Millennial writers, up-and-coming writers, brand-new writers, we all understand the struggle that is getting published. You love to write, you're pretty good at it, but how do you get your voice out there? Where do you submit? What do you send? Will you be broke for all of eternity?
In recent years, an answer to these questions has emerged in the form of self-publishing. According to the most recent Amazon sales numbers, 27 of the top 100 books for Kindle were self-published. PolicyMic pundit Jeffrey Hartinger recently took that route and self-published his book Generation Y Hanbook. Based off of his blog Generation: (WH)Y?, the book explores stories relevant to our generation: friends with benefits, walks of shame ... relationship stuff. I chatted with Hartinger about why he chose to self-publish, whether it's the right choice for millennials in the industry, and what the daily life of a 23-year-old writer looks like.
Elena Sheppard (ES): Tell us about your Generation Y Handbook. How does your work speak directly to our generation?
Jeffrey Hartinger (JH): My book speaks to those in Generation Y in a variety of ways. As millennials, we are, for the most part, liberal, educated, and a tad bit on the "wild side." We conform during work hours, to an extent, but after work or during the weekends, we like to let loose and have a little fun; some more than others. This book puts some things into perspective; ... things that members of Generation Y have done, yet may be a tad bit embarrassed to talk about; one night stands, walk of shames, threesomes, and other embarrassing sexual encounters. More importantly, I believe I give good perspective on dating, love, and how to navigate relationships as a modern young adult. As a gay male, I also hope to teach others of my generation that I go through the same ups and downs in dating and relationships. And I want to make [the readers] laugh along the way.
ES: What is the every day experience like as a millennial writer. Do you have a day job? Do you feel like you have enough time to devote to your writing? How do you fit it all in?
JH: As a millennial writer, I consider my experiences pretty much in line with those of my generation; I'm always doing something and my mind is constantly on the next thing. I work full-time in marketing, write three to four blog posts a day for my website, and write freelance; but don't worry, I still make it to a few happy hours a week. In college, I picked up the habit of writing "in between" things. If the professor was late for class, I'd start jotting down ideas for my next opinion article in the school newspaper. If I had a light homework load that night, I'd write and send out articles to local newspapers and news weeklies. I've continued the habit since graduation and it's proved successful. I'll write in the morning before work, write an article or two during my lunch, then write for a few hours each night. It's a little exhausting, but it's something I love, so it's worth it.
ES: Why did you choose to self publish and what was the process?
JH: The self-publishing process was very easy and I believe it's a great tool for those in Generation Y. A few weeks ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos released some interesting news: 27 of the 100 most popular Kindle books were self-published. You visit the website, watch a tutorial, read a few documents, and then you are on your way. It's free to do and the authors, myself included, receive 70% royalties of sales. Now, while I have a decent following for my website, I, of course, knew I wasn't going to hit it big with on book available on Kindle, but I've been pretty happy so far. In the week the book has been released, it's already sold a couple hundred copies and I'm excited to see where it goes. The good thing about Generation Y is word of mouth; particularly, the use of social media and our ability to reflect on popular culture. If a book is funny, or it connects with you, I don't think it matters if it was published by Random House or carved into a rock; if there's a connection, then there's a connection, and people are going to talk.
ES: I know this is a new venture but what are the figures on the number of people who choose this avenue, and what have been the biggest success stories? Is this how E.L. James got started?
JH: I believe this is a place for people to get off the ground and I'm not just saying that because I have used the process. As a 23-year-old writer, I knew The New Yorker wasn't going to be pounding on my door for me to submit an article, and I sure as hell knew that those in television writing (which is what I eventually want to do) weren't going to pay attention to any 20-something with no experience or nothing to show for themselves. For me, this is a progression towards my goals, and when I get an email that says, "I laughed so hard I spit out my coffee," it makes me feel great. Well, as long as they weren't burned, but you know what I mean.
ES: Would you suggest this as a way for other millennial writers to get their work off the ground?
JH: For other millennial writers, I would recommend self-publishing, but the best tool is having your own blog or website. I was living in Los Angeles and interning for The Advocate when I started my blog. By forcing yourself to write every day, every single day, it makes you realize what it takes to be a writer, and if this is what you really want to do. I've been writing since my early years in college. How much have I made from writing? In all honestly, probably less than $500 over six years. Am I a good writer? I suppose. Do I entertain? Yes. Do I make people laugh? I'm sure I do. Over 1,000 people visit my website a day, and there are times that I think, "Should I be doing this for free? Should I be putting this all out there?"And the answer is yes; you put yourself out there, and hopefully, your readers go from 100 a month, to 500, to 1,000, to 5,000 to ... it's a process. Those in our generation are used to (and expect) instant gratification, but with writing, and a majority of other creative endeavors, it's going to take a long time for people to catch on to your talent. But once they do, you better not lose their attention.
You can check out Jeffrey’s book here.