Your Entrepreneurial Soul

How can an old-fashioned Detroit assembly line worker walk away from the factory and become a creative, independent 21st-century entrepreneur?

That’s the way I now see the situation faced by fiction writers today.

Here’s what happened. Last month, I picked up Robert T. Kiyosaki‘s Rich Dad Poor Dad for a dollar at a library book sale. I was interested because I had a poor dad—a “progressive” teacher and administrator, strangely enough the same as Kiyosaki’s poor dad—and a rich uncle, my dad’s brother—a businessman who created a chain of discount record stores… “and never the twain shall meet.”  My family background made Kiyosaki’s ideas shockingly personal.

Since then, I’ve been feverishly delving into this new-to-me world of entrepreneurship and business and money. I now have an sense of the chasm between Amazon and the publishers formerly known as the Big Five.

In his book Retire Young Retire Rich, Kiyosaki mentions the difference between the corporate mindset and the entrepreneur mindset.

This is simplified, but listen: corporate publishing is a bureaucracy. In contrast, Amazon, big as it is, still has an entrepreneurial soul.

What does this mean for fiction writers, especially indie fiction writers?

We fiction writers create products that didn’t exist before we invented them, new products that other people are willing to trade money to get.

In the past, we turned our inventions over to bureaucrats. We were like craftsmen who left their workbench because they were too focused on craft to be businesslike. When times got hard, they had to get an assembly-line job. 

Think of each car coming off the assembly line as a short story anthology, a compendium of the collected works of all the workers. Except each worker keeps writing the same story over and over.

Is it any wonder we now see copies of copies of an author’s original idea? It’s like different models of assembly-line cars. Take the original idea of the car, give it a slightly different shape, color, accessories, horsepower, mechanical tweaks. It’s the same basic car, just a different model.

Take the original Twilight, The Hunger GamesFifty Shades of Gray, give it a few twists and tweaks, turn out a dozen other novels, TV shows and movies, even a new genre, all based on the original invention… and what you end up with is different models of the same basic car.

It’s no longer enough for us to be craftspeople at heart who work on an assembly line, turning out stories for a bureaucracy to sell, tweak and reproduce. It’s not enough to hand over our copyrights—our only assets—to a bureaucracy that knows better than we do what assets are for.

We as fiction writers have to approach this process differently. What would it mean to be a fiction writer-entrepreneur?

Nora Roberts has famously said that writing is her job. Writing need no longer be a job within an enveloping corporate context. Writing is now the personal business of each indie writer. We must approach this as business people, not as employees, assembly-line workers or baby bureaucrats, but as entrepreneurs, like Amazon.

Amazon is currently the farmer’s market where we take our crafts to sell.

Many of us still have the craftsman’s view of the marketplace. We have to enlarge that view.

Now I understand better what Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been blogging about for a long time. How can we ourselves become entrepreneurs, each of us a mini-Amazon?

Some writers have taken the first steps, but there are so many questions.

What’s the best way to protect our copyrights, which are our assets?

Should each author become a Limited Liability Corporation? Would that provide enough protection for our copyrights? Would it give us a tax advantage?

Do some of us need to band together—not into unions, which are for job-holders—into some form of mutual entrepreneurship?

What’s the next step for us after the current Amazon farmer’s market develops into something else? Will we be absorbed into a new corporate bureaucracy? Or can more of us become this new kind of fiction writer-entrepreneur?

How can an old-fashioned craftsman who could no longer make it on his own and who spent years working on a Detroit assembly line walk away from the job and grow the skills needed to become a free entrepreneur?

By S.J. Driscoll

Louise Behiel: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Being Between: a series about moving from our current day jobs and life situations toward our true vocations and life goals.

Today I’m honored to welcome romance writer-translation manager-psychotherapist Louise Behiel.

When Sally asked me to consider contributing to this series, I had to smile—so very often I consider myself caught between a rock, a hard place and a mountain.  Think of me in the middle of a triangle where the walls seem to be closing in.

I’m blessed with many interests, a need to serve and a passion to write.

During the day, I’m the manager of Interpretation and Translation  for the Health Authority in Alberta, Canada. It’s my job to make sure that our limited English-speaking patients have access to trained and highly competent medical interpreters.

I am fascinated by the practice of medicine and by the amazing care given in our facilities. But, given that I don’t like blood, needles or body fluids, this is as close as I can come to the action.

