Monday, October 30, 2017

My amateur standing.

In 35 years as a Sherlockian, I think I made money from my hobby four times.

Three books, for which a small publishing house paid me $500 lump sums for each, and a $50 prize from a contest. And the latest of those was in the mid-1990s. On the debit side of the column, ignoring purchases, doing things like publishing a journal and paying for web hosting, have more than offset that little bit of profit.

That's really what being a fan is, to my mind. Sure, there are those fortunate few who turn their love of Sherlock Holmes into an income stream, through their sheer talent or some really good business sense. But at some point in that transition from amateur to pro, you have to think of your audience, promote your work, try to expand the business.

As I was contemplating fandom and what makes it different last night, I realized that being a fan rather than a pro is that you'll make the grandest efforts without any expectation of profit. You would do what you are going to do despite the fact your audience may just be your best friend, a local club, or maybe a hundred subscribers. Don't get me wrong, profit isn't something any of us would turn down . . . but if you realize there's no money in something and continue to do it?

That's just sheer love of the game.

When I was younger, I really wanted to be a professional writer. But I wasn't ambitious enough to leave Peoria, take risks on opportunities that did come my way, or just push-push-push with the strength that such a leap requires. Well, all of those things and one other: I only wanted to write what I wanted to write, and not anything that might bore me. (Which killed journalism for me the first time I saw what a city council meeting looked like.) None of that gets you to "professional writer." And I've been lucky enough to get good jobs that used other skills.

Sherlockiana, and the many scion publications of the 1980s, provided a fun little outlet for just writing odd little essays, which eventually turned into a regular column, which then turned into a blog. And the thought of making any money off this hobby left the building a long time ago. I just got asked the past week if I wanted a fee for speaking on Sherlock Holmes, and, as always, I just grinned and said, "No. I do this stuff because I just like Sherlock Holmes."

Because after all this time, I'd hate to lose my amateur standing.

(Although if the Sherlockian Olympics ever come around, those books are probably going to kill it for me, aren't they? Ah, well, the kids out there are way more talented these days.)