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Cesar is the author of the standalone novel “The 13 Secret Cities” the book series "How to Kill a Superhero" (under the pen name Pablo Grene). He is also the creator and publisher of Solar Six Books.

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What It Felt Like to Quit My Dream Job

Editor

 Photo by Rob Lundskow, 2018

Photo by Rob Lundskow, 2018



From 2014 to 2016, I worked in what I thought was my dream job. I was managing editor at Wirecutter, which was one of the coolest startups in the world of journalism for consumer products. I had an apartment in the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and the city of New York embraced me with all its energy. I had self-published my first four novels during this time period, and I felt special for having a side hustle to accompany my day job.


On paper, I had what they call “Living your best life.”


But it wasn’t. At that time, I suffered from sciatica, a type of lower back pain which travels down one or two legs. That condition rendered me unable to walk more than two blocks without having to sit down on the sidewalk and clench my teeth to bear the electric jolts of pain. I also just looked like shit. I was bloated and pale, and my body looked really unhealthy, despite my regular habit of running three times a week and going to the gym every other day.


Like many people who work for startups, I thrived on the energy of my work environment, and I was committed to helping the growth of the team and serving the mission of the organization. But, the results I delivered were becoming uneven, and I couldn’t grasp why it was that some work days churned my stomach with dread, and other days didn’t.


In the summer of 2016, I decided to let go of my apartment, which in New York, is a big deal. Once people find a place, they do not let go for any reason. But I had an ambitious and somewhat unusual approach. I decided to work away New York for a few months. Once that time had passed and I felt better, I would come back to New York and find an all new apartment, so I could in effect turn a new leaf. I could do this thanks to the startup life. After all, our company was remote, and it was Slack, email and Zoom that connected us, not real office space. I sold most of my things, packed my clothes and laptop, and I said goodbye to Manhattan. When I landed in Chicago that June, I felt sick, and spent. Within a few days, I could see in my face just how hollowed out my eyes were. I knew then that I had to quit.


I let my manager know that I needed to step away and focus on my own writing, and more than anything, myself.


You would imagine that this moment when I quit my job would have been drenched in glory, but it wasn’t. It felt miserable. Like a mistake of sorts. It was so scary. It felt like being scraped from the inside with a cheese grater. It tasted of failure.


But I did it. I did it because I was going through a big change inside of me. I no longer fit in with my daily surroundings or with the teammates around me. This is not as simple as saying I hated my job, because that’s not the full story. I am also not going to bullshit you and describe a utopia of where I worked. All jobs are full of inept leadership, structural problems, racism, sexism, homophobia, and bozos, in various combinations. Ineptitude can happen in almost any job. My struggle really wasn't’ about the particulars of the environment that I was in. I was often perceived by the team I managed, my peers and my managers, as someone who is nice, intellectually strong, and a “giver,” which doesn’t actually tell the full story of what I’m like. I knew that there were other aspects of my skills and leadership that had nothing to do with being nice, or helpful to a fault. And though I could have worked on exhibiting those other qualities in this team, I wasn’t going to erase the solid image of how I was perceived.


That is, until I quit. Then it became evident that there were more dimensions to my character than what was at the surface.


You see, I was developing as an adult, and that particular job, despite being a dream job, was not going to help me do it. Nothing against them, because I had my own problems to solve. My journey required a new degree of solitude in which I could really discover my own depths, and in which I could make more provocative and risky choices. The chance to make these choices is what every leader, entrepreneur and artist dreams of.


By the time I had quit my job, I had already published four of my own books. You may think I am naive, but I didn’t think that this was such a big deal to have done this. I just saw it as my side hustle, and something that my heart compelled me to do. But the answer to my struggles was right there, in my books. You see, I had poured many types of energy into those novels: twenty five years of writing experiences as a journalist and fiction writing. I also threw in my expertise and tech and design. I wrote those novels using my understanding of human nature to describe characters who are flawed, and are always discovering who they are. And what’s even more important, I was channeling my entrepreneurial spirit into publishing those books. I was learning how to run my own business.


