Publishing isn’t a “real job”

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.

One week to go!

EDITED: We made it! With 93 backers and 113% of goal. Stay tuned for more info on Shadows of Asphodel, which is slated for a September release.

One week to go for the Shadows of Asphodel Kickstarter! Things are looking good:

Shadows of Asphodel -- Kicktraq Mini

I have been asked if there’s a sample of my writing online, for interested backers who haven’t read my other books, and so without further ado… here is the first page of Shadows of Asphodel.

1913

Transylvania

ONE

Ardis trudged across the blood-churned earth, blinking against spindrift snow and her windblown hair in her eyes. Her arm ached, but she kept a good grip on Chun Yi, her sword. Above her, the drone of aircraft heralded the advance of the medics who would decide the fate of the men and women lying broken on the ground. Ardis tugged her scarf over her nose, trying not to gag at the stench of diesel and blood.

She should hurry. She couldn’t see the height of the sun behind the clouds.

The battle was over, but a storm was coming.

Ardis trod softly among the wounded, giving distance to rebels in their ragtag uniforms. Her enemies looked helpless, but she could hear their groans and prayers. Her fingers tightened around the sharkskin hilt of Chun Yi, and she hoped—

Movement.

Ardis spun with her sword ready, and saw a man stagger to his feet. His mane of black hair flew in his face, hiding it, and his ragged breath fogged the air. He didn’t look like a soldier or a rebel, dressed in a fine coat of gray wool and wolverine fur, matted flat with blood. His hands hung empty at his sides.

What was a gentleman like him doing on the battlefield?

The man cleared his throat, clenched and unclenched his hands. “I’m unarmed.”

His words were at once smooth and rough, a honey-gravel voice, and he spoke German without any trace of an accent.

“Hands on your head,” she commanded.

The man did as she said, and the wind blew his hair from his face. Ardis had to stare.

He was starkly handsome, with an arrogant elegance only gentlemen have. Dark slivers of eyebrows, cheekbones so sharp you could cut yourself on them, and eyes exactly like those of a snow leopard, a stunning pale gray-green.

A thin smile tugged at the man’s lips. “How are you going to kill me?”

She kept her face blank. “I haven’t decided yet.”

“I would prefer your dagger,” he said. “It looks sharp.”

“Sword,” she said.

“Ah. My apologies.”

Dying to know more about the necromancer? Read the first chapter of Shadows of Asphodel here. And don’t forget to check out the Kickstarter!