What is an “essential worker”?

One of the things I struggled with when I worked at various businesses was the thought that I didn’t matter. The job I did wasn’t important, and I wasn’t “essential” to the running of society. Today we have a whole government that has decided who is and who isn’t essential, and everyone else has been deemed unessential. To have the work you do to earn a living dictated in such a fashion seems a bit harsh, but we did it for a good reason, right?

“Essential worker” is an interesting thought experiment. What do you need? Let’s try a laptop to work from home. How many people are required to make that laptop, ship the various ingredients, refine them, mold them, and assemble them? How about tech support when it breaks, or a repair person? How about electricians to keep the power plants running, ISP workers to keep your internet working, and all the people necessary to make the parts (fiber optics, copper wires, mechanics for the trucks, etc. Etc) that the techs are going to need.

Everything can be bought through Amazon, but they don’t build it. They don’t get the raw materials or refine it. They don’t keep the system running that you need to use it.

Heck, even thinking about Avocado toast and all the people needed to grow, pick, process, bake, ship, and sell the items in that simple meal…. It’s a chain of people and they all have their place.

It has taken me a while to realize that it wasn’t the jobs I had that made me feel unimportant. A lot of it was the fact that management made it known that I could be replaced with anyone else, and it wasn’t my job that wasn’t important, it was me. They boiled the job down to the necessities, and it didn’t matter who did it, they just needed a warm body.

And if it wasn’t the employer reminding me how little they needed me it was sometimes the customer that looked down on me for having that job. The shouts, snide looks, or condescending attitude that said they were better than me because they managed to get a “real” job. And yet they were there for my customer service. What would they do if that job disappeared?

One of the jobs I had was making noodles at a noodle factory. It seems like an unimportant job, but in the first days of the corona virus noodles were one of the first things to disappear from the shelves. It seemed important to all the millions of people who eat noodles every day.

Another job was a storage facility. It seems like a perfectly useless job, so many people just have them for “stuff” right? But I met so many people who had just lost a parent and were storing their stuff while they dealt with the funeral arrangements. Or people moving to new opportunities. Or people who just lost their home and had to have storage because they had no other option. I had so many people thank me for a warm smile, or a kind word. I had people cry telling me about their mom who just passed away, and how they just didn’t know what they were going to do now that she was gone. For those brief moments… I mattered.

What is “essential”? Humanity has been building upon the jobs and inventions of past generations for centuries. Each part fits together to hold up the other.

I think if you feel a job is “unessential” then you shouldn’t go there. If you think they really don’t matter than stop giving them your money. Eventually the unessential jobs will fade away. But the jobs that do exist are there for a reason. They provided a service someone needed, either to feed them, cloth them, shelter them, or just keep them entertained. And each job is an intricate part of a greater whole.

I think once quarantine lifts we’re going to realize just how essential some things are, things we perhaps forgot or gave up for a time. I only hope that this reminds us to be kinder to those who serve us because we need them as much as they need us.

Self Publishing – $1500?

I’ve been following Joanna Penn since she appeared on “The Self Publishing Podcast“. She’s a very interesting, thoughtful, and educated woman. She’s got her stuff together, and her books are pretty good too.

She often links to interesting articles about writing and publishing on her twitter and facebook. That is where I get a lot of my “This week in publishing” links.

Today she linked to “How Self Published Books are Made Start to Finish“.

The first thing I notice is a list of “things you should have” and one entry:

  • Money to invest in said book. I wouldn’t start this without $1,500 in the bank marked ‘I can lose this’

Who can afford to just mark $1,500 dollars as “I can lose this”?

Okay, I understand her reasoning. There are editors, book cover designers, marketing, print books, advertising… Ya, there are a LOT of things that go into writing, publishing, and selling your books. Even if you go with a simple cover design that you put together you probably need to buy a licenses for the art work, unless you have some art skills.

But… $1500?

I’ve got 8 books out now. I’ve spent a total of $400. All of that went to editing one book, “Osiren’s Tears“. Granted, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the the editing. It seemed rushed, and I know someone who could have done a better job for a little more money, but he wasn’t available then.

Editing is worth the investment. Some day, I hope, I will make enough to have everything I have already put up re-edited, and then re-published as a new, better edition. But I’m on a budget, and my budget does not include $1500 to blow.

The nice thing about going indie in ANY industry (movies, music, writing, theater, art…) is that you can invest what you have. You can outsource, barter, scrimp, save, and adjust.

Here is what you really must have for self-publishing:

  • An idea
  • Time
  • Patience
  • Persistence
  • A plan
  • A finished manuscript
  • The ability to take criticism
  • An edit
  • A cover
  • More patience
  • The willingness to ask questions.

Only two of those things might cost you some actual hard earned money, and there are ways to get around that too. Got a friend who is an artist? Suggest a trade. You’ll do something for them (babysit, cook, clean, wash their car) if they design a cover for you. Got a group of friends that like to read? Will they be your beta readers and give you some good feedback on cleaning up your prose? Writers workshops are free, and often help a lot.

Another wonderful part about indie industry is that there are a lot of people doing the same thing, and willing to help out in many ways. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for help, look for tutorials on youtube, read a how to book, and ASK QUESTIONS!

Now, granted, just throwing your book up on amazon will not bring a lot of sales to you. That’s where marketing, and word of mouth comes in. But if your book is good, interesting, and well written, and you put yourself out there where people will see you, then you have a good chance of getting some readers.

Then the trick is to start the whole process over again. The more you publish, the more noticeable you will be. This is true even for really bad writing. There are some terrible books out there with awful covers, and horrible grammar. But they keep producing, and there are people who read their stuff. Go figure.

Point being… you can produce a book for the low cost of ZERO dollars. Doesn’t mean it will be good, or sell, but you can do it. 

And if it is good, or just pretty good, and you get some sales, then maybe you can start saving up for that $1500, and a proper release of a bigger project later.

Sales and Confidence

When I first started publishing I was a little worried. Worried no one would like it, worried I would make a bad name for myself, worried I’d never sale one… etc. etc.

But it’s actually going better then I thought it would. Sure, I’ve only had 22 sales, and 48 freebies… but that’s 60+ people that read my book.

What’s even better, I have only 4 and 5 star reviews. That makes me think I’m on the right track, even if it is a slow track.

sms2mall

On that note… I’ll be putting out Small Bites 2 next week. Now that I have some momentum I want to keep that going. I am working on several projects at once so that I will (hopefully) be able to publish something new every Friday for a while.

Books will come out as 99 cents for the first weekend, and then go up, except the Small Bites series. They will stay 99 cents as they are really short.

Then, once all the Small Bites are out, I will stick them up as one set for 2.99 (which gets you one book for free). And I will also be working to put out a big book of all my short stories eventually. No idea what I will price it at yet.

But for right now… Small Bites 2, and we’ll worry about everything else later.