From Hugh Howey via The Huffington Post:
This past week, my latest self-published book debuted at #7 on the New York Times bestseller list. Crunching some numbers, it appears that I’ve sold a million books in the last two years. You might think I’m living the best days of my life right now, but that isn’t the case at all. I’ve had a lot of careers and have gone through quite a few distinct phases in my life, and several were happier than being a bestselling author.
There’s the decade I spent as a yacht captain, delivering boats all over the world. There are the years I lived on a sailboat while going to the College of Charleston, or the year I spent island-hopping through the Bahamas. I had a blast installing custom home theater systems in expensive homes, and I worked as a computer repair technician back when personal computers were first exploding onto the scene. But the two happiest years of my life were spent in Palmyra, Virginia while working at Rockfish Roofers.
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I did most of my mental writing during those two years. I came up with the character of Molly Fyde and the idea of the wallscreen and Wool. I did my physical writing during a later stage of my life, which was nearly as glorious. And this is the point I want to make, because I spend so much time supporting the growth of literature through self-publishing, and I don’t want people to think it’s because I am one of the outlying success stories. That’s not the point. My happiest days were spent writing, not being a bestselling author.
I wrote most of my stories while working in a bookstore for very meager pay. It helped that I have been debt averse my entire life. My wife and I lived in a 750 square foot house that I paid $112,500 for. It was our third home together. I spent a lot of time and energy on all three of those homes fixing them up and making them better, mostly because I wanted to improve our environment. Even in the down market, and never thinking of “flipping” a house, this industriousness not only made me happy, it meant that every house we sold turned a profit. Rather than take expensive vacations or buy fancy cars, we put that money into debt reduction until we were debt free and fully owned our home. It meant I could work for $10 an hour, Amber could be a student/intern/postdoc resident for ten years, and we didn’t have to worry about money. We were poor and wanted for nothing. We hiked and did things that were free. That was part of the key to my happiness, and it required working hard for over a decade and forgoing immediate self-gratification for even longer.
All of that meant that I could work a 30-hour job at a university trade bookshop for just over minimum wage and fill my hours with writing.
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Today, I saw a comment on a self-publishing success story from yet another cynic who thought that nobody should self-publish. Their argument was that these success stories are the exception, not the rule. But who says the only reason to self-publish is because someone wants to get rich? And who says publishing, any way you do it, is a route to financial independence? I think we all know it isn’t. I knew that better than most from working in a bookstore and meeting so many bestselling authors who had day jobs. That isn’t why we write. It isn’t why we publish. Do these cynics tell the youth strumming their guitars on the street to stop right then, to give up creating art because there’s no future in it? What about the present in it?
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Remember that it’s okay to write and publish just to make yourself happy, to make yourself fulfilled. There will be authors out there, readers, publishing experts, and booksellers who say that this outpouring of unprofessional drek is ruining the industry, which makes me wonder if these same people drive through neighborhoods yelling and screaming at people gardening in their back yards, shouting at them that, “You’ll never be a farmer!” Or if they cruise past community basketball courts where men and women unwind with games of pickup and shout at them, “You’ll never make it in the NBA!”
Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Elizabeth for the tip.