If you’ve been following me over the past year, you know that I am not afraid of hard work. I often use the extreme “working like a demon,” which despite not really knowing what that means when I sit down to think about it, seems to have everyone in agreement.
Last year I wrote and indie published two books: one in April and one in September. I did this while having a stressful full time job and staying engaged with my family. So why have I made the decision to delay publishing the fourth installment of The Yellow Hoods back from September now that I’m a full time author? Well, let break it down.
Since I become a full time author back in mid-January 2015, I have been focused on several things other than writing:
1. Learning how to connect with traditional media
2. Learning how to increase my reach
3. Doing a crazy amount of signings (I’ve done 5 this year so far, and I have 14 still to go before June 7th). I’m “killing it” to quote one store manager. My worst day so far is equal to one of the best of other author’s they’ve had. Whatever I’m doing, apparently I’m to keep doing it.
4. CalgaryExpo is coming up, which is our local Comic-con & we should have over 100,000 people this year. It’s four days of AWESOME. I launched book 1 there last year.
5. Book 3 official launch event at Chapters – Crowfoot (think key Barnes & Noble location). This is a week after CalgaryExpo.
6. Addressing editing issue that came out of book 3 that required unexpected attention. But with some help from a friend for additional proofreading and extra-extra hours, we got this done.
7. Resolving printer issues. Because of #3-5, I need print copies at a good price. So just use CreateSpace you say? Well, apart from having a flat per-unit cost model that when you’re ordering 1000 books isn’t the best price you can get, the Canadian dollar has dropped and that makes CreateSpace not viable unless I want to raise my Canadian price. I do everything I can to make sure that my readers have a good price.
I’m not a believer in write a book and through it on Amazon, tweet a little, post a bit on Facebook, and hope for a miracle. I’m treating my author-career like a startup, and that means that I’ve got to fire on all cylinders.
For two weeks, I didn’t go to bed until midnight, and then I was up as usual with my young kids around 5:30/6am. This was to get All the King’s-Men (The Yellow Hoods book 3) and Snappy & Dashing out the door. I didn’t even have Snappy in my production schedule, but I wrote it immediately after book 3 and decided to get it out in the same timeframe.
Two weeks isn’t that bad, even at 42 years old, but there’s more context. It came after three weeks of having had less than 5 hours of sleep (and that an interrupted 5 hours) because one or another of my kids was sick. This wasn’t burning the candle at both ends, this was putting it on the BBQ.
Years ago I worked for a large consulting firm. I was flying back and forth between Toronto and my home in Montreal, and my day was like this: wake up at 4:30am, fly to Toronto, work on proposals there until about 3pm, fly to Montreal, go to the office and work until about 9/10pm, and then repeat the next day. After a couple of weeks of that, my body gave me the message. I was standing talking with my boss and the left side of my body went cold and the right side went hot. I felt dizzy and nauseous and I knew that I’d gone beyond what it would allow. I learned from that experience.
I’ve been working on Book 4, but the amount of writing I’ve been able to get done as I run
Prior to the past two weeks of being up until midnight, I had three weeks of about 5 hours of interrupted sleep because one or the other of my boys were sick, needing me every night. At this point, I know that my body’s gauge is pointing to red, and I need to think long term.
For book 4, I had a personal checkpoint for March 15th, by which I should have 50k. I had my beta readers teed up for April 15th, and I had my editor teed up for May 15th.
This would allow me around June 22nd to get the edits back, fix whatever needed to be fixed, and get it back to the editor for proofreading so that everything would be ready for production-readiness by the middle of July. That would mean it could go off to the printers for August 1st, in enough time to get the books ready for EdmontonExpo which is late in September.
A couple of things hit me over the past two weeks:
1. Need to focus. Either I’m working primarily on the book 3 launch and all of the other items above, or I’m working on book 4. I’m feeling like I’m not succeeding at either, and there’s no way I’m putting out a book 4 that’s anything less than the best I can do. I realized that for my first two books, I did the launch before I really got into writing the heart of the next book. There’s a reason that works for me.
2. Need to plan. Just working as hard as I can is great, but it needs to be laser focused if I’m going to be successful. That means looking at my timelines and being smart. For September, it would be possible that I could get book 4 out, but on top of the challenge already ahead, I have a month where I’ll need to be taking care of my kids as I’ll have no nanny at a critical time.
I’ve learned a lot by leading, and being involved in, many projects over the years (as a software architect, or more specifically, as a solution architect). NEVER create a plan where overtime is required in order to have a chance at success, because when (not if) things start going off the rails, you’ll have no reserve to pull on. Be smart, treat everyone involved (including yourself) with respect, and make the call.
3. Need to be healthy. It’s one thing to sprint to get the first three books out, but it’s quite another thing to keep pushing things until, at one point, something fails. I’m learning to run the marathon, and improve my time, but dying on the way or blowing out the equivalent of a knee is definitely in the ‘bad idea’ category.
I made the decision after kicking it around for a week, running the numbers, realizing that I needed at least two weeks of “someone got sick” slack in there, and knowing what needed to be done.
I told my beta readers (giving them 6 weeks notice), told my editor (giving her 10 weeks notice) and… I shifted gears.
I didn’t suddenly relax, I didn’t go “Well, now I don’t have a deadline.” I have a new one staring me in the face right here, but I’m going to get up to my first checkpoint before announcing anything, before reserving things on people’s calendars.
Most importantly, this feels right. And knowing myself? I’m going to work like a demon and might squeeze in book 4 and a novelette, on top of the Torrents of Tangier, before the end of the year.