Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Query Question: what constitutes self-publishing?

 At this point in my life, I have no job and little income, and am falling behind on utility bills and mortgage. In order to keep my house and electricity, I'm thinking of using MS Word to print out a booklet of my lit-mag-published short stories and selling that to shore up my finances for a few months until I turn 62, and can start drawing Social Security. I don't intend to do a national marketing campaign or anything -- just offer the booklet to several friends and family members for a modest fee. Will the Business consider that self-published? Will it come back to bite me when I show my novel to an agent?


Yes, that's self-published. Anything you print up and offer to sell on the open market is considered published. Generally to sell on Amazon, you'll need an ISBN and having an ISBN means the book is published.

It probably won't hurt you, given that it's a collection of short stories, not a novel.

The real problem here is that you're undertaking something that requires real investment to do well, and it sounds like you're not planning on investing at all. 

A quick MS Word document will look brutally ugly unless you really know what you're doing in terms of book production. Making a book look professional, or even attractive generally requires knowledge of book design, or hiring a book designer.

And I'm absolutely certain you've not run the numbers here if you think you're going to "shore up your finances" by selling books, any books.

If you list your book at $7.99, you retain about 70% of the proceeds or $5.59 for an electronic copy. For print books it's far less.  You'll need to sell at least 100 ebooks to make a little more than $500. You'll need to sell 100 print books at somewhere north of $10 to earn $500.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but most self-published books sell far fewer than 100 copies. The average number of copies for ALL self-pubbed books  appears to be somewhere around 250, although I'm not sure that's still accurate. That means at least half of those published books sell fewer copies.

I say this not to discourage you, but if your house is at stake, you might want to spend your time doing something that has a more reasonable chance of earning income than self-publishing. 

39 comments:

Kitty said...

First of all, I am so sorry you're facing this difficult situation. Have you considered a reverse mortgage? You could use the money to keep afloat, because if you can find a way, I would suggest waiting until you reach your NRA (Normal Retirement Age). If you take SS before then, your SS check will be permanently reduced. Here's some information about when to take Social Security.

And good luck to you.

Donnaeve said...

What a terrible situation to find oneself in and I do feel for this questioner.

Of course, Ms. Sharkiness, you've provided the hard facts about the idea of "using MS Word to print out a booklet of my lit-mag-published short stories and selling that to shore up my finances."

What I'm curious about is, if this person has published in Lit Mags, was it recent, or years ago? It would seem more lucrative to continue to pub in the mags, or maybe freelance to other mags. They would have credentials from previous pubs, know how to submit, and it would make more sense - or get a "until I turn 62 sort of job that at least pays enough maybe to cover those bills.

I hate to poke at this idea like a scab on a sore, but IMO, selling to friends/family with the expectation of them buying it also treads precariously over into sensitive territory. What if they don't want to buy it? What if they do, and slip you an extra hundred bucks, and pat you on the back? How will it make you feel to schmooze around a family bbq with book in hand? Or maybe in your car? How do you approach them? "I'm really struggling and well, step over here would you? I got something I want you to show you."

I don't know you or your family dynamics, but I have to think it would make for some awkward, uncomfortable family/friend gatherings.

I say don't do it.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

First off, I am very sorry for your situation. Been there, done that that on more than one occasion with desperate finances.

Janet is right, of course, on the publishing.

Have you explored all avenues of help regarding help with rent, utilities, etc? I think most states and cities have some emergency aid. I've taken people to Catholic Services before for help with utilities. I'm not sure how it works, but they help people who are down.

Craig's List always has job listings for various things. I've hired people to help with things.
It's not very glamorous, but I was always able to make ends meet cleaning houses and taking in ironing. Even when I was without a car, I could walk around town to enough houses to pay utilities.

I hope things improve for you soon. It's a very hard place to be. There are better days ahead.

Julie

middle grade ninja said...

