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Being an Artist in Tough

frustrated_writer_200I’d like to start off by reminding people that writers are artists too.  This seems to get forgotten for some odd reason.  We think of painters, sculptors, photographers, graphic artists, and even musicians as artists.  But for some reason people don’t think the same about writers.  Writers are artists of words.  We paint pictures in your mind.  We sculpt characters into life.  We make music with our plots.  But, as any artist knows it isn’t easy to be an artist.

First, most people assume art is a hobby.  I’ve touched on this before in other posts.  But it really aggravates me how many people refuse to see my art as a potential career for me.  We are a corporate world.  We see a nine-to-five, cubicle bound, TPS report filing job as being “real” work.  If you think you want to be an artist when you grow up, expect to be frowned upon by friends and family (unless they too are artists).  Not all of them, no.  But you would be surprised how few of them will really truly support your work.  They will see this as a hobby.  They will see it as something you do when you are not working.  They won’t understand your desire to do it full time, it is foolish to expect to make money from creating art in your basement.

Which leads me to my second point.  Making money in the arts is hard.  Of all the artists out there, I think musicians and actors (performing arts) are one of the few to regularly command big bucks.  But even only a fraction of the performers out there hit the “big time”. If you paint, you probably won’t make a lot.  I’ve certainly made it clear how hard it is to make money as a writer.  From others in the arts, I have seen that it is hard to make money in most of the arts.  And to make good money someone has to “discover” you.

Hitting the “big time” is rare in the arts.  The reason is that you have to be discovered.  You have to find your niche and get someone’s attention.  Not just anyone’s attention either.  But the attention of the “movers and shakers” of your particular art.  If your a short fiction writer, that is one of the big time markets.  If your are a novel writer that is one of the traditional publishers out there.  This is if you really want to be the next big thing.  But, most artists out there want to be found.  And so many of them are shouting “pick me” to the people the hope will “discover” them.  I’ve seen a lot of excellent talent give up because they just can’t be heard among everyone else that needs attention.

Of course, you can simply publish your own art.  I see this in more than just writing.  Painters and Sculptors will sell there work online, or attend art shows.  Writers can now self publish with relative ease.  YouTube has allowed movie makers and performers to reach a large audience.  Just about all art forms can “self publish” in one way or another.

No matter if you self publish or get found, you will have to promote your own work.  That is the bigges pain in the ass of all this.  I struggle with it all the time.  You will beg for reviews, sales, mentions on on other blogs, and ask all your friends to please help you get the word out.  You will quickly find that most of your friends and family, or even your social media followers, will not do much to help spread the word.  Most of them won’t even bother to click the link you posted.  And even more will simply start to ignore you because of you are over doing it.  If you are expecting your friends and family to buy and review your art, don’t hold your breath.  So few people take the time to review anymore, your friends included.  You’ll count on your friends to support you.  Give you an opinion on your work.  Don’t do it.  Trust me, you have friends that will repost everything you say about your art.  But not nearly as many as you thought.  And so few of my friends have ever purchased anything I’ve written.  And those that have, less than half (maybe less than a quarter of them) have written a review.

You’ll try to advertise.  But finding the right audience is a talent that can be hard to perform.  You’ll have to attend conventions, art shows, and much more simply to get the word out.  And all this takes away from your time spent creating art.

You will also hit a lot of rough patches in your quest to make your art a career.  You’ll get a bad review.  You’ll have a lack of ideas.  You’ll get depressed and think you can’t possible make your art a career.  You’ll reach out to your friends for support and they’ll ignore you.  Or tell you that “they don’t read”.  You’ll get rejected by your favorite venues.  You’ll get rejected by a mentor or someone you looked up to.  Someone will bash you for your technique.  Someone else will say you lack the education to pursue your art career.  You’ll get so down that you’ll think you were foolish to ever give art a serious try.  You’ll think it is time to give up on this and focus on getting a “real job”.  You’ll cry at night because you just wanted that acceptance letter so bad, and you were shot down.  You’ll be heart broken because you hoped your closest friends would read your work and they don’t.  You will hit a point where you realize walking away is the easiest thing to do.

And that is when you have to make choice.  But, if you really are an artist to your bone you will realize that, no matter how easy it seams, you can’t walk away.  You will have a moment when you realize that even though it is tough, you know you have what it takes to be the next big thing.  You will realize that art was always something more than a career to you.  You will rise up and make the choice to push forward.

You will still be hurt when the people you love don’t see your art as more that a “hobby”.  But you will network and make additional friends that enjoy the same art you do.  You will make the effort to learn how to use social media without driving your followers away from over promotion.  You’ll learn how to advertise.  You’ll find conventions, and shows, and other ways to get your book noticed by the people that really matter.  You’ll learn that the “movers and shakers” certainly have an important part in the art world, but they are not who you create your art for.  Your art is for the people who want to see it.

