The book is done. The work has begun. On Tuesday was the first book talk for Kettle Pot Cup, a book I published about tea. This is a book about real tea, not with pinky raised or head bowed, but tea as part of our modern informal accidental rituals that are held in everyday locations like coffeeshops, offices, deck chairs, etc. Life’s too serious. Tea’s an opportunity to lighten up. The book is also a way to support tea growers in troubled areas. For the author of the book, however, this is when the serious work begins. But that’s true of most events in our lives.
Writing is an interesting business. Writers are typically introverts. Worlds exist within their heads. Writers filter those worlds into words, edit them, polish them, wrap them in a cover, and produce a book. Congratulations to all who’ve managed to do that.
Business is the realm for extroverts. Business owners are alert for what customers want. That requires reaching out, sorting through the population to find the niche that wants what the writer, now author, has to sell.
It is rare to find people who are introverted enough to create that world of words, and extroverted enough to introduce it to the right people. Approximately two million books are published in the US every year, most of them self-published. Only a few percent of them make significant money. And yet, writers write and become authors because money isn’t everything. (Gasp!)
Writers also write to get their message out, capture and chronicle their thoughts before their thoughts are lost, supplement a business, support a cause, and a near infinity of other reasons. Some are simply curious whether they can actually do it, can they actually finish a book.
In communities like Whidbey Island that has hundreds of writers out of a relatively small population the phrase, “I finished my book”, can take on multiple meanings. It is polite to find out if they finished reading someone else’s book or finished writing their own. If they wrote their own, and you’re willing to dive deeper into details, ask whether they’ve finished the first draft, the last draft, the editing, the formatting, or are working through the publishing process of cover art, marketing materials, proof copies, or finally declaring victory because it is finally available for sale.
Then the work begins.
I’ll get to the personal finance part in awhile, but here’s my book’s story (the seventh out of seven of 16 depending on how and what you want to count) so far.
Kettle Pot Cup is done! The first copies arrived about a month ago. Because of caution, the first event was pandemic minimalism. The owner of a tea supplier (really much more than that, an herbal apothecary, Kachi Cassinelli of Dandelion Botanical) held the camera and directed the action while for a few moments I removed my mask and presented the book.
As I said, the book is done, and so is the first book talk. (You are welcome to contact me about scheduling a similar event at your facility.)
Now the work begins. The book proceeds are going to charities that support impoverished tea pickers. Research is required. Distributing books to bookstores can mean lots of driving to possibly deliver a book or three or rarely more. The gas costs can exceed any proceeds, at least until the bookstore is willing to order from the supplier or is willing to accept drop shipments by calling me. Signings happen, though those are less common. Interviews happen, if they fit a niche in a production schedule. Fortunately those were going remote even before Covid. And in the modern world there are many hours devoted to socializing on social media, a resource that must be tended with caution and respect because that can be the greatest leverage available, especially to an independent author.
So, you probably understand why I encourage you to buy Kettle Pot Cup, maybe schedule me for a talk, or even just connect me with your preferred tea charity.
(PS It is available on Amazon, but in the mysterious ways of publishing, at the same list price ordering a copy through Lulu.com generates over $10 towards donations, but ordering through Amazon.com only generates $1. I don’t know where the other money goes.)
Now, back to personal finance.
One last book note: Note that the book proceeds go to charity, not to me. I will gladly accept honorariums from book talks, however. I need to respect my time, and somehow pay for expenses, eh?
There are many events like ‘finishing a book’ because they represent an event, but also the beginning of a new phase of life. Buy a house. Welcome to homeownership and many trips to the hardware store. Get a dog. Welcome to companionship and many walks around the neighborhood and trips to the vet. Buy a stock. Welcome to wondering how it is doing, or being prepared to ignore it and then be surprised because it moved while you weren’t watching.
Most things are easy to buy. Pick them up, pay for them, bring them home, and maybe even use them. Necessities can come with maintenance, resupply needs, proper storage, and maybe not losing the manual – or at least finding a good YouTube channel that tells you how to deal with what you bought.
It is too easy to buy so many labor-saving devices that the labor involved in maintaining them becomes too much labor. Buy a car? A necessity for many, though not all. Buy a second car, maybe as a backup, or for special purposes like hauling stuff, and you’ve doubled your chores. Buy a boat. Buy an RV. Buy a drone. Buy bulky toys like skis, kayaks, fishing rods, and bicycles. It is possible to rationalize them all, but it can be hard to maintain, and maybe not even use, them all.
With help from a friend, Don Scobie, I’ve had fun interviewing various members of the unofficial Whidbey Island writing community. (WritingOnWhidbeyIsland.com) It is obvious that there is no one way to sell books. Some use social media. Some knock on doors. Some hold sales, or give away copies for free until demand no longer demands any extra effort. Some are simply lucky. Writing a book can be like writing a literary lottery ticket. The odds are terrible, but are better than the real lottery. The payout as an author can be much smaller, but at least on Whidbey Island, the most expensive house for sale is frequently the home of an author who did very well. Regardless, there’s no formula for success, except for those who have enough resources to enlist publicists and other team members (who also must be paid.)
There’s more than one way to run a household, a life. Advice columnists, politicians, and ironically personal finance authors, can make it sound as if there’s one true and sure path. Life isn’t that simple.
We all get to decide what life strategies we’re going to pursue and what projects we’re going to attempt. Time and money are limits that can be overlooked with the appeal of that new thing to buy or that new project to add. We’re human. We have limits. We’re imperfect. We can’t solve every problem. We can do what we can do, and it makes sense to not do too much.
Now, I’ve got some charity research to do, some finishing polishing to apply to my sci-fi novel, some photo essays to advertise and complete, my regular real estate work, and, and, and – and I haven’t mentioned the sequels. Hmm. Maybe I should go back and re-read this post for myself.