Not too long ago, I tried my hand at writing a novel. I developed a character, set out the plot, and decided on the voice. I wrote several chapters.
The process. The writing. The whole friggin’ thing. I hated writing the novel, and I hated reading what I had written.
How in the world was I going to be a published writer if I didn’t write a novel? My passion, short story writing, is not a lucrative business (as if writing anything is a lucrative business). I’ve had several short stories published, read them at local reading series, and even received many compliments on my work. But, I had never been paid—not one single penny. What’s more: if I ever wanted to have a book published, it was going to have to be a novel. Publishers and agents aren’t interested in short story collections. Maybe—just maybe—you can get a short story collection published, if you have a novel that you sell and the collection comes along for the ride. And that’s a pretty big maybe.
Given this reality, I decided that I would publish a collection of my short stories on my own, despite the stigma of being “self-published.” I have the experience of putting together a publication, being the editor of Newtown Literary, as well as the former editor of a teaching journal. What I couldn’t do on my own, I would pay someone else to do. It’s an investment, sure—but what better investment to make but in one’s self.
As I looked at the short stories I had written and had been published elsewhere, I started to see a pattern. Many of my stories, especially those written in the past couple of years, were about myself as a man and all that entails. From being a son to a brother and from being a partner to finding myself newly single, I realized that I was writing about making connections with others and how my gender and sexual orientation impacted that process. The stories that didn’t adhere to that theme, I put aside for a later collection. I sought feedback from friends and considered for a long time what stories to include. My inclination, of course, was to include everything, but that was not going to make it easy to market.
This process is making me be more than just a writer—I’m also becoming a businessman. In my work putting this collection together, I have to think not only as a writer, but also as a marketer and salesperson. I have to think about what I’m going to tell people when they ask me what this book is about. I have to think about where I can publicize the book. I have to think about the cover and how will I visually represent the contents of the book into an attractive cover. I have to think about my “brand.”
Ultimately, I’m enjoying the business side of being a writer. It’s forced me to think about my writing—and myself—on a whole different level. Looking at the short stories I’ve written and trying to find a common element has shown me what I’ve been “doing” the past couple of years as a person, the reflective and intellectual pursuits I’ve been engaged in as well as how I’ve grown. As I design the book and finish the editing, I’m now confronted with the real scenario in which I will be putting my work out there and not just saying, “This is who I am as a writer,” but also, “This is who I am as a person, as a man.”
I’m aiming to have the collection out March 2015, leaving myself enough time to publish a professional piece of work (both in the writing and the visual design) and market it properly. Follow this space, my Facebook page, my Twitter feed, and sign up for my mailing list on the right side of this page to be kept up-to-date on the process.