Oh, yeah, author post. You're thinking, "She's going to PBS again." You're right and you're wrong to think that... this post is my roadmap to the future, and it's a future that involves less begging and more kicking out the creativity.
This past weekend, I had my first experience going out in the world. I got to meet some of you. I got to meet some tremendously talented people who are doing similar things to me: making art, performing, entertaining people, teaching, learning, doing. I also got a glimpse of my future... my possible future.
I set out to prove that it was possible to make a living writing stories by myself on the internet, and I did it. For over a year. The fact that I, someone disorganized and visually untalented and a little shy and awkward about self-promotion and asking for help outside of a few formalized channels managed to do it gave me hope that other people, who have talents for visual artistry as well as literary, could do it as well and could do it better.
So, point proven. But what have I done since then? I've kept on keepin' on, with varying degrees of success. I haven't done much blogging about writing and publishing. I haven't managed to hold together any kind of community. I haven't felt as driven as I once did. I've plateaued.
I've accomplished my goal, but I never set a new one.
And so here I am stumbling along, about the same as I was when I started. Now I have a choice. These troubled economic times are very perilous for a person to be relying on the subsistence level of income I've scraped up for myself, as each overdraft or late payment creates penalties that stack up very quickly. I hit one such landmine just before my trip when my debit card wasn't working and I ended up socked with some heinous late fees because I didn't have anything else to pay. Nothing disastrous, that time.
So here's my next goal: to take what I'm doing and make it bigger. To put myself out there, to get out there and meet people... to network with my readers and with other writers and artists... to hit cons and festivals and gatherings and anywhere that will have me. It's going to be hard work, but after watching so many passionate people working so hard to bring their visions to life, I've come to realize that's what it takes to keep the fires burning, to keep the energy flowing.
It's going to be hard and it's going to be glorious.
If it happens. I'm full of energy right now... but bills are due and my trip, though I believe it will prove too profitable in the long run to have missed, carried expenses with it.
But I've been managing to throw up at least Tribe and one other update every day this week so far, even with catching up on household stuff, even with catching up on things that got neglected with the trip, even while doing more reading for pleasure than I've done in a long time, even while dealing with the maintenance people and everything else that I might have let distract me before... I know I can keep this going as long as I keep my sights aimed high instead of straight ahead down the same path I've been plodding along.
But I also know that I'm asking for a lot. Before when I've done a call for help, I've been asking for what I needed to get by... and you folks have, collectively, always come through. You folks are the greatest, and if it seems like I spend more time responding to the negativity and the naysayers than acknowledging that, I'm well and truly sorry.. they're just the loudest voices, but your actions speak far louder than their words, time and time again.
Now I'm asking for more. But you know what? I'm not immediately asking for more money, comparatively, in dollars and cents. I'm asking for a different arrangement. Here's what I need:
In order to meet my most basic of basic needs, I need $1500 a month. I get that... at least, if you average out the months I get out the collection tin and get a big haul with the lean months. I'm grateful for that. But for me to keep going, for me to have the freedom to travel and network and spread the word and read and see and do new things that keep the stories moving inside my head, I need that to be a stable baseline from which I can grow.
One-off contributions are wonderful and I'm not going to say a word against them, but what I need to keep going in the long run is regular support. I have eighty-some individuals who have chosen to sponsor my writing for $5 a month, including the individuals who chose to be anonymous. To represent $1500 a month, I need three hundred. There are over twenty thousand people reading my various stories. Enough of you are willing to kick in money to keep me alive and keep me writing when I really need it. Are there two hundred some more of you willing to put up $5 a month so that I can take this to the next level?
I'll make this easier. I'll add a $1 a month option, though considering that option could easily balloon to having a thousand people taking part in it over time, I'm afraid I can't offer anything more than my appreciation for it. My technical, spiritual, and menu adviser Pope Lizbet tells me to quit fretting that since what I'm offering is stories and entertainment.
$1500 a month in recurring income. That's not a lot of money, but it is recurring money. In retrospect I should have made it the goal of my first "fundraiser", before I quit my day job. Who knows what I might have been able to get done if my initial "safety net" had been in the form of recurring income? The fact is I've become a "refresh monkey" myself... refreshing my account page to see if I have enough money to pay this bill here that needs to be paid. It's distracting. It eats at me when I should be writing.
And to those of you who have doubts about my follow-through... it's a month-to-month arrangement. I think of it as a pledge but I'm not holding anyone to a specific time period, nor could I. I'm not going to call your house or send around goons if you change your mind or decide it's not worth it after paying one month. If you want to wait to see if I keep up the updates, I suppose that's fair... but if the value of the stories you've been given so far is worth at least $5, why not sign up now?
You give $5 or $1 now and if you feel that I'm not holding up my end of the bargain, you cancel. It's better than giving a $50 or $10 donation for both of us, in that way.
