Sunday 30 June 2013

Operation Voinov Freedom

My regular readers will know I've written my little black heart out recently, ever since LA Witt and I launched "Operation Voinov Freedom" - or the attempt to get royalties to the place where I can quit my day job while financially independent.

Ever since roughly May 2012, that has started looking like it could be done, but I estimated at least 5 years. Enter LA Witt, who's been an inspiration throughout ever since I met her in October 2012 at GRL. Part of why I've been working incredibly hard, essentially doubling and tripling my wordcount is to diversify and spread my royalties. I can't depend on one book selling well, but twenty books selling all right is a different matter. This is unprecedented - in the old traditional space, getting a backlist that supports a writer can be a life-long dream. I've been emphatically warned by a number of literary agents to never depend on writing.

It's 2013, and the game has completely changed. Looking at my royalty statements, seeing every book contribute a little bit, steadily, every month, is heartening. Overall, there's been a lift in sales. The marketing clearly works. Now, some books even sell that didn't get much support from me (Just way too busy while Quid Pro Quo and Take It Off came out, for example). Looking at the statement, I can see I'm doing all right. Operation Voinov Freedom is not only on track, it's ahead of schedule.

So yesterday night I had another one of those "Talks" with my partner, and we've agreed that I'll be going part-time at about the end of the year. Firstly, I need it. I've been running myself pretty much into the ground--burning the candle on three or four ends. I can sustain that energy for a few more months, maybe even a year, but then something has to give, and it'll be the day job. I see my sales as a continuing vote of confidence on that count.

Secondly, oh, I have SO MANY BOOKS in my head. For the first time in my life, it feels like I can even write almost as much as I have in my head, and I'll trust my readers to stick it out with me and keep reading what I put out. Obviously, the moment that's no longer a given, I'll go back to full-time working, and no hard feelings. But I'm feeling astutely that I want to make more room for more words per day in my week.

Thirdly, my job stresses me the hell out--not because I mind working, but I'm finding working in an office increasingly toxic. My side of the office, people talk. All the time. They talk over me, they talk in front of me, they talk beside me, they talk all the time. They talk loudly, they talk all day, every day, and they talk about things I'm either not involved in (massive IT projects I have nothing to do with) or general life. I'm a graceless small-talker at the best of times, and "best of times" is nowhere near happening when I'm trying to actually, you know, work (aka: edit the things I'm paid to edit). Another major thing is that all the promises they made me at the interview have not been kept. Thankfully, that part is on the record. I've received absolutely no training in 18 months, and I very much doubt that's going to happen, ever.

Since working from home twice a month, my stress level is way down. But it's way up every day I'm in the office. I can happily edit 16 pieces of financial stuff while at home and be completely chilled by the time I'm done and start preparing food. When in the office, due to the incessant distraction, doing just like 3-5 pieces of editing, or even when I have no work at all (happens rarely, but it happens), I'm stressed out and angry when I get home. I'm shattered. Nerves frayed. I'm exhausted. I guess that's the normal price paid by an introvert in a team of extroverts.

Now, I can't really tell people to shut the hell up; the problem is my boss and HER boss, and THEY talk all the time. Right now, both are on holiday, and it's bliss for me in the office. But they're both back on Monday. And I can't even complain to anybody--I have literally NO idea who my boss's boss reports to, but I'm almost positive it's somebody in NYC, and those seem the most disinterested people on the planet, unless it's about real costs and bonuses.

In other words, I gotta get out and ideally go part-time, which I think is an ethical thing to do, too. Somebody can pick up half the work and half the pay and everybody's much happier and still gets benefits. I feel even a bit bad hogging a job that somebody out there is likely desperate for when I don't actually need all of it and soon won't need at all.

I do expect the company to be inflexible, however, so Plan B is to be on the hunt for a new banking job by December/January latest. Banks tend not to need a full consignment of editors all the time, and thus tend to be really flexible when it comes to production. My company--less so. If that banking job happens, the positive side effect is that I'll make a lot more, pro rata, than what I'm making currently, and that scenario would likely be even better; 2.5 days a week for full benefits and private healthcare and pension, covering me completely financially, while I spent most of the week working on putting books out.