Just in case you’re wondering, I speak only one language. But many of my staff speak three or four. One speaks eight. They work with medical professionals across the spectrum of health care. They can explain medical procedures, outcomes and information in each of those languages. It’s a big job (imagine keeping up with the ever-evolving medical terminology) and I’m honored to be part of the team.  Continue reading

Happy birthday to us, WANA1011!

In October 2011, I took an online course in social media taught by Kristen Lamb along with almost a hundred other writers. Little did we suspect that one year later most of us would still be in touch, celebrating our successes and easing our struggles.

Happy one-year birthday, #WANA1011! Let’s have another. And another. And another after that.

Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy. 

One of my favorite writers has passed away.

Maeve Binchy made everyday life more fascinating than

Vampires, werewolves and zombies

Interstellar travel

Regency dukes

Lost civilizations

Ménages à trois

Secret societies

Aliens

Cannibalistic but intellectual mass murderers

Wizards, warriors and witches

Elves, dwarves and dragons.

That’s a lot for one writer to do

In a single lifetime.

Real is better.

Thanks.

By S.J. Driscoll

Epub number four

Ellie’s responsible for her job, her little boys and the old man she helps when she can. Until now, she’d never realized that her responsibilities are what make her strong.

Yesterday, I epubbed my fourth short ebook to Amazon and Smashwords. It’s a short story that originally appeared in Ellery Queen’s® Mystery Magazine under one of my previous names (I’ve had too many of them).

Last night I was hoping to epub another, but I’ll take the time to go over it once more. A few points can be developed to make it more fun to read.

There’s the temptation to submit it somewhere, but at this point I feel that would only hold me back. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that would be moving backwards, marking time, and I can’t do that anymore.

Having these five epubs available was one of my goals, and it’s almost done. Just in time, too, because I’m in Candace Havens’ comprehensive writing course and any minute now we’re going to #fastdraft. Time to clear the decks! I haven’t gotten as much done on my WIP as I’d wanted during this ROW80, but it is up to 30k. Surely I can get rid of it–I mean, finish it–in another two weeks if I don’t freeze up.

I refuse to grow old and die with all these stories trapped in my head! Isn’t that how ghosts are made?

By S.J. Driscoll

One day at a time

My third little ebook, a 3,600-word story called “Sleep,” was edited and then published to Amazon and Smashwords yesterday.

Like my story “Rage,” epubbed on Amazon and Smashwords last week, it’s in a genre I call “mommy noir.”

I find that one extra thing can get done per day. It might not be a very big thing, such as a few minutes spent on social media here and there during a brief break on a workday. More involved projects can get done during the weekend.

Yesterday I also set up my Amazon author page and did some social media. Today there’s this blog post.

This week is already filled, so I don’t know how much extra will get done. There’s an work deadline coming up, and a couple of meetings at the end of the week. On Thursday night a few of us from South Central Texas Authors are meeting in Wimberley, and on Friday night I’ll try to make it north to attend the digital authors subgroup of Austin Romance Writers of America.

Life is busy. Sometimes too busy. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not bored!

By S.J. Driscoll

Some failure, some success. Surprisingly, more success

Time to look back at my original real and fantasy goals. Some that I thought would be easy still seem impossible but, to my surprise, some of my fantasy goals are going strong. Some are turning out better than I’d anticipated, like the one on the left.

1) Real goal: Health: sleep (lights out at 10:30 p.m.), move (get up from desk every hour, spend at least 20 minutes outside morning or evening, gardening, walking or looking at forest).

Fail! I do get outside to water the garden, which counts as exercise since I haul the water in 5-gallon plastic buckets, but sleeping seems like a lost cause. If I want to do more, I have to sleep less. After I stop work, I go to work. If anything’s going to get done, that’s the way it has to be.

Some things to keep in mind: As long as I hold to a modified primal/paleo diet (modified to include unsweetened soymilk, which seems to do me good) and eat almost no grain, sugar or dairy, my strength holds up so I can maintain a strenuous schedule. I’m chafing right now because I found a new CrossFit gym ten minutes from home, and I yearn to try a stand-up paddleboard. My budget’s holding me back more than my lack of sleep.

