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Old 12-28-2012, 12:34 AM   #1
christwriter
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My Self Publishing Experience

This is gonna be a lil different, and a lot of people are probably gonna call BS on the first part...but it's my story. And I thought I might as well.

I REALLY wanted to be professionally published. Like BAD. But after a ton of rejections, a terrifyingly bad critique by my dream agent I kind of accepted that I just wasn't cut out for the pro game. I decided to self publish. Just...not my novel yet. My goal has been to build up monthly sales until they hit a certain number, and then break out the big guns. That way the novels will have an actual audience, and won't be starting from zero.

I also knew I wouldn't have that many expenses starting out. I am an artist, I knew I could do my own book covers and have them look fair-to-middlingly good. Editing is still the big issue, as I can't afford a real editor and my backup (my mom proofreads for a living, and she's good at pointing out continunity issues and fuzzy story choices. Also spelling, which is not my strong point) doesn't always have the time to keep up with my schedule. Which has been a small book (20-35K words) a month.

The results have been mixed.

I've had books online for just under six months. A whole bunch of little short stories, plus an anthology that put all those little stories into one place. I published this in July and sold a grand total of one book.

This one: http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Bullet-...6637937&sr=1-1

I published nothing in August and sold three copies.

In September I published a little sci-fi novelette (it's just barely over 25k) that i had written.

I didn't want to write it because it's basically fan fic with the serial numbers filed off, but I couldn't work on any other projects with that story rattling around in my head, and I couldn't justify working on something that I wasn't going to release later. So please understand I kind of consider it to be the black sheep of the catalogue, and the one story I would have gladly shoved under the rug as my personal guilty pleasure.

Remember this. It makes what happens next kind of funny.

Anyway, I also signed up for KDP and started using the free books to drive sales. I sold 17 books in September, 12 of them were the sci-fi book.

This is the sci-fi book: http://www.amazon.com/Starbleached-e...6637937&sr=1-2

October: I released a story that ties in to the novel I ultimately want to release, a kind of prequil. Paranormal fantasy involving fairies, a psychadelic gay dwarf and a haunted battleship/museum. It has gotten one three-star review from someone whose primary complaint was that there wasn't enough romance in it. I sold 36 books in October.

14 were the sci-fi book.

6 were the paranormal fantasy book that I actually wanted to sell.

This was the paranormal fantasy book: http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Ghost-Exi...6637937&sr=1-5

November: Epic fantasy that ties into ANOTHER novel I plan to release, in the hopes that the audience would be all like YES GIVE ME MORE OF THIS GUY.

Everything went wrong with this book. EVERYTHING. The story IMHO is good but DAMN, I was glad to hit "publish" and know I wouldn't have to touch it again for a long time.

I sold a grand total of two copies of that book, both to family members. However, I sold 27 books in November, and 16 of them were the sci-fi book.

This is the epic fantasy book: http://www.amazon.com/Found-Thing-Ta...6637937&sr=1-3

December so far: No book released. I am tired. 24 books sold so far. Eleven copies of the goddamned sci-fi book, four copies of the paranormal fantasy book, two copies of the epic book, and a scattering of sales from short stories. I usually get most of my sales (Of the sci-fi book) when I put the anthology on freebies, or when the anthology sells.

So in total I have sold 107 books in four months. 55 of them were of the sci-fi book that probably shouldn't even be a thing.

And because that's the thing that people want, I'm releasing a sequel to it next month. I'll also probably discontinue the two fantasy series once the current story arcs in both play themselves out, and come up with something new to fill their places (and hopefully come up with a better flagship series than that DAMN sci-fi book. I like it, but I know it shouldn't be there.)

I have no idea what will happen next month. I haven't done much marketing, besides offering books for free and pasting stuff all over my blog, mostly because I have NO IDEA how to market things, and I also have no time. The best sales tool I've found is releasing short stories via KDP and making them free for a few days.

I tried Smashwords and got exactly zero sales from them the two months I focused there. I enrolled in KDP prime in September, and that's when things really took off.

Part of me is very sad about all this, because I still really, REALLY would have liked to be professionally published, and all the reading I've done has basically told me once you self publish the professional industry wouldn't touch you with a twelve foot pole, unless you're an outlier and I have never been outlier material.

