Tag Archives: money

Writing Despite The Bills

A recent piece on Salon highlighted one of the murky secrets of the writing life: who is paying the bills?

The piece, provocatively titled “‘Sponsored’ by my husband” (and the response “The price I pay to write“) discusses one of the topics a Southerner just isn’t supposed to discuss: finances. The first discusses how hard it was to try to have a regular life while also writing; the author is only able to currently manage hers because she married someone whose salary is “hefty.” The second piece has an infatuation with the HBO show girls but at least is taking a crack at working 9-to-5 while also being a writer.

But the nitty-gritty is one of the cruxes of a writing career: you still need something to eat, somewhere to sleep, and probably (at least in America) health care of some kind. Where ya gonna get that?

In the first article, Ann Bauer points out that several authors recently published talk like they’ve done it all themselves but really benefited either from inherited money or deep familial connections.

I practically swooned with jealousy: undeniably, both would help me a great deal. Particularly the connections—since getting an agent/publisher/people with purse strings to pay attention to you is the first obstacle to publication.

But the “having enough money to live off of” is a huge component, too. I talked about this when Hugh Howey, of Wool fame, first hit the radar. Yes he worked hard, yes he is more workaday than a millionaire, but he also had a wife who was mostly able to support them while he took a low-paying part-time bookselling job to give himself time to write. That is a huge luxury (and, luckily for them, it paid off big time.).

At conferences and online, I see a lot more of the kind of writer I am: fitting writing around everything else. And that kind of juggling is trying, at times. I have a full-time job, a spouse with a job he finds rewarding but which won’t pay the bills alone, a part-time career as a freelance editor, AND I have written three books I’m working on getting published. I’ve said it before: how exactly am I supposed to do those things and actually have a life of any kind? It feels overwhelming.

(Side note: I think a bunch of people who cater to authors are taking advantage, selling “must-have” products that “guarantee” success. They disgust me; I hope the people buying those products are independently wealthy.)

However, I have made my choice in how to get money to live while also being a writer. While, sure, I’d love to win the lottery next month or something, I don’t think I’d ever feel comfortable being “sponsored” by my husband or another patron; we are partners, and it is my responsibility to carry my weight in our relationship, financially, in the household, and otherwise. One of the main reasons I have an editing side business is that I can feel confident using the resulting income to pay for resources in my own publishing dreams (also, it is SUCH a kick to see a book I’ve edited actually go on sale. Some have even won wards!).

For me, the juggling is worth it, even if it’s challenging at times. I need to feel like I’m helping my family forward, even if that means my books don’t churn out as quickly. That’s a choice I’ve made.

What about you? How do you manage your household while writing? Do you wish you could do it differently?

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Money, Money, Money: Amazon vs. Publishers

For a writer on the sidelines (*ahem* not yet published, I mean), it’s an interesting time. Self-publish, indie publish, Amazon CreateSpace, imprints, university presses, Big Five… it’s sort of a mess right now. The Amazon-Hatchette showdown is definitely the matchup to keep an eye on right now: worst, I don’t even know what side, if any, I’m on.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, Amazon–the big gorilla in the current publishing market, dominating ebooks, self-published, and even books published more or less traditionally under their imprint–is duking it out with Hatchette, publishing’s fourth-largest company. We don’t know for certain what they are fighting about… well, we know they’re fighting about money. But we don’t have details.

Some folks have guessed that Amazon wanted to own 50% of every book sold, instead of 30%. That’s a big price hike, particularly in an industry that hasn’t been doing that great. (But, says Amazon, most of your customers are buying from us anyway. Without us, you will fail.) Because Hatchette didn’t budget, Amazon has been slowing down the deliveries of customer orders.

This tactic may have backfired, however; authors big and small, including the likes of Stephen King, got together to sign a petition against Amazon, complaining this tactic is anti-consumer (and anti-author). Amazon lashed out, saying Hatchette was using authors as “human shields.” (Woah now.) [Hugh Howey and Chuck Wendig have also both weighed in, on opposing sides of the debate, despite being published by Amazon.]

The big publishers (and especially the small publishers) say they can’t afford any more fees, that Amazon is a near-monopoly and a “bully.” Amazon claims the publishers don’t treat their authors well enough, that they can’t keep up with the times, that they are an obstacle to affordable and accessible literature, and basically just need to put up or shut up.

I…don’t know what should happen. Amazon’s demands do seem extreme to me, and I am deeply concerned with the idea in which Amazon were the only “publisher” left. It also alarms me that Amazon might one day turn on their authors; perhaps they’ll have a bot they think can churn out better fiction? And then they’ll see no need for us. Then again, I think traditional publishers don’t do enough for their authors anymore (both in support and in money). [Here’s the chart featuring how much in royalties you can make in different formats.]

I’m still on the fence about my publishing path, but I have recently been leaning ever-closer to self-publishing. It’s not a free and easy path, however; just different.

What do y’all think of the recent controversy between Amazon and the publishers?

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