What I understand now in 2018, two years after that life-changing summer when I quit that job, is that I did well to listen to my artistic and business instincts and step the fuck away. Today, I am successfully running Solar Six, my own company, which publishes all my books. My sciatica has also resolved and has not returned. I am currently working on audiobooks of my novels, and I have expanded my editorial output to short documentaries and short films, which are funded via my Patreon account. I also launched LED Queens, a clothing line that I design and market. I have agency, and I have my own small team of designers, illustrators and creatives who help me make my readers, customers and fans happy. And most of all, I am not perceived as a “nice guy” and a “giver’ in this new role. Now I am described by others as as a queer punk, someone who is not afraid to be himself. Someone who takes charge and execute on ideas, works of art and design products that no one else can pull off.


Today my memories of quitting that job remain the same: they are painful memories, emotional burns that scorch and induce tears. But you know what? Quitting was the best thing I ever did. Because I found my actual purpose as a writer, designer and leader. I had to leave something behind, to let a part of me die, so another could be born from the carcass. If you have ever felt like quitting your job, and you don’t understand why you are doing it, this story will resonate with you. Although I don’t suffer fools gladly, and I encountered a few charlatans and sociopathic team members, I can’t say that I personally had an enemy or adversaries in that job of any kind. But I had an obstruction, and that obstruction was me. It wasn’t until I dealt with myself head on that I was able to become the person I am meant to be. And that journey continues. There’s still a lot more to learn, and as long as I am alive, I know to listen to my intuition. It is intuition that can be a powerful component for any leader and entrepreneur.




New York Publishers Rejected My Book Featuring a Trans Detective

Editor

I have been an indie author for more than six years. I have seven published books: one short story collection and 6 novels. The life of an indie author is not easy, and I don’t play victim. I like to work hard, and bring stories to my readers that they have never experienced before. This is not a hobby, it’s a job.


Before I was published, I spent most of my late twenties and early thirties pitching my manuscripts to the big dogs: the agents and publishers that are considered the Big Five. Their feedback to those early manuscripts was fairly similar. They liked my writing and characters, but they were not sure they could market the book. I have a stack of more than two hundred rejection letters from that time in my life.


In 2014, I self published my first book, and I treated the project seriously. I hired an editor, a book cover designer. I made a marketing plan. And thanks to the success of that first experiment, I self published the rest of my catalog. Thanks to my efforts in marketing via digital channels and at cons and places where readers gather, I published another one, and another. People bought the books, and I was on my way. I am currently working on two full-fledged series under my name and a pen name. I have a loyal readership for both of my series, and I talk to my readers everyday. They don’t care who published the book, or what the business model runs their financing. They come back to my books because they like the writing and above all, my characters.


9 Lords of Night, my latest novel in my Coil series, is the second volume in a near-future dystopian world where an authoritarian government encroaches, while Aztec gods enter from another dimension. My main characters are queer men, women, trans men. I also wrote How to Kill a Superhero, a series of 4 erotic thrillers that feature a very queer main character who develops superpowers and who is aided in his journey by gay men and a very powerful trans woman.


I am lucky to work full time as an author and to make a living from these books thanks to my own will and resolve to get these books into hands of readers. But I gave up on big publishers years ago.


In late 2016, when 9 Lords was still in one of many drafts, I pitched the concept to a top agent, and also a well known publicist. I did this not because I expected those publishers to pick up my book, but because I wanted to test the market trends of big publishing, to see if their attitude toward new authors and provocative new ideas had changed since the early days when I used to still send query letters.


The responses from the agent and publicist were eye-opening, but not surprising. The agent read my manuscript and asked me to make my trans main character more palatable, less cranky, less embittered by the prejudices set against him. He also acted very confused when he learned the character had dated women all his life but has a sexual encounter with a man in the novel. “I don’t think a trans person would do this,” the agent said. I asked him if he was trans. He said that no, he was cisgender and straight. “Do you have a lot of people who are trans in your life?” I asked, and he couldn’t answer the question. You see, I do have trans people in my life, including close relatives, and none of my trans beta readers bristled over my trans character the way this agent did. He wanted his ideas of what trans people should be to shoehorned into the novel. What I understood then is  And that’s a compromise I would never make in the stories I tell.


The publicist who I queried gave me a different answer. She had no interest at all in the gender identity of my characters, and instead took the time to explain that she could not take on indie authors, because there is pressure from the big 5 to support the efforts of more traditionally published authors. She did caution too, that it would be “easier to publicize the book if you had a few more straight characters in there.”