2) Real goal: Work my job only 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 1 hour for lunch, no evening or weekend work. Fantasy goal: Maintain the quality of my science editing and other job obligations while meeting my deadlines and not stressing out. Continue reading

Back from Dallas

Drove home from Dallas in four and a half hours. Had a great time at the Dallas-Ft. Worth Writers’ Conference. Learned so much, and now there’s so much to digest, plan and do. Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers, and all the people whose presentations I attended:

James Rollins      Jodi Thomas     Lori Wilde     Fred Campos, Jr.     Rusty Shelton      Candace Havens     Kristen Lamb     Roni Loren

Here’s proof that I was there: @alleypat caught me in a photo. At least, she caught my back. That’s me in the pink sweater.

May started out brutal, but it got better.

By S.J. Driscoll

Magic how new habits take hold

1) My eyes now start to close as 10 p.m. approaches. Stayed awake in bed until 11:30 last night, though, playing with the new electronic toy. Made me remember reading LITTLE WOMEN by moonlight when I was little, while the rest of my family slept. Gorgeous weather and I’m not getting out as much as I’d like, but my office windows open onto our huge live oak so it almost counts as being outside. Still keeping up the garden and doing a few minutes on the elliptical, just not yesterday. Seems like I can do every other day. [Real goal: Health: sleep (lights out at 10:30 p.m.), move (get up from desk every hour, spend at least 20 minutes outside morning or evening, gardening, walking or looking at forest).

2) Worked about 24 hours in the last two days to make the monthly issue deadline while fitting in other work odds and ends. Surprisingly, that left little to do toward it this morning, though I thought I’d be jammed. Happy! Now to get a head start on the Continue reading

Goals

Adjustment and discovery as I begin to work my goals.

Since one of my underlying goals is to become more aware of time but wearing a watch is too galling when I type all day, I spent some time (too much!) looking on line for a device that would chime softly every hour without constant resetting. Ended up ordering an iPod Touch because some apps look like they may help with goals and time management. If not, back it goes.

1) Sleep started off with a major fail. I went to bed at 10:30 on day 1. Spent an hour staring into the dark, got up, read until 2:30 and was up at 5:30. But last night I slept 9 hours. This must be evened out. Got outside for 15 minutes this morning to check and water garden, which should really be listed as a “fun” goal. It’s snake boot time! And there was an 8-inch centipede in the kitchen this morning, which my husband kindly took care of. Continue reading

Crossing the chasm from here to there

My initial 17 fantasy goals are now realigned into what I believe can get done during the next 80 days. The original fantasy goals are in italics behind the achievable goals.

1) Health: sleep (lights out at 10:30 p.m.), move (get up from desk every hour, spend at least 20 minutes outside morning or evening, gardening, walking or looking at forest). [17) Take better care of my health—for instance, get up from my desk, spend time outside, go to bed before midnight (fail!).]

2) Work only 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 1 hour for lunch, no evening or weekend work. [1) Maintain the quality of my science editing and other job obligations while meeting my deadlines and not stressing out.]

3) Write 250 words/day on my current novel, Continue reading

Goal fantasies versus realities

ReachIt’s time to separate out my fantasy goals from the goals I can really accomplish.

Not counting spending time with my husband, keeping my new blackberry, fig and mulberry plantings from being overrun by weeds, plotting about finances, and generally keeping up with daily life activities, here’s what I want get done—in my fantasy life:

1) Maintain the quality of my science editing and other job obligations while meeting my deadlines and not stressing out.

2) Clean up and format three short story anthologies, create covers and publish them to Amazon and Smashwords.

3) Create and implement marketing for the anthologies. Continue reading

Inspiring Blogger Award

Many thanks to children’s book author Lynn Kelley (Curse at Zala Manor), who granted me the Inspiring Blogger Award along with fellow writers Angela Orlowski-Peart, Debra Kristi, Susie Lindau and Samantha Warren.

I now pass the award on to five bloggers who inspire me:

Kristen Lamb’s Blog about writing, publishing and social media

The Passive Voice: Writers, Writing, Publishing, Disruptive Innovation and the Universe

Diekenes’ Anthropology Blog

The Art Department, a blog by Tor.com Art Director Irene Gallo

Postcards from Santa Barbara: a daily painting project by plein air artist Chris Potter

Thank you for blogging!

Two for Wednesday: Novels by Kelley and Schulte

Twelve-year-old AJ Zantony’s world is threatened by an ancient curse that releases wicked pirates who had been trapped for centuries in his Aunt Zsofia’s creepy mansion, Zala Manor.

The pirates–a vampire count, a pegleg skeleton and a zombie–have to find a lost treasure, unleash the restless dead from their graves and settle an old score by destroying the Zantony bloodline. AJ must stop them before midnight during Aunt Zsofia’s Halloween party or the streets of Craggy Cove will be crawling with zombies.

