The Ghosts of Success & the Hauntings of Relevance: DAY 5

Success is elusive: defined over centuries of time, through different ages of governance, economies, and regimes.  As students growing up, we are continually influenced by different teachers, mentors, professors, to say nothing of our own personal journeys and spiritual quests, as to how we are going to navigate the reals of the world.  How do we pay our bills?  How do we enjoy our lives and do the most of what we want to experience?  Is it about the quality of our relationships?  Is it about the total in the checking account?

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There are a million memes and self-help books advocating these ideals that in the real world are so very hard to realize.  Instead, we trudge like Thoreau’s ants, marching in our established patterns and routines, and our dreams start to fade, and change, and devolve into something else.  Our lives become this continual struggle between the realities we face and the ideals we aspire to.  And in the process… that hardwired definition of success haunts us with its judgement, taunts us with its temptations, and forces us to question our own determination…. to succeed.

DAY 5

RYAN B. CLARK:  Final topic…. here we are ten years later… I have titles released, and upcoming through a personal printing endeavor Ghost Writer Press.  I am trying to do what BBS books could have done… slowly, methodically, and with quality.  My first book under that project, Spirits of Jerome, was published on October 1, 2017, and I am currently on an Arizona Tour to promote the title.  You, on the other hand, have more traditional publishers: Cemetery Dance and Crystal Lake Publishing.

So… let’s each talk about the real PROS and CONS of our position… in terms of creativity… in terms of financial opportunity vs. obligation…. in terms of that elusive thing called SUCCESS.

KEVIN LUCIAAt the end of the day, all I want to do is write. I don’t want to be a publisher. I don’t want to run a small business. Self-publishing has more than proven itself as a viable avenue for producing quality fiction. It no longer has the stigma it once had. I myself have enjoyed many fine, quality self-published works (yours included). And let’s be honest, the process of self-publishing (uploading and pressing ‘publish’) isn’t necessarily that hard.

However, quality self-publishing requires hours of type-setting and and formatting. A workable budget to pay for editing and formatting services, and for a decent cover. At this point in my life, I don’t want to manage all that. A good writer friend summed up my reluctance to self-publish with the following:

“Self-publishing the right way really needs to be viewed as running a small business. Having a business and a marketing plan.”

RYAN:  This is 100% true.  With Ghost Writer Press, every single step of the way has been a learning curve, and not just a process learning curve, but a major educational endeavor.  I have had to teach myself web programs, editing programs, layout platforms, and, in regards to actual publication, each mistake or necessary change is a costly edit.  To say nothing of learning about taxes, wholesale margins, returns, and return & destroy options.  The time investment has been massive!

Now, that said, if I ever wanted my stories of Jerome to see the light of day, as the intended book, I was going to have to do it myself.  At that point, as we have been discussing all along, I had several different options.  There are plenty of self-publishing mediums, Create Space, for example that are VERY alluring to new, unrepresented writers.  It is a much cheaper option, with a much less intensive time commitment, but there is a nagging feeling that it isn’t a real book.

I don’t say that to bag on writers that take his route.  It is a fantastic option!  Let’s be honest, how many books sell outside of the Amazon platform nowadays anyway?  However, with that option comes the reality that your book is ONLY available through Amazon.  Your book cannot be ordered by a bookstore.  Your book can never have the chance to land in Barnes & Noble.  Your book looses legs.

In the end, this might not matter very much.  Time will tell.  Those legs, end up being your own, and the effort you put in you hope is going to pay off.  But already, I have enjoyed signings at various bookstores in various towns throughout Arizona, because I have negotiated the gray area between being a self-published author and actually being a small-press publisher.  Every single step of the way has been a balancing act, like a drunken tight-rope walker, negotiating between the business brain and the creative one.  But yes, the work load and financial commitment is significant.

KEVIN:  I may be a misty-eyed romantic, but when I first dreamed of becoming a writer, I certainly didn’t dream of anything like that. And yes – I’ve of course had to replace my dreams of becoming a bestselling author with more realistic goals and plans.

But I get up every morning (as I have for the past ten years) at 3 or 4 AM to make stuff up. To spin tales of the fantastic out of nothing.

I don’t want to wake up in the morning to format my ebook manuscript or work on typesetting, or any of that stuff.