That’s what they said. You can draw your own conclusions.


Neither of these two anecdotes can be generalized to the whole industry. I am not naive enough to think that all agents and publicists are this risk-averse and cowardly. But I need you to know that if you are an author that wants to see your books reach the market place, traditional publishing is one of the least interesting places to attempt to do so nowadays.


I’m not gonna mince words. Stop querying the big publishers and agents. They don’t want you. And I am not telling you that they are rejecting you based on your sexual or gender identity or race (though that is also possinl). What I mean is that if your books don’t fit their current formula for revenue generation in the next two years, no matter how good your writing is, they are going to pass. You don’t fit into their plan for revenue generation, but that doesn’t mean your books can’t succeed.


There’s a lot of talk nowadays in traditional publishing circles about “diversity” and “inclusivity”, but the fact is that the New York agents and editors are part of these corporate publishers, and they are focused on making money. If these professionals tell you they care about stories featuring gay, queer or trans characters, it’s because those novels map to potential revenue streams. The individual politics and viewpoints of individual agents, editors and publishers will vary, and I don’t dispute that. But the industry is not taking on bold new stories. The evidence is right there in the titles that sell best. There more blandness and literary corrupt fiction up on those best-selled lists than you and I care to think about.


I am telling you this because if you are an upcoming writer, I don’t want you to get your hopes up that the big publishers will take a chance on stories of LGBTQ people, your characters of color, or those that don’t fit a certain mold. When agents and publishers represent and purchase a manuscript, they are betting on the book’s chances of succeeding in market forces. And trust me, your ideas of taking a chance on new ideas is not the same as theirs.


Start looking around, look at the tech and startup world, and start thinking of your own books as your startup. And by all means, start hanging out with other startup owners and entrepreneurs. The answers are going to be there.


In my case, Patreon and crowd-funding helped get my books to market as a supplementary means of financing. I am lucky enough to have experimented with Patreon since a few years ago, and what I found is that there are people who definitely believe in new stories. In my case, they want science fiction that includes people of color, trans cops, queer academics, and a host of other characters who you simply don’t see in the best-seller lists today.


Book publishing is a business. Stop telling yourself it is not. But what I am saying is that you can find a market for your books, even if at the start they feel like micro-niches. If you invest the time in marketing and developing your catalog, readers do come to your online storefront, be it iTunes, Kindle, YouTube and Stitcher (in the case of audiobooks), and your own web site’s e-commerce platform.


And yes, I know I excluded brick-and-mortar stores from the list of storefronts. Those stores are not in the position to help you in the long term, and I’ll write a future blog post about how digital, machine learning and the Internet will continue to make it tough for bookstores to really launch your career as an author.


Look around at all creative industries. Look hard. The music business has been hollowed out by the rise of music downloads and streams, and labels lately are even trying to take profits off merch and touring from artists, because the business model has changed. Hollywood only makes a certain type of movie (as I glance at superhero genre films as a main example), and instead,  Netflix, YouTube, Kickstarter and Patreon are the real places where filmmaking is taking bold steps forward. The studios don’t take chances on new or transgressive filmmakers and screenwriters.


You see the pattern here? If you believe in your work, you must put on an entrepreneur hat and build your artistic vision and book catalog in new ways. If you write cookie-cutter thrillers, then please, by all means go ahead and query New York so you can become the next thriller writer to fill airport bookshelves. But most writers are not those kind of writers. I never want to be that kind of writer.


Get ready to work hard. Get ready to suffer setbacks and disappointments. But when you self publish, crowdfund and collaborate with other indie authors and small businesses, you will find your readers. And based on market data, you will probably out-earn your traditionally published peers. I know I do.


Stop pretending like things are like they were in the “good old days of publishing.” Being a writer today involves discipline, hard work and talent, but getting your book published and thriving takes something more. It takes courage to step away from the way things have always been done.


Start breaking the rules.