The rest of me is sitting over in a corner petting 107 sales and whispering "my precious" over the excel sheet I put together.

So there it is. My experience. Take it or leave it.
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Old 12-28-2012, 01:48 AM   #2
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Part of me is very sad about all this, because I still really, REALLY would have liked to be professionally published, and all the reading I've done has basically told me once you self publish the professional industry wouldn't touch you with a twelve foot pole, unless you're an outlier and I have never been outlier material.
If you want to write books which are published by trade publishers, then all you have to do is write them.

Most trade publishers are unlikely to be interested in republishing the books you've already self published: but they'll be willing to consider new books from you, so long as they're good enough and have real commercial potential.
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Old 12-28-2012, 02:02 AM   #3
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If you want to write books which are published by trade publishers, then all you have to do is write them.

Most trade publishers are unlikely to be interested in republishing the books you've already self published: but they'll be willing to consider new books from you, so long as they're good enough and have real commercial potential.
The gist of what I read on agency blogs is editors stop being interested once you have a poor sales record. Poor sales being defined (as per the agency blogs I've read) as "under several thousand."

Which is kind of why I've viewed self publishing as the end of the journey. Still, I'd like to believe that there's a good shot, someday.
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Old 12-28-2012, 02:07 AM   #4
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That's mostly with regard to individual books, though, and not to all the books you're going to write in the future.

If you don't write well, then you're not going to find an agent or a publisher willing to take you on. However, if you do write well then having previously self published a handful of titles is very unlikely to put agents or publishers off your new and brilliant book.
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Old 12-28-2012, 05:43 AM   #5
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which is the part we were supposed to call BS on?

if you're feeling down about self publishing, maybe you should keep holding out for an agent.

it's been my experience that energy, optimism, and enthusiasm are essential for success in self publishing.

good luck, and thanks for sharing!
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Old 12-28-2012, 07:29 AM   #6
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The more you write the better writer you become. Keep up on the agent query process and if the story isn't picked up self publish and move on. I'd say you're doing well.
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Old 12-28-2012, 07:59 AM   #7
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It almost sounds like you're writing all sorts of different stories in various genre...and it sounds like all of your releases "tie in" to other novels that have yet to be written. Do the current releases have an entire story within them, or is it just the start of a story, and the true story will be revealed in the to-be-completed novel?

I've posted several blogs about my sales, including the latest sales update a month or so ago, but all of my titles are tied into the same universe, and feature (aside from one book) the same main character. This gives a reader another title to go buy when they finish and enjoy the one they started with. If all of the books are different genre and sets of characters, a reader is going to be hard-pressed to jump around like that...in my opinion.
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Old 12-28-2012, 09:02 AM   #8
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Robert: you're right. I shouldn't have said that

Bay: I may in the future, if I manage to come up with something more commercial. Right now my work isn't something that an agent would want to take a chance on. At least I don't think so. Besides, if I'm trying to do commerical stuff I can't play as much. I'd have to go back into the "Do I think this will attract an agent?" mindset, and that wasn't very fun the first time around.

Aston: Yes, they do have their own stories and they don't actively tie into the main novels yet. Right now, I'm treating them kind of like a Sherlock Holmes story. Self-contained and emotionally satisfying on their own, but with hints that there's a Moriarty hanging around.

There's an endgame arc planned for each series that will wrap up the series and lay minimal groundwork for the respective novels, but if I do it right you'd be able to read the novel without reading the novellas, and you'd be able to finish the novellas and feel satisfied even if you never read the novel...though ideally you'd want to.

Or, to put it this way: You're paying money for the privilege. You deserve a beginning, middle and satisfying ending, and you shouldn't need to read sixteen other stories to understand the one you just bought. But you should then go read those other sixteen stories anyway, because you really, really liked the one you just finished.

The sci-fi book ties into nothing. It is its own thing. It may turn into real novels on its own. IDK. Probably after I finish the current story arc, because the next one's MUCH more complicated.
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Old 01-07-2013, 01:03 AM   #9
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Honestly, the problem is impatience. I'd love to swap my numbers for yours, and I started before you! You can't give trade pub forever to work out, and then give self-pub a couple of months. That's not fair.

