Saturday, December 7, 2019

Stumbling into the Side Hustle that Saved Me

Okay, so 'saved me' - as the title to this post states-- is possibly a bit over-dramatic, but not by much. Three years ago I knew I needed a more solid income again. Husband's job had changed, I was at an impasse about the option book for one of my publishers, I wasn't digging the unpredictable nature of substitute teaching, and for a variety of reasons, cobbling together a series of paid school visits for my YA novels wasn't as steady a set of extra gigs as I wanted either. Mostly, I think, after five years of working primarily from home, I was going stir crazy. I loved writing every day. I loved the freedom. But I wanted more structure. I wanted colleagues I had to get out of my pajamas for. I wanted to talk to someone on the daily who wasn't the dog.

So it was that I, with zero retail sales experience (unless you count McDonald's when I was seventeen, which I think is a stretch but was the last and only time I'd worked a cash register) but a solid, although admittedly author-side only knowledge of the publishing industry, stumbled into a job at Houston's oldest indie bookstore. "Children's Specialist" they said. That's what they needed. Part-time, although we tussled a bit over how many hours that would be. 15 sounded good to me. 30 sounded good to them. We ended somewhere in the middle... at least to start. They taught me how to use the cash register. Having only taught school or wrote from home, I learned what it was like to have a job where at least some days there was an actual lunch break of more than 7 minutes involved.

Fast forward to this week, three years plus later. It's been quite the ride. Not just because the job evolved (as jobs do when you are a Type A human) and I'm now Kids' Programming Director, pitching for events to the publishers, arranging and implementing school visits, broadening the shop's scope and partnerships, buying for kids and YA. (yeah, still part time...sort of) Not just because it turns out I was born for retail and love nothing more than putting the right books in people's hands. Or because I love being an advocate for authors and I love working with librarians and I pretty much discovered that I love it all, including working with publicists and reps and writing reviews and blurbs... and did I mention all those early galleys we get to read? (Are asked to read sometimes by the pubs, which will never stop being a thrill!)

It's also -- this crazy bookseller side hustle--reminded me of all the reasons I wanted to have my own books published in the first place. It's easy to get jaded and burned out in the business. It is after all a piece of the entertainment world, more or less-- always looking for the next best thing, always chasing that elusive something else. For most of us in the middle, that can be a hard pill to swallow some days. Exhausting to keep at it, to keep out there, to avoid getting sucked into the load of crazy that is social media where everyone teeters being carefully curated and shouting into the void. It's easy to think that everyone is doing better than you and guess what? They're not always. Lots of books don't sell the way they are expected to and lots of books get on lists because they are positioned to and what a great thing it is to work at an indie where we can champion any book we love and not just the ones on a corporate script. What a great thing to have a voice through my job to let the publishers know when I love a book.

Anyway. I love this job, too. I'm writing happily again, albeit not quite as fast as when I had hours of each day. I've found my full voice again in a million different ways.

Til next time...




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