Podcast 25: Daniel Stalter, Dreamcrasher and Kickstarter-Funded Comic Books

Editor

Daniel is a storyteller and a comic book writer based in Brooklyn, NY. He launched his first series Dream Crasher in 2015 with artist and frequent collaborator Reed Olsen. They have since published 4 of the 12 planned chapters, and have run two successful Kickstarter Campaigns. He joins me today to talk about his writing, why it took 10 years to write Dreamcrasher, and how he funded it via Kickstarter.

Related links

Got a question? Email me at my web site here.

Podcast 24: The Golden Age of Serial Killers Is Over

Editor

We continue with episode 4 in our four-part series about 9 Lords of Night, which releases you can read and download here. In this episode Eyre and I discuss the icon of the serial killer in America, and the place it has taken in the 21st century. We also discuss how that icon of the serial killer influenced my novel 9 Lords of Night, and my newest Pablo Greene erotic thriller Gold, which publishes next week in Kindle (paperback arrives in Feb).

Related links

  • My vlog on why I don’t expect people to like my novels

Wiki entries on William Friedkin and his film Cruising and The Exorcist.

Podcast #22: Claustrophobia, Aztec gods, and how writers embody their fictions

Editor

In today’s episode we our series of episodes, featuring my special guest novelist Eyre Price, author of Blues Highway Blues. Eyre goes deeper in this episode in his questions for me about  9 Lords of Night, which releases October 30.

  • We talk about the nature of the detective novel, and the way in which claustrophobia becomes part of 9 Lords of Night

  • We talk about the essence of complicated Aztec gods in my fictional universe, and how things just get more compllicated as time moves along.

  • Eyre also asks the question: Does a writer’s work change the writer physically and mentally?


You can listen to the previous podcasts I did with Eyre a few years ago when 13 Secret Cities published

Podcast #21 Season 2: Redefining the Supernatural in Fiction

Editor

In today’s episode:

  • We kick off SEASON 2 of the podcast, with a brand new series of episodes centered around 9 Lords of Night, featuring my special guest novelist Eyre Price, author of Blues Highway Blues

  • Eyre asks me a lot of questions about 9 Lords of Night, 13 Secret Cities, and we discuss the role of the supernatural in writing fiction, particularly novels.

  • You can listen to the previous podcasts I did with Eyre a few years ago when 13 Secret Cities published here on my YouTube channel.

 

If you like the show, leave us a review in iTunes here. Thanks. If you want to support the podcast with a donation, visit my Patreon page. Got a comment? Send us an email at our contact page.

Hello, World!

Podcast #19: Your role as art director if you self publish

Editor

In today’s episode:

  • I reveal a special suprise about 9 Lords of Night, which you can see with your own eyes here.

  • Your role as an art director if you are a self publisher and entrepreneur.

If you like the show, leave us a review in iTunes here. Thanks. If you want to support this show, visit my Patreon page. Got a comment? Send us an email at our contact page.

Podcast #18: Why a book author launched online clothing boutiques

Editor

In today’s episode:

 

  • I tell you why I launched online boutiques that are part the universes of my published novels.

  • Want to check out these stores? One is 13SC Apparel, and the other (NSFW) is How to Kill a Superhero.

If you like the show, leave us a review in iTunes here. Thanks. If you want to support this show, visit my Patreon page. Got a comment? Send us an email at our contact page.

3 things wrong with developmental editing

Editor

 Image courtesy of Eyre Price

Image courtesy of Eyre Price

The following guest blog post is from Eyre Price, author of the Crossroads Trilogy, available from Amazon.com. You can follow him on Facebook. -Cesar Torres

By Eyre Price

The peculiarities of publishing have put me in an unexpected position. My latest title has been sold, but is stuck in a queue that will delay that book from hitting shelves for a while. At the same time, I’ve finished another novel that is currently being shopped around. So rather than add more manuscripts to this congestion, I’d like to use this opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: developmental editing – but with a completely different approach.

In my experience, there are three things wrong with traditional developmental editing.

The pressure to have a completed manuscript

The first is that developmental editors typically want to see a completed manuscript, but this has always struck me as counter-intuitive. It’s like having a builder complete his house and then inspecting the foundation afterward. Working from a final draft often makes rewrites more difficult and occasionally requires tearing everything down and starting from scratch. That’s an unnecessary waste of time, effort, and opportunity.

