Friday, August 30, 2013

Won an eight hour challenge

Fools and Cthulhu is the first ebook that I put up on Amazon.
Last week, Joe Konrath (one of the writers and bloggers that I read on a regular basis) offhand was talking about how easy it was for writers to forget that writing can be fun (quite easy to forget when you are focused on the business end of things). And he mentioned how he cranked out a few items over a beer--really short humorous ebooks) in the space of an hour.

Then he issued a challenge to his readers--write, edit, format, cover illustrate, and upload a short ebook in eight hours. And he said that he would blog about the winners...hmmm, there was no way that one could go south, was there?

Now, I am not sure how many writers read his blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, but he was shocked that over an one hundred and forty of us actually completed the challenge.

Including myself.

Now, I will admit that I knew ahead of time that I could complete the challenge; after all, a lot of the erotica I write is short stories completed within ten hours (outlined, written, edited, cover made, formatted and uploaded with just ten hours used to complete the whole nine yards).

But it had been awhile since I wrote something just for fun--at least, ebook-wise.

The tricky part was that Joe Konrath likes Amazon (he does not think that they are the devil), so he wanted you to do the uploading to Amazon. And in my case, I have never done that before (I have been dealing with Smashwords and their distribution network).

Yes, I had been putting off learning how to do so...for awhile...much to my surprise, it was not nearly as painful as I imagined it to be.

Anyway, I now have another short-short story up in ebook form on the internet. And yes, I know, I should have stuck to writing erotica.

Fools and Cthulhu is 99 cents on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Almost the end of the earnings year

Finally, I put something up on Amazon.
It is hard to believe, but it is almost the end of my earnings year. Now, for those of you who say "huh?!" about that statement, just remember that the majority of my income is of the quarterly variety. While I do receive some monthly payments, they are really small in comparison to my income that is paid out after every quarter. So I just have one more month of sales that will result in income for this calendar year.

(After September 30th, most of what I earn, I do not receive until next calendar year.)

And considering that it is so close to the end of my earnings year, there is a large part of me that is already engaged in planning out what I plan I doing next year.

One of the differences in my next big writing campaign will be the fact that I am finally putting stuff up on Amazon (more about this in a few days). The very first Amazon offering of mine (a short story of about 1640 words) is Fools and Cthulhu (99 cents)--it just went up yesterday.

So is there anything new or different that you plan on doing for your next writing campaign?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why all future earnings estimates are zero when you are a writer

The other day, my dear wife asked me what I thought that my current project was worth. I told her the honest truth. Zero--zip--nothing. Needless to say, she did not like my answer. But it was the truth.

I did take time out to attempt to explain the logic of my answer to her. And so here it is; just in case, your day as a writer was not depressing enough as it was.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that you are a non-technical writer. And probably self-publishing to a certain extent.

In 2004, the League of Utah Writers (LUW) surveyed their membership. Overall, the average income from writing among its 234 non-technical writer members was a mere $2,705 dollars per year. Yes, less than three thousand dollars a year.

Now, a good portion of the LUW actually reported no income from writing at all.

The average of just those writers who had actually received income from writing was $5,213.28. Still less than six thousand a year.

A third of the writers worked in newspapers and for magazines, and a third wrote novels and books; editing and consulting chewed up eleven percent, and short stories six percent. The other eighteen percent fell under the category of "other."

Sometime ago, I read that your average self-published writer only sold nine copies of any given book. Unfortunately, I do not remember the source of that information, much like I forget the source that claimed that your average traditionally published writer average a mere five hundred copies sold. Personally, I find both statistics to be scary as hell if they are even remotely true. (They are also proof that I need to invest in a better filing system.)

Let's presume that my current project sells the average nine copies...that is a whooping five dollars and forty cents if I place a 99 cent price tag on the piece. That is so close to nothing that it is safe to say that my current project is worth nothing.

Of course, there is a large number of self-published writers who make nothing. There must be. Or next to nothing. Don't believe me--consider the following information.

In 2011, Dave Cornford and Steven Lewis carried out a survey of 1,007 self-published writers. They learned that half of the writers that they surveyed made less than five hundred dollars. The average earnings was a mere ten thousand a year. The reason that the average is so high? Turns out that less than ten percent of the authors were raking in seventy-five percent of the pie (people like Amanda Hocking and E.L. James). Turns out that self-publishing is just like traditionally publishing with the majority of the earnings earned by the super-star one percent.

