I’ve debated whether I should speak about the controversy when author Stacey Jay cancelled her Kickstarter. Marni Bates and Chuck Wendig have great summaries of the situation, if you haven’t already heard.
Sometimes honesty in publishing can be a kiss of death, so I’ll try to keep this succinct.
In 2013, I decided to self-publish after I couldn’t sell another book to any publisher for several years. Yes, maybe I was writing the wrong books for the right people, but still, it meant that I would go a year without a new release.
Of course, this meant no publishing income for a year. And I faced the very real fear that readers might forget me and my books completely. A fast fade into obscurity. Obviously I didn’t want to go down without a fight, so I decided to self-publish my first indie title. When I researched the costs of cover design, formatting, and editing, I had some sticker shock. I graduated college in 2010, hadn’t found a “real job” I liked, and money was still tight.
Kickstarter seemed like an awesome solution. I did one for my dieselpunk novel, Shadows of Asphodel, which I knew was weird but everything I wanted to write. When I ran my Kickstarter, I didn’t ask for any money beyond the costs for publication and fulfilling incentives for backers. The Kickstarter was successfully funded, but I still had to pay out of pocket when I went over budget partway through the process.
Still, crowdfunding was a success, and Shadows released 2013. When I started writing the sequel, Storms of Lazarus, I decided to run another Kickstarter so I could afford the same amazing cover designer. Again, all the money went straight to the book.
As an author, I am privileged. I can stay at home to write while my husband earns a steady wage, even if I can’t always chip in with my royalties. But then there’s that moment when you realize you spent too much on marketing your last book, and can’t afford the cover for your next release. Or there are student loan payments, or medical bills, or the groceries you put on your credit card. Sometimes a “real job” seems like a smarter choice than anxiety and depression when you fail at publishing.
Could I do another Kickstarter? Maybe. After what happened with Stacey Jay, I’m not sure I could justify a third crowdfunding campaign.
I write books for myself and my readers. I publish for a living.
And it’s often nearly impossible to make a living as an author. Maybe authors shouldn’t feel entitled to a salary. Maybe readers should only expect books from those with enough privilege not to worry about money.
But I would love for writing to be a “real job” for me and authors like Stacey Jay.