I believe that working with a developmental editor from the very beginning allows the writer to maximize the benefits of that process. So, while I’m more than willing to tackle a complete manuscript, I’m equally eager to work on a (very?) rough draft. A couple of chapters. Even an outline or an idea.

Expensive costs

The second drawback is the price. A full editing of a manuscript can start around $1,000.00 and go north from there. For a beginning writer--and some of us more established ones, too--that cost factor is prohibitive.

So what I’m offering is a service charged on an hourly rate. Pay for the time you need, and nothing more. My sincere hope is that this will make developmental editing affordable to absolutely everyone who is interested in working with an editor but has reservations about making a significant financial investment.

Communication loop is left open

The third issue is that at the end of the editing process, a client is typically provided with nothing more than a couple pages of written notes. There may be a follow-up phone call, but generally the writer is left to interpret and implement those changes on their own. To me, this lack of continued interaction frustrates the purpose, which I think often necessitates a series of conversations. So, while I’ll certainly offer written notes, I’m also planning to make myself available for on-going discussions. Phone. Skype. FaceTime. GooglePlus. Whatever works. Night owl or morning person, I’ll accommodate your schedule.

So, that’s it. Simple enough. No matter where you are in the process, from finished manuscript to just the germ of an idea, I’m available to help you develop your work on the terms that work best for you.

If you’re curious about me, I’m an agented writer and the award-winning author of the Amazon Best Selling Crossroads Thrillers series. I’ve been featured in Writer's Digest, was on the editorial staff of ITW’s The Big Thrill, and my short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies. I’m a Fulbright Grant recipient and State Department selection as a U.S. representative to the 19th Salon International Du Livre D’Alger. I‘ve taught creative writing, presented panels at literary conferences, and appeared on numerous podcasts.

If you think that I might be able to help you with your work in progress, whether that’s just getting started or readying it for submissions or publication, email me at mreyreprice@gmail.com and I’ll be more than happy to share the details of my plan and answer all of your questions.

Pocast #15 Don’t overthink it, use Createspace for paperbacks

Editor

In today’s episode:

  • Big news, I’ll be performing at Homolatte in Chicago on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 7:30. It’s free, and you will hear selections from 13 Secret Cities and 9 Lords of Night.

  • Updates on audio issues in the last episode

  • A quick primer on Amazon’s book printing service Createspace, and why you should use it for self publishing your book


If you like the show, leave us a review in iTunes here. Thanks. If you want to support this show, visit my Patreon page. Got a comment? Send us an email at our contact page.

Strength & Skill: Training For Fiction Writers

Editor

A good fiction writer never stops asking himself or herself the question, "How will I ever accomplish this?" 

That is for sure.

No matter how experienced a fiction writer may be, doubt will always haunt every writer when it comes to art, craft, and business of writing. I am no exception to this. In earlier stages of my development as a writer, I too wondered whether I would ever finish a novel at all, or whether my words would be on a bookshelf with my byline. 

For me, this question started at the age of 12, when I already knew I wanted to write short stories using my parent's Olivetti typewriter. I am not going to add glamor to this tale, because there are a few million writers who have already made that anecdote into a cliche (one of the starry-eyed dreamer who had a vision). These writers reminisce about the smell of paper, the reams of bond that they used when they wrote their first manuscript, and about the ever-so askew letters on those typewriters when they hammered out their opus. They recall that typewriter fondly, as if she had a personality all her own, and they tell this tale over and over, awaiting the praise of other writers for finding their calling.

Well, I call bullshit.

Writing is hard work, and even when you aren't sure it's going to be published, it's just fucking hard work. It's not romantic at all. In fact, romantic notions don't ever really come into my mind at all when I'm writing. Those can only take place when one is sitting around doing something other than writing. And even after a person has finished a book, the memories of sitting around, waiting for the muse to arrive -- are pretty much bullshit and all too reductive.

I believe writing is actually a challenge that a writer has to meet each day, instead of the author waiting for it to arrive on angel wings. Writing is hard, writing is painful, and writing, doesn't always seem to have an immediate result that one can consider positive.

And yet, we do it. We want to do it. Some of us even consider it a vocation. Yes, I said vocation and not a calling. If this is dismantling your castle of fairy tales and Prince Charmings, then you better go grab a fucking wheelbarrow, because the biggest fucking pieces are about to fall. 