This is how to sell more. The advice comes from BIG sellers:

Write more books- There are MILLIONS of books online. A few short stories won't make a big difference. Neither will a few novels or novellas. You need much more, just like with trade pub. You can't do a few stories and put your feet up.

Practise- Keep improving your writing. Focus on different things like description, setting, etc, per story.

No more freebies- a competition/ limited giveway is fine, but stop attracting cheap readers. Believe in your worth.

Stop marketing- overall, people sell more by writing more. Bestsellers with one book are rare. Besides, trade pub won't settle for a few stories, so get used to writing more. One book doesn't make a career.

Release the novel- You'll get a boost from the release. Don't expect miracles. People have sold thousands their first month with one book. Accept we're not those people. You might be one day, but not if you give up.

Use self-pub your way- I'm self pub because I love it. There's nothing wrong with using it to get a fair trade pub deal. Keep going, keep selling, and one day they might be fighting over you. BUT accept that you won't necessarily hit "the BIG TIME". Not everyone is destined to sell millions. The beauty of self-pub is that you can make a living off selling "only" thousands a year, assuming your book isn't cheap (0-$2.99).

Forget being "commercial"- there is a market for everything. Someone out there wants your stories. There's some wacky stuff out there e.g. (possibly NSFW) The Haunted Vagina. If that author has made a living self-pub for over 15 years then why not you and me?
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Old 01-07-2013, 02:00 AM   #10
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Use self-pub your way- I'm self pub because I love it. There's nothing wrong with using it to get a fair trade pub deal. Keep going, keep selling, and one day they might be fighting over you.
Just remember that thousands of writers self publish every year but only three or four of them end up with a trade publishing deal as a result.

As you were.
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Old 01-07-2013, 03:28 AM   #11
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If that author has made a living self-pub for over 15 years then why not you and me?
Because it also means paying FICA and purchasing health insurance, and they're both hefty in the U.S. And I notice that benefits in the UK and the rest of the EU are rapidly shifting.

If you're planning to live off of writing income of any sort, postpone it as long as possible to get your ducks in a row (pay off all debt, your student loans, mortgages, etc.) and get a healthy saving account, unless you have a gainfully employed SO.

I'd suggest having a job that provides retirement and health insurance benefits, and stashing away the extra income.
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Old 01-07-2013, 04:04 AM   #12
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Because it also means paying FICA and purchasing health insurance, and they're both hefty in the U.S. And I notice that benefits in the UK and the rest of the EU are rapidly shifting.

If you're planning to live off of writing income of any sort, postpone it as long as possible to get your ducks in a row (pay off all debt, your student loans, mortgages, etc.) and get a healthy saving account, unless you have a gainfully employed SO.

I'd suggest having a job that provides retirement and health insurance benefits, and stashing away the extra income.
Very wise advice. I'm paying over $500 a month for health insurance alone. That means I have to sell at least 250 e-books a month, for that bill alone.
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Old 01-07-2013, 04:04 AM   #13
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Just remember that thousands of writers self publish every year....
Just thousands?
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Old 01-07-2013, 04:16 AM   #14
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Because it also means paying FICA and purchasing health insurance, and they're both hefty in the U.S. And I notice that benefits in the UK and the rest of the EU are rapidly shifting.

If you're planning to live off of writing income of any sort, postpone it as long as possible to get your ducks in a row (pay off all debt, your student loans, mortgages, etc.) and get a healthy saving account, unless you have a gainfully employed SO.

I'd suggest having a job that provides retirement and health insurance benefits, and stashing away the extra income.
UK benefits are too generous for some. Healthcare is free except for prescriptions.

I disagree. You never know how much time you have left. I'm not saying she should quit her job, but at least write in her spare time. Paying off debt could take decades. No job is 100% secure, so you can't rely on that to last forever. Her books will be there forever, though, and if they become a hit then she'd clear the debt much sooner.

I'm currently seeking work. I still live at home. No wealthy SO here.

