ICYMI, a YA author was kickstarting the costs to write and produce the sequel to a book publishers passed on, and this included her living expenses while writing. The internet exploded, what could’ve been a nuanced discussion about crowdfunding and the burden of costs in publishing turned into The Sharks vs The Jets (as everything on the internet is wont to do), the author was doxxed, and everything is terrible.
Then there’s me, sitting over here having just launched a Patreon to, in part, possibly cover living expenses and stuff, going “Hmmm.”
(I’m not linking to that stuff because I just want to talk about me and my POV for a minute and I’m a narcissist. )
I really, really hesitated last year before launching the Resurrecting River campaign for a number of reasons.
- I wasn’t sure I *wanted* to resurrect the book. That was a big one.
- I felt that if I was putting something out myself, the burden should fall on my shoulders.
- If I know a project isn’t financially viable (as re-releasing River was) and can’t shoulder that burden, I shouldn’t bother with it, because asking for help means I’ve FAILED AT EVERYTHING.
- The trend toward expecting readers to do everything (like marketing–do not even get me started on “street teams”–and now funding up front the editing/production) really bothers me. I didn’t want to be part of that trend. I felt that if you were going to go it alone rather than with a commercial publisher, generally you should be paying for that shit yourself.
I ended up running the Indiegogo thing anyway because readers wanted the book. I was frequently asked if River and Wolfe would be in print again, so I finally said, well, here’s your chance to see it happen. Otherwise probably not because I have other stuff to work on. And it did extremely well. Because I know generous people and have very kind readers who wanted those books.
The trouble, as I saw it, was that it wasn’t a sustainable business model for me. My books are not financially viable after the fact, so I have no money to invest in producing them, therefore I’d have to keep crowdfunding all the time, and that thought just makes me ill. I don’t want to be That Person. I dislike asking for money and I LOATHE asking for help of any kind. So crowdfund the first time, great, with the expectation that I’ll make enough money to cover the costs of future ones and won’t have to do it again. If I have to keep dipping back into the pool of readers and friends every time I want to publish a book, that’s gonna get old pretty damn fast.
Patreon, too, was something I looked at, but for it to be worth my time, I’d have to already be a fairly popular writer, I thought. Like 2% of readers might donate, and at $2-$5 on average, well…I’d need a much larger readerbase than I have now for it to make a dent.
I can do my own covers, I have friends who are copyeditors I exchange deals with (given that I edit and design myself), I format my own ebooks and do my own print interiors. I can produce a very nice book at little cost to me, unlike a lot of writers.
What I need is money to pay my rent while I write the damn thing. And one of the things I kept telling people, primarily with Oblivion and why it’s not written/published yet, is that it wasn’t the production cost that concerned me. It was taking the time off to write it.
The outrage around a writer asking for living expenses to be paid while writing a book is sort of understandable, given how many of us write books while working 2-3 jobs and taking care of families. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at someone and said “Bitch, please” when I look at how much I juggle and still manage to get shit done without asking for help. Writers should be taking some risks with their work. That’s part of self-publishing–taking a risk yourself instead of the publisher taking the risk.
However…the point that seems to be lost is that things are VERY different when you’re already making a living as a writer.
When I was a housewife, I had lots of time to write and experiment and not worry whether my art was financially viable.
When I juggled a couple of jobs, as a tutor and as an employee for a publisher, my bills were being paid so I could write/publish what I wanted and not worry whether my art was financially viable.
Now I’m a freelance designer and full time writer. Now I have to choose what I work on very, very carefully. I can’t spend sixteen hours a day at the computer, several hours on editing/design, several hours on for-pay writing projects, and then several hours on urban fantasy. Just can’t physically or mentally do it. My primary writing time has to go to projects that will pay my rent. Oblivion? Isn’t going to pay my rent. I’ll be lucky if it pays my internet for a month. To make that book a priority, I would have to find some other way to cover my living expenses while I wrote it part time. I have no way of doing that.
So what does a writer do in this circumstance, when it comes to writing a book fans want when it’s not a financially smart decision? Go out and get another job (on top of the full time writing, and this is even assuming one can just magically find an extra job when so many are out of work) JUST to cover the two months it takes to write this one extra book? Take money away from saving for something really important (like a house, or a holiday, or babies, etc) to cover that time to write the book and not see a return on that investment when it’s published? Or just not write the book and continue writing the other ones that *do* pay the bills?
I don’t know, honestly. There is no universal right or wrong answer here.
There’s just whatever the writer decides to do. It’s just one of many options, and options are good. And if people want to support that, great. If they don’t, that’s cool too. I know that I stubbornly swore I would do everything on my own in the future and if books didn’t do well, they’d be abandoned, and if Skyla books didn’t pick up, Skyla just wouldn’t publish anymore.
I spent six months pretty sure I was dying only to find out no, not dying, but my body is attacking itself and won’t stop.
And this is what it came down to for me:
I will use any and all resources available to me to make a living at writing.
- I will continue writing for-pay projects I hate that pay the bills.
- I will crowdfund to resurrect an old book*.
- I will open a Patreon page for monthly support.
- And I will try whatever else comes along until the day I don’t have to.
I will do this because Fuck It, there ARE different resources for writers now, and why shouldn’t I give them a shot? Because I’m afraid I’ll feel judged or like I’ve failed or something? FUCK THAT.
I will do this because I am not holding a gun to anyone’s head and I know I am not entitled to make a living in the arts; I offer books for sale, I offer ways to help see them written, and if in either of those instances readers decide not to offer support, that’s okay.
I will do this because I have learned there are people who want to help if given the opportunity. I may not have enough of a readership yet to pay my bills after a book is released, but a handful of the the ones I have want to help out, so voila, here are ways to do so. Others would rather not and wait and buy a book after it’s published, and that is cool too.
I will do this because I dislike poverty more than I care about other people’s opinions on how I pay my bills.
And I will do this because life is too short to worry about the politics of all this. If something turns out to be right for me, my work, and my readers who like the option, then good for us.
Otherwise the reality is that not utilizing these various options available to me means far fewer Skyla books will be published, which sucks not just for me but the people who enjoy them. It also means the only people self-publishing will be those with higher incomes, and that pretty much sucks–lower income people have voices worth hearing too.
If me using Patreon offends (the proverbial) you and leaves a bad taste in your mouth, that’s fine–I understand. Having to choose between medication and paying my hydro bill in winter** leaves a bad taste in mine. I will pull income from all kinds of different streams to lessen the odds of me having to make those choices whenever I’m able to.
So this is why I think there’s no right or wrong answer to crowdfunding, it’s something personal for artists to figure out on their own if they want to use it AND for readers/audiences to figure out on their own if they want to support them, and I am happily giving Patreon a shot in case it works for me for the reasons above.
* I will likely not use IGG or KS to fund producing a book again for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the stress of it, but I’ve promised myself I will never ever take one of these options off the table either.
** Which is this month’s dilemma; last month’s was pills or rent. Fun times.
ETA: Where I got real personal with this (as I tend to do, since I like talking about me) Sir Wendig of the Wise and Bearded went broader and tackled some of the criticisms quite eloquently, and his post is absolutely worth a read. I agree entirely.