Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Money Matters

I hate it when it’s time to get resourceful. For all my innovation in writing, my interest in the new and the different, I crave security at a very deep level. Frankly, it’s a joke that someone with my need for security should be in a profession where the money comes slow and irregularly when it comes at all.

Lately a series of very bad expenses – all new appliances except for the stove which is limping (and I do mean limping, unfortunately) along and might hold another year if we’re lucky, a series of car repairs, tuition for both kids an idiot cat who swallowed a bunch of thread and other sundry emergencies – have driven a knife deep into my bank account. This combines with the fact that payments that used to be almost instant in publishing are often now eight months late to bring us to a no good, very bad, rotten type of financial situation.

Of course the problem with this is that anxiety brings my writing to a grinding halt, and that in turn grinds the payments to an even slower schedule because I deliver late.

To put things bluntly, we need to make up the about 12k in unexpected expenses (yeah, the tuition was expected, but the rest wasn’t) that have buffeted us since around December or things are going to go south very fast and get extremely unpleasant to the point that writing time will become iffy (as in, if we need to move).

In this type of situation, normally, I get a day job. Except... I haven’t needed to do that in more than ten years, so my marketable skills are limited. Also I’m signed for six books due this year. This combination means in this market getting a job at all will be... uh... interesting and that if I get a job I won’t be able to write.

This leaves me two options, which – while both cut into my writing by making more writing – are actually doable and in several ways preferable.

One is a storyteller’s bowl. I set up a site and start putting up a novel, then set a value per chapter – since my chapters are short, probably a relatively low value – and once that value is reached in donations, I put up the next chapter. The only problem with this is finishing the novel before I put it up. I don’t think that would happen, which means people would essentially be donating for an e-arc – an unedited/unpolished novel. I was thinking – for those of you in the diner – of putting up my regency Witchfinder novel with the Scarlet Pimpernel character. It is outlined, and I know I can finish it, and well... I will write for money. (I could also do a science fiction, mind you...)

The other is a subscription. For – say – $10 a year, I commit to two short stories a month, 60% of those to be set in either the world (and probably past history) of DST and shifters. (Probably more than 60%, but I can promise 60%. ) There would be the occasional three short story month/novellete/story by a “guest author” as a bonus.

I am tempted to try both of them. They would take less time away from contracts than an honest job and if they bring in what I need, it would reduce anxiety enough to allow me to work.

What do you guys think the chances of either/both/neither of these succeeding are? I confess that they’re all too “risky” to my mind and that I hate having to get creative in this way. However, it seems that I DO have to try. Ideas? Suggestions? Rotten tomatoes?

Crossposted at According To Hoyt and Classical Values.

34 comments:

Chris L said...

Isn't that how Dumas wrote the three Musketeers? Serialisation?

It strikes me that you guys here at MGC have developed a following that you could make work for you. You had 28,000 hits on your site in January 2011 for crying out loud! That's massive!

This site averaged 10,000+ unique visitors per month over the past 3 months, over a thousand of which are return visitors from previous months.

Why not produce a e-mag or something that contains serialisations, a few samples of upcoming work or maybe a short story or two? I know you post samples here already, but this way you could make them look sharp, and charge like...cash, n'stuff.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Sorry to hear things have been tough, Sarah.

As a parent of 6 kids I know all about scraping and scrambling to make ends meet.

Hope you manage to find the cash. If I had any brilliant ideas, I'd be doing them myself.

MataPam said...

I like the Storyteller's Bowl idea, but I think the "when paid for" part will put off al lot of people. They'll fear they won't get the whole story.

I think you'd have to commit to posting the whole thing, to get people started buying. You mentioned e-arc--how about going back one step and selling the first draft as you write it?

I think that you could then, off line, work over the draft, expand it, change things, and then sell it to a publisher. You could even be truly evil and change the ending.

Mike said...

You might want to take with Sharon Lee and Steve Miller about their experience with the Storyteller's Bowl. I know Saltation and Fledgling were both written (first draft) that way.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Chris,

Unfortunately the traffic here doesn't always translate...

