December 13, 2022
by Annie McCormick
Creativity isn’t just reserved for your writing. It’s also a way to approach the way you work and live.
The career of an agented author is not a traditional one. There are no water cooler conversations, no marketing departments, IT support, 401K plans, or paid vacation days.
The life of an agented author is truly one of an entrepreneur. You are fully responsible for your goals, schedule, finances, IT support, marketing, tax write-offs, and vacation days. It’s all up to you. Like it or not.
Your college kids can probably help with tech support and there is some slick software out there to help with expenses and bookkeeping. Where you will feel the aloneness of it most is in the promotion and publicity of your book. You will be your own publicist. And if you are making a career shift to author from auditor, educator or law, you likely don’t have much experience selling a product.
You have written the book and that’s great. Take a quick second and give yourself a pat on the back. Because now you need to jump right back in there and sell the book. And if you have a multi-book deal (yay you), you will need to sell one book, while starting the next one. Any time management skills honed in your prior career will serve you well here.
To promote your book, you'll reach out to book bloggers, bookstore owners, book club hosts, and any other place where people gather and books are present. You will do book signings in rooms of two or three, one of whom is likely your spouse or mother. You will learn how to reach out to local media, take pics of your book (if you can work a cat or dog in the picture, that’s a bonus), master the giveaway, and spend hours on social media tagging, liking, and “interacting to build a following,” wondering all the while which of these efforts, if any, will sell a book.
All this while you're writing the next one.
For much of this, you are flying blind.
When you are an author who sells millions of books you'll have a professional publicist, but for now, get creative, set up a lemonade stand and start selling. One book at a time.
You will learn to think creatively about everything. You will need solutions that fall outside of the typical options.
Once you start to look at life from the nontraditional path, some interesting nontraditional ideas start to take shape.
As I write this I’m on a plane, again. Because I found a creative solution to my financial reality.
Entrepreneurs are visionaries. They are resourceful, they are jacks and jills of all trades. They somehow figure out a way to make it all work. They keep their eye on the prize and approach problems and solutions creatively.
The proverbial out-of-the-box approach to everything.
Remember the first rule (way back in September): Don’t Quit Your Day Job. You will need to finance this career shift. You can certainly bring some of your creativity to financial planning. When I ran my bakery, I did, in fact, quit my day job. I opened a bakery and tried to do it all on the profits of a cranberry white chocolate chip cookie. I was literally living on crumbs. I had no income to pay my personal bills and no money to grow my business, invest in myself, learn new skills, or buy bread pans.
Creativity isn’t just color pallets and pithy phrases, it’s also problem-solving and creative thinking about every aspect of your business.
I did not allow for creative problem-solving in my bakery. I kept the creative to the baking and got overwhelmed with the rest. As a result, I was drained—physically, emotionally and of course financially. Absent the energy to think creatively, I failed.
After I closed the bakery, I returned to executive leadership in the nonprofit world. I am good at this very traditional job and all its traditional structure and solutions. Trust me, having IT support and a marketing department with social media teams is awesome.
But I missed the dreaming, I missed leaning in and going for it and the personal satisfaction that comes with it. And so, I’m back in the world of creatives, trying to keep my head above water.
So how do I do it differently this time?
I stepped down, not out.
I stepped down from an executive spot in the world of nonprofits. I now have a job that is about four rungs down the ladder (the view is really interesting from down here, btw). I took a huge cut in salary but kept my benefits and gave myself the gift of time.
No more 60-hour weeks. Crisis management at 2:00 AM, donor dinners, fundraisers, board meetings on Saturdays, and checking email before bed are now a thing of the past. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my big jobs, The demands on my time were a reasonable expectation of the job and the salary. But it’s not what I want anymore.
There are financial consequences to a salary hit. And that required some creativity. A home with its mortgage, utility bills, chimney sweeping, mulch deliveries, bulb planting, and periodic driveway sealing is an expensive reality. I no longer had the income to cover such an expense.
Homelessness is not an option. And I’ve never been a fan of the starving artist trope.
So, I got creative. Really creative about how I live.
I now house sit/pet sit. Full time. (See the picture above and you'll see it's not exactly a hardship.)
In the last 18 months I have traveled around the country and to a few places outside of the country to walk Goldendoodles, play ball with Border Bollies, pamper the Poms, and get ignored by felines. Between personal referrals and a few well-respected websites I have lived well, floated in pools, lounged on chaise lounges and mastered every tv remote control on the planet—all while working remotely (for the salary and benefits) and writing (for the dream).
I do not get paid for this (in most cases), but I have eliminated the living expense I could no longer afford.
I leave for Ireland today. I’ll be spending three weeks outside of Dublin, walking and napping with two ancient little grey dogs, while their owner visits her grandchildren. The dogs and I will curl up by the fire, they will nap, and I will write. It is a win-win.
It is creativity at its finest.
Often referred to as the Queen of BS (Brand Strategy) Annie McCormick has a distinguished career, spanning nearly three decades, setting brand strategy for organizations big and small. She is a dynamic, strategic, nonprofit executive and storyteller with extensive experience setting strategy to advance the mission of the institution and engage key strategic partners. She currently reigns as the Queen of BS for Tall Poppy Writers.
She aspires to write novels that will make you laugh, go with you everywhere and be featured in your social media feed with glasses of wine and good chocolate.
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