She can do both. Of course she shouldn't quit employment the first time writing pays all the bills, but over time she could. Then it would be foolish to waste valuable writing time on a job she doesn't really want to do. I think it's a bad idea to let writing be an afterthought. Then your day job will always take precedent, and by the time you decide to seriously go for writing, you'll be old, or too scared to quit employment. It's best to go for writing like there's no other option. That's what other professionals do with the goal.
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Old 01-07-2013, 04:20 AM   #15
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It's best to go for writing like there's no other option. That's what other professionals do with the goal.
I disagree. It's best to do what is best for you given your individual situation. That's why professionals vary so much: some write full time, some write part time, some have day jobs, some have supportive spouses, some live frugally, some live lavishly, some purchase health insurance, some live in countries that provide health care, some have children, some are childless, some live with their parents, some live with their children, some live alone...
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Old 01-07-2013, 04:31 AM   #16
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UK benefits are too generous for some. Healthcare is free except for prescriptions.

I disagree. You never know how much time you have left. I'm not saying she should quit her job, but at least write in her spare time. Paying off debt could take decades. No job is 100% secure, so you can't rely on that to last forever. Her books will be there forever, though, and if they become a hit then she'd clear the debt much sooner.

I'm currently seeking work. I still live at home. No wealthy SO here.

She can do both. Of course she shouldn't quit employment the first time writing pays all the bills, but over time she could. Then it would be foolish to waste valuable writing time on a job she doesn't really want to do. I think it's a bad idea to let writing be an afterthought. Then your day job will always take precedent, and by the time you decide to seriously go for writing, you'll be old, or too scared to quit employment. It's best to go for writing like there's no other option. That's what other professionals do with the goal.
While I appreciate your opinion, I would advise anyone who is considering quitting their job to think long and hard about the financial, emotional, and stability issues that come with self-publishing full-time.

Our self-worth is often tied to what we do for a living. When you no longer have a job that you go to five days a week, there is a transition period that can be thrilling and downright frightening. Suddenly you have hours and hours to write, but unlike a day job, a writer doesn't write for eight hours straight, five days a week. It's a radical change that I don't think most writers even realize will have a profound effect on their self-worth.

What happens when you sell 2,000 books one month and only 200 the next? What happens when you can't get in the writing groove and weeks (or months) pass by with nary one additional word added to your manuscript? Your self-worth takes hit after hit.

Ask authors who write full-time for a living what it's like -- both the joys and concerns. Get a balanced view of what that lifestyle will be like before jumping off a cliff that has no rope to help you climb back up.
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Old 01-07-2013, 10:52 PM   #17
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Ditto plus...

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While I appreciate your opinion, I would advise anyone who is considering quitting their job to think long and hard about the financial, emotional, and stability issues that come with self-publishing full-time...
Ditto to this advice... but extend it to anyone who's considering self-employment or running a business. Poverty usually drives bad decisions for a bunch of reasons, including the fact it encourages a short term view. I've occasionally offered a comparision. It's like dating--desperation isn't pretty.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:16 PM   #18
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I'm currently seeking work. I still live at home. No wealthy SO here.
Your situation is better than most. I wouldn't give advice on something you haven't done or tried.

I'm lucky in that I can write full-time with a hubby who makes good money. But before that I wrote while keeping a full-time security job and supporting my mother.

I managed.

Others do as well.
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:27 AM   #19
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Just remember that thousands of writers self publish every year but only three or four of them end up with a trade publishing deal as a result.

As you were.
You might want to recheck those numbers. Here is a quote from Publisher's Weekly that I found on thepassivevoice.com:

Then Publisher’s Marketplace followed with the lines:
Quote:
“As everyone knows, originally self-published books made for a number of high-profile crossover deals in 2012–though in total numbers, we recorded 45 such deals in all.”

Of the 300 or so six figure deals that were reported to them in 2012, 45 were from books that started off self-published."


http://www.thepassivevoice.com/01/2013/crossover-deals-from-self-publishing-to-traditional/


That is just the ones reported and also over 6 figures. I imagine there are some not reported and for less than 6 figures too.

I'm not saying self-publishing is a guaranteed route to trade publishing, but it's not a road block either.
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Old 01-08-2013, 02:02 AM   #20
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Wow! Thanks for sharing these articles. Very interesting.
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Old 01-08-2013, 02:52 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MMcDonald64 View Post
You might want to recheck those numbers.
The numbers I mentioned were for the UK market, which is much smaller than the American one. It does scale up, though, if you look at the huge number of books which are self published every year and compare that to the relatively small proportion which end up on trade publishers' lists: I don't think the rough figures I gave clash that badly with yours.

