Yesterday I whined, and today I’m going to do something worse, and break one of the taboos I was raised with.
You see, I was raised not to talk of politics (we had a lot), religion (ours tended to have weird shadings) or money (we didn’t have any.)
Unfortunately I need to talk about money. Kind of.
First – I think it was Sabrina Chase, but it might have been someone else – said something about the problem about indie is that none of us knows how to make money from it.
This is not necessarily true. My dipping of toe into the pool of indie has been skittish and a bit odd, but it has also, to an extent, been rewarding. I mean, until this last weekend, I had nothing up but short stories and – between all outlets – they were bringing me between $100 and $200 a month. This is of course peanuts, but when you consider the work I’ve done so far has been light editing and a few weekends putting short stories up; when you consider further that my covers suck raw eggs (I need to redo them, but there hasn’t been time) it is not bad income for stuff that has already been published and/or was in the drawer doing nothing.
This weekend I added three very old novels that, furthermore, do not fit with the direction my career took. (And thank heavens. I meant what I said in the afterword for those books. If they sell really well, I’ll finish the series to the point the aged Shakespeare walks into fairyland to live. However, they’d have to sell VERY well. To get in the frame of mind to write those books, I need to mainline Shakespearean plays and read a lot of Elizabethan speech. It will help you understand how weird those books are FOR ME if you know that I wrote the first draft of DST before I wrote that. No, it wasn’t as good as the published version, but it was closer to that than to this. By miles. And after those books came out, EVERYONE in the field wanted me to do more “literary fantasy.” I can do it, yes, but it’s not natural and it strains my mood. Thank heavens Baen saved my life.) They are selling more than the short stories, just by themselves. This is good. It gives me hope as I finish editing the indie novels (and the old published ones) I can make a decent living off indie.
Unfortunately the novel that is my life is very badly plotted. Or maybe not. Maybe Himself is making it exciting. After all, what fun is there in letting me set up this form of income, then take over, and then having Dan quit and do his own stuff? No drama, no angst.
So it’s looking like, with both boys in college and our savings down to nothing, Dan’s job has gone precarious. Mind you, it might recover and keep on trucking. But if not, we’re in a world of pain.
Right now my income is about 1/3 of his, and with his income and mine we’re barely making it.
The funny thing is that we didn’t even buy close to the “best” house we could afford. They qualified us for double the loan we took. (And man, did we like that house. But we’re not stupid.) And that was when I had virtually NO income. But the raises stopped too, and our expenses kept going up – part the inflation that doesn’t exist, part the boys growing up (you never expect them to cost more.) Part is that we spent a lot of money fixing stuff in the house – because we didn’t know it had been flipped twice before – yes, yes, now we have fixed almost everything and will probably finish before it can go up for sale, but now with cutting down paper books and the prospect of the kids moving off in the next five years, it’s rather a lot of house for us (and I don’t have the time to clean like I used to, as the career is also showing signs of life.)
The truly sad thing is the main reasons we bought a house this size and where it is was a) the paper books. No, seriously. You have no idea how many we still have, not counting the ones boxed for sale. b) the schools – which ended up not being a good fit at all.
But anyway, we have this huge mortgage, and we have grocery bills that swallowed the universe, and we have cars that are fixing to die. And we have almost dead cars (the ones Dan and I drive, if sold together, might net us 8k.) And last year, between car and house repairs ate into our bank account to such an extent that the check to the IRS might wipe it out.
Now, none of these is the end of the world. If Dan keeps his job, there is money coming in from Baen. And while we should still fix this house and sell it and move (for one get our money out of it, which at this point should allow us to buy a house outright elsewhere) we might even be able to manage that as indie picks up.
If nothing else goes wrong. If Dan keeps his job. If my stuff keeps selling. If…
I was reading an article somewhere, a while back, that the new kids couldn’t expect job security and might have to change careers two or three times and adapt, in their working lives. The article was written by someone my age, which led me to wonder what kind of special snow-flake he was. Because for Dan and I that has already been the reality. This is why we NORMALLY like to keep six months salary in the bank (but that hasn’t been true since 08.) Because suddenly he’d find himself unemployed and whatever I was doing would tank and – inevitably – we’d both get ill for months, and next thing you knew we were considering the soup kitchen. (Okay, only happened twice, but trust me, once is enough. I was hungry for two years growing up and THAT was enough too. It’s not the sort of thing you want to revisit.)
