This weekend I dropped my first new release since July. I haven’t put out a new product in five months. That might not sound like a big deal, but you have to understand the context. In my first two years in business, I published over 50 titles. A new book roughly every two weeks. It was a grind. Fortunately, I no longer need to do that. So please, listen to my weary humblebrag.
Earlier this year it hit me that my schedule wasn’t sustainable. Not in the long term. The thing is, it was never meant to be. I needed to build some momentum, establish a customer based and a reputation, and do it relatively quickly. While I wanted to go a little bit longer, drive a little but further, I was burning myself out. I had to hit pause a bit earlier than I’d planned.
The thing is, that grind is what allowed me to step back a bit. I’ve been coasting on the strength of my back catalog for the last half of this year. Money’s getting made, the bills are getting paid. It allowed me to not only downshift into a more sane work paradigm, I got to work on some things that were back-burnered. Some behind-the-curtain business stuff got restructured. I finally figured out the print-on-demand process. More care can be taken in the writing and editing, because I’m not rushed to release.
During this transition period, a well-known game designer released his numbers. He disclosed how much he makes. 2017 was his best year ever. I had already earned more than his high-water mark in 2018, and the year was far from over yet. He’s got relative fame and a lot of awards. I know his stuff sells better than mine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool stuff. I love his work. He just, well, he just does things the traditional, expected way.
My Weary Humblebrag
The game designer in question gets by because his wife apparently makes a good living. Actually, I know more than one creator that can do what they do thanks to a financially and emotionally supportive spouse. There’s nothing wrong with that. In the meantime, I’m supporting Katie and I solely on what I earn in this industry where it’s difficult to make a decent living.
I’m not going to name names, because I’m not looking to start any sort of beef. My goal isn’t to shame anyone, to say that they’re the ones doing it wrong. The point I want to make is that there’s more than one way of doing things. There’s more than one definition of success. It’s all about what problem you’re solving for.
This is why I went to business school for another BA rather than going for an MFA in writing. It’s why I embrace my minimalist aesthetic, and regularly raise a toast to Roger Corman. He figured out how to make profitable movies without the studio system. He innovated and got wildly creative. Question the status quo, and dare to be different.
tl;dr I’m Doing It All Wrong
Of course, as I’m riding high and feeling good about myself, another game designer that I admire just took a dump on me. It’s the same lecture I’ve heard before, about what the market wants, and the trajectory other successful companies have taken, and that same old song and dance. tl;dr I’m doing it all wrong. I’d like to note that they have a day job, and games are their side hustle. I’m into my third year making a living doing this, and only this.
I know that I’m never going to be one of the cool kids. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever get any respect or recognition from anyone other than the folks who “get” my stuff. I appreciate the hell out of those people. I’d just like to have a moment where I can pat myself on the back and be proud of what I’ve accomplished so far. Because this is work, my success is legit, and I am a genuine badass.