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Rowena,

What's scaring me is that these are what should be minor setbacks at any other time.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Pam,

Other people have done it, with posting as paid for. In fact it seems to be the model.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Mike,

Lee and Miller are notorious for not answering correspondence, and we're not close friends. (We're not -- that I know, at least -- on bad terms, either. We're just not in the same circles by any stretch.) So, I'll probably have to muddle through.

Melvyn Barker said...

I'd be happy to contribute so you could carry on writing. I'm mostly an SF reader, but I've enjoyed most of your stories that I've read, including the teaser for the musketeer vampire novel.

If I remember right Dave Freer did a storytellers bowl project to raise funds to help move his animals to Flinders Island so he might be able to offer advice as well.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Melvyn,

Thanks, and if we can just get past this bump, I AM selling books and the money will eventually come in. I just need to cover about six months...

I need to have a long talk with Monkey, anyway...

Jim McCoy said...

*SIGH*

Well Sarah, I don't usually read stuff online. BUT, for one of my favorite authors, I could make an exception, because I know what it's like to have rough times...

And if Mr. I don't like reading things on my computer (that would be me) can foot the bill for an online novel and/or subscription service I'm sure others would too.

twittertales said...

Are you near a primary school? I work as a private home tutor in the afternoons, charging $40 an hour, and I've now built up a number of students who come to my house (saving me heaps in petrol and time).

You already know grammar, spelling and storytelling, and primary school maths is about 60% times tables (buy one of the educational textbooks appropriate to the student's age and you'll have all you're likely to need). If the school is near you, the students will probably be finished by the time your own kids come home (unless your kids also go to that school, and walk home). Having just one or two students in a day tends to add focus to my writing - and I go back to being virtually unemployed in the holidays (which is more or less a good thing).

There aren't many jobs where you can choose to do literally just an hour a week, 40 weeks a year. It's useless as a "real" job but great for a few hundred dollars here and there.

Louise Curtis

twittertales said...

PS You can get students by putting a short ad in the school newsletter - it will be either free or under $10.

Louise Curtis

MataPam said...

Collaberations probably take as much time as doing one yourself.

You were talking about Fan Fic, do you want try open submissions for an actual anthology in one of your Universes? Probably the Shifters would bring in the most offerings. Don't know if that's good or bad. E-pub to do it as quickly as possible? Or sell the idea to Toni?

"The Complete Short Stories Of Sarah Hoyt" except for what's not reverted?

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Of your suggestions, I would prefer the short story subscription thing over the story bowl. I would rather pay once or so a year for a subscription than more frequently for the story bowl thing as I'm not a fan of buying stuff online for security reasons.

Dawn

Good luck

Kate Paulk said...

I'll pay for it however I get it. And Sarah, at least you have a fan base. This poor struggling beginner has nuttin' :)

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Louise & Sarah. I forgot about tutoring. That's how I made my money at Uni. It was so much fun teaching it hardly seemed like I was using any effort at all (most of it was maths). The only problem is I had knack for making people understand it and kept putting myself out of work:)

Along the same lines - what about some sort of paid mentoring? Or manuscript assessment?

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Jim,

Thank you. I'm probably going to try the storyteller's bowl first, while I think about the subscription. I know Jerry Pournelle has a $30 "subscription" for his columns/writing, and it works. I have to think it through carefully.
And I feel guilty even considering this. I know there are people in much worse shape, but I THINK if we can make it these six months, we'll be all right after. The thing is my book sales are picking up -- it's just the cash flow issue.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Twittertales,
Are you in the US? Sorry, I just have a vague impression this is not so easy in the US. I used to do it in Portugal years ago -- tutoring.

It has occurred to me to open a language and culture online school for homeschooled children. I know how hard it is to teach your children a foreign language you don't speak. I put my kid in one of those schools for Latin and Greek the one year we homeschooled, and I think there might be a market. I can do French and Portuguese easilly and, with a little practice to get it back, German and Italian. Surely there are homeschooling parents who want their kids to learn those? The problem though, is that those will probably only ramp up early next school year, not now... And I need "bridge" money right now.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Matapam,

None of these would bring money QUICKLY, which is the issue. There's tons of things I can and potentially MIGHT have to do in the long run, but I need something short term. And fan fic wouldn't bring money, unless I CHARGE people to play in the world (a bizarre idea.) Shorts... are not that commercial. They work best as a loss leader.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Dawn,

It would be either paypal or amazon or both. I'm not keeping anyone's card number!

