OK, I just ripped off the name of one of my pretty-much-abandoned blogs–one I started during the 2008 presidential election, continued until things got too crazy with the GOP, and finally abandoned, pretty much in despair. In fairness to me, I was in despair because my biggest clients were hard hit by the recession, which meant I was hard hit, the credit card companies decided to secure their hefty earnings and unearned bonuses by raising my interest rates (even though at the time I hadn’t missed a payment), I was struggling to get my mortgage modified to reflect my new circumstances (and like millions of others, discovered after going through a bizarre and frighteningly arcane process that I had been lied to, unfairly rejected–and that I could do absolutely nothing about it), was dealing with one credit card company simply helping itself to one of my bank accounts without authorization, and in the end, declaring bankruptcy. I was Busy. Listening to Mitch “Touché Turtle” McConnell prattle about how his major goal was ensuring that President Obama was a one-term president was not helpful. Nor was watching Messrs. Boehner (which is invariably pronounced “Boner” at our house) and Cantor, holding sleek, tanned, and well-fed press conferences about how thwarting every piece of legislation to come down the pike–even their own–was serving to prevent “job-killing legislation.” I wish I had a nickel for every time they used that particular bit of meaningless jargon. It wasn’t even helpful to watch the Democrats, led by President Obama, bending over backwards to accommodate a pack of dogs in the manger whose openly stated goal was to destroy the country in their insane quest for power. It just all seemed so senseless, I stopped watching.
I knew the folks in Washington were a)actively bent on my destruction since I didn’t have enough to afford my own personal lobbyist, or b) too frightened to take any meaningful action to help. About the time the nice man at the Consumer Credit Counseling Center was telling me that my only realistic option was bankruptcy purely because my credit card interest rates had gone so high I no longer had a hope of paying even the interest, I realized that all the well-meaning ineptitude and fiery, self-justifying rhetoric aside, I was On My Own.
Years ago I wrote a book about a woman whose car breaks down. When she discovers she can’t get replacement parts from the dealer (or even Detroit), she goes to the junkyard–and discovers that there are better things than simply re-establishing the status quo. She sees in the junkyard more than just the means to restore her ailing car. She sees an opportunity to turn it into the car of her dreams.
So how does that apply to me, and my own personal financial disaster? Well, I took my own character’s advice. I took a hard look at what I know, what I can do, and how I can do it better, less expensively, and for more people. In my case, that meant making some changes in where I seek work.
I pay my bills by designing, illustrating, and writing all sorts of things. Before the crash the vast majority of my work came from national, and international, corporations, as well as well-established businesses. Like me, those clients found themselves dealing with a financial and business world which had changed overnight. Some no longer exist. Some exist in altered forms. All have significantly changed the way they do business.
So have I. For one thing, during those first terrifying months when I found myself with far too much time and far too little work, I did some serious research into alternative ways to produce the kinds of things I had been doing for my clients for years. I discovered online book production sites that can produce quality books for niche markets at affordable prices.
And suddenly the national disaster revealed a silver lining. Before 2008, one of the most common complaints I read on writers’ message boards was that good books were too often sidelined or edited to their detriment based purely on publishers’ need to draw a certain number of buyers in order to cover the costs of book production. Basically, good books weren’t seeing the light of day because they dealt with a subject that only appeals to a niche market.
A second complaint that cropped up nearly as often was that even books that were published often were not marketed and distributed broadly enough to provide a meaningful return for the writer.
Online publishing, the proliferation of e-books and Kindle, and online sales and distribution outlets like Amazon now mean that anyone can now produce a book, and its success or failure is more likely to stem from the quality of the book than ever before. This is not to say that every self-published book is good–far from it. But a good writer who cares enough to hire quality editing and design, and who actively involves herself in promoting a book in which she believes, can enjoy reasonable success. While we have watched the nation being systematically destroyed by special interest groups and those beholden to them, the world of books and publishing has quietly become what the world of desktop publishing and graphics were twenty years ago–a place where someone committed to using the new technology to its fullest to produce the best product possible at the best rate for everyone can enjoy success. In short, it has become a place where the American Dream is still within reach. And that, no matter what horrible, infuriating circumstances created it, is a very good thing.
Especially for me. As my corporate work has waned, I built a business helping everyday people who wanted to write a good book achieve a dream. I offer my editing, design, and illustration skills, access to other quality designers and editors, and my knowledge of the publishing process to help people produce a book of which they can be proud.
What started out as an emergency measure has turned into a viable publishing alternative–so much so that the “real” publisher for whom I have designed books for years and I now consider whether a book and author will be best served by the traditional publishing process, or by the print on demand services the online sites offer.
And the wonder of it is that we’ve both discovered that we have new enthusiasm for the work we do–competitively priced print on demand and electronic publishing alternatives mean that we can produce quality books for smaller markets and still offer authors the design, editing, and distribution outlets they need to produce a quality book and make it easily available to their audience.
I am appalled at the way our nation’s elected leaders and the mega banks and corporations are functioning–or not functioning, rather, except in their own self-interests. But when I look at what has happened in my own life I find that I still have hope. As long as we as a people can find creative, innovative ways to meet the challenges that come to us, we will probably be all right–in spite of those we have entrusted with our national well-being.