But AJ has a problem–he’s scared to death of monsters!

Available on Amazon in hard cover and Kindle editions

BBH McChiller is the pseudonym of Southern California writers Lynn Kelley, Kathryn Sant and Maria Toth.

***

While Olivia Martin observes life through her camera, the abyss gazes back at her. Mysterious men follow her, people close to her are dying and her dreams are no longer her own as she falls head over heels for a perfect stranger. A chance encounter leads to an obsession that could destroy everything she has ever known or loved.

Olivia’s about to find out there’s a lot she doesn’t know… and sometimes what you don’t know can kill you.

Available for Kindle on Amazon

Liz Schulte wanted to be a veterinarian, then a lawyer, then a criminal profiler. To keep from becoming Walter Mitty, Liz put pen to paper and began writing. As a scribe, she could be all of those things and so much more. Liz loves all things spooky, supernatural and snarky. Her favorite authors range from Edgar Allen Poe to Joseph Heller to Jane Austen to Jim Butcher and everything in between.

Life Is for Enjoying

Guest post by Coleen Patrick

The fragility and courage of young men–why are these qualities so heart-breaking to me? Is it because men are supposed to be stronger than women? Or is it more personal than that, since my son survived cancer when he was a teen?

When I first read Coleen’s post, I knew her brother’s face would remain in my memory for a long time. That’s why I’m honored to have this as my guest post for today. Thank you, Coleen.

November 1st was the start of National Novel Writing Month–NaNoWriMo.  This year I am participating and writing in honor of my brother.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo five years ago, and used the general principles to write my first middle grade story.  I’d been filling notebooks with stories for years, but I did it strictly for the fun of it.  Suddenly I wanted to do more and NaNo seemed like the perfect way to launch that spark.  So I started writing with more of a purpose.  The only person I told at the time (other than my husband) was my brother.  I remember him being fascinated by the idea of writing a thousand plus words a day.  He was a creative type–he drew, wrote, cooked (even went to culinary school), so he was the perfect person to understand the need to do a writing marathon in a month.

When I finished that first draft, I put it away to read it at a later date with fresh eyes.  Then, when the time came to go back to it, I decided I didn’t really want to write.  So I went out and got a job, leaving the story behind.

I was afraid.  Afraid to read the rough draft.  Afraid of what it would mean to move forward with my writing.  So I went about life and work without it.

And then a couple of months later, my brother died.

It was sudden–a brain aneurysm.  He was 31.

My brother was so funny.  He did the best Chewbacca impression ever.  He was also incredibly kind.  Maybe it’s the sharp finality of death that smooths away the rough edges of a life, but I truly can’t remember him ever being anything but nice to me.

But I think he was hard on himself.  He had unrealized dreams.  He had physical obstacles, like when he stopped working in restaurants because he couldn’t be on his feet for that many hours (he battled Type 1 diabetes starting from the age of 11).  But I think maybe some of his biggest struggles were more internal.  He got bogged down by dark moments, the kind that show up to shadow your plans and leave you filled with self-doubt and fear.

I know that fear.

I have one of my brother’s journals.  In it there’s the beginnings of a story, some sketches and some personal notes he wrote to himself.  One of those notes sticks with me:

“Write damn you! Write! Anything, something, Please!”

My first instinct is to feel sad at that personal plea to his self, but then I realize that goes against what he wrote.  Because he didn’t want to get stuck in those paralyzing fears.

In fact the first line in the journal he wrote is: “Life is for enjoying.”

I remember my aunt said at his funeral that she was sad because she couldn’t learn anything more from him and I get that because I would love to know what he would have thought of the LOST finale (our last conversation happened to be about the beginning episodes of season three and the oh so random subject of peanut butter).  I also am curious what his thoughts would be regarding Twitter, the Kindle or his take on the whole new world of publishing.  I would love to hear his opinion on all of this crazy writing stuff I’ve been pursuing. Plus I wonder if he too would be blogging, putting his writing and drawings out there. Tweeting.

But then again I know now, five years later, that I am still learning from him.

I am learning not to be afraid.  I am learning not to worry about regret.

And I am learning to enjoy my life, from random peanut butter moments to marathon writing months.

 What are you looking forward to?

This post first appeared here on October 24, 2011.

Thanks, Coleen!