Equity

I think that if you invest ten years into something, it's natural to hope to see equity.

Whether it's a mortgage or a career, you'd like to think you're making progress. That you've swapped out those ten years of your life for something you can build on.

I've been thinking about equity for a while now.

This coming May marks ten years since I left a lucrative job in online poker to pursue my dreams as a writer.

This April marks nine years since I signed with an agent. About eight and a half years since I got my first book deal.

This past March meant seven years have passed since my first novel was published.

My friends who stuck around in that poker job bought property with their paycheques. They've since sold those first homes and made tidy profits.

I never felt comfortable enough in my career to commit to a mortgage, not as my first book deal led to the second, and so on. Not in Vancouver, especially.

I rented. In hindsight, I should have found a way to buy in.

But that's not the kind of equity I'm talking about.

On May 21st, the good people at Mulholland Books are going to publish my tenth novel, DECEPTION COVE.

I'm very proud of this book and excited to launch it to the world. The early reviews have been very flattering.

I'm also extremely proud to have published ten books at all. It's a hell of a milestone and not something I take for granted.

But I'll admit that it would feel a lot better if I'd managed to carve out a little more job security, somewhere between book one and book ten.

This past fall, I had an idea that I hoped would bring some stability to my career.

I wanted to break into the movie business.

Frankly, I didn't care exactly where I ended up working in Hollywood, just that I wanted to write for the screen. Adapt my own books, develop new projects, work on someone else's ideas, I was easy.

I've just always been fascinated by film and TV, and it seemed like it would be fun and there would be money in it.

And I thought that having a career as a proven storyteller would help me get my foot in the door.

This, it turns out, was a gross miscalculation.

I wrote a few scripts. Stories I'd been batting around as novel ideas, sequels to my poor, orphaned Gale Force.

My hope was to leverage the scripts into publishing interest, or vice versa. But to do this would require convincing people I was special.

By and large, I did not succeed at this. I could barely find people to read what I'd written.

It turns out that having ten books published by major New York houses won't get you out of a talent manager's slush pile.

I could hardly get friends in the industry to take a call without months of the runaround.

Hell, I couldn't even get my own representation in Hollywood excited.

I'm not writing this as a woe is me thing.

Rather I'm writing this as an admission: I was looking for a short cut.

I was hoping I could send out a couple of scripts and package that with the equity I assumed I must have already banked, and use it to bypass the really hard work.

That I could convince someone to take a chance on me and, if they found my screenwriting was still a bit raw, to trust my pedigree and give me a job anyway.

But it turns out that equity I thought I had is just vapour. I had more equity as a debut writer the day before THE PROFESSIONALS was released, way back in 2012, than I do after nine books, seven years, and mostly middling sales.

No one's letting me butt the line, anyway.

Certainly I had no right to expect preferential treatment, or, you know, an instant shower of money.

It turns out there's only minimal equity to being a midlist author. I won't say none, because my name does count for something and my books have fans, inside the industry and without.

But there still aren't any shortcuts at this point.

There aren't any get-rich-quick schemes.

What there is, is work.

Old-fashioned hard work, and lots of it.

I was back east in Ontario recently and I visited three families, all around my age and all very dear to me. They all made different decisions than I did in their twenties, weathered some lean years but kept moving forward.

They worked hard, and built equity, and although their lives aren't perfect, they're beginning to see the rewards of that labour.

The visits threw my own situation into stark contrast. Certainly they made me wonder if I've made the wrong decisions.

Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of what I've accomplished and the work that I've done.

But I would have liked to have reached a point in this career where I can say that I'm making an impact, that my readership is rising and I'm building toward something.

That this life I lead could be permanent.

I'm not there yet.

The way things stand now, I'll need to publish two or three books a year to maintain this career.

To keep my hand in the game and hopefully start building some equity.

I can write two or three books a year, if I can find publishers willing to print them. If I can't, I'll publish them on my own.

I can build my readership and build a career.

It won't come from equity. It's going to take work.

But fortunately, I still know how to do that.