March 4 2008

My “original” writing career

My I’ve hinted before to my writing career of the 1990’s, but have never gone in to great detail about it. So… why not now?

In the early 1990’s I was running a lot of ads in Toy Shop magazine to advertise our mail order toy service. The publication was put out by Krause Publications, the leading publisher of collectible magazines. At one point they decided to do a toy price guide, and since I had a good relationship with them, they asked if I would look over what they had so far. Well… after I tore it apart and basically rebuilt it, they thanked me, and I thought that was the end of it.

Somehow people talked about what I had done, and it got back to Wizard magazine, a monthly magazine about comic books and related products. One of their writers, Brian Cunningham, called me one day to talk about his toy column and look over his price guide. Again… I tore it apart. It was a mess and it had to be rebuilt. After that, I consulted for Brian a few more times, but nothing major.

In late January 1992 I was prepping to go to Toy Fair for the first time, the annual sales conference for all the toy manufacturers. I get a call from Brian, but there was something different about it in his tone. We chit chatted for a few minutes and then he told me he had been promoted inside of Wizard and he was looking for someone to take over his toy column and wanted to know if I would be interested. I said sure as I had wanted to be a writer since I was 4-years old. He said great… and I needed to cover the Toy Fair.

That was a trial by fire like you wouldn’t believe and would be a small novel to explain everything that happened there.

A few months later another editor at Wizard called me and asked if I wanted to write for their retailer magazine, Entertainment Retailing. It would be a monthly column entitled “Toy & Game Chest”, and I would alternate discussing how to retail toys and role-playing games. I took it, but it only lasted 6-months as the magazine failed, but I still had my Wizard gig.

When some internal politics happened, that I won’t go in to, I left Wizard after a year and a half in quite a huff of anger. I figured my writing “career” was over, and just shrugged, prepared to go on with my life. I called an editor I had become friends with, who also had left Wizard, to tell him what happened. He told me he needed to make a phone call, but he would get back to me soonish.

The next day a man I didn’t know, Ian Feller, called me from a fairly new magazine named Combo. It seemed he had just lost his toy writer and he had heard from the friend I had called that I was available. Apparently when he lost his writer, he had told our mutual friend “Man, I really wish we could land Sean Aune, but we’ll never be able to get him away from Wizard.”

… heh.

So, I spent the next two years at Combo until it sadly went under. And I really was sad about that as Ian was a dream to work for, and I am still in contact with him to this day. (Check his company out if you ever need a press release done)

As the Combo chapter of my life came to a close, I again felt my “career” was over. I had picked up some miscellaneous freelance work during my time at Combo for magazines like Star Wars Galaxy Collector, Comic Buyer’s Guide, and some stuff under ghost names due to legal peculiarities, (I love my “ghost name”, but, alas, I can never share it) but nothing long lasting.

That’s when I got a call from someone who had left Combo shortly before the end, and he wanted to know if I’d like to join Beckett’s on their new publication, Hot Toys. I absolutely despised the name of the magazine, but it was a writing job, so who was I to argue? I got my first ever cover story out of the job, but I really disliked some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that was going on. And when we got a new editor around issue #7, well… let’s just say she and I did not see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. I left the magazine over “creative differences”, and was proven right when the magazine didn’t even make it to issue #10.

So, here I was again. It was 1996, I had pulled off five years of writing, and I didn’t want to leave the field, but there was no place to go. The Internet was gaining in popularity, and I knew that with the creation of eBay, price guides weren’t even worth the paper they were printed on. You could go on the net and find out all the toy info you wanted within minutes of it happening, I knew there really wasn’t going to be a place in the writing world for me anymore, so I just didn’t even bother looking around.

Over the eleven years that followed, I did miss it, and I especially missed having a couple hundred bucks a month to blow on frivolous things like movies. That’s what led me to looking around in July of 2007 for writing work online, and… well, we all know how that’s ended up.

I do miss being in print publications though. There’s something to be said for holding a tangible copy of your work, printed on high gloss paper. And no thrill matches standing in a book store and seeing a magazine on the racks with the story you wrote on the cover.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the blogging, and it certainly pays better than print did, but there’s something so transient about it. At any moment one of the blogs I work for could close down, hit delete, and it’ll be like my work never existed. Yes, magazines only stay on the racks for one month, but you also know that tucked away in a box, back in a dusty corner of someone’s attic, there’s a magazine with the line “By Sean P. Aune” in it.

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