Quote:
I'm not saying self-publishing is a guaranteed route to trade publishing, but it's not a road block either.
It's definitely not a road block: but as you said, it's not a guaranteed route into trade publishing, which is exactly the point I was making. If you look back, I was replying to this comment from SunriseSunset:

Quote:
I'm self pub because I love it. There's nothing wrong with using it to get a fair trade pub deal. Keep going, keep selling, and one day they might be fighting over you.
You seem to be arguing with me in order to help prove my points. I could get used to that!
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Old 01-09-2013, 12:27 AM   #22
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So. New book has been released for about a week. It is called Planet Bob. Because it is.

it's also over here, if anybody's curious.

Nobody bought it for most of the week. I was sad.

Then I decided to have another free offer with the previous book (the sci-fi story everybody buys) and by the end of the free period I'd sold six copies. And one person went on to buy the DOA book I'd advertised in the back matter of Plant Bob. That is very encouraging. It also resulted in my first two UK sales in three months.

So now I am no longer sad. Hopefully the freebie day (it was big) will keep the first book floating a while yet, too.

December finished out with 26 sales. 13 were the sci-fi book. 3 were of the first urban fantasy book and 4 were of its sequel.

January has gone well, too. Thanks to the freebie thing and the sales it lead up to, I've sold a book a day so far this month.

I have sold 118 books in total.

I now have to do MASSIVE amounts of writing. I am about three manuscripts ahead--as in the next book "Due" is an urban fantasy I already wrote, and then another epic, and then the third book in the sci-fi series. I know this cycle makes no sense, but to me, it gives me two months off from each universe. It lets each story cool off, I can come back to it with a relatively clean mind, edit the everloving daylights out of it, and then write the next book in the series with the universe fresh in my mind due to the editing binge. It works. Kind of. It wouldn't work for 100K+ books, I don't think, but for now it works fine. Anyhoo, third sci-fi book (the one I really want to write, now that the idea has matured) is, of course, kicking my rear hard.

To me, the greatest miracle was that I got this book out AT ALL. I'm a waitress at a demanding upscale restaurant. The take home money is good, but usually I come home feeling like the coke machine ate me. New Years was the worst. Protip: never break in new shoes on New Year's Eve when you are a waitress. Ever.

*checks thread*

Yeah.

I guess I just naturally assume the worst and plan from there. It's better IMHO to assume that there's no other option when the odds of that other option ever happening are so very, very small. Some people do get breaks and luck out and have a great story to tell at the end of the day. I'm not usually one of them. The handful of times things really worked out exactly the way I wanted them to are when I've had to do all of it, and no other people are involved. I think that's why self publishing appealed to me. If I succeed, it's because I'm good. If I fail...well, at least I know it's not because someone else had to make an arbitrary decision, or spilled their coffee and wasn't in the mood to read the last few manuscripts of the day. I'll know for sure it's because I'm not good enough, and it'll be easier to move on from there. Not easy, exactly, but at least I'll know it's not because I didn't roll the dice often enough.

Edited to add: And while I was typing this up I sold another three books. Two of the sci-fi book and one of the sequel.

I squee with joy and rapture.
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Old 01-09-2013, 02:22 AM   #23
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Congrats on the sales, and even more on the work ethic to have so many projects in the pipeline. In that, you seem to be the following the path that has brought success to many self-published authors.
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Old 01-09-2013, 03:22 PM   #24
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Hi Christwriter,

I was reading your thread and I thought, wow, you've put in some effort so far. Great start to the year as well, I admire you for being able to get in so much writing/editing, while still working full-time.

Best of luck.
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Old 01-09-2013, 07:43 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spell-it-out View Post
Hi Christwriter,

I was reading your thread and I thought, wow, you've put in some effort so far. Great start to the year as well, I admire you for being able to get in so much writing/editing, while still working full-time.

Best of luck.
I cheat.

Waitressing at a restaurant with no lunch service usually means I get until three or four o'clock (Depending on my boss's mood) to work. It really helps that the place is moderately upscale (read as: the customers have lots of money, but get to show up in flip flops and a t-shirt if they want to. It's a weird place) When it's slow (like now), I'll have like three-day work weeks sometimes, and when it's busy I'll make rent in one night.
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