So that's the next step. Going part-time is also much gentler on my nerves. I won't be sitting here going "OMG I HAVE TO WRITE OR I'M LOSING THE HOUSE", which, needless to say, will screw with the writing, but can relax somewhat and see if I'm able to write enough to make it worthwhile for my readers and myself.

That said, I'm extremely aware that I owe even the chance to do that to my readers who buy the books and put the money in my pocket that I can even contemplate it. I'm not moaning and bitching to moan and bitch--it's just that I much rather work for you than those people. I honestly don't mind working at all--I need to be productive and finish projects. It's a self-esteem thing.

I feel the support, I see the support in cold hard cash in my bank account, and I will emphatically not bungle that amazing opportunity. Few authors even get to that place, and I'm profoundly grateful. For somebody who's had to fight every step of the way to get where he is now, trusting in that support is huge. At the end of the day, as self-made as every author is, a self-employed author able to pay his mortgage and food bill is not self-made at all--he's supported by hundreds, if not thousands of readers who may be just as unhappy in their jobs and still part with their hard-won cash to reward and support an artist. That's big. It's huge for me. It's real patronage.

I can't express how grateful I am in any other way but to keep writing and working hard to give you what you want (and mess with your heads sometimes when I want to tease you a bit . . .). I have beautiful things to show you. Great ideas, fascinating places and people. As a writer, I think I keep getting better. My ambitions are all out there. Some books will be decidedly odd, others are crowd-pleasers, others will be me just stretching my wings or following a crazy idea I had at 4 in the morning. I'm excited to go to those places and bring back those stories for you. Meanwhile, I'm burning everything I have to make it to December/January.

Specifically, I'm working on the outline of Scorpion 3. I'm expecting the edits for Scorpion 2 in the next couple days. Depending on what level of bloodbath it'll be (don't spare me, editor!), that's a project for July.

On 8 July, LA Witt is coming over to stay with me for three weeks. We'll attend the GLBTQ Meet in Manchester on the following weekend, see some things in London and surroundings that we missed last time. (I cannot wait to show her the Imperial War Museum that should be re-opened.) Then we'll fly over to Krakow (which I can really use for writing Pure Gold), where we'll see the salt mine cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Auschwitz. We'll fly over to Berlin to look at museums there (I promised her the Nefertiti bust and the Ishtar Gate) and then take the train to Dresden to look at the German Military Museum down there. Then back up to Berlin and then London. It's going to be quite a trip for about ten days.

During that time, I'll do my damned best to write Scorpion3, but considering how exhausted my brain is after a museum or five, I'll see how that goes. I did buy a Chromebook to get some writing done in the airport and on the plane. The idea is to finish the book by 1 September, which can be done if I manage to write a thousand words a day.

Once the immediate stress is off, I'll finish up the Birds book and submit that to old-fashioned publishing (agent and so on). Somewhere in there, I'll write Pure Gold (Gold Digger sequel), and the sequel to Counterpunch.

In terms of co-writing, I expect to do more Market Garden. Capture and Surrender will be out as planned, and there's more stories to write that are more serious, and then a number of very hot shorts very much like QPQ and TIO to limber up the brain. (There are days when I'm just in the mood to write sex without much else around it.)

Considering there's only 6 months left in the year, that's plenty. Right now I'm writing things that'll come out in 2014. The newest project is what I'll call the "Fencers book"--both LA and I have fenced foil, so that should be fun. Right now it's slow going, as it's a historical and I like having my research squared away, but even so we did 2.5k yesterday on that. Ideally, I want that done in time for Sochi 2014.

So, if you don't hear/see much of me on the blog. I'm travelling and/or taking the bit between my teeth and pushing hard to get 2014 releases all squared away for Operation Voinov Freedom.

No comments:

Post a Comment