Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Money for Nothing

Seleste deLaney here with a little fact that a lot of aspiring authors don't seem to understand: most authors make squat for money. Sad but true. Until you hit the big best seller lists (USA Today and NYT), you really shouldn't quit your day job. (Once you hit those, there's a pretty good chance you'll be able to ride a wave for at least a while as long as you keep putting out decent books.)

What that means is within the writing community, we get it--we're all broke. Sometimes this leads to financial difficulties when emergencies crop up. In fact, it's happened a couple times to authors here at our very own ELEW.

So what is a savvy author to do when the shit hits the fan and bills start piling up? Savvy author knuckles down, swallows their pride and asks for help. But, they know money is tight and even if you love their work, you don't really know them. So, they offer something in exchange for your help. They dust off an old manuscript and shine it up to give to people who help out or they write a new short story/novella for a favorite character for the same reason. They start offering critique services for a fee. (These are the types of things our members have done. Something for something is a beautiful thing.)

There are a ton of things an author can do when push comes to shove. Yes, some more palatable than others, but the reality is no one really likes asking for help in this way. Or at least that's what I always thought.

(I'm going to go tangential for a sec, but I promise it all comes back around.)

The rise of online fundraising sites is a great thing. It helps to get donations to groups in need and helps up-and-coming magazines and the like to get off the ground. This is good.

However, a situation came to my attention recently where an author decided to fund-raise for themselves. Now, this is not a situation where their heat is going to be shut off this winter. Or they're at risk of losing their internet (which is a big deal for an author these days). Or medical bills. Or anything else that could be deemed as an emergency. No. Said author just wants something and doesn't currently have the cash to pay for it.

This would be like me trying to raise money for a new corset since we know so many of my fans love my corsets. Sure, I want it and maybe I can't swing it right now (I can because I'm lucky and my husband supports my corset habit, but we're playing pretend for a minute), but I don't need a new corset. I want it. (See the difference there?)

Also, if I'm going to ask the general population for money, I'm damn well going to offer something in return. So... any donation gets a copy of this new freebie short story with minimal editing and the very generic cover a friend of mine made for me. A donation over $X gets that and a copy of the manuscript I pulled from my trunk and shined up. A bigger donation, we'll call it $Y, gets the previous and a red-shirt character named after them in an upcoming story of my choice. Someone's willing to foot the entire cost of the corset? I'd probably be willing to work something out (something likely involving an ARC of said story with their named character and allowing them some choices about the character.)

Why would I do that? Because very few people out there, as much as they might love my corsets in theory, really give a rat's ass if I get a new corset (even if I take a million pictures in it). So, if I truly want that new corset, I need to be willing to do something to get it beyond asking for help. Otherwise, that's known as "taking advantage of your fans."

TAOYF is a bad thing. As an author, our fans are our bread and butter. (For the purpose of this, a fan is someone who loves your work and seeks it out because it's written by you.) It's simple math really:
No fans=reduced word of mouth=fewer book sales=poor author with no new corsets.
And TAOYF will turn some fans against you, thereby automatically lowering that first number and putting more pressure on both you as an author and those other fans to increase word of mouth... It's a vicious, ugly cycle.

So, yeah, people get it. Times are tough. We understand. But if you're going to put yourself out there and ask for money (from your friends and fans), don't be a douchebag author when you do it. Offer something back so it feels more like an exchange and less like you're sitting in your corner pouting and saying, "You aren't doing enough for me."

Also? The work involved is why this sort of thing should be reserved for needs and not just wants.

1 comment:

  1. There was a fundraiser shortly after mine, IIRC, that had me seeing red. Second time this person had done one, and it was a sob story (including mention of turning down paying work!!) that ended with "Help me raise money to pay my bills, get non-emergency medical stuff, and go to a conference, and and and--"

    I'm sorry, but get a fucking job.

    I will HAPPILY help people. I love helping people. I want to help people. But I will not pay someone's bills because they can't fucking cope with life, manage money, or because they can't afford all the nice pretties we would ALL like.

    Incidentally, I also loathe the "help me pay my bills by buying my books" shit. Tongue in cheek comment, fine--that's amusing. But GUILTING people into buying your shit? Uh, hai, no. I like to afford groceries, yes, and I appreciate those who buy my shit and help with that, but I want people to buy/read my books because they want to read them, not because I've made them feel guilty about my electricity being shut off. I realize there's no dignity to be had in poverty (really, I do), but I have been there--was there for YEARS--and you can make it without being a fucking douche to people.


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