By the way, the 2011 survey is one of the reasons that I am proud of the fact that I have to pay self-employment tax as a writer. With the 2012 floor for self-employment tax being $434 (after one takes all the deductions that one can get away with), anyone who pays self-employment tax as a self-published writer is probably in the upper fifty percent of self-published writers actually making money. No, I am not going to tell you exactly how much I make in dirty money--just assume that I could make more flipping burgers for a most other writers.

(Yes, I am assuming that the figures have not budged any from 2011--in fact, I assume that the average has actually gone down due to the gold-rush of DIY writers.)

So overall, if you are a writer (untested and inexperienced--or working on a brand new genre and have no previous items of the same ilk) and not in the higher reaches of the profession (top quarter of the earners), your most honest answer to the question about the monetary value of what you are working on has to be ZERO.

[In a post on my economics blog, I joked that I make somewhere between zero and thirty-five dollars per hour of writing. More often than not, it is closer to zero than the thirty-five. And that is the harsh truth, as well as another depressing conversation for another day.]

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rejoice--I am not a professional writer

Let the universe rejoice! Let be known that I am not a professional writer! I am not even a hack!

And how did I learn this? By taking a quiz. The quiz is by Lisa Morton and is on the Horror Writers Association LA article page. For those who just want to see the questions, here they are:

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?
2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?
3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?
4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?
5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunities (either research or networking potential)?
6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?
7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?
8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?
9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?
10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?

Given that Morton believes that you need to answer yes to all ten (but is willing to give you some slack for eight or more), the people who know me will instantly see how I do not qualify by her standards. Of course, my biggest problem with the whole quiz is that she wrote it after being disappointed in a discussion group where no one actually talked about writing (which describes every writer discussion group I have ever encountered).

Here are my answers:

1. No, I just generally have a high tolerance for dirt. And some of my best bouts of cleaning are when I am struggling with something I am writing, and need to do some heavy thinking about it. I guess that if you are working on your writing, then you never actually clean anything. Damn food service habits bite me in the butt again (that is where I picked up my high tolerance for dirt, and the habit of thinking while cleaning).

2. No, and no. My schedule includes time to be with people because I slowly go crazy if I do not talk with people on occasion. (Again, let's blame that one on food service--I could blame it on being the oldest of eight kids, but that would just be too harsh.)

3. And miss my shows?! Hell, no. I write during commercials...occasionally.

4.  I have very seldom actually met useful criticism or honest I have no clue how to answer that one. I guess that makes it an no.

5. Does anyone remember the last vacation that I took? For the last seven years that I worked food service, I did not take a vacation. And now, I can't afford one...but I couldn't afford one while doing food service, so not much has changed. I never planned my vacations around writing and research--no, I dealt with my family instead. So no...unless one considers my extended time out of the work force as an extended vacation, in which case--no.

6. No. No. Oh, hell no! Honestly, I find that talking to other writers (who are not my friends) to be terribly tedious. And quite often, a complete waste of time. As for my friends (writers and otherwise), writing is just one of the many things that we talk about. I am fond of talking about cats, witchcraft, and Doctor fact, these topics trump talking about writing.

7. I have worked food service all my adult life...therefore, I have no idea how I could take a lower paying job than that. So I have to answer no...unless being unemployed counts--and I doubt that it does.

8. A more lucrative career?! Considering that I spent my entire adult working life in food service and the fact that I was a high school dropout (until I was forty), I guess that giving up writing erotica for the glamorous world of drug dealing is what the lucrative career is. And I was never going to have a nice home as a high school dropout, so by default, this one is an no. You can't answer yes to a question that does not actually allow for a yes to be given.

9. Yes, I am still the same person that I was five years ago. But considering that all my answers are no's, this is technically also an no, isn't it?

10. Ambition?! I have it on the best of authorities that I have no ambition. And being realistic, I have no high hopes for my writing career. For god's (and goddess's) sake, I write erotica and other low-brow stuff. I am not going to be Stephen King or J. K. Rowling. Or even a literary writer like my sister. And I might not even be entertaining. So again, this is a technical no.

So that gives me ten big f***ing indications that I am not a professional writer. That should make a lot of people happy. Including Lisa Morton. Good thing that I do not have an union card because it would have to be ripped up.

But here is the twist. By IRS standards, I am a professional writer. I have to pay self-employment tax. I paid it last year; I have to pay it this year; and even if I quit writing right now, I will have to pay it next year. The one question that Lisa Morton does not ask is whether or not, you are actually making money as a writer. But I guess in her universe, that question does not matter. So rejoice that I am not a writer. And someone please go convince the IRS that I am not a professional writer, so I do not have to pay them any more taxes.