Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Time, Money and Choices

by Janis Patterson
I grew up in a do-it-yourself family. Okay, I grew up poor, where if you didn’t do it yourself, it probably didn’t get done. Money was to be used only if you couldn’t cobble whatever it was together at all. My mother made both hers and my clothes and even my father’s dress shirts for a while. Going out to eat was silly, since we could cook better food cheaper at home. It was almost a dictum in our house that just about anything could be fixed with duct tape, bailing wire and determination.
Our fortunes changed, of course, and money became more plentiful. We went out to eat occasionally and my dad bought store-made shirts. As an adult I am fortunate enough to be able to live comfortably and even buy all my clothes. (Which is a blessing, because though Mother was a gifted seamstress, I am a total klutz. No one in their right mind would wear what I can sew!) Still, however, the we-can-do-it-ourselves mentality was so deeply ingrained that to this day I call a repairman only when I know I cannot fix it myself. (This is written as I wait for the refrigerator serviceman.)
So what does this have to do with writing?
I am in the process of bringing out a few more books of my backlist to which I have just had the rights reverted. Since they were professionally edited at major houses back when major houses really edited, there’s little I have to do about that. I am tweaking somewhat, as I hope I am a better writer now than I was then, but nothing major enough to justify paying for the services of an editor.
But then there is the process of converting my newly-vetted document into a book. Now there are simplified processes for ebooks, one that even a complete techno-naif such as I can do, but when I began there were sheets and sheets of instructions written in a techno-speak only slightly less incomprehensible than Urdu. While now I can click a few buttons and some kind electronic server somewhere does the work for me, there is the terra incognita of print awaiting me.
So – where this long and convoluted post is going is that I am going to – gasp – hire the conversions done, as I did when first dipping my toe into the epublishing pond. Yes, there are those technologically gifted who sail through formatting et al and who look askance when I announce I am hiring it done, all the while telling me how simple the process is. I can only say ‘joy go with them.’ If it could be done with duct tape and bailing wire I might fare better.
I also send my apologies to the self-sufficient, do-it-yourself stalwarts of my ancestry, even as their shades look down with disapproval. “There are instructions right there!” they shout. “All you have to do is read them and follow them!”
Yeah. Right.
Both my parents (the greatest do-it-yourselfers ever born) passed away before the computer-in-every-room era, so their ghosts have no idea of what is necessary, or how much time it would take to learn what all those odd words and acronyms mean, to say nothing of what to do with them.
Yes, I could learn everything in those instructions and do it myself. For that matter, I could learn how to repair my ailing refrigerator, and, given enough time, probably learn how to build a more efficient jet engine or CAT machine. There is nothing wrong with my brain-box and I am considered to be reasonably intelligent. On the other hand, I have come to believe in the law of diminishing returns. While I could learn these things, doing so would take time, time that would be better spent writing and caring for my family.
All of life is a trade-off, so I trade money for formatting skills that I have neither time nor desire to learn and spend that time gained doing what is better for me, my career and my family. It works – even if I doubt my parents would have approved. 


Pamela Stone said...

Hi Janis,

Right there with you. I had a dad who could fix anything. Both at our house and all the neighbors. I married a guy who is pretty much the same. So repairmen, only a last resort. I'm not so bad at some things myself. Hey, I can even sew if I have to.

But this self-publishing thing is a bear. So far, I've done most of it myself, other than hire a cover designer as, well, an artist I'm not. But it is challenging. I think you're smart to hire someone to take care of it. I'm still trying to make up my mind that I can afford it. Ha!

Morgan Mandel said...

Kindle and Smashwords are not too hard to do, especially if you remember to indent instead of tab, and get the template set up in Word, but CreateSpace for printed versions is a real pain! You'd think it wouldn't be so difficult, but I had tons of trouble with lining up the bottoms of the pages. I had to turn off the widows and orphans feature, and still had trouble figuring out if everything was even, or how to get it that way. One reason I haven't done Her Handyman in print yet. It's very time consuming, and I'm not sure in today's market if it's worth doing.

Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I feel the same way. Don't want to tax my brain--besides, I just don't have any time. If I want to get those older books out, I'll have someone else do them.

Linda Andrews said...

I'm with you. I hire someone to do it. The price is worth it for piece of mind (I know that it will be done right) and allowing me to continue to write.
BTW, both my parents are great DIYers but when they have computer/electronic problems, they call me. So I just see this as an extension of the system not outside it.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Don't feel badly. When it comes to computers, I don't publish my own work either. It's worth hiring a pro. Money well-spent.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

I grew up the same way. We grew most of our food, sewed our own clothes, and if we could have made our shoes, probably would have. My hubby is a do-it-yourselfer. Thank goodness, because these days, I prefer the easy way--hire some one.
Enjoyed your article.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

I think you're absolutely right!! Everyone's in a time crunch, it's better to concentrate on doing the things we really like to do. I am more than happy to pay someone to do technical stuff for me. Great post!

Earl Staggs said...

Greetings from another fixer-upper, Susan, except I use coat hangers instead of baling wire. My family calls me the poor man's McGuyver. It may not be practical or common sensical, but there's a personal satisfaction in fixing things I shouldn't fool with.

Peg Cochran said...

My mother didn't sew (but my grandmother did, and she made me some beautiful clothes) but I know what you mean about going out to eat. it just wasn't done as much in those days. My parents took us out at the end of the school year (we had a Sunday "event" to mark the end of the year where we wore our "dress" uniform) and afterwards we went to brunch. Once or twice we went out mid-year somewhere. I still don't eat out much for the same reasons--I can make better, less expensive food at home!

Unknown said...

Loved the post! I grew up out in the country and that's how it was. Even our "medical" remedies involved India ink and Epsom salts more than trips to the doctor. The phrase in your post that really resonated with me was "trade off." Everything's a trade off, and once you start seeing the exchange of money for time as simply that it's easier to decide which way to go.

C. M. Albrecht said...

Much the same story. I've learned not only to shop at thrift stores, but to take pride in getting, for example, a new pair of $600 Italian shoes for $18. As to refrigerators, I paid 2 "factory trained" repairmen $69 to come out and fix my refrigerator. They just looked it over and told me the thing was defective and there was nothing to be done. My own diy solution, pull the damned thing out and check the kinked ice water cord. I sent the company an e-mail, but got no response. Back to duct tape, wire and determination. Museum wax is handy, too.

Maryannwrites said...

It was so nice to get validation for my reluctance to try to learn so much in the tech world. I have friends who keep encouraging me to try conversions and all that jazz, but I just don't want to put the time into it. Like you, I'd rather be writing and spending time doing fun things. Learning technology is so far from fun, it is barely a step above cleaning toilets. (smile)

Susan said...

I've been out of town, but I want to thank all of you for commenting. Now I don't feel so alone - or so 'flibbertygibbet' for paying to have some things done.

Two questions for CM - what thrift store do you go to where you get Italian shoes for $18 and (for future reference) do you make house calls for refrigerators?

Susan, aka Janis