This is a wonderful post. Well reasoned and well said. I'm selling significantly more copies than the numbers you reference with my self published books, but I also started with a significant up-front investment that I couldn't have done while in a financial bind. I know plenty of self published authors who have lost money and sold far fewer than 250 copies.

I'd like to point out that even if this woman could be guaranteed a publishing contract with one of the big 5 starting today, unless she lucked into a huge advance, she's still not likely to make a lot of money.

If she keeps writing and publishing, that may change, or she could always get lucky. But getting lucky isn't a valid strategy. She should explore other avenues to shore up those finances and write for love, which is the best reason to write anything.

Tony Clavelli said...

This is interesting to read--especially because the monetary value of writing comes up here a lot.

And I agree with the Shark, and Donnaeve's suggestion that this plan sounds poised to do more damage than good, in all kinds of ways. This is likely not the best use of your time, your money, MS Word, or the stories you've probably worked really hard on.

Your work has value (to you, and to your future readers!) but not in the same way that, say, old jewelry has. Otherwise pawn shops would be full of manuscripts.

(I can't help but picture some bizarre universe where late-night TV is full of ads for Cash4Stories.com)

Kelsey Hutton said...

This is a tough situation to be in. Author, I hope your load gets lighter soon.

I agree with Janet that selling short stories, whether to friends or online, isn't a reliable way to make a lot of cash. I'm sure you know that. But if you have these stories already written and they are clearly of publishable quality, I can see how they might pull in some passive income--if you invest some time into doing it right.

If you want to try re-submitting your short stories to magazines that accept previously published stories, Duotrope.com is a search engine for short story markets that will let you search those out. I haven't used it myself but have heard good things about it, and the first month is free.

If you do decide to self-publish, many successfully self-published authors have a ton of free how-to articles, etc. available on their websites that would be good to read through to make sure you don't fall prey to any major schemes or pitfalls: Joanna Penn, Susan Kaye Quinn,also rockingselfpublishing.com has free weekly podcast interviews with self-published authors, so there's a lot of good content there.

Also, as far as I know, you don't actually need an ISBN to self-publish with any of the major outlets, including Amazon (Apple used to require it but not anymore.) And if you were to do print on demand through CreateSpace, it provides an ISBN for free.

Best of luck, and if these links actually click through properly, it's thanks to Colin!

Craig said...

I too am sorry about your situation. Without a little luck I might have been in the same situation. The Great Bursting Bubble of a few years ago did create a brave new world. It is not a really pretty place. There are too many people for the amount of income out there.

It might be better to examine your skills and see if there is any other thing that might make money for you. I have a friend who self published and is averaging something around ten dollars a quarter from Amazon. The problem with self publishing is that you are an island. There is no support system built into it and the marketing is worse than querying agents.

Best of luck to you.

Off topic: Thank you so very much, my queen. I feel honored.

I had not even noticed and a friend spent an hour or so getting a message to me. Thanks again.

Kitty said...

Here are the links Kelsey Hutton mentioned: Duotrope.com and rockingselfpublishing.com

Lisa Bodenheim said...

What a hard place for this questioner to be in. And I'm glad s/he asked Janet before going ahead because self-pubbing in this manner is not a saavy route to take for earning money.

I have a published book (religious non-fiction) through a Scottish editor. I had 100 copies on hand to sell directly (with their knowledge) to US friends and colleagues. I don't promote it to family because I am theologically liberal and most of them are more traditional and conservative. I love my family though we have political and theological disagreements and don't wish to overstrain our relationships. So I do not ask them to buy my book.

And yes, do think seriously about what Kitty says about social security. Compare your monthly social security amounts which depends upon when you start drawing.

Wishing you well in your search for economic stability.

Susan Bonifant said...

A lot of sound advice here to consider. Perhaps spend these months securing adequate income/aid first, and possibly, the feeling of being pro-active will generate other energy for other projects.

For some of us, trying to produce creative work when so much rests on outcome can suppress the creative energy to get it done. Maybe use your energy to charge, but in another direction.