You will work to put out more of your art so that while you may not make much per piece, you’ll have a wide variety of art to choose from.  You’ll also realize that money isn’t the real reason you ever made art in the first place.  And you will get back to making your art for yourself and let the money come second.  You’ll realize that you may have to work for years before you get discovered and that is okay.  You may need to work your day job and work on your art on the side.  But you won’t care anymore because you are still creating.

The rough patches will always come.  I hit them still all the time, even when I try to be rational about it.  But you will also hit some great times.  You will get excellent reviews.  You’ll have a moment of pure inspiration.  A friend you never expected will show up with a kind word and a helpful tip.  You will get an acceptance letter.  You’ll find a new mentor.  Some one will tell you how your work inspired them to try it. You will be reminded of why you really wanted to be an artist.

And that is the moment you will realize that being an artist is tough, but you can’t imagine doing anything else.

The Difficulty of Turning a Hobby into a Career

There are a lot of careers out there that can be hobbies too.  Painter, Photographer, gaming, sports, blogger, and of course writer, these are all examples of careers that are also hobbies.  There is nothing wrong with being a hobbyists, and you might even make a few bucks on a hobby.  Some hobbyists work very hard on their hobby, and I am not saying this is a bad thing.  But some of us take a hobby, and decide to make it a career.  But there are a ton of stumbling blocks a long the way.

As a writer you take on being in business for yourself.  You have to have the drive to work even when no one set deadlines, or when there is no boss telling you to get something done.  This can be difficult for writers.  We tend to be day dreamers and get distracted with ideas and fun little thoughts.  We can also be distracted by a shiny new book that we just have to read.   All off these things make working for yourself a challenge, which often ends in a lack of time to complete tasks.

The financials of turning a hobby into a career are another matter to consider.  If you plan to publish your own books, then you have to pay for a lot of things.  You’ll need a freelance editor, a cover artist, an ISBN, and order proof copies a long the way.  Even if you don’t self publish, you will have the cost of marketing (don’t count on publishers to do it all).  Also include travel expenses for conventions and workshops to improve your skills.

Oh, and you cannot forget the Tax man.  I am not a tax professional, so I don’t have many tips on this.  I can say that you should keep track of all your expenses and income related to your career.  And though you may not make any money at first, your ultimate goal is to start making a profit and that means you’ll eventually be paying taxes.  As a business owner, I do recommend you find a trusted tax professional and get some tips and tricks from them.

You will likely need to keep a “day job” in order to make ends meet.  They truth is that starting any business, including the one that used to be a hobby, means that you need money.  Not just to start-up your business venture, but you need to plan on financing your self for the next 5 years.  And, you probably have a few bills of your own to deal with (or probably tons of bills).  This all means that you will likely need a real job at first.  You will need some way to help pay everything that needs to get paid.  You may be lucky and have a spouse that can work full-time and support the whole family.  Unfortunately, especially here in California, that seems to be getting rare.

The major downside to having to get a day job is that it means a significant cut into your time to focus on writing and being a writer.  If you really want to make this happen, then your work hours get extended signficantly.  In my case, I work 40 hours a week.   So that is a big cut into my time.  The sad thing is most people don’t understand either.

You will need to improve your skills and start networking with others.  This means you need to attend workshops, conferences, and conventions.  This is one area that I missed out on until this year.  There are a lot of online ways to network.  Of course there is Facebook, Twitter, and the like.  But there are also online writer groups, which allow you to network and improve your skills.  There is also NaNoWriMo.  You can also find many other online conferences and workshops to attend.

But there also in person ways to network that you can’t miss out on.  Conventions and writing conferences are held for various genres and range in size.  Some are free, some will cost.  There are travel expenses to consider in this.  But if you want to be good at your hobby turned career you need to attend these things.  You need these things to propel yourself to the next level.  Even if you just want a hobby, you can’t go wrong with learning more.

But traveling to all these conference to network and market gets costly.  It also gets a bit tiring.  But the cost is the biggest stumbling block for me.  And, as I will touch on below, family doesn’t always understand.  There could be fights over the cost, or the fact that you can only afford to go by yourself.  There will be some you are dying to go to (for me it in LonCon3) but you just simply can’t go.  At least not without causing a divide in your personal life.  But, make the best effort to go to any conference you can.  Make the effort to learn.  When you are not writing, editing, or marketing, you should be learning about how to get better.

