a type of artists, but with key differences in the business models. I’m pulling a piece of that (draft) out to post here, because I think it’s relevant.

We now live in a world of open source, and where so many people think everything should be free, especially digital content. At a convention a while back, I had someone argue about why I was charging for books. Especially eBooks, because they don’t cost anything.

So let’s break down the numbers:

 

First, let’s assume I’m a traditionally published author.

My percentage of sales will be 7 – 15%. Let’s assume a blended rate of $4.99 a book between eBooks and print (Low by today’s trade pub standards, but roll with me over the life of the book). Based on this, the author will make .35 to .75 a book. I’m feeling optimistic, so let’s take $.75 a book.

An average novel is @ 80,000 words. We won’t talk about my last 2 novels in the 105k range. What does it take to crank out that 80,000 words?

A productive average is 1000 words an hour to draft, so that’s 80 hours.

But wait, that’s once you have an idea, research, have fleshed it out, and have a plan, pitched and sold. 80 hours. (And that’s fiction)

Depending on your style and productivity, editing, rewrites, and the stuff that just didn’t work? I’ve seen people estimate as little as another 30-50 of the original draft, but for a commercially published work, it’s easily equal to four or 5 times the original first draft for the author to review edits, do rewrites, proofreads, punctuation, and everything that goes along with the rest. Not to mention the editors from the publishing house side. Let’s split the difference, and call it 300 hours.

Arguing with editors, agents, cover artists, and other administrative crap? 40 hours.

So doing a little math, that’s 500 hours. Based on 40 hour weeks, that’s 12.5 weeks, so let’s cut it to three months of working time, for 80,000 words.

Based on the proposed move to go to $15 an hour, and hopefully you think creative work is worth at least that, you have to sell… hmmmm carry the one, it’s $7,500, and at .75 a copy, you need to sell 10,000 books. High producers sell 50 – 100 a week, so let’s use the 100 a week, and so that’s 2 years of sales.

Not to mention all the hours of marketing, social media, and cultivating your fan base that aren’t in there.

But wait, there’s more!

Let’s say you’re doing a self-published work.

Our productive average is 1000 words an hour to draft, so we’ll still go with 80 hours.

But wait, that’s once you have an idea, research, have fleshed it out, and have a plan, pitched and sold. 80 hours. Stuff those other people would help you with, you’re on the hook for.

Now you’re also entirely on the hook for editing, rewrites, etc., and I’m going to make the assumption you hire someone to edit, so you’re still at the same 300 hours.

Arguing with editors, cover artists, and other administrative crap? 100 hours. Why? You’re now doing it all.

So doing a little math, that’s 560 hours. Based on 40 hour weeks, that’s 14 weeks, for 80,000 words.

Plus you have to pay for cover art – $100 – $250 (minimum)

Editing ($250 – $1,500) depending on the types of editing and level of polish you want to put on it. Or you have to put in the hours. Either way, you’re spending the time and money.

I’m going to use an even $1,000 to produce the work (on the low end of what you should budget)

Here’s the good news. Depending on how you structure yourself, Amazon is going to give you 35% – 70% of your sales. The down side, you probably are maxing out at $4.99, but we’ll stick with it for equivalency. That’s $1.75 to $3.50 a book. We’re rolling in the cash now!

You’ve laid out $1000 up front. So you need to sell 286 books to pay for that.

To sell those, you’re looking at advertising, and getting reviews, another $1000. Another 286 books.

So just to cover my outlay, I need to sell 582 books.

Show me the money!

At $3.50 a book to get minimum wage for my 560 hours, I need to sell another 2400 books! So let’s round up to 3,000 books!

High producing self-pubbed average 5-50 sales a week. Let’s say you are rocking it and doing 50 a week. That means I only need 60 weeks… at the same high pace to make my $15 an hour. Oh wait, now I don’t have a publisher, or anyone else to help promote me. And most self pubbed would be happy at 5 a week after a couple of weeks. And most books are $2.99. You’re looking at 3-4 years, unless you push really hard, and get a little lucky.

And let’s talk other opportunity costs. I work a full time gig. Much of my life, it’s been 60, 70 , 80 hours a week. I do all of this at lunch, and night when everyone else is asleep. Weekends. I’m behind on TV and movies. Most of what I read is research or doing stuff for fellow authors and friends.

So yeah, oh little miss self-important snowflake who is willing to drop $5 on a latte and come over and lecture me why you can’t spend a couple of bucks for a eBook, and tell me it doesn’t cost anything?

This one went a little long. I’ll save my piracy rant for next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The business of creativity

I’ll get it out of my system soon enough, but I’m working on a project around the business of creativity, and I decided to share a few of my thoughts. Most of this is tailored towards writing and writers, but it applies to most creative endeavors.

I know a lot of creative people. A lot.

The first thing I want to say, don’t become a writer to become rich and famous. In fact, if that’s your plan, run far, run fast, and get a job doing almost anything.

If you’re going to create, create for yourself. Not your audience. And know it’s a painful process to create.

As soon as you put yourself out to the world, you are going to have haters, detractors, and critics. And that’s just in your friends and family. Wait until you meet the internet trolls. If you’re going to be public and creative, you’d better put on your armor and start growing thicker skin.

Not to mention agents, publishers, editors, and everyone else in the industry.

Get used to rejection.

Still reading?

Good.

Now comes what may be the hardest part. Creating not only for fun, but (hopefully) profit.

I’m going to write in more detail about these pieces, but here’s the first thing that’s hardest to get over. That piece of work you poured your heart and soul into, and ultimately bled into existence?