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So, the clear advantage for me pursuing traditional publishing: I don’t have to do any of that. I’m happy to let publishers take what little they do from my royalties for their work.

RYAN:  There is certainly something to be said for the quality of thought during that first cup of coffee in the mornin’.  {If you know him, insert Norman “Papa” Clark’s voice as you read that line.  It will make you smile.}

You know, I often miss teaching.  I really do.  In fact, much of my life this last seven years has been learning to love that part of my life, to cherish the memories and the lasting relationships it forged, without losing myself to the sorrow of the loss of it.  One, very major piece of that part of my journey, has been Ghost Writer Press and Keep the Greasy Side Down.  I could never, ever, do what I am doing now as a teacher.  There is simply no way.

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First, Costco is a very good job, and pays well.  It certainly is not education in the state of Arizona which has moved to the bottom of the list in the United States – unfortunately and sadly.  I still have a lot of friends in the field, and it is a very sorry state of affairs.  The benefits, both medically and financially, to say nothing of the sheer time, that Costco provides is a massive blessing in this undertaking!  I could never do what I am doing while having to grade stacks of essays, reports, stories, and coaching debate… all on a teacher’s salary.

Second, the downside of working outside of education, is that I have a mass wealth of knowledge that I simply no longer get to use.  I too wake up every day between 3 and 4, I am at work by 5, but I am never home later than 2 PM… with no papers to grade, and nothing to fill the void in my head.  For many hears… this was a recipe for depression from loss and self-pity.

In many ways the time commitment and complete dedication to my business has not only given me a great focus, but it has also propelled a renewed passion in writing, creating, and networking with others who do the same.  Writing… and the business of it…. has saved me.

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KEVIN:  Also, I don’t want to spend endless hours thinking about marketing angles. I’m more than willing to take part in interviews like this and appear on podcasts, share reviews of my work and links to sales, blog about my writing and my life, attend conventions and generally be very visible, both in real life and digitally. But I have no desire – or funds – to scour the internet for promotional opportunities or pay for ads which may or may not work. Again, I’m willing to let my publishers handle all that, and let them take their cut for it.

RYAN:  Certainly.  There is much to be said for that.

KEVIN:  Two caveats, however.

One, the white elephant in the room: I’ve been very fortunate to work with ethical, industrious publishers who go the extra mile for their authors and readers.

Working with Shroud, Crystal Lake and now Cemetery Dance has been wonderful. Hardworking publishers trying their best for their authors, and beautiful cover art (Malcom McClinton and Ben Baldwin), all represent a commitment to quality and building relationships with readers….this has been my experience.  All my publishers have treated me fairly, their feedback on my work at the editorial level has, I truly believe, made my books better. In some ways – even though I’m not a bestselling author writing for a living, as I always dreamed of being when I was a kid – I’ve obtained my dream. I’m very aware others have not had the same experience I’ve had with traditional publishing.

RYAN:  Not to get too sappy and campy, but I too, in many ways have achieved my dream.  My wife and I were talking a while back, and I said, “You know, one day, I will look back on these times, and regardless of all the trials and struggles, I will remember these as the best days of my life.”  There is a lot to be said for that.

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In reference to your good fortune, and without going into detail, I have not been as lucky {those words used loosely, because the work and patience involved has everything to do with work and perseverance}.  However, that said, I am trying very hard to begin to see my life as a continual wonderful journey through an amazing landscape.  I learned a lot, an unspeakable amount, really, from my brush with semi-traditional publishing.  I learned that I could do exactly what you describe above, and even if it was only ever for myself, Ghost Writer Press would still be a legitimate small publishing press with offerings of quality about the wonderful niche that is Arizona.  I love the freedom and the creative control of being the guy calling the shots.

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One achievement with Grave Whispers over at BBS Books was the originality and creativity of my cover.  That cover was an original painting that I commissioned from an artist friend of mine.  It was different than every other cover that BBS Books released.  Now with Ghost Writer Press, I have been able to do EXACTLY what I have wanted to do with the covers, all while staying independent and showcasing other artists.  The cover of Spirits of Jerome showcases my wife’s photography and the amazing skills of Rene DeJoras, a friend of mine and fellow entrepreneur from Costco.  The cover of next year’s Echoes of the Ancients will be another commissioned original painting from Apache Artist Noah Nez.