Good luck writer, better days ahead, I agree.

Colin Smith said...

I echo the sentiments of everyone else, questioner, and hope your situation turns around soon. My initial reaction to your question was total empathy. I've been unemployed with five kids and a wife to feed and bills to pay. Thankfully, we were part of an excellent church that supported us through that time. But after a month or so, you get to a point where you'd do just about anything to make ends meet. And that's not a good place to be. Especially for your writing. Yes, writing can be a good way to supplement income, and if you happen to strike oil, it could change your life. But don't write out of desperation, or hurry to publication because the mortgage is due. As has been said, there are no guarantees with publishing--even self-publishing--and what you need right now is something certain. Keep writing because it's what you love. Many writers talk about how writing helped them through tough times, not because it gave them an income, but it helped them emotionally and psychologically to deal with their circumstances.

And all the very best to you!

Thanks Kitty for making Kelsey's links work. Tip: if the link doesn't start with "http://" Blogger has a tendency to attach it to the launch site (e.g., jetreidliterary.blogspot.com).

Julie.M.Weathers said...

You might also check with e-lance I think it is. It's an online write for hire site. My former editor has found jobs through a couple of these sties. You've already proven you're a writer, so this might have some appeal.

The pay is on delivery and they are usually pretty quick deadlines.

Julie

brianrschwarz said...

This is so frustrating! I'm so sorry, writer, for your situation and for what you're enduring!

Coming from the perspective of working in Retirement Services (I deal most often with 401(k) and 403(b) programming for companies), I agree with Kitty and Lisa's comment about Early Retirement Age (ERA) and I can tell you from personal experience that too many people take their SS too early and end up really hurting their retirement income for the rest of their lives.

Personally, based on your situation and what others have said, I would focus on crowdfunding as a possible solution. You can set up a GoFundMe account or a Kickstarter, offer digital and physical copies of your works as rewards at about 900% retail value (so say a digital copy of all your published shorts is $50 and a physical copy is $100) and talk more about your particular situation. Fundraising would give you the best of both worlds, and really reduce the awkwardness with friends and family who could choose to help or not help online, rather than in person.

I would also look into a reverse mortgage or possibly any annuities you might be entitled to through any former companies as those rules are different and the NRA is different based on a variety of factors!

I'm no financial advisor, but I'd be happy to give you my two cents coming from the retirement services minded perspective. Feel free to email me about your situation's specifics so we can discuss off the board!

My email is BrianRSchwarz@gmail.com

And I can honestly say, I never once thought my profession would so much as inch into the comments board on Janet Reid's blog. :)


Dena Pawling said...


I've evicted people into homelessness before. It's not fun, especially because I was there once, and so was my husband. I sure wouldn't want to be there at my current age.

My parents have a reverse mortgage now. Do you have equity in your home?

Depending on what state you live in [if you're even in the US], it generally takes a year or more to be evicted if you just stop paying your mortgage. Something to think about, especially if you're underwater on the mortgage. If you have decent equity, consider the reverse mortgage idea, or maybe sell the house and move to a small apartment or rent a room. I would mention loan modification, but that does require an income. Keeping your house thru a bankruptcy also requires income.

You're planning to “offer the booklet to friends and family members for a modest fee.” I don't have enough friends and family members to even get 100 sales, and that assumes all of them would buy it. It also assumes that if I asked them to buy it, they would still be my friends, and/or my family members would not disown me [I was disowned by certain relatives when I was an awkward-13yo, long story]. If you have that many friends/family who would buy your booklet and still maintain the relationship, please know that you are blessed.

Most of the self-pub authors I know, who make good sales and/or consider themselves successful, were traditionally published in the past, so they have a reader base and a platform already. The ones I know who started out the gate as self-published, did spend a bit of money on book design, cover, etc, and either their books don't sell all that well or they are REALLY busy with promotion, and that doesn't mean just tweet their book info. They attend conferences, local bookstore and library events, readings, blog hops, etc. I personally don't know if I have that much energy. All the self-pubs I know are much younger than I am.

