Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Launch of a New Career

I've finally decided to do it. After all these years.

Two weeks ago Thursday, I was fired from my job in the high tech world of systems administration. My technical career spanned 13 years, while my time at that job was 5 years. It is the first time I have ever been fired. It came after a long run of being a "rockstar", beloved by employees and customers alike. The event disoriented me.

I had actually already been looking for work. The day after being fired, I completed my final interview at a company in the gaming industry. I'm a dreamer, and one of my many dreams had been to work at a video game company. But after 7-hours of in-person interviews, 30 minutes of phone interviews, and a 10-page written test, I failed to meet their standards.

I spent that weekend wondering if I'd get the job. I wouldn't find out until the next Tuesday. Uncertainty surrounded me. Monday was m first unemployed day in almost five years. The technical world now seemed a little daunting -- rejected by an employer I'd given my heart and soul to, and then rejected by a new employer than matched my dreams. Sure, I could get back into the saddle... if I wanted to... But then a new idea began to form.

Another thing happened 13 years ago. In college, and then in my early tech career, I had spent my spare moments writing fiction. I participated in a workshop-style writer's group for three years. We called ourselves Roundtable Writer's, after the pizza shop where we met. We edited and honed each others work, each contributing our strengths to fill in for the others weaknesses. I'd completed about a dozen stories, and had some pretty good starts on many more, plus a couple of novels.

And then at some point, life happened, and I left the writing behind. Every few years, I'd pick up the pen, but found my skills rusty. A few years ago, I tried my hand at non-fiction writing, and got published in a local rag, but dropped that, too.

I've always been a writer at heart. I wrote my first story at age 6. I've gone through phases of rabid journalling. In every job I've held, I've written useful technical guides and procedures. So I've always thought I might return to it one day.

It had been a while since I'd hatched a hairbrained scheme, but one began to form. It would be a lot of work. I'd start with the old stories I'd completed. I'd dust them off, update them, polish them, write query letters, wait for months, maybe sell something. Thirteen years ago, I was a single mom struggling to pay the rent. This time around I have a supportive family, a halfway decent savings, and low monthly expenditures.

There were a few puzzling problems that I worried about. Aside from the extremely slow publishing process, I also wondered how internet culture would harm my prospects of making a successful career. "Kids these days" write for fun and put their works (often derivatives of existing franchises) up for free on sites like DeviantArt and blogs. How would this free-content mindset hurt my ability to make money in a field that is already incredibly difficult to get by in?

I was hoping to fully-form my plot before announcing it to the family. But by Tuesday, I couldn't hold it in anymore. I had just gotten news that I failed to get the video game job, so I blurted it out to my fiance, who seemed supportive.

Then I told my girlfriend, and she gave me a new twist to think about -- I should self-publish on Kindle.

"Wait, you can self-publish on Amazon?"


"But... does anyone read that crap?"

"I do. They don't cost as much, so I buy them. And many of those books are actually quite good."

I excitedly researched this prospect, and found that for zero cost, you can publish your works as ebooks on Amazon for zero cost. It cuts down on time-to-publish and time-to-get-paid. Royalties range from 35-70%, so if I price my fiction from $1-3 per work (depending on length, etc), I would make as much (per unit sold) as I could via traditional methods.

It dawned on me that we are entering the era I had always read about in sci-fi stories of my youth. Paper books will, at some point, become rare, antique collectors items. eBooks will replace them. It took forever for this prediction to materialize, but here it is.

By the way, I will be the one in those stories that always hobbles into the old bookstore, turning the physical pages with glee, reminiscing and explaining to kids what "reading" is.

Regardless of how I choose to read, nothing should stop me from publishing to these early adopters. I could be at the forefront of this trend, beginning my writing career just as the publishing industry of the past is getting shaken up.

Thus begins my journey. Wish me luck!

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