From Couch Potato To Mouse Potato

Becoming an author is easier said than done

couch potatoLast April I retired from a full time job as a data analyst from a company I had worked for over a total of fifteen years. I started my “new” career as an author five years before I retired by utilizing my part time hours at home. After all, I spent most of my leisure time at home just watching TV, didn’t I? I was contemplating retirement soon, wasn’t I? Sure! I can spell. I can write. I can read. I will become an author!

Easier said than done. I did not realize there was a world full of knowledge and resources I had not anticipated. I had bought a computer and found myself typing till all the wee hours of the night – brainstorming. I could not get the words down fast enough. I was delighted that I was creating something and accomplishing a feat I had always wanted to do, but never had the time. Writing!

For the five years before retirement I wrote part time, concentrating on fiction, surfing the net, and gathering a mountain of information on writing, publishing, marketing your work, press releases, and anything related to the craft. It was fun, and I did not realize how much hard work was involved.

I joined several writers’ groups and signed up for newsletters. I registered on almost every Epublishing site I could until I found a fiction site that actually accepted my novel. I was ecstatic! “I am in print” I told myself, “I am published.” It was a pleasurable feeling. Little did I know how insignificant it was.

Being published on the web and having your work listed on a reputable fiction site is indeed not easy. Because Ebooks have exploded into our reading history,  Online publishers are becoming more selective. Of course, who can blame them? They want quality material on their websites.

As I “grew up” as a writer, I realized I must strive to produce quality work, error free, interesting, and desired by not only the publishers, but the readers too. I read everything I could about correct formats, character building, drafting, planning the plot, and all the various tools a writer needs to learn to be successful. I hired a critique partner, and we worked together to help my manuscript become sold. I must have edited my first novel over a hundred times. It sometimes takes a genius to know when to stop and put those final words on it – THE END.

Looking back, I cannot believe it took me five years to finalize my first novel. I then started submitting like crazy and I must add, received rejection letters just as fast. Those were the days before Email submissions were popular and I spent hundreds of dollars on postage. It was not only the postage for submissions, but the SASE [Self Addressed Stamped Envelops for returns] postage that killed me. Finally I got smart and said “No SASE enclosed, please recycle.”

I’ve come a long way since my “part time – stars in the eyes – hopeful author” days. I now only submit in Email, never pay fees for reading or contest entries, and probably best of all – I do not get upset over rejections. C’est la vie – That’s life.

Being retired allows me to set my own hours, take any day off I please, not worry that I have to call in sick, and not answer to any one. I must admit, I do not pay myself very well, (chuckle) but I won’t quit either. Some day maybe I will be a rich and famous writer, but until then I am having a great time doing what I want, when I want, and if I want.

As the years go by I realize my education involving the Internet has increased also. I found we all have to crawl before we walk – at least that’s what my Mother told me – and I have done that professionally. I started out submitting stories and novels I had written to Ebook sites and have had very good luck. I then advanced to POD books (Print-On-Demand) and am happy with that. Seeing my novel in print is exciting. I have now started submitting an instruction guide for novice online writers to traditional publishers, and as of this date have hopes I will get a good response. It is titled Website Writing, As I See It, An Author’s Guide To Online Writing and contains over two hundred fifty Web addresses. I am shooting for a hard cover availability of two months.

My tastes are eclectic, laying in fiction, nonfiction, essays, and poetry. I have two novels published, one in paperback and one on the web as an Ebook, two Sci-Fi stories published, as an Ebook, and in a European Magazine, two poems published in a hard cover poetry book, and one story published in a hard cover book. As the “clips” accumulate, I smile each time I add one to my resume of published works. My web page enlarges each time I add a manuscript title and link.

When I finished my first novel I thought the rest would be easy. The rest? That’s submitting, marketing, writing press releases, setting up interviews, and arranging book signings. Whew! The hard work was just beginning. I had no experience in any of the press release, marketing end so I relied on the advice and samples of experts, which I found on the Web. I gained help from my writer friends in Egroups, sites offering help, and published writers sharing their experiences and expertise. Thank God for them. They saved my sanity! There is always help if we need it; we only need to ask; to look.

Starting my home-based business as an author was expensive. I tried to pace myself on office equipment and furniture. Little by little I accumulated the utensils, tools and office furniture needed. My first concern was for a COMFORTABLE chair. I have used economical chairs and found I really needed a professional office chair. My back ached for it! I went to a used office furniture supply and found one at a fraction of the original cost that I can sit in for over six hours a day and not have any repercussions. My workday is usually six hours.

I filed a d/b/a [Doing Business As] for professional reasons and although I do not use a pseudonym in my work, I feel now I need not be concerned with any legal problems. This year I have allowed myself an advertising budget and purchased pencils printed with my Website address. I also purchased book stickers for give-out gifts at my book signings. My tax schedule C return lists all my expenses and payments. Needless to say, at this stage there are many more expenses than payments. Perhaps, and I am optimistic, that will change in the future.

When I started writing I did so as a creative outlet, not caring if I made a dime. I only wanted to write. Now, being a bit wiser, I have convinced myself that I really do need to earn some “bucks” to be what I label as successful.

Friends have told me I am missing out on the “pot under the rainbow” by not applying for a Federal Grant to finance my work. Being a low-income senior citizen, I probably can qualify for such a Grant. I am looking into that.

My message to all you “would-be” writers is to give it a try. You will not only find hours of enjoyment but feel productive. If you are a senior, retired, and wanting some enjoyment in your life, and you have always wanted to write – give it a try! We all have at least one story in us, even if it is a biography or cookbook! What have you got to lose?

Good luck “future author” and enjoy! 😉

About Connie Berridge

Connie Berridge is a freelance writer who lives in Florida.

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