Now here is where your dedication of taking this to the career level is tested.  Most of your friends and family don’t understand what you are trying to do.  They see the “hobby” as just that.  They can’t understand that you want to make this a career and that means you have to dedicate your time to this and sacrifice a lot of other things.  You work a day job, you need to work on your writing, and eventually you need to sleep.  That means that you miss a lot of other things.  You might not watch much TV.  You might spend a lot of time locked in your office.  And you might not get to the dishes that day.  And, in the case of my wife, she doesn’t understand that.  It is hard to make them understand that you are essentially working two jobs.

Since I enjoy writing, it only embellishes the hobby mentality.  Since I am having fun, I clearly can’t be working.  But that isn’t the case.  There are a few parts of writing that I really love.  Writing the story, developing the characters, and seeing the cover art are all things I love.  Editing, marketing, and coming up with titles all stress me out.  I dread that part of the job.  But I also know that when it all comes down to it, it is worth it.  In any case, because you love to write it can often give the appearance that you are having fun and choosing writing over your friends and family.  In some cases you are, but you are also doing this for them.  It is important that your family, especially your kids, see that you are trying for your goals so that they can put hard work into their own goals.

The success rate it low.  That is the one major problem with turning a hobby into a career.  There is a low success rate.  How many aspiring authors fail?  How many give up?  It takes a ton of work, and there is no guarantee of making anything of it.

I don’t think people understand the amount of work that goes into this.  It could be that you ran out of money.  It could be that your family nagged you too much and you quit.  It could be that you become impatient waiting for success.  It could be that you simply ran out of time to accomplish anything.  Or it could be that you just didn’t think it was worth it anymore.  It is hard to work for yourself, and it is hard to make people see your own vision of your future.  But you need to decide what your vision is and make a goal of it.  If you can hold out for just a little bit longer, you just might make it.  You just have to find people who trust that you are not just a hobbyist, and there is a career to be had.  Good Luck.  Now go set those goals.

Project Announcements

As always, I have several projects going on in my life.  There are some things that I can’t wait to share with you, so I am going to give you a few updates on some projects.  I’ll ask for a little bit of your on input on some of these.  So please feel free to leave a few comments with your thoughts.  I’d love the feedback.

Dissolution of Peace Second Edition

Dissolution of Peace CoverAs most of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know, I have hired another editor to do over the manuscript of Dissolution of Peace and fix the mistakes that were missed by me despite my first editor’s best efforts.  I am a difficult person to be an editor for because I simply don’t get it.  There are many grammar and spelling rules that I simply don’t understand.  And even when they are explained to me a thousand times, I just don’t get it.  So even though my first editor was amazing, I still missed a lot of stuff.

I hired a new editor for Volition Agent, and I have since hired her to look over Dissolution of Peace again.  The main reason I felt compelled to get this done right away is that I got a big explosion of reviews. And, while all the reviews seem to love the story, a lot pointed out distracting grammar mistakes.  And, I listed to my readers and feel that fixing those will be a simple thing to do.  My new editor Tiffany Carrera is a great match for my books.  She is patient with me and my lack of knowledge, she deals with me constantly asking “how much longer”, and she has a passion for assisting writers with getting their work to be as perfect as possible.  Tiffany is also a prior member of the military, which is handy since I write a lot of stories with a Military and/or Police element to them.

At last update from Tiffany, she was a little over halfway through it.  My hope was to get it out by the one year anniversary of the book, but that doesn’t look likely.  Maybe by my birthday in November (feel free to send gifts) I will have it out.  I am going to ask Amazon to notify all of those who bought the kindle edition, so that they can download the updated version.  Hopefully that won’t be a problem.  But that will be up to Amazon.  Of course I will update on Twitter, Facebook, and here.

The Next Novel

I am really excited about my next novel.  I recently asked my social media followers to give their ideas on a few titles for the next book.  I am terrible with titles and I always will be.  I originally billed this as being a Post Apocalyptic/ Dystopian novel.  But I think I will cross off the Dystopian part.  In fact, it has more to do with rebuilding than any dystopia.  There are two titles out of the list that I really like.  Broken Trust and The Council’s Mistake.  I am leaning more towards Broken Trust because it plays on several levels of the story and in several different story lines.  Though the story is also propelled by several of the Council’s mistakes, the title doesn’t work for me is some way.  I would like to know what you think of the titles, let me know.

I have also put together a blurb for the book.  Tell me what you think:

Liam Fisher never wanted to be a leader.  But after finding the survivors, protecting them, and founding the city-state of Lagoon Hills; the people demanded he be their leader.  Instead, Liam agreed to sit on a Council with four other leaders, each of them with a specialty.

Together with Talya Brooks, the person who saved his life after the collapse, Liam runs the militia of Lagoon Hills.  And though it was tough early on, the people of the city now live in relative comfort and safety.

