Monday, June 30, 2014

Of Mice and Indies

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons - Dan Foy
by Ron Estrada

When Gina started this blog way back in the days of wired mouses, our journey was different. There was one path: Write a book, get an agent, sign with a publisher.

All this took about seventeen years in writer time.

And then something funny, scary, and wonderful happened. Some enterprising soul, who will, no doubt, have a bronze statue of him or her erected on the Avenue of the Americas, grasping a Kindle in one fist high above the combustion engine exhaust, pointed to said e-reader and shouted, “What the…”

Translated: we are now masters of our own destiny (destiny, which here means lofty success or disastrous failure).

Like many of you, I’ve devoured books, blogs, and tweets from the self-publishing gurus of our day. Allow me to write a long summary of my findings:

Write. Write some more. Do all this very, very fast.

See you next week.

Okay, I’d better add to that if I want to get paid…wait…WHAT?!?

Moving right along. As I write this, I have a Production Schedule in front of me. It is cleverly titled Ron’s Production Schedule. I treat it with the same respect as I would an assignment from my boss.

The schedule is grueling. It says I’ll finish a draft every two months for the rest of my life. I have three columns titled PLOT, WRITE, EDIT. Every two months, the book titles under these headings shift. This means I’m working three books at a time. Yes, I’ll have help with editing and plotting can be done throughout the day, when I’m supposed to be doing some engineering stuff or whatever. But it’s still a finger-numbing schedule.

Back in the day of the wired mices and one-sheets, we were told this is not realistic. This is art. Art cannot be rushed. Art takes time.

Well, if Art wants to eat tonight he’d better get off his lazy (insert edgy noun for secular blog) and start bustin’ some keys. Because Art is now in the business of sales. This is nothing new. The reason most entrepreneurs and writers fail is because they pause and bask in the glow of that first success. When a gazelle pauses it gets eaten. ‘Nuff said.

We are artists. But there’s no reason to be of the starving sort. The well-fed artist will learn terms like “sales funnel” and “calls-to-action.” The fat ‘n happy artist will get the (edgy adjective here) book written on schedule. Not perfect? Never will be. Pack it and ship it. 

As I’m writing this, a Borders bookmark popped out of my Strunk and White. I love symbolism. I used to love Borders. But it’s gone. My nearest bookstore is a massive place of wonder called Second and Charles. They sell mostly used things. My wife and I love flipping through their thousands of record albums (yes, albums). They have old posters, movies, and…books. With real covers and paper and the names of publishing houses on the spline.
Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons - Ruthanne Reid

Know where Second & Charles is located? In the old Borders building. Did I say I love symbolism?

Yes, I still dream of my name on those Borders shelves. I fantasize about award ceremonies where I get lavish praise from my publisher and Stephen King hands me my little plaque with AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY emblazoned over a little image of a Royal typewriter. We’ll clink glasses of Dom Perignon and Steve-o (I call him Steve-o) will whisper an inside joke about our time on the French coast when I wrote an entire scene on the leg of…oops, save it for the secular blog, Ronboy (he calls me Ronboy).

But you get the drift. We’ve come full circle. The artist must produce his or her art. Then do it again. And again. We are masters of our own fate. Yeah, you can still write a book, get it trad published, and stare at it on your shelf (I’d have book-staring parties). I understand there are some trad published authors still out there making a living at it. I suspect, though, that, one by one, the veteran and the rookie, will utter “What the…” and realize he or she is being left behind. With Borders. With Royal typewriters. With wired-meeses.

Will the big publishers adapt and lure us back in? I really hope so. Somewhere there’s a part of me that wants that constant in my life. But I’m an artist and a businessman.  Art must eat, first and foremost.

What about you? Are you going to stay the Traditional route or have you decided to set out on your own? Really, I’m looking for anyone to talk sense into me. Now’s your chance.

Ron Estrada is a YA and Middle Grade Novelist and has a regular column in Women2Women Michigan entitled "Don't Tell My Wife I Wrote This." His self-publishing journey begins...right about now. Follow his progress (and lessons learned) at


Nicole said...

Go for it! Whatever "it" is. Why not anyway?

Loved this post, Ron. Somewhere within it you managed to catch a piece of all of us crazy writer-types.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Ron, so excited for you as you adhere to "Ron's Production Schedule." I know so many will be right there to cheer you on--and that's one of the best parts of being indie. The support; the collaboration; the sharing of information. I confess it's still hard not to see my book on a store bookshelf, but I know it's on my READERS' bookshelves, and that's enough to make this author very happy indeed. :)

StacyA said...

I'm unpublished and still working on "the" novel (I've written others, but this is the one that may actually make it into publication ... if I self-pub), so I may not really have a Legitimate Voice here or a right to speak to this. And at the moment I'm CLEARLY not writing for a living, so that may disqualify me, too.

But I think if you have to crank out work on a production schedule (like you're making widgets), there's a high chance it will suffer. I've read lots of second, third, tenth books recently that were very obviously rushed through on somebody's production schedule and stank of "hurry." I'm not saying every book has to take ten years from start to finish (unless, of course, it's mine, which is on year 7, but I haven't given it 100% attention for most of those years), but I worry that cranking 'em out = substandard work. And as a reader, I kinda think I deserve better ...?

Just some thoughts. I think there is probably a balance between a book every two months and one ever ten years. Yes? No?

StacyA said...

*every ... Would help if I'd proofread before sending ...

Ron Estrada said...

If you were clever you'd say you did that on purpose to prove your point. I understand the importance of quality, Stacy. The process is broken into three 2 month segments, so I have 2 months to plot (in detail), 2 to write, and 2 for editing (including a pro editor). We can't afford to launch a product that isn't ready. I'll be the first to admit that I bit off more than I can chew if it comes to that. I think having a schedule is more important than the actual numbers. If I don't hold myself accountable to a deadliine, then I will revert back to old habits and write the ten year novel. If we really want to make a living from this (or a nice retirement income), then we have to keep the e-shelves filled. I did experiment first. All of my previous 6 novels took at least a year to complete, so I was a bit uncertain. I scheduled a time to write for May-June to finish my current wip, and I wrote 80,000 words with no problem. Now I'll edit and send it to beta readers. If they tell me it stinks, it doesn't get pubbed. And yes, there is a balance, but I'm going to risk losing a potential friend and suggest that you are holding yourself back. Try the experiment. Stop whatever you're working on, plot out an idea you've had, and try to write it in 2, 3, 4 months. I'm willing to bet a Starbucks that you can do it. I hope you'll follow my blog and comment as I go through this little experiment. We might surprise ourselves.