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I am very proud of being able to showcase other Arizona Independent Artists on my projects, and that is a creative power I would never have in the traditional publishing world.

KEVIN:  Second, pursuing traditional publishing requires patience, above all. The writing of Hiram Grange for Shroud was a collaborative effort. All the Hiram Writers wrote the books at the same time. Some finished before others – in fact, if I remember correctly, myself (Book 4) and Richard Wright (Book 5) finished before everyone else. Because of this, the series debuted later than we initially anticipated. I could’ve said “Screw it, I’m not waiting” and bailed. Based on the folks who liked my Hiram installment, I’m glad I didn’t. It wasn’t a smash hit, but it gave me something solid through a solid, respected publisher.

Likewise, Crystal Lake is a small publisher with a small staff, so they can only publish so many books a year. I finished Things Slip Through in April 2014, and it wasn’t published until Fall, 2014. My next short story collection, Things You Need, was finished Spring 2017, and it won’t be published until Spring 2018. However, the long lead-in time for Things allowed us to get a lot of early reviews and blurbs, which I believe helped sales, and my hope is the same for the next collection.

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Mystery Road, coming out through Cemetery Dance, has been several years in the making. Why would I stick it out and wait? Simple. It’s Cemetery-Freaking-Dance!

That’s not a opportunity I’m going to pass up because I got impatient. One of the huge lessons my father taught me is that patience gets you where you want to be. It may take a long time, but is often better than the shortcut. When I first started out (after readjusting my youthful dreams to more realistic goals) a big watermark I set for myself was getting published by Cemetery Dance. So there was no way I was going to get impatient and pull out of that. If I’m ever fortunate enough to see another book published through them, I’ll wait even longer, if I have to.

RYAN:  Patience has also been the entire name of the game with my project Ghost Writer Press.  I am entirely self-funded; furthermore, my wife and I have been able to do everything that we have done with zero use of credit.

Ghost Writer Press is a 100% cash operation, which comes with one major realization as a caveat: quality, coupled with cost requirements – requires patience.

I would certainly like to think that my first product, Spirits of Jerome, is a quality piece of work, and I have absolutely zero intention of discontinuing that trajectory.

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KEVIN:  Besides, I’m always writing. And I’m in no hurry. So I have no problem with waiting for release day, which is part of traditional publishing, because I’m busy working on the next thing, or writing a short story for an anthology.  But, as I said previously, “hybrid writer” is the current buzzword. I have no interest in self-publishing, but if I can make this Patreon thing go without giving myself a brain hemorrhage, I can still pursue traditional publishing while filling up the quiet spaces between releases, on my own terms, without the overhead costs of self-publishing. We’ll see if it works. Or if it drives me insane instead…

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{VISIT KEVIN LUCIA, and become a PATRONKevin Lucia is creating strange stories, and I promise you will not be disappointed!!}

RYAN:  That, my friend is the Danse Macabre we move to…. and we LOVE it !  Thank you so very much for taking the time for this interview.  I think we did a good one!

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KEVIN:  No problem, and I think so too.

CONCLUSION

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed this week long Halloween present as much as we have enjoyed the conversation it has produced.  Regardless if you, dear reader, are a fellow writer, a fellow reader, a fellow poet, a fellow wordsmith, a fellow creator…. our processes are the same.  Our struggles are similar.  Our obstacles share the same qualities.

In many ways we all wandering into that metaphorical bar.  We are all haunted by the ghosts of our failures and daring to be haunted by our ambitions.  We are all independent, introspective surveyors of the world that we see, and in our own ways, weaving our own visions, we provide a perspective on that world that is wonderfully unique.  We hope for that journey of creation to not only do something spiritual within each of us on a personal level… but we dare to hope that our vision will resonate with our fellow human beings.  We dare to be egocentric enough to think that something of our vision… is a worthwhile addition to the human panorama.  One day… we hope that the ghosts that haunt us… will lead us to the elusive place…. of peace with our journey.

If you are just joining this conversation, or if you simply want to go back to the beginning and enjoy it again….

PLEASE…. VIEW IT FROM THE BEGINNING… HERE

KEEP THE GREASY SIDE DOWN MY FRIENDS  !!

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