My vocation is not mystical, and instead, it is more practical. Writing is sometimes grueling, but I found that it has made me a better listener, a better friend, and even a better human being (though not always). To become a better writer, I have had to train to be a better writer. Training involves hard work, it can sometimes be painful, and just like I said above, it doesn't always have an immediate result that one can consider positive.

Then why do it at all? Well, that will always depend on the writer, but I do it because I must do it. I must investigate the universe through narrative, and in order to investigate well, I have to write well. What's more, I have to get better at writing over time, because it's not a static process. That means that I expect to make gains in strength and skill as I work at training my writing over a lifetime.

This series of posts is called Strength & Skill, because I believe you need both in order to succeed. You don't need MFAs, writing workshops or certificates to develop this type of strength and skill. Over the next few weeks I will talk about how you can build habits for yourself that increase these two virtues in order to help you write full drafts, re-write your books and stories, and even push you into published life. I am not going to teach you craft. I don't believe craft can be taught. However, I will show you examples of what worked for me to build better habits, motivate myself, stay organized, and strive for balance between artistic vision and publishing concerns. These examples are very individual to my own life and experiences, and that means that they may or may not work for you. 

This is what most writing classes and teachers don't ever have the balls to tell you: "This may not work for you."

But I am not going to hesitate to say it.

That's why I think approaching writing and publishing from a training point of view will get you better results. When you train hard, and when you train every day, sometimes you fail, and sometimes you look foolish as fuck, and sometimes, you have to change your gameplan. That right there is the way to succeed as a writer. And don't let charming snake oil salesmen, marketing gurus or even well-known novelists (with nefarious motives) sway you from your goals. Thinking critically about the artistic process and business side of writing is up to you, and the more critical thinking you can apply to it, the more successful you will be at completing your work and sending it out for publication. In some cases you will even publish it yourself. But none of this can happen unless you are willing to challenge many of the romantic notions about writing and the business of publishing books.

In this series, I will also get personal, and share with you personal anecdotes from my history as a writer. You will learn about the people that encouraged me to keep going, you will learn about those that have tried to stand in my way, and you will also learn why I am more successful and well-adjusted today as a self-published author, and why I chose not to go the conventional route for my books. You will even learn in this series about how I conceived of a pen name for a separate series of books, and what that did for me as a form or training.

Yes, it's all training. If you train your writing with strength, and skill, you will be simultaneously finding a balance between personal power and cleverness.

Merriam Webster defines strength as: the quality or state of being physically strong; the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force. Apply that early on to your writing life and you'll see how greatly your tap into your potential.

Merriam Webster defines skill as:  the ability to do something that comes from training, experience, or practice.

Remember those two definitions, because we will be coming back to them very often. Get ready to train, and train hard. 

 

Self-Publishing 101: Do It Like a Pro

Editor

Latest update: January 28, 2015

  • Added Author Earnings REport and new section on the Business of Publishing

As the creator of Solar Six Books, I firmly believe in sharing knowledge about publishing to dispel myths and make it more transparent. Thanks to the tools that are available today for authors, self-publishing is a viable route for writers who want to publish their own work. For a small subset of these authors, it's possibly even a way to get paid for their writing. 

This page will be constantly update over time as I expand my series. So far, you can view Self Publishing 101: Do It Like a Pro on YouTube as on ongoing series (which will consist of about twenty episodes). I am also kicking off a resources section at the end of this post that can also help you find more resources to get you started.

Self-Publishing 101: Do It Like a Pro

Part 1: Jobs

Part 2: Manuscript

Part 3: Team

Part 4: Fearless

Part 5: Design

Self-Publishing Resources

THE BUSINESS SIDE OF PUBLISHING

The Author Earnings Report -- I highly recommend subscribing to this incredible free resource. It contains detailed title-level analytics on book sales, aggregated data (from Amazon e-book sales, other retailers and more), as well as insights into book buying trends. Our secondary mission is to call for change within the publishing community for better pay and fairer terms in all contracts. 

Editors (updating soon)

Design

Dribble

Deviant Art

 

This guide is published as a free resource from Solar Six for other authors to self publish. To learn more about Solar Six and its published titles, please visit solarsixbooks.com.