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On Being a Publisher

It’s National Novel Writing Month. I’ll have to do a post about my annual spreadsheet again this year, because (once again) it’s a very interesting story. Alas, I’m not the story’s hero this time. I’m still pretty thrilled with the plot developments, though.

Here’s what I’m getting at: I’m not getting much writing done. Most years by this time…well, most years I’d be done with NaNoWriMo by now. 50,000 words already in the bank, and grinning as I look forward to writing the last two words of an 80,000-word novel come November 30th.

That’s not going to happen this year, because I’ve got too many projects going. It doesn’t bother me too much. All the other projects I’ve got going are at least as exciting as winning NaNoWriMo.

Still, I was holding out hope right up until last weekend. Last weekend Trish took the kids out of town, and I cleared my schedule, and I dedicated something on the order of fifteen to twenty-five hours to writing, so I could get all caught up and really impress everyone in my writing group.

It didn’t happen. It’s one thing to say I “cleared my schedule,” but that’s sort of like bailing water of a ship that’s already swamped. I can toss as much out as I want, there’s plenty more to rush in and fill the space.

Halfway through my day on Saturday, that came crashing home to me. I realized Trish was going to be getting home in a couple hours and my dedicated writing time was pretty much over. I thought about trying a frantic scramble in those two hours, but I was busy with something at the moment and, really, that something needed to get done.

I don’t even remember what it was right now. (One of a dozen little projects I finished on a Saturday.) But I remember what it was for. Consortium Books. It was a publishing project. Even on my days off I didn’t have time to be a writer because I was too busy being a publisher.

And here’s the exciting part of the story: I realized with sudden clarity that I didn’t mind at all.

I’m not saying I would give up being a writer to be a publisher. If it was an either/or question, I’d choose writer hands down. But it’s not. In fact, it’s only because I chose to be a publisher that I got to be a writer (or one with a multiple-digit readership, anyway).

And for the last year, as I’ve built the Consortium, I’ve done it in the sure knowledge that I was giving up the long-time plan of retiring to a life of writing and (otherwise) idleness. I’ve spent the last year dooming myself to become a publisher, and I came to terms with that pretty early on, but I never stopped to evaluate how I felt about it before.

But, as I mentioned last week, I recently got honored by the same professors and mentors who taught me how to write because I decided to become a publisher. I recently did an interview concerning the effect of the new digital market on authors and I told the guy it’s an amazing opportunity for writers…as long as they’re willing to be businessmen, too.

(For what it’s worth, that has always been the deal. Always. Authors have lived in poverty and paid intermediaries lots and lots of money to help them pretend it wasn’t the deal, but it always was.)

Anyway, it’s been on my mind. I’m a successful writer now. Taming Fire is doing amazing, and the two books I want to work on are both sequels to that, and I spent the weekend constantly getting dragged out of that work to do the work of a publisher instead.

And I loved it. I love the challenges. I love figuring out the dynamics of the market and exploring the potential in the new technologies. I love breaking down barriers and fostering a free competition of ideas. I love helping other writers discover opportunities they might never have known otherwise. I love teaching, and coordinating, and collaborating.

I love it. I love writing, too, and I’ll keep that up, but it’s liberating to discover that all the trappings that go along with it, all the responsibilities and challenges and obstacles I’ll have to overcome are rewarding in their own way. No matter what I’m working on, I’m loving it.

It’s my worst year of NaNoWriMo ever, and easily the best year of my life so far. Funny how things work out.

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