But Liam is fighting his own personal demons: The loss of his wife and unborn son. Rachel, his long lost love has suddenly arrived in the city. And a neighboring city-state is threatening war.

The people of Lagoon Hills are counting on Liam for their safety.  Can he keep himself together and be the leader everyone wants him to be? Or will the people closest to him be the greatest threat of all?

I feel like it captures a lot of the essence of this book.

So what is the next step for this book?  Well I am currently about 25% of the way through the second draft.  I don’t waste time of creating a second draft.  I mentioned before that I don’t find much use for a “cooling off period” and so I tend to dive right in.

Once completed with the second draft I will be asking for beta readers.  If you are interested please let me know.  Beta readers are a very important part of the writing process.  All too ofter I have trouble finding Beta readers, and even more trouble getting them to respond in a timely manner.  I am hoping to have it ready for Beta reading by the middle to end of the month.  All of November I will be working on NaNoWriMo, but I would like to work on Beta edits for this book in December.  I hope to get it to Tiffany in January and maybe see a release by March.  Maybe…  Anyway, if you want to Beta Read, please let me know, just make sure a November reading works for you.

Also I am looking for cover art.  Either premade or custom made.  So feel free to leave your artist suggestions too.

NaNoWriMo

I am going to make a first time honest effort to do NaNoWriMo this November.  I already know what I am going to write and I am already working on the plot points in my head.  I will be writing the sequel to Dissolution of Peace and I am excited to get this project started.  I’ve talked before about why NaNoWriMo is so tough for me.  But I really want to do it this year, so here is hoping I am up for the challenge.  I know I am excited about it.  I may actually have a title for the sequel too.  But, I am not sure what to call this series.  I need to give it a series name for the sake of my own sanity.  I have been tossing around ideas for some time now.  If you have some ideas, please let me know.  You can probably expect some other NaNo updates as November comes along.

Author Features

I’ve had a few successful author feature posts over the last two months.  I am really enjoying doing these.  You should sign up if you’d like me to assist you in promoting your works.  I have dates in November and December open for all of the feature types.  You can find out more about those by going to the Author Feature page (under contact me).

Plasma Frequency Anthology

Kindle Cover

After so much work, the Plasma Frequency Anthology has been released and is available on Amazon for your Kindle or in Paperback.  The cover art is amazing and was done by Laura Givens, who has done number of art works for our magazine.  Please consider checking it out.  The money raised from selling the anthology goes right back to the magazine.

On the topic of the magazine, Issue 8 released earlier this month.  We made some major changes to Plasma Frequency after all the knowledge I picked up at WorldCon.  We revamped the website, we revamped the magazine, and we changed how we distribute the magazine.  Working with Amazon and Weightless Books should prove to be a good thing for our publication.

We are also looking for good people to help us with our magazine.  Namely in the marketing and social media and in the need for additional readers.  If you are interested, you can find out more on our website.

WorldCon 2014

I had such a blast at WorldCon this year that I really wanted to go to London.  But, the deck has been stacked against me.  The final straw was when I found out that LonCon 3 will take place right at the same time by kids start school.  And 2014 will be my youngest first day of school ever.  Somethings are more important than conventions, and family is one of those.  So I won’t be going to London, unless something changes, but it is unlikely.

I will however be going to the NaSFIC in Detroit this year.  I am excited about going to this and have already upgraded to an attending membership.  I’ve also already submitted my participant ideas and suggestions.  The odds of me being chosen to speak on any panels is probably slim, but I wanted to try.  As many of my regular blog followers know, I have no problem sharing my opinion and giving tips and tricks that I learned along the way.

I wonder what other conventions would some of you suggest I attend?  I am knew the convention scene and only really know of WorldCon/NaSFIC.  I don’t really know of many others.  What others are great for writers like myself?  What about conventions that would be good for my to attend as an Editor for a magazine?  Let me know what you suggest.  I think I could get used to attending a few convention a year.

Other Events

What other events can you think of?  When Dissolution of Peace is ready for the second edition, I plan to contact a few local book stores for a book signing.  We have a small shop in downtown here.  I think there are some other small town bookstores around.  I don’t know how much interest a Barnes and Noble would have in me.  Any suggestions on that?  What other places might be a good spot for a book signing?  As I release more books, (maybe I will even have four out by the time I go to Detroit) I hope to attend more signings and events.  So I would love to hear your suggestions.

Narrowing Down my Ambitions

I wrote a post a little bit ago about getting focused on what I want.  And besides being so busy with all the stuff above, I have tried to limit all the other distractions.  There are people in my family who don’t seem to understand that I am working to a goal and therefore may spend a lot of time in my office.  And I think next week I will write a blog on the difficulties of choosing a “hobby” as a career. That should be an interesting post.  See you next week.