So there I was, about a year ago now, sitting on Siesta Key beach (rated the #1 beach in America, by the way) and sipping on my tropical drink with the little umbrella – all figuratively speaking, of course – when the unthinkable happened: I decided that it was time to give up the way of the full time author and go back to my old government job. Before you accuse me of having gone stark, raving mad, let me explain the Three Reasons Why It Was A Good Idea.
First of all was book sales. Or, more accurately, monthly income from the book royalties. Very few people know this, because it’s not something I ever crowed from the rooftops (maybe I should have, but that’s just not me), but between paid sales and free promotions I’ve sent well over a million ebooks, and a far smaller quantity of print editions, out the door and into the hands of readers and made something over a million dollars (before taxes, of course!) between 2011 and now from book royalties. Alas, financial management wasn’t one of my strong suits and we’ve always had sort of a “live for today” mentality. I wish I would’ve saved more (which is not to say that I didn’t save anything), but I can’t complain: we did a lot of life-enriching things over these years, particularly our annual big summer RV trips that gave me tons of priceless time with my parents, who convoyed with us in their own RV. I don’t have any real regrets other than not buying that stupid Moose hat in Jackson, Wyoming during our RV trip to the Rockies.
But the gold rush came to an end by around June of last year (2016) when the royalties, which had been steadily declining most of the previous year, weren’t enough to pay our bills. Believe me, I tried all the tricks I could think of to get those sales numbers back up, but nothing worked. Even promotions through BookBub, which had up to that point been a fantastic tool, dried up when they changed their policy to select almost exclusively books that were on the major book charts like the New York Times or USA Today. Now, in thinking about all this, please keep in mind that we didn’t own some ridiculously expensive house or car (even though we lived only three miles as the crow flies from Stephen King, believe it or not); our big luxury expense, as you may know and which has brought great joy to our lives despite the cost, is the RV. Other than that and the big summer trips we took, we didn’t exactly live a lifestyle of the rich and shameless. But money for the first time since I left my day job had become a serious issue, and it was obviously time to rethink our way forward. Since it was clear that I was going to have to get a job of some sort, no matter what else I did, it made the most sense for me to go back to my old job, if the fools would have me. I’d be making at least twice, and probably three times, as much as I could on the local economy, and in five years I’d qualify for both full retirement and lifetime Federal health benefits, which – if you’ve had to deal with health insurance outside of government or company plans – is worth going back just by itself.
So, money is reason number one. Number two is sort of tied into that, namely that I realized that I really hated my job as a full-time author. Don’t get me wrong: I love writing, but the rest of it just wasn’t for me. I came to hate all the things I needed to do for promotion, etc., etc., which became all the more frustrating as my book sales plunged. When you need to do things that you hate to do, you tend to not do such a great job, or stop doing them altogether, and that happened with me. I also got into sort of a vicious cycle of those things annoying or worrying me being corrosive to my muse, so my writing suffered, which then fed back into the worry loop. It was maddening. And, as I think I already mentioned, it was incredibly lonely much of the time; that totally sucked.
Reason number three came as an epiphany just before I made the decision to go back to work: my writing didn’t make me feel like I was making a difference in the world. I’d spent my entire adult life up to the point when I left Federal service working as part of a dynamic team and something larger than myself, but working as an author was just focused on little old me. Booyah. I realized that the work I’d done in government life, despite all the hassle and BS sometimes, really meant something to me. My books can entertain people, but they can’t really change someone’s life for the better (well, maybe in a handful of cases, according to folks who’ve written me, but that’s pretty rare), not the way I’d done at my old job. And that service-oriented mentality, I came to understand, is a very important part of who I am. So back I went, and I’m very happy to be there!
By now you’re probably wondering if I’m planning to continue to write. Of course I am! As I said, I love writing, and I’m already working on the next In Her Name novel (number 10 in the series, Red Legion). While yes, I plan on making some money from that and my future books, my main goal is to entertain myself – I wrote the original In Her Name for myself, after all – and share it with readers like you. My muse, lured from dormancy by promises of dark chocolate and wine, is beginning to reassert herself, so hopefully we’ll see some fun stories in the near future beyond Red Legion.
Oh, which reminds me: I guess it’s time to get some real writing done! So let me get back to what Reza Gard is doing, and I’ll catch up with you later on Facebook and Twitter, or just feel free to leave a comment here… 🙂