And I'll probably end up doing both...

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Kate

Well, this is where we test how much of a fan base I can get. Just 1k fans and I'll be all right... um...

Stephen Simmons said...

You mentioned teh subscription idea a couple weeks back, as I recall. I said then I'd happily jumpo in for twenty bucks. Wasn't fibbin'. Ten bucks? Where do I sign?

Kate, you gots a fan-base of at least one ... lol

Jim McCoy said...

Sarah,

There's no need to feel guilty. Guilty was me a few years ago when I lost my job four days after moving into a new house with my pregnant wife and had not way to provide money...

That sucked.

If you have a gift (and you do) then by all means, using it to support yourself is not something to be guilty of, it's something to be proud of.

So handle your business, sell your talent and take care of what needs to be taken care of. It's what you SHOULD do.

Stephen Simmons said...

Yeah, what Jim said.

Or, more simply: Me buying a subscription means Sarah has more time to write, with less stress joggling her elbow and giving her Characters tummy-aches. Which means more Sarah-books and stories are created than would exist otherwise, and the writing is produced with less distraction. Which means I win.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Stephen,

I considered it before, then chickened out, fearing I wouldn't get enough people... If I do it, sigh, I will not only need to tell people about it, I'll need you guys to, also. Because otherwise I'll spend ALL my time telling people about it. And see, I hate imposing on people. (Yes, it is possible I'm nuts.)

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Jim
Thank you. And if it makes you feel better, our first son was born -- after six years of very expensive infertility treatments -- while my husband was at a job where they thought it was dandy not to pay him... He was born a month after Dan quit that job and he was born on COBRA which cost us 20k dollars. During the 91 recession...
We moved across country and the money got paid off eventually and no one has tried to repossess him. Yet. (In the laws of such things, his brother who was born while we were financially stable AND had insurance was a no-complications birth and cost, I think, $250 total, including the part the insurance paid. I think our copay was $20. An hour and a half from onset of labor to baby in arms, and out of hospital less than 24h later.) I swear whoever is writing my story has a sense of humor.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Stephen,

Honest, I waste more time to worry than would be taken by another novel and twenty shorts...

Mike said...

Fanfic -- don't charge for playing in the universe. Do charge for the BACKGROUND BIBLE. And for each entry into the monthly contest ($5 per entry? With First Prize of $20 and Second Prize of $10 for the reader selected winners! Let's see -- if 100 people put in subs, that's $500, minus $30 for the prizes, that's $470 dollars... for future investment?) Hey, I just think that's part of the reason I've seen so many contests where you pay to submit...

msss said...

$10 is almost nothing. For two stories per month for a year? I'd make it at least $24 - that fits in with 99 cent stories at other places.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

'nother Mike,

Smells too much of scam to me.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

MSS

I was thinking more like a collection, but I guess those are usually less than twenty stories? And they don't include novellas, which a lot of mine will be. I tell you what, I'll do an introductury price of $10 for the first three months, then raise it to $20 and peg it there.
If someone wants to help me with ideas on advertising (other than a blog tour, which I'll totally do if any of you has offers of a blog)and a name for the thing, come on over to my blog and chime in.

Dave Freer said...

The story teller's bowl worked principally because a lot of friends (including Sarah) got behind it and pushed. About 1:5 viewers paid in. Our target was 10K to move the cats and dogs to Australia(which we reached - the whole process cost 28K) and the fact I'm in no hurry to do it again - despite being broke-ish does say something.

The subscription idea is worth trying -and leaves you with a whole lot of stories to sell later.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Dave,

That's what I was thinking. Also, if it works, it can be grown into some sort of co-op with you and others, where you either sell me x stories a year to add as "extras" to the pot. (Or a novel. I know you're not a short story writer.) Or eventually, given enough success spawn off your own "subscriptions."
You know I'm not a do-gooder, but the fact that it can end up benefiting more than myself is a great incentive, too. And yes, it leaves me stuff to sell and/or put up as loss leaders. And you know, I've done it before and I know I can do it. Ramping up will be hardest, because I'm out of the "short story knack" but it will come.