Personal Musings: New Paths

So, once again, I have been unable to regularly get posts up here, this time in large part to a pair of major changes in my life and career trajectory, which I touched upon a couple months back in one of my last posts on here. First, as mentioned there, I moved country, from the United States (specifically New York City) to Israel, where I’ve been living on a small kibbutz for the last three+ months as part of what’s called an ulpan program (intensive Hebrew learning)–and in this particular one, we also do work as well. I’ve done several jobs, but for a while now I’ve been working in the kibbutz’s organic garden (which is really a small field as opposed to what usually comes to mind when one thinks of a garden.) Quite a change from living in New York City (even though I didn’t live in the most urban part of city.) This program ends in the beginning of February, after which I’ll be living truly on my own for the first time, and, if all goes to plan, in about eight months from now I’ll start a year and a half of voluntary service in the Israeli Defense Force.

Here, however, I’ll focus a bit more on the second major change, that of deciding to take the self-publishing path after several years of attempting the “traditional” path. I have several reasons for making this decision, all of which have come after significant time spent following the publishing industry for the last several years, and from interacting with other writers during that time. For one, from what I have determined, the average earnings of self-published authors and traditionally published authors is essentially the same at this point. “Doing well” is, as ever, not easy and never a given, but I have not seen any evidence that the traditional path, in which it is both much harder to get started and moves a much slower pace, holds any advantages for me in that area. The second major reason for my making this decision is political. Politics within the sci-fi and fantasy publishing world has become a very toxic thing in recent years, and I’m sure anyone with even passing familiarity with the Hugo Awards controversy has some idea of the general issue. And as has been abundantly clear, the publishing establishment, as it were, as well as a significant majority of the sci-fi and fantasy publishing world is extremely left-wing politically.

This, of course, leaves someone like me, who sits on the other end of the political spectrum, in a precarious position. Now those who follow me one Twitter know that I don’t talk politics very often. Part of it is because I don’t want that to become the focus of my online presence–I’d much rather talk about geeky things, and my own work in particular. However, I would like to be able to talk about political issues that matter to me both when and how I want, without fear of being exiled from my community, becoming the target of harassment over my view, or, worse, losing a publishing deal over such an issue, as has happened to at least one author. And there’s the fact that be merely living where I live, and because of where I hope to do military service on their own could lead to such a backlash. Why should I put myself in a position so precarious, where I could so quickly lose everything because someone doesn’t like my political opinion or, even more pettily, doesn’t like the fact that I associate (even on a very minor scale) with people they deem “deplorable.” This has happened to me once already on Twitter, where I was blocked my a well-known author for such a stupid reason, and I have, over time, come to notice that I am blocked by several other people in the sci-fi and fantasy world–people who I have never once interacted with, which means that either I’ve been targeted by an auto-blocker, or somehow learned I was blocked by one person and then blocked me on principle. Don’t get me wrong–I have many friends and acquaintances in the sf/f world with whom I disagree with strongly from a political standpoint, but I value such relationships more than I value surrounding myself with only people who think like me. I would hope that those friends would not cut ties with me (or worse, incite harassment) over such things, but it behooves me to put myself in a position where I’m always worrying about what I say, and who sees it, and how it can affect my career. Additionally, with the increased freedom of self-publishing, I can actively cultivate a readership that won’t turn on me for my beliefs–though I of course welcome readers of all types. Fiction is one place where politics should come second to story quality, which is why message fiction, no matter the angle, is so often terrible and cringeworthy.

To move off that topic, I am also enjoying the freedom and the better pace of the self-publishing. While, of course, I have to commit money up-front to hire an editor, a cover artist, and get my book formatted, that also means that I can choose my editor, and work with my cover artist directly. If I was working with a publisher, I as a new author would have next to no input on the cover, and I’d have a very different relationship with an editor. This way, also, I can form mutually beneficial relationships with the people I choose to work with, and I am very fortunate to have worked with the excellent Ben Zwycky, who made the editorial process productive and pleasant, and, having just seen the initial concept art for my cover by John Zeleznik, I am very excited to see how it comes out–and to work with him in the future.

I think I’ve gone on long enough for now; this is, after all, just discussing starting down the new paths. Come March, when my first book, A Greater Duty, will be released, I’ll be able to better write about how it has truly been traveling down these new paths. Between now and then, however, watch this space, as well as my online presence on Facebook (where I now have an author page), Twitter, and Gab, for updates as my book comes closer to release–and to follow me through yet more new experiences along the way. And, as always, until then, keep on reading and writing.

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