Random Rambles: Author Finances Really Suck

Investment. Business. Writing. Money.

This stuff sucks. Being a professional, at times, likewise sucks. Trying to produce a good product, a product I can be really proud of–and a book that people enjoy reading–is bloody difficult. It's tiring, too. It's hard.

Writing is hard, damn it. It's hard, and I want to survive and thrive at it.

Surviving and thriving are two totally different concepts. Survival, meeting the very minimum requirements to keep moving forward, is hard enough. Thriving, having the ability to survive plus do things like pay for food, still feels like some far off dream.

RJBlain-BloodDiamond-Concept1I'm barely able to survive, and it's enough to drive me up a wall. If you're looking for me, I'm perched up on the ceiling somewhere, or clinging to an overpass, kind of like one of the unfortunate characters from the original Blood Diamond cover concept.

Yeah, that concept picture. Let's take a good, close look at it. I wasn't supposed to start working on Blood Diamond until early 2016. Yet here I am, probably 10% into the book–maybe less, depending on how long it works out to be. But either way, this book is getting a lot more of my time than it should. At the rate I'm going, I'll finish it in the next few months.

I have no way to pay for this. It's entirely possible that Blood Diamond will sit in the shadows, completed and awaiting final editorial, without me being able to pay for it until its original planned publication date. That's the problem with just surviving.

I can't just slide in a project willy nilly. My editorial staff and cover artist could fit it in, but I have earmarked the funds to pay them for other work first. I have to plan how I spend my royalties carefully, because I use those to pay for things. I've already talked to my editorial staff. I have a ‘floating' slot available, just in case I could afford to slip in that beloved play project.

I planned around my love of working on side projects and my ability to finish what I start.

That doesn't mean I have the money to pay for it. Ah, poor pride, it's crying in a corner.

When surviving, I don't have the flexibility to slide in an extra project–and I made a promise. I promised I would finish other books first. Storm Surge releases April 14. The royalties I make from it will pay for Zero, Project Zeta, and Rider of the Sun Horse. Rider of the Sun Horse will be my next released title. The royalties from that will pay for Zero and Project Zeta.

It's a vicious circle; I can't earmark funds for Blood Diamond until I have made enough money to cover Rider of the Sun Horse, and so on.

This is an important part of business and planning, actually. It's how to stay in the black.

You do not spend money you do not have. I do not have the money for Blood Diamond. This means I shouldn't be working on it, but let's face facts here: I work best when I can reward myself working on a project I want to work on. I use these projects to reward myself for working on what I need to work on. Writing a novel is hard work. The final editing and transcription phases of the process is very hard on me. It's frustrating. So, when I have a project I simply love working on, it makes my job a lot easier.

Writing isn't easy–it never was. I love it, but it's a lot of hard work, and working on a project I really enjoy makes the work go by faster, easier, and ultimately better.

When I'm happy or excited to work on the play project, which I don't allow myself to work on until the necessary work is done, I end up doing a better job on my necessary work.

It works out really well for me.

But it leaves me in a bad place. At the rate I'm going, I'll have Blood Diamond ready for editorial around the same time that Storm Surge releases. In theory, I could have it edited and ready for release by May or June.

I simply can't afford to do it. I made promises I intend to keep. I'm not against adding the extra hours to the day to make Blood Diamond happen, but I can't–not without the sales on other books to make it work out.

I can already hear people asking why I can't do this–why can't I just shunt a project aside for Blood Diamond? Witch & Wolf is my better selling series. Why can't I just use the money from the other projects to support Blood Diamond?

That's not how life works. That's not how I choose to run my business.

I can't spend money I don't have. Here's a breakdown of the big costs–the things I can't live without when producing a novel:

  • $700, approximate, for editorial
  • $200+ for cover art
  • $100 general other expenses

It's about $1,000 on the nose to produce a novel, excluding any promotion, which I've mostly cut from my budget altogether to allow me to funnel all of my royalties to paying for my expenses.

Surviving, not thriving.

So, I did some math. In order to pay for Rider of the Sun Horse, I need approximately $800 in royalties (I've already paid some) from my novels. I started my marker with my February sales–when Storm Surge became available for preorder. Once Rider of the Sun Horse is paid for, I can use the royalties for other things. Half of what is earned beyond my basic expenses goes to the household. Frankly, I'll be astonished if I earn out the $800 in three or four months of sales at my current sales rate.

That hurts, but there's nothing I can do about it, beyond hope that I somehow manage to get a boost from somewhere. I'm going to be doing a March promotion to see if I can revitalize my novels while I'm waiting for Storm Surge's release.

I've already paid for Storm Surge, so I'm currently banking to pay for Rider of the Sun Horse. I'm paying my staff in advance as I have the money. So, as soon as it hits my bank account, it goes to them. We track how much I've prepaid so we know if I can keep my publication schedule on track.

Once Rider of the Sun Horse is available for sale or preorder, the royalty counter starts again. I pool all of my titles together to ensure that I can pay for the next title.

If I were thriving, all I would have to do is route half of the excess earnings to Blood Diamond. Unfortunately, I'm at the stage where all of my royalties are going to pay for my production costs. Right now, I'm not even able to contribute to the household. I'm surviving, not thriving.

I knew this would be a real risk of writing full time. My husband is also aware of this. We're both hoping and praying one of my novels takes off and gives us both a much-needed boost.

Winter Wolf didn't get the boost we were hoping for. It hurt–it didn't have the success of Inquisitor. It hasn't done badly, but it wasn't done well either. That's a painful admission for me.

Someone on facebook suggested that I use a crowdfund to pay for Blood Diamond. I already did that; I had a campaign specifically for the Witch & Wolf novels. It paid for Winter Wolf in full. It paid for the cover art for Blood Diamond and Silver Bullet. That's it. The rest is on me. I'm really grateful for the help, but it doesn't change facts:

Unless my books sell, I simply can't do it. I can't funnel $700 out of my household expenses to pay for it.

It's frustrating, but this is the business of writing. So, it's entirely possible I'll end up sitting on Blood Diamond unless Inquisitor and/or Winter Wolf have a sudden surge of sales. (I do tend to ear mark funds for a series by the earnings of the series–so if Inquisitor or Winter Wolf had a huge surge in sales, I would detour/earmark funds from that surge of sales to Blood Diamond–I acknowledge when fans speak out by buying a title.)

It's just frustrating, so terribly frustrating, because I have so much I want to do, but it's going to be difficult at best to accomplish it all.

And no, I won't release a novel without paying for proper editorial. I can't do the work on my own with the quality I need. Been there and done that with The Eye of God. I will never make that same mistake again–I relied too much on myself for The Eye of God, and not nearly enough on the editorial staff that has really, really helped my later books shine.

/End Whine

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