In today’s writing market, if writing were my only source of income, I’d have to get creative to generate enough income to support my family. Recently, one YA author opted to start a KickStarter campaign to fund the second book in a series. Stacy Jay Released Princess of Thorns via Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House) on December 9, 2014. Initial sales did not meet expectations so the publisher declined to pick up the second book in the series. As an aside, initial sales? The book isn’t even a month old! Sorry, now back to your regularly scheduled blog post. Stacy harbors no ill will towards the publisher, it was a business decision, nothing more, nothing less. Still, she had readers clamoring for the second book, so she launched a KickStarter Campaign to fund the creation of book two.
“I asked for 10k to fund a Kickstarter for the sequel for Princess of Thorns and EVERYONE who contributed would have been given a copy of the book (from the $10 donation level on up). 7k of that would have covered my living expenses while writing the book. After taxes and promotional expenses I planned to take out of that budget, I would have been making about 11.00 an hour to write and edit the novel.”
An Internet kerfluffle ensued.
Some people objected to KickStarter for publishing a book. Some people took offense to her honesty that some of the money would be spent on living expenses while she took 3 months to write the book. Some did defend her, but as these things do, it spiraled out of control and eventually, she pulled the plug.
Making a living wage in creative professions
We don’t seem to have a problem with the existence of banks, or grocery stores or utility companies. No one jumps up and down excited when the oil truck backs down their driveway, but we all seem to understand that paying for these things is necessary. Where do we expect that money to come from?
DUH! Get a job.
Well yes, a job.
Newsflash: Writing novels? It’s a job.
No. Really, IT’S WORK!
There is this belief that if your song is played on the radio, your book is on the shelves of a bookstore or your art is on a gallery’s wall, you are rolling in the dough.
*LOUD OBNXIOUS BUZZER* False! Thank you for playing!
There are artists who make it big and roll in the big buck. They are a very small percentage of the overall number of working artists. Artists of all kinds work hard to get their work in your ears, or in front of your eyes. Everything from the supplies they use, to the promotion to sometimes the placement, costs money. Sometimes, when all is said and done, we work for chump change. WHY? Well because we enjoy it, we’re good at it and it brings us satisfaction to bring enjoyment to our audience.
For the most part no one gives food, heating oil or tools of the trade away, so we toil away at “day jobs” to fund our creative dreams. I’m not suggesting that hard work is bad. I don’t believe that working for your dreams is a bad thing, but what’s wrong with someone asking to be paid for their creative ventures?
What kills me about the Stacy Jay kerfluffle is that some of the loudest critics are also writers. People who understand the creative struggle and the balance between making money and pursuing art. They know it’s hard and yet they sit in judgement of someone taking a risk. Someone trying a new path. Would I do it? It probably wouldn’t be my first choice, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I’d research it, learn how to do it effectively, keep an open mind and keep it in my tool box.
Yes, Jay was trying to raise money to cover her living expenses and production expenses, but she was also using the KickStarter campaign as market research and that strikes me as a “wicked smaht” move.
“And if the Kickstarter had been allowed to play out without the screams of critics, I would have found out if my readers were up for that. If they weren’t–FINE. I still love them. No harm, no foul, and I could have gone about my business feeling confident that I’d tried to give them what they said they wanted.”
Here’s a revolutionary idea, if the idea of a KickStarter campaign to fund the creation of a YA fantasy novel offends you. DON’T support the campaign, end of story!
Would I support another author’s kick starter campaign? Maybe. I don’t have enough disposable income to rise to the level of patron of the arts, but there are authors and artists out there to whom I would kick a little cash to see them grow their work. Even if it meant I was contributing towards their electric bill. If I’d read the first book in the series, and enjoyed it, I’d kick in a few bucks to read the second book. If the author had enough fans and we all kicked in a few bucks. We’d all get a story we wanted to read. If the author made money off the book above and beyond the KickStarter campaign, then she might have enough money to write book three and I’d have bragging rights for being in on the ground floor. Yay for me!
There’s an article on Huffington Post. It happens to be in the parenting section, but if you replace parenting with publishing and update the examples, it fits here perfectly.
“When does the cycle of judgment stop?
I recently finished reading Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please, and if there is anything I wish people would take from it, look to page 149. The concept of “good for you, not for me.” It’s a simple concept but one that is seriously missing… especially online. What works for you may not work for me, and vice versa. Choosing a different path doesn’t make me a moron. It simply shows that I am a mom[writer] who is trying to make the best choices for my family[career] — and doing so doesn’t actually impact your family [life] one single bit.”
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.