Last summer, I published two books. They were small books, published at my own expense. It’s what the book industry quaintly calls ‘vanity publishing.’
One was a compendium of my cancer blog entries. The Cancer Chronicles. It gave the entire year, from diagnosis to the end of chemo treatments and the ensuing party…wherein friends brought me huge amounts of Jack Daniels’, Dr Pepper, and Oreos as way of saying, ‘We’re glad you’re not dead.’
I published that book because lots of people asked about it. Those entries, for whatever reason, struck a chord. Friends and family obviously, but also people struggling with cancer and what that might mean. I’d shopped the idea around to a number of small publishers and no one was interested. I shopped it to my former agent, too, and he was exquisitely unimpressed.
The second was a collection of my darkest crime stories, Remembrance and Regrets. Did I say dark? Very dark. Waaaay dark. Extremely dark. The first story is about child molestation and it doesn’t brighten up much from there. All of the stories except one had been published before, in magazines and anthologies, on the web. But taken together, I found no publishers interested.
Full disclosure: I didn’t work too hard finding publishers for that one. I knew it was too dark. Having been in the business for a long while, I generally know what is out of most publishers’ boundaries. It’s possible I could have found someone interested, but I wanted to try fiction as the second half of my self-publishing experiment, non-fiction being the first half.
So it was that I set out last summer to do a tour and shove those books down some people’s throats. Tried a new reading tactic, as well. Instead of doing bookstores, where I never sold more than a couple of books, got zero publicity from the store (either media or in-store), and, in fact, once didn’t even have books on hand at the store(!), I tried something different.
I got friends to host readings. It was a complete gas. My friends invited friends they knew were interested in books or authors, cancer, crime, whatever, and it was intimate and fun and extremely worth while financially. Sold more books in that one tour, with only four stops, than I’ve sold in every single bookstore appearance COMBINED.
So my plan this year was to do that again. I wanted to publish a collection of the best CopStories on this blog, and hit the road. Had at least half a route mapped out and five friends already wanting to host a shindig, with more showing interest.
It would have been great fun.
It ain’t happening.
Let me tell you why.
At my Sheriff’s Office, we work twelve hour shifts. They’re long and they’re hard. It’s tough being on duty for twelve straight hours, especially on busy days. Granted, this is a small county and busy days, for us, are very different than busy days for the Chicago cops. But twelve hour days are tough.
Given that we work such a schedule, our days off are glorious. Over the course of a year, we only work six months. Sounds like we’re swindling the taxpayer, but remember, we work twelve hour days and every other weekend, it’s three days in a row. Thirty-six weekend hours of fights, drunks, domestics, illegal hunters, underage drinking parties, etc., etc.
But the great thing about how our schedule is laid out, taking fourteen days off actually only cost us four or five days of vacation time.
That was what I used last summer for the tour and what I was planning on using this summer for the tour.
But our schedule has just changed and now we’re working eight hour shifts. On a day-by-day basis, that rocks my world. Each day will be better because it’s shorter and I won’t be so exhausted at the end, I won’t be so cranky and tired and ready to climb into bed and hide.
The drawback is…obviously…how the schedule is laid out. Six days on, two off for four or five weeks, then a three day weekend.
Thus taking fourteen days off will cost me, generally, twelve vacation days.
I simply can’t afford to take two weeks to do a summer tour for a new book. And doing anything less than two weeks (preferably three) doesn’t make it worth my while gas and time wise because I can’t get schedule enough readings.
So where we had it slightly better than the average worker, we now have it slightly worse.
Not a big deal, really. I mean come on, my primary job is at the Sheriff’s Office. Writing is secondary and I’ve already done more writing and publishing than most people ever have a chance to do. So I’m far, far ahead of the game.
At the same time, it makes me a little sad. I’d made some great new friends on the road last year and was looking forward to seeing them again. The librarians in Oklahoma, the Stanton chick with the great laugh, my high-school chums who bought a lot more books while drunk after the reading than sober during the reading (hmmm…might have to remember that as a sales technique).
The CopStories book could still be published, obviously, but being unable to promote it means it would have a tougher go in terms of sales. It would come and go and that’s a sad, sad fate for a book. Maybe next year I can build up enough vacation time to get it done.
But not this year.
So for those of you who’ve been asking about such a collection, my apologies. You’ll have to wait just a weeeee bit longer. But take heart, there is another CopStory coming soon. Involves a big red bus.
And making my huevos hurt!