|One quarter, three nickels, three dimes|
Two years ago I set up the Street Change Challenge. Sounds like a charitable initiative, but it's not (except inasmuch as I am a charity case).
|Can't make this shit up.|
I wonder why.
Haha, no I don't. They told me why and they weren't douchey about it: I hadn't sent them a new manuscript in years and old stuff stops selling after a while. Returning my rights made good business sense for me and for them. No hard feelings on my side, and I hope none on theirs.
A royalty cheque for $1.90 was nothing unusual for me, unfortunately, but that particular cheque got the cogs cogitating. You can't get a coffee at Starbucks for $1.90.
Writing isn't a hobby, over here. This is my career. Pretty dismal.
But it inspired my tongue-in-cheek Street Change Challenge.
In 2012, I proclaimed that if I found more than $1.90 on the sidewalk in three months, I would quit writing and turn to picking up coins as a profession.
|In 2012, we still had pennies in Canada.|
The Street Change Challenge was kind of an exercise in ridiculousness. It doesn't take any special skill to pick up change off the sidewalk. Does it not take skill to write a book? Shouldn't a person who writes books for a living earn more than someone casually picking up nickels off the floor of a bus?
I love a good deal. I love getting something for nothing. I'm happy to go out of my way to buy stuff on sale. I regularly walk when a subway ride would be faster because the $3 fare is too high. Hey, if it's more than $1.90 I can't afford it!
My girlfriend often asks me, "Why don't you pay the subway fare and spend that saved hour working? Isn't one hour of your time worth more than $3?"
My initial reaction is NO, but I don't tell her that because she'll say I'm devaluing my time and thus denigrating myself... which is probably true. Sometimes when I'm chasing the lowest price on milk (keeping my eyes peeled for loose change on the sidewalk), I ask myself, "Would my time be better spent writing?"
I've decided there is no measurable answer to that question. When you're a writer, you can't calculate what your time is worth the way people with hourly earnings can.
Writing is a crapshoot. You can quote me on that, and I hope you do. Writing is not a job--it's a gamble.
It happens that I'm not a gambler (I don't even buy lottery tickets), so it's kind of weird that I do this for a living. There's no way to predict whether a book will hit it big or sell ONE copy (the one you bought yourself). I like certainties. I like math. I want to be able to calculate the value of my time, but it's constantly in flux because this industry changes so damn fast.
When I started writing erotica in 2006, I was a short story writer answering calls for submissions for print anthologies. If you're an erotic fiction writer, you know what that world looks like these days.
You probably signed contracts two years ago for anthologies that are stuck in the queue of a halted production schedule. Generally speaking, contributors don't get paid until after the book is published. That's a long time to wait for $50.
Math is my friend. I can't help calculating what I might earn self-publishing a short story in the time it takes a print book (that my work may or may not be selected for) to make it to market.
But, like I said, it's a crapshoot. In order to do the math, you need to be able to count on something, anything... and you just can't, in this industry.
Two years ago, my goal was to find $1.90 in change on the sidewalk. Nowadays I'm concerned with paying the rent and putting food on the table. I'm working with fewer publishers. I only send work to houses that make me money, otherwise I self-publish--something I thought I'd never do back in 2012.
I realize now I spent too many years sending manuscripts to publishers that earned me next to nothing. I didn't listen to the math. I felt a sense of loyalty because they'd taken a chance on me early in my career, or because they were nice people.
I don't do that anymore. I know I sound like a total dirtbag, and maybe I am a total dirtbag, but who benefits if a book doesn't sell?