Anyway – the issue is that when I start panicking (and I panic easily) I can’t write, which blocks the one way I can make money to keep us afloat, right? It’s stupid. It’s also fairly normal, from what I hear from my colleagues.
All this to say, our situation is nowhere near dire yet. I’ve heard of people taking out their retirement accounts to pay for groceries. We’re not there yet. We’re not even at the point of postponing buying underwear. Clearly since I bought some this weekend. (And yes, we’ve been at that point before.)
But we are at the point of postponing buying new glasses and extending the time to take cats for their shots.
In a way we’re blessed, with Dan still working, and my income picking up, considering the times we live in.
This is to say – I’m NOT begging. Yes, I’m worried about money, but show me ONE person who isn’t just now.
On the other hand, at Liberty Con, Jerry Pournelle told me that a blog the size of mine should have a subscribe button – that you should be able to support it, because I put in an hour to two hours work on this EVERY day, including Sunday and holidays, and he says writing for nothing is immoral.
He is right. Of course he’s right. There’s a man I don’t argue with. BUT I know a lot of my regulars and a lot of my fans are hurting, and I hate to ask for money for stuff they’re getting for free, anyway.
On the other hand, the joking this week led me to see a way to provide value added to those who do subscribe: i.e. access to my unedited work.
Now, to clarify, I’m not giving you access to ALL my unedited work. Some of those will be under contract, and some publishers get shirty about such. Also, Baen sells earcs and I’m not getting in competition with them.
This means there will be weeks that the subscribers will get clear, cold nothing – though I’ll make a little newsletter, if you wish, and tell you what is going on and why there is/isn’t material – And sometimes I’ll jump around between things. Like, right now I’m editing two books, one of which is posted unedited, so you wouldn’t get that, and you might or might not get new snippets I put in. But I’m also writing Jane Austen fantasy, and you could get that. And I’m completely rewriting shadow gods, and you’ll likely get that in chunks over the next few weeks.
There’s also short stories being fixed to go up, and you might get the unedited version, and musings on future history.
As I said, you won’t get stuff every week, but you’ll probably get two or three novels, and ten or twenty shorts in aggregate through the year.
What subscription isn’t: it’s not a substitute for donations for the novels. That is separate. Unless you’re donating at the Medici level, I’m not sending you edited copies of every novel, in ebook format. (If you’re donating at the insane level, I’ll also send you copies of my Baen books. I’ll buy them, sign them and send them to you. And book t-shirts, too. But I don’t expect anyone to do that, hence, Insane. And I only expect you to do Medici if you win the lottery.)
Anyway, the subscription button is there. Maybe Jerry is right and it will generate considerable income. Maybe it won’t, in which case it comes down. My price for the additional work of compiling the work of the week and putting it in a way you guys can access it, is $100 a week – because that’s what I get for my PJM work(which, btw, is up today) which takes what I estimate about the same time. Yes, we know what I am. We’re just haggling over the price. If the subscriptions build to at least that, I’ll continue. If not, I’ll refund people and stop the program.
Meanwhile don’t feel obligated. Yes, things might get dire at Casa Hoyt but I know they’re already dire for a lot of you.
(The whole idea of people giving money for my unedited stuff baffles me, btw. I’d give money for Heinlein’s grocery list… but he was HEINLEIN. I’m just little Sarah Hoyt, telling her little stories.)
Everyone I know – and their cousins – told me to have a subscription program, and it is up, but I don’t want anyone alarmed and thinking I’m starving in the dark. I’m not. And even if things get really dire, the worst that will happen is that we lose the money in the house and be left with the cats, the books and the kids. It would be a pain in the butt, but not the end of the world. The living things would still be okay. A lot of people are worse off.
On the other hand, if you choose to support this blog and this writer, I am, needless to say, very thankful, and it will help.
UPDATE: For some reason it’s not letting me do this. We might move where the blog is hosted soon, because of this nonsense, (i.e. I’m not the only one having trouble and the net is full of people complaining) So, if you want to bookmark this — Tazwriters Zazzle Shop Other stuff will go up over the next week, including (up soon) the infamous t-shirt with the drawing of me by Chris Muir.