Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I was a writer and didn’t even know it

For months, my wife has been telling me that I’m living my dream at 40 years old, while she is still waiting to live hers, but I haven’t agreed with her until now.

Only six months into self employment for both of us, we ran into the cash flow wall, nothing coming in for bills. It was winter 2009-2010. My wife’s former employer, Adirondack Bank, asked her if she wanted to return to her old job as a teller. The answer was easy: yes. In order to make our business survive and grow, one of us had to go back to work full time (part time in our business). Dawn bit the bullet, made the sacrifice, for me, for us, for our future.

Now I’m reminded, fairly, that I am living my dream job: working for myself. After all, isn’t that what I wanted when I left my cushy state job in June 2009? Yes, but what I really want to do when I grow up is become a writer first, a publisher second. I kept reminding my wife that I’m a publisher first, a writer second, because our bread and butter is in the publishing side of the business: the advertising-driven Meet the Town community guides. I don’t want to be a full-time salesman, I want to be a full-time writer. My dream job, I kept telling my wife, is a long way off.

Then I had one of those epiphany things. I sat back and looked at my work day and noticed the lack of structure. I can do anything I want during the day and nobody’s going to say anything, as long as I earn enough money to pay the bills. Then I thought of Stephen King and his “On Writing” book. He locks himself away from society to write and sets daily writing goals for himself. I thought to myself, “That’s what writers do.”

So I scratched out a short Daily Checklist for myself, including sales goals and writing goals. Now I look at things differently. As I check off the items on my list, I actually feel as though I’m getting something done in my life. I just needed that tiny bit of structure.

And now I’m writing, every work day, and my wife is right, again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Video marketing and the book trailer

I'd love to get a camcorder and video-editing software and create my own author interviews and book trailers, like those of Monica Holloway, Kelly Corrigan and hundreds of other authors at companies such as HarperCollins Publishers. I'm just as market savvy as the rest of them, I just don't have much money. There's no way I can pay thousands of dollars to a marketing company to create slick videos of me and my "Adirondack Attic" books. And I don't have hundreds of dollars to get a camera and software. Someday I'd like to make the videos myself, post them on my web site and YouTube and wait for book orders to stream in.

One expense at a time. There's nothing in the budget for online video marketing. Printing is my number one cost at the moment for my Adirondack books and Meet the Town community guides. Then there's operating expenses, business loans, food, gas, the light bill, and yes, the mortgage. And there's never money for a vacation (well, every five years we go to Nashville, but that's about it).

I'm left daydreaming ... I wonder how much a video could drum up my book business, with "Adirondack Attic" or "Mostly Spruce and Hemlock" going viral. I feel as though my marketing plan is collecting dust along with antiquated books underneath spider webs on the top shelf in the basement of a second-hand bookstore in the middle of the woods. That musty odor is the smell of missed sales.

As I publish new books this year, I'd like to spark interest with online video, just to see what the hubbub is all about. Does it really work? I suppose it can't hurt. Yet, when money is tight, how do you really know whether the return will be worth the investment?