So that's point number one. Patronage.
And if you're reading this page on a story that you feel has been neglected... well, MU gets the most of my attention because MU makes the most money. The sponsorship option lets you specify a story. Show me you're out there and willing to support a story and I won't be able to afford to let it languish.
That's the big thing, and if it doesn't come through... well, I proved my point. I made it a year and more than a year, I made more money than a lot of authors do, and I reached more people than a lot of authors do, but given the economic climate it's probably better that I rejoin the work force. My nice data entry job is now gone, so it will probably be hotel reservations or tech support or serving or something else that won't give me the "head time" I need to come home and write, so that will be back-burnered a bit and I'll have to look at other models when I come back to it, because I want to go forward and not retread the same path.
So, I'm going to put the rest of this behind a cut because it won't matter if point one doesn't come through.
2. Additional Income
Number 1 is about a baseline. This is about opportunities to earn more. Webcomic artists can sell digital prints and/or original artwork, signed. It's taken me a while to figure out an equivalent.
I'm now offering degrees from Magisterius University, in ten different subjects. Each comes signed and includes a few other goodies. The first of them will be walking out the door on Monday. Turn-around time for orders after that should be under a week. Additional majors will be available once all the kinks have been worked out.
I'm also going to occasionally offer some one-time naming rights. The T.M. Lazar Center for the Bardic Arts in TOMU was named for a reader who donated to help pay s00j's medical bills. I may make similar offers to worthy causes, but I do have to look out for myself, as well, so there are going to be some unique naming opportunities in the near future. I need a maximum security prison for Star Harbor and a hall where Callahan will teach her indoor classes. If you want your name on either of them, email me and we'll work out the details. It'll be $250. You must have PayPal (sorry, but they get the money to me immediately). Your name (real or assumed) will be part of the story every time these institutions come up. First come, first served... if the name you want doesn't "work" (mainly, if it's "AE IS A DOODYHEAD" or similar), I'll give you a chance to pick something else and then go on to the next one. If there are no immediate takers, I'll set up a shopping cart for them.
Other forms...? I'd like to improve my offerings in terms of merchandise and printed books, but basically I am a writer. I write. You'll notice most of the shirts I offer are just words. There are enough people reading this that somebody ought to either work with or know somebody who runs a t-shirt shop that wouldn't mind getting a piece of the Two love and/or supporting an independent author while making a little money. Throw me a line.
That brings me to:
I had a mapmaker contact me when I was out of town and I haven't responded to his email yet (it jumped out at me because it had an attachment), though I'm very excited at the prospect of the collaboration he suggests. I've been wary of such collaborations in the past but after seeing artists working together I feel like I might have missed out on something huge.
Are you an independent professional artist looking to boost your profile and build some synergy? Are you an out-of-work or aspiring voice actor willing to work for a cut of a Lulu (or similar service) download fee? Do you do book covers and/or book layouts? Do you write music?
If the answer to those or any of a hundred other "Do you...?" questions is "yes" and you enjoy any or all of my stories, I want to hear from you. feedback -at- alexandraerin -dot- com. Let's make something big together.
(Note: If you write fanfic or make fan games, I still don't necessarily want to hear about it... sorry, I yam what I yam, and there's no accounting for personal tastes. But I feel I'm established enough that I know longer have any reason to fear them being out there.)
Do you run a con, festival, writer's retreat, etc. that you would like to have me attend in some capacity? If you can pay to get me there--Amtrak coach is fine--and have some place for me to sleep where I have a door that closes and access to a bathroom, let me know and I will be there. If you can't pay travel fees, well, then it will depend on how we do with #1 and #2
4. Word of mouth and mouse
Spread the word. I know some of you are doing this, and I'm trying to make it easier for people to stumble upon me by being more accessible on things like Livejournal and Facebook, and that's working well, but there's always more that could be done. If you don't have money, if you even don't feel I've earned money, but you want to see me keep going... spread the word. Dear God, spread the word. Yes, it's okay to link your friends to it. Yes, it's okay to write the URL on a sticker and slap it up somewhere that it's okay to slap stickers. Yes, it's okay to concoct underground marketing schemes like the 2<3 links that everybody had in their signatures a while back. Spread the word.
And finally... if you feel the need to reply to this with doubt or criticism or pointing out where I've fallen short in the past, know that this time you're not going to get a response from me. At least, not a personal one. My reply will be action, not words. I will spend my time and energy on the people who believe in me. Those of you who criticize and mean well will probably appreciate that. Those of you who don't... well, whatever your problem is, it's not mine to solve or worry about.
I'm too busy shining.
Email feedback -at- alexandraerin -dot- com for questions or offers or to negotiate naming rights. I won't be checking email until this evening, though.