Upside Down And Inside Out – Guest Post by Leona Wisoker

Five years ago, I signed a contract with a small press (Mercury Retrograde Press out of Atlanta, GA). I was dizzy with excitement, imagining all sort of wonderful, profitable adventures in the near future. Of course, I’d have to work my ass off. Of course, it would be a while before I saw any return on the time and effort. But it was a huge step up from my previous floundering. I was Published At Last.

Fast forward five years, to the announcement that Mercury Retrograde is closing its doors. I now have four books in print: Secrets of the Sands, Guardians of the Desert, Bells of the Kingdom, and Fires of the Desert. I have had short stories published in the Sha’Daa: Pawns shared-world anthology, in the Galactic Creatures anthology, in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and more. I work as an editor. I teach writing classes. I gave two presentations at the Library of Congress.

I have attended at least five conventions a year since that first book came out; more often nine or ten–all relatively small, with Connecticon 2014 being both the largest and the furthest away to date.

It’s been a hellacious ride. It’s definitely been wonderful. I’ve learned an amazing, bewildering array of facts, techniques, truths, and strategies. I’ve made irreplaceable friends and invaluable contacts. I’ve grown as a writer, as an artist, as a human being. I’ve gotten a much firmer grip on an optimistic, positive attitude. I wouldn’t trade this last five years for anything.

However. It hasn’t been financially profitable. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores, other than to note that I haven’t been worried about making money up to this point.

Hearing that my publisher is closing the doors turned that attitude inside out and upside down. I will be perfectly honest and admit that I’ve been going through multiple large and small meltdowns over the past few weeks. I put several projects and promises on indefinite hold, with deep regret but out of absolute necessity. I’ve been taking more naps than usual, avoiding social gatherings, giving myself lots and lots of quiet time and space in which to rearrange my plans for the next five years. That doesn’t mean I’ve been idle: my garden looks better than it has in months. My garage now has lots of space, because I ditched all sorts of clutter. My house is reasonably tidy (at least in the public spaces). My diet and my weight remain largely under control.

I’ve even gotten a little writing done around the edges.

But I’ve been dealing with business matters the way one eats an elephant: one small bite at a time. The latest move has been to consult with an accountant. She gave me an hour and a half of her time for free and a ton of vitally useful information that helped define a metaphorical road map of what lies ahead for me. Next up, I’ll talk to a lawyer she recommended. I’m going to start covering my ass a lot more carefully than I have been, and watching the money a whole lot more closely.

As for the books, I don’t plan to self-publish the Children of the Desert series at this point; I’m going to try pitching to a couple of publishers first. If I don’t get any happiness there, I’ll consider self-publishing the ebooks. I’m currently in negotiations with my local recording studio guru about producing Secrets of the Sands as an audiobook; that’s a project that’s been on the back burner for far too long. Hopefully it doesn’t slide away again…

One realization that I have come to is that I’ve sat far too comfortably on the “published by Mercury Retrograde Press” cushion. I need to start pushing my writing out into the world; I need to go back to treating it as a serious day job, with the majority of my time set aside for writing, not for marketing or research or social media or teaching or editing or anything else. I need to treat my writing career as the true business it is. I’ve done the groundwork already. I’ve established my reputation as a reasonably good writer. I’ve made my presence known to the relevant parties.

Now it’s time to take that running broad jump into the bigger arena. The bigger fish tank.

The hell with watch me roar–get ready to watch this lion swim.

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3 comments

  • So sad to here Retrograde is closing. Sadder to hear Leona hasn’t really earned any $$$ yet. It’s time a big publisher picked up her series!

  • Leona thank you for your transparency and honesty. You have inspired me to kick my career into a more serious gear. I have been trying to figure out the business end and ended up pushing it to the background. However, thanks to your post, I am going to renew my efforts to learn. Thank you.

  • Leona, I’m so sorry to hear about this – but glad you will choose to fight, to swim, to eat that damned elephant. Thanks to you and Leila both for this post.

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