Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Guest Post by Jude Hardin

Pushing the Button by Jude Hardin

I’m sitting here with my finger on the button. I’ve been sitting here for a while.

I wrote the email days ago, saved it as a draft. I printed it out, and I’ve read it a hundred times. I’ve memorized it. I know it by heart. It speaks to me in my dreams.

My letter of resignation.

I’ve been with the same company for fifteen years. It’s a good company. They treat me well. I am comfortable there, and I earn a good living. New house, new car. I’m paying my bills on time every month, and I’m even managing to save some. I’m living the American dream, and I am very, very unhappy.

Because it isn’t what I want to do. It isn’t what I was put here to do.

I was put here to write fiction.

Really, Jude? What makes you so special? What makes you think you can actually make a living writing novels? Do you realize how many people have tried and failed? People way more talented than you? Are you delusional?

Maybe. But when you know, you know.

I know.

I’m sitting here with my finger on the mouse, just a click away from freedom.

But freedom comes with a price. Always.

I know I was put here to create stories. I know I have some game. I know I have a much better chance of making it if I can commit to writing full time.

Still, it’s a scary thing.

Not pushing the button means security. A steady paycheck, full benefits, paid vacations. How can I just quit a good job like that, with so many folks desperate for work these days?

I get up from my desk and walk away. No, I can’t do it. It’s too risky. I’ll just wait a while and see what happens, I tell myself.

And then I sit back down and put my finger on the button again.

Last year I signed a multi-book contract with Amazon’s Thomas and Mercer imprint for my Nicholas Colt thriller series. My wonderful agent Jane Dystel negotiated the deal, and I’m very happy with it. CROSSCUT goes on sale today. It’s my first book with Amazon, and the second in the series. I’m looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Thomas and Mercer.

But does a deal like that guarantee my success as an author?

Of course not. If my books don’t sell, I don’t make money. I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of my contract, but that’s basically what it boils down to. That’s basically what every book deal boils down to, unless there’s a life-changing advance involved.

Amazon’s terms are way better than any other publisher I know of, but you still have to move product to collect coin.

So how in the hell can I even think about pushing that button? Why not just wait and see how the books do?

That would be the safe thing to do. Some people might even say it would be the sane thing to do.

But is it the right thing for me to do? Today?

I’m sitting here thinking about it, and it’s absolutely gut-wrenching.

From a very young age, I knew that someday I would write a novel. I kept putting it off, and life happened, and then one day I was forty-something. I decided it was time. Three novels and multiple rejections later, I finally landed an agent for an early version of POCKET-47, the first Nicholas Colt book. I was on my way!

After the book was pitched around New York, after it was read and praised by—and ultimately rejected by—multiple heavyweight editors at multiple big houses, the agent and I parted ways and I sold the book myself to a small press.

It launched to some very nice reviews, most notably a starred review in PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY, and suddenly literary agents and film production companies were querying me.

Which was nice.

But I knew the agent I wanted, and Mr. Joe Konrath was kind enough to give me a referral, and one thing led to another, and the rest is history.

And here we are.

And here I am, with my finger on the button, knowing that if I push it my life will be, for better or for worse, irrevocably changed.

Just do it, I tell myself. What’s the worst that could happen?

Destitution comes to mind.

But to get anywhere in life, you have to believe in yourself. And once you believe in yourself, you have to be willing to take a risk. You have to dance like nobody’s watching. You have to be willing to bet the house on a roll of the dice.

Once you know who you are, and know your purpose, you have to invest heavily, against all odds, in the one thing you have some degree of control over.

And that one thing is you.

I’m sitting here with my finger on the button, tears rolling down my cheeks, every nerve ending in my body on fire, and a booming guttural primordial yawp erupts from somewhere deep in my chest, and I push that motherfucker, I push it and watch it fly.

And now it is done.

And I feel better about it than I’ve ever felt about anything.

Joe sez: No guts, no glory. We've all heard that expression. But few people get to actually test it. 

Are you ready to quit your job and write full time? I was lucky enough to have that happen ten years ago, with my first book deal. These days, writers have more opportunity for sales via self-publishing, but we don't have the big advance money upfront that could make the decision easier. 

Every writer needs to figure out what their goals are, and decide upon the best ways to reach those goals. Quitting your job to write full time is a big risk, with no guarantees. Remember that luck is extremely important. You can write a great book and it could take years to find an audience. It might not find an audience within your lifetime. Betting your entire future on luck may not be a wise way to approach life.

If you are thinking about writing full time, here are some questions you might ask yourself before telling your boss to go to hell.

Do I Write Quickly? The faster you can write, the better chance you have at making a living. I can comfortably write four novels a year, plus a handful of shorts.

What Is My Financial Situation? You need to understand how much money is required to stay afloat, and when you guess how much your book income will bring in, guess low. Ebooks aren't a steady paycheck. Sales fluctuate. 

Do I Have A Back-Up Plan? Do you have money put aside if things get rough? Would your job take you back six months from now? Do you have an alternate stream of income (spouse, investments)?

What About Insurance? I couldn't afford health insurance the first seven years I was writing full time. I got really lucky my family had no serious health issues. 

Can I Write? Every writer thinks they can write good books. But not every writer actually writes good books. Obviously, some people are deluding themselves. Are you one of them? How do you know for sure?

We all have different goals, and there are many ways to reach those goals. There are no right ways and wrong ways. The best plans can be derailed by bad luck. The worst plans sometimes succeed. But the more informed we are, the more we understand, the likelier we are to make smart choices.