It’s a product, a commodity. Nothing more. Just like Coke or airlines. And your customers have a large number of choices, and you want to thank them every time they take a trip through your work.

Did I just call your baby out, and say it’s nothing special among the herd?

Yep. I’m an asshole.

The truth is, it is special. It’s borne of all that you are, and the level of work you put into it. Just like all of your competitors. If you intend to sell your work and be a commercial enterprise, you are a business. Just like the quickie mart.

And you want to be able to tell your customers, “Thank you, come again.”

I might have been watching a little too much of the Simpsons.

But hey, almost everyone knows that tagline, and heard Apu’s voice when they read that. And The Simpson’s has been a huge commercial success.

One that Matt Groenig came up with at the last minute and pitched because he didn’t want to hand over control of his baby rabbits. (See if you remember his original strip.)

So now that I’ve been a heartless bastard, here’s what you need to think about when you start down this path:

  • Am I ready to have my work praised and criticized?
  • Am I ready to be a business, keeping track of sales, expenses, and do taxes?
  • Am I ready to invest the time and money it’ll take to run my business?

If the answer is yes to these, then get ready for even more questions. Not today, but soon.

And don’t give up. No matter what, create for yourself, and the only one that has to be happy with your work, is you.

And your publisher.

And your audience.

And while you ask yourself what you have gotten into, be ready to use that experience in your art.

Stop binge watching TV and go create!

Call me to swap blog posts

Yeah, there’s a point to this one. You just have to get past the rant.

For anyone that knows me, has met me, or simply asked directions, I’m willing to talk about pretty much anything and everything. I’ve been told upon occasion, I can even be entertaining, or at least a warning to young children about what happens if they grow up to be like me.

(Do your homework kids.)

At one point, I was in the media, and I have occasionally still contributed to a variety of publications, mostly on technology, project management, or professional development. Other times, I’ll do a little something about writing and fiction.

If you want my opinion on Cthulhu for President, I’ll probably have one. And be more than willing to share it. (For the moment, I’m waiting to see what an elder god’s opinion is on concealed carry and NC HB2.)

In short, if someone wants a blog post, article or interview, I’m pretty good about doing them as long as I see your e-mail. And you can put up with a smart ass.

Names from here on out have been changed to protect the guilty, but I’ve had a couple of people hit me up recently for contributions, but with a twist. They want me to pay them for the privilege of being interviewed.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no issue charging for services, and if everyone agrees, it’s like anything else. I’ve spent most of my career consulting. I understand charging by the hour, and both charging any paying for services.

The first person tried to explain how they charged to help defray their website costs. That makes sense, except they also ran a lot of advertising and affiliate programs. Again, I don’t have a problem with that, but I politely declined based on the numbers. If they have the volume they proclaim, then the “nominal fee” shouldn’t be a factor in running the site. If, based on what I saw, they need my nominal fee for operating costs, they don’t have enough volume to be of any benefit.

And oh yeah, don’t ask me to write a professional piece based on my own developed materials for you to run on your site, and then give me a contract taking ownership of my IP.

And the second case, I had someone talk to me, they enjoyed some work I’d done, etc., and came to me for a blog post. Nothing big. Happy to do it.

The response was “Great, when can you deliver it.” And attached to the questionnaire was an invoice for $100 for marketing services, and a rate sheet for other services.

Uh huh.

Needless to say, I again almost politely declined. Polite mostly because it was in writing.

Again, I have no problems charging for services. I do it myself. If I am working with someone, depending on what it is, if you want a significant amount of my time and expertise, yeah, I’m going to charge you. It may be a beer, or real hourly rates, depending on how much I like you. But I’m up front about it.

Back door sales stuff pisses me off. Almost as much as the guy that sat in the driveway last week honking his horn for me to come out for him to do a sales pitch. Yeah, it was too much work to get out of his truck until I put the conference call I was in the middle of on hold to find out what jackass was setting off the dogs.

He didn’t get the business either.

Among the creative community, we have all been asked to do something for the “exposure.” I’ve even swapped it off. And yeah, I’ve done free work as a contribution. And I’ll do it in the future.

Out of choice.

So why am I writing this little rant?

Whether you’re a writer, an artist, a musician, a magician doing kids parties, YOUR TIME AND SKILLS ARE VALUABLE. Spend them wisely. Time is not an infinite resource. Make educated decisions. Treat your endeavors like a business.

Even if you’re only engaged in your creative work part time and aren’t making a living at it, YOUR TIME AND SKILLS ARE VALUABLE. And so are the time and skills of everyone else.

I have a lot of fun doing posts, and contributing to other people’s sites. I’m always happy to boost the message for people who are getting work out the door. My door is always open for someone who wants or needs help, even if it’s just an encouraging word or feedback.

And I’m willing to pay for valuable services when I need to, because I know time and skills are valuable. But if you’re asking a creative type for time or money in a way that benefits you, ask yourself how it benefits them too. That couple of hours it may take someone two write some copy for you, the Photoshop and graphics work for your event, whatever it is you need and are asking for. Remember, that’s time the other person isn’t spending working on their own stuff, or binging on Netflix. Be thankful and respectful of what others do, and remember.

Exposure isn’t remuneration. I’m not saying don’t do free work. Just think about it like loaning $20 to a friend. Don’t plan on getting it back, but if it pays off, it’s a bonus. Do it because you want to. Not because of guilt, or some nebulous perceived payoff.

And yeah, I’d love to swap blog posts.

#HB2 #WeAreNotThis