I wanted to write this post for a couple of reasons. One, to counter the claim I saw recently that crowdfunding is necessary to create a debut novel, because you need money to write. Note that the claim here is not: I need money for editing, formatting, or a cover. No, it was, I need money in order to finish writing my first novel. The second reason was to acknowledge a big influence on my publishing career, and to praise a man who has too much undeserved scorn heaped on him these days.
First of all, when I started writing Vulcan’s Kittens, which is my first published novel (I had about half of The Eternity Symbiote written prior to it, although it would be published later), I wasn’t trying to make money. As a matter of fact, I was pretty sure I’d never sell VK to, well, anyone. I wrote it because my daughter asked me to. So the idea of asking for money while I was doing it never crossed my mind. I had no idea if it was any good. I hadn’t heard of Indie Publishing, and knew that vanity publishing was not for me. While I was writing VK, I was a single mother of four, working two and sometimes three jobs, receiving no support from their father. And it wasn’t published until after I had gone back to college full time on top of that.
The idea of crowdfunding so that I could sit at home and write in my comfy chair, or possibly go and do research in some coffeeshop with my laptop on my knee never even crossed my little brain. My office mates watched me carry a notebook or my decrepit laptop into the lunchroom, eat in five minutes, and write like mad for 45 minutes until it was time to get back to my desk. They thought I was a little crazy, but were fascinated with the idea of writing a novel. Then I’d go home, take care of my kids, and when they went to bed, I’d write for another hour before falling into bed myself. I worked weekends and wrote around the erratic schedule then. In due time – and the bulk of Vulcan’s Kittens was written during NaNoWriMo – I had a manuscript.
Now, the concept that was pitched to me last week was that in the tech industry, you release a product, and then the beta users come back with bug reports, you fix them, and so on until you have a final result. This, the aspiring author insisted, was how it should be. People who wanted to read your book should give you some money, tell you where they saw problems, and you would work on those while offering another section of the book for some more money…
This is not, I assure anyone who had a doubt, how publishing works. Don’t try it. Readers do not want to pay for the privilege of being your editor.
As for me, the story continues. With no help from any crowds, I now had a rough manuscript. I had a writing group that mentored me through short stories prior to this, and I was slowly reconnecting with them (and this blog). I had no money. The stage is set: enter, Larry Correia.
I don’t think I’ve told this part of my story here on the blog before. I’d discovered Larry through Baen, when they bought the rights to his previously self-published Monster Hunter International, and published it with a typically Baen all-action-all-the-time cover, and I probably bought it in Webscriptions (no money does not equal no book budget. I don’t smoke, barely drink, and most important: don’t have cable. That I could have a few new books a month through the then low price of $15 was a boon to a struggling single mum). In July of 2012, I learned that Larry would actually be in my state, and I decided that I had to go see him. There were a few problems with this plan. One, he didn’t know me from Adam (or Eve, since I’m undeniably female). Two, no money. Three, and worst of all, no car. He’d be an hour’s drive from me… I pitched the plan to a friend and mutual SFF reader, who’d never even heard of Larry Correia. He was kind enough to make it an expedition.
And this is where I first learned the true nature of Larry Correia.
You see, this wasn’t a formal signing. There just aren’t that many SFF fans in NH. So Larry’s plan was to swing by the Toadstool Bookstore in Milford, NH, sign whatever they had in stock, and go off to bigger and better events. And here this Baen Barfly – my only tie to him, I’d never talked to him before, as I try not to pester my favorite authors – was sending him a message asking when he’d be there, please, so she could meet him? He obligingly gave me a firm time, which he hadn’t planned on, and we headed south.
When I walked into the bookstore, the only person in the shop was the guy behind the counter. I approached him and asked when the signing with Larry Correia would be. He looked up from his work and said ‘oh, hey, he told me you were coming. He’s gone to lunch at the Chinese place next door, said you should come join him.’
And that is how I wound up spending an hour picking a bestselling author’s brain about selling a manuscript, self-publishing, and baby pictures (ok, that’s not really about writing, but I was delighted to get a peek at Epic Baby). And you know what? For a couple of years now, I’ve seen the casual accusations about Larry thrown around. Misogynist? Seriously? He sat there with me, never even blinked at my rampant femaleness, and gave me solid business advice, peer-to-peer. I’ve met Larry socially and professionally several times since them, and he’s always hail-fellow-well-met, with never a blink at my womanhood. It simply doesn’t matter to the man. He was more concerned with helping me get better, and be professional (the gist of our initial conversation was: treat it like a business) than he ever was with assuming I was a lesser being for my gender. It simply doesn’t matter to him. He’s always treated me and the other women who I know are mutual friends with us as: I’m his equal in capacity when it comes to writing, I might not have the experience he does, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn.
It enrages me to see him treated like a woman-hater. I’ve seen him with his wife, and he’s a devoted husband, tender to her as a man should be. I’ve seen him with women like myself who have a professional relationship with him, and he’s serious when necessary, witty, and always respectful. I’ve watched him with his publisher, who is a woman, and their relationship is a blast to watch. She jokes with him, he teases her, but there is still a deep mutual respect there, one that makes his working relationship an ideal for those of us who work in this industry. I hear all the stories about editors and authors. I see the authors tossed away like used tissues. But there is a higher standard that can be had, and Toni Weisskopf exemplifies that.
His relationship with peers? Look up the Monster Hunter Nation and a phenomenon called a ‘book bomb’. I can unreservedly say that the man gives wholeheartedly. He knows this isn’t a zero-sum game, we authors aren’t competing against one another, we’re mutually feeding a hungry and growing pool of readers. When Larry knows a friend or even acquaintance needs a boost, he pitches their book. He’s not afraid to help other authors. I can’t say how much a help it is, as I’ve never been bombed, but I can say that I’ve bought several books because Larry said “this is good, and this person needs a hand.” Now, that’s how to work crowd-funding. But it takes a big pool of trust and respect, which have to be earned.
Did I become an Indie publisher because of Larry Correia? No. But he was a huge influence as I tried to figure out if I was going to become a writer, a real professional writer. For that, I’d like to thank him profusely, and to ask:
When’s the next book out? because I can afford more books now, and I want to buy it!