So I was hanging out with the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys (aka Brian Koscienski, Chris Pisano and Christine Czachur) at the York Emporium’s Science Fiction Saturday event last weekend.
I was there to sell copies of my friend Scott Pruden’s science fiction book “Immaculate Deception,” from Codorus Press. My own book from Codorus Press isn’t due out until next month and it isn’t really science fiction. But since I was planning to go to the event anyway, the York Emporium’s owner Jim Lewin generously gave me some table space to sell Scott’s book.
Anyway, the subject of money came up. And I mentioned to Chris, Brian, and Christine something that a friend of mine recently said when he learned I had a book coming out. That when I got rich off it, I could buy the beers from then on.
Brian, Chris and Christine all laughed, as did several other writers within earshot. Why? Because the idea of fiction writers — especially writers with small, independent publishers — getting rich these days is so absurd that it’s actually comic.
I didn’t realize that when I first got into this a couple of years ago.
I had a pretty idealized concept of what a published author’s life is like. First of all, I could quit my day job, right? Get up late and pad around my palatial mansion in my skivvies for a while before spending a couple of hours pecking away at the keyboard. Then I would catch up on my fan mail before heading out to some hip, modern-day version of the Algonquin Round Table to spend the rest of the day drinking and trading bon mots with my literary peers.
But a number of established writers have set me straight on that.
First of all, modern writers who manage to get rich off their craft are rare. We’re not talking snow leopard rare. We’re talking Loch Ness monster rare.
Secondly — you’ve finished the book? Done all the research and writing and re-writing? Congratulations. You’ve finished the easy part. Now you’ve got to go out and market that sucker. This applies even if you’ve been picked up by a major publisher, but it’s doubly true if you’re with a small, independent publisher such as Codorus Press.
So why bother?
I got my answer when I was at Science Fiction Saturday. When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. And I got to meet Darrell Schweitzer, the former co-editor. I bought a couple of his books, and I got to reminisce with him about some of the stories from his magazine that I loved. For a middle-aged geek like me, that was almost like getting to hang out with Santa Claus. “Hey! Remember when you brought me that G.I. Joe when I was 8? Good call, Santa.”
I was also a huge Star Trek fan when I was a kid. Jim Lewin showed a great episode of Star Trek Voyager, which I enjoyed very much. And … oh yeah … the guy who wrote that episode was selling books right next to me. His name is Michael Jan Friedman and he turned out to be really cool. I bought a copy of his book Aztlan, which is a private eye novel set in an alternate history where the Mayan Empire survived into modern times. How’s that for a premise? I haven’t even started it yet, and I love it already.
I mean, yeah, you can go to conventions or workshops and meet people you admire. But there was just something about participating in this event, meeting these guys and being able to say “I’m a writer too” that gave me a major adrenaline buzz.
Hell, before I got into this, I never would have had the opportunity to kick off a blog entry with the phrase: “So I was hanging out with the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys …”
Given a choice between that and being able to pad around my palatial mansion in my skivvies … well, I’d probably pick the latter scenario. But the former one is still pretty freakin cool.