It was New Year’s Eve, December 31st 2015, and I was sitting in my car during my lunch break, smoking cigarettes, fully aware that I was going to get laid off.
This was not entirely a bad thing. I was working in a beer warehouse in Philadelphia, making a living union wage by quite literally stacking broken boxes and trying not to crash my forklift. Better men than I went to work to support their families there. But for me, it was where my aspirations went to die.
For at the ripe age of twenty-one, I decided to drop out of (community) college to become a writer. Not the soundest decision, but it’s one I’ve stuck by. Working a series of low-wage jobs to facilitate a writer living sure sounds romantic when you’re just hitting the legal drinking age.
When you’re almost thirty-two years old, however…well, I’m not looking backward. Just forward. The past is scary when you have a lot of regret. Luckily for me, I’ve poured enough chemicals on my brain over the years that my memory is ill-suited for dwelling on the past.
As I sat in my car smoking those cigarettes awaiting my layoff, I decided that it was time, for lack of a better phrase, to shit or get off the pot. I resolved that day to do whatever I can to write for a living, or at least earn a solid side income from my work.
My writing – as it stands – hasn’t been devoid of success, however meager those accomplishments might be. Under my real name, I’ve had two short stories appear in three tiny lit rags, an aborted book contract with Wild Child Publishing (by my hand; I’m pro-choice when it comes to killing unborn books), and earned beer and gas money writing for a small newspaper.
As Mack Moyer, I’ve had my novel published by Permuted Press, earning me a small advance, along with selling token copies of two self-published short stories.
Yet it hasn’t been enough, nor has it been consistent. I have yet to fully drop a load on this pot on which I sit. And damn it, I think I have more than a few dingleberries left.
I mean, what the hell. I’m laid off, aren’t I? Rather than just sit around collecting unemployment checks, I’m using this paid vacation as a chance to pump some momentum into my writing. As I write this, I have a small collection of short stories that I’m going to submit to good, paying markets, as well as a first draft of a novel.
Small problem, though. I can’t actually receive payment for any of those until I’m back to work, unless I want to incur the wrath of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. While I can earn money from my existing fiction, if I were to get paid for anything new, the state would cut my benefits and, perhaps, make me pay back everything I’ve received already.
What I’m Trying To Accomplish With This Blog
If you’ve noticed, I’ve revamped this blog. (And no, you haven’t noticed because nobody read it, not even me, except when I was a few beers deep and wrote bad, dirty poems on it.)
This is where I’m going to chart my progress, or lack thereof. I will detail every submission and rejection. This is where I’ll puke words onto the keyboard when I’m in a deep, black valley of awfulness. And hopefully, this is where I’ll post any money, goods, or services I receive in exchange for my writing.
Then at the end of each month I will tally up everything and share what I’ve earned.
There are very few that I’ve set for myself. First of all, I will include everything I earn. When I said I’d include goods and services, I meant it. In 2007, I wrote a short story for a friend in a creative writing class. In exchange, this person bought me a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.
Fuck what you think! It counted. Also, Down in the Dirt Magazine once paid me in bumper stickers. Even though I didn’t have a car at the time, I count that too.
Although I will do my best to roughly estimate the costs of these goods and services so I can add it to my monthly tally.
However, there are three things I will not do to advance my career or better my sales.
- I will not under any circumstances take part in review swaps. I don’t care what the droves are doing. Review swaps are destroying the industry. While I have done them once or twice in the past – only with honest writers unafraid to call out my bullshit, and I theirs – I will no longer even entertain the idea. While I love a five-star review as much as anyone else, I want to earn it honestly, rather than have to give someone else a perfect score in return.
- I will not pay for reviews or else get my friends or family to pad my stats with five-star ratings. Because everyone who does this is contributing to the whore-ification of the writing world and thus deserves to get their fingernails yanked out while tied to a chair. Seriously, you people are abominations.
- I will not give away my fiction for free. Like Henry Hill once said, “Fuck you, pay me.” I will only write for free when I’m reviewing because I honestly enjoy doing it, along with certain features I write for Horror Novel Reviews because I enjoy that too and Matt Molgaard is a wonderful human being. Other than that, no, I will not be giving away stories for free on Amazon or anywhere else. I haven’t seen any clear evidence that it helps with overall sales and I’ve never worked for free before so why the hell would I do it now? (The obvious exception is giving away copies to reviewers, naturally.)
Levels Of Income
I’m a writer, damn it. I don’t need much in the way of cash to be happy for getting compensated for my work. That being said, I am going to classify my level of income for each month.
$0-$10: Panhandler Money – Basically, I could have made the same amount by standing at 30th Street Station with a paper cup and a sign that reads “HOMELESS VIETNAM VET PLZ HELP!”
$11-$50: Beer And Gas Money – Or drug money, depending on the circumstances.
$51-$100: Almost Half Of The Car Insurance Bill – When I can really feel like my writer dream isn’t just an impotent act of delusion! And if not the car insurance payment, at least it’ll pay for a half-decent dinner (as long as Dr. Wife and I don’t have drinks, which we will, so never mind).
$101-$250: Maybe The Car Payment If I Get Lucky – This is when I can talk about whatever story/copies I sold without feeling like a fraud.
$250-$1,000: Holy Shit, I’m Doing It! – Self-explanatory.
$1,000+ : I Don’t Dare Think About This…because I’m very much like George Costanza, and I fear that if I ever achieve success, something bad will happen immediately after. Like, getting hit by a car, beheaded by an extremist group, or some other untimely calamity.
Starting on April 1st 2016, I’ll be posting at least once a week about my trials and tribulations, along with a monthly tally of the money I’ve earned or lost.
So come on over, crack a beer, and watch me flail about in the (hopefully not so) Sisyphean act of trying to write for a living. Probably with less boulders, though one can never be sure.