Whatever you choose, I wish you good luck.

Susan Bonifant said...

Colin and Dena, those are just perfect responses on all sides of this issue.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Might the questioner try Kindle Scout as a no cost path to e-publishing ? And Janet, I'd love to know your opinion about Scout. Is it as good a deal as Amazon says?

Flowers McGrath said...

Definitely feel for the questioner and am so glad Janet didn't soften anything. I hope one or several of these great ideas for optional temporary income play out successfully or some other creative real solution arises.
I love the care and empathy of this group of blogger-writer-commenters. You all are bright stars of goodness! I wish for all, the best of luck in your projects, good fortune always and excellent healthy long lives.

Miri Baker said...

Emerging from the woodwork: I definitely feel for the questioner, and regardless of what they take away from all this, I wish them the best.

However, I would caution against the GoFundMe/crowdfunding route in this particular situation. While the culture of GoFundMe and Patreon is a little different from Kickstarter (which is more geared toward pushing fully-formed midpoint-progress projects into the green zone than selling things), the questioner still runs the risk of a fair bit of backlash for this particular campaign (look up Stacey Jay for an example of how this can go unexpectedly and uncomfortably awry). From what I've seen, the expectation for the various crowdfunding outlets is that the contributors are donating money To the Production of a New Thing, and that the agreement is that the owner of the campaign will be producing and delivering The New Thing contingent on receiving enough funds. When it comes to books, as seen in the Stacey Jay case, the waters between "Money for editors/book designers/dead trees/the processing of dead trees" and "Money for keeping my computer on so I can make the words" have gotten a little muddy for a lot of contributors, and I think in this case--asking for contributions that go not toward The Production of a New Thing, but The Procurement of an Old Thing, would not go over as well as one might hope.

That's not to say that some people wouldn't be willing to help out, but it is a consideration, and one that runs the risk of sounding tone-deaf to the platform.

Whatever you decide to do, Question Mark, I wish you nothing but luck.

Laura Moe said...

This is a kind community here. I wish I could offer advice about selling your writing, but you are likely best off NOT depending on the writing to support you, unless you are lucky.
Are you able to work? Even part time? If you have a skill, like cutting hair, you can barter and earn cash that way. Bootleg Hair cutting helped gt me through my college years.
Best of luck to you.

brianrschwarz said...

Miri, I don't think you're wrong at all. I think there are a number of crowdfunding outlets, however, that might appeal more or less. I guess I didn't really think through which ones might be best, assuming the questioner would take a look into them in general to make a decision. :)

But you are 100% correct. If you go this route, be sure to do some research before just putting it out there. In my experience, crowdfunding (unless it turns viral) is usually mostly raised by the family and friends you were discussing previously anyways (and perhaps by a group of heart-felt woodland creatures on this blog).

Great input Miri! And thank you for keeping me honest! :)

REJourneys said...

I'm sorry to hear this questioner! I hope things turn around soon.

I've had an introduction to this, I had no job, but I was fortunate enough not to have anyone (or anything) depending on me, except me.

I went through all sorts of ideas, wanting to make some money and "get work experience" one way or another.

I considered opening an Etsy shop to sell hand-made items (or vintage items and craft supplies). I don't know if it's an option for you, but I'm throwing it out there for everyone.

The bright side of Etsy is you can shut down your store at any time (given people who have paid for something still receive their items). It's also cheaper than eBay, charging $.10 per item post.

Of course, like with the self-publishing/eBook route, you'd need to promote yourself. People can find you if you use the right search terms, but it still helps to get your name out there.

While I was going through this, I took a seasonal job as a Sales Associate. I thought my depression from lack of work was bad before, but this made it worse.

I know the circumstances are different from what I'm talking about, but please be wary of predator adds if you go the freelance/part-time job route. There are some companies and jobs that aren't what they seem.

Best of luck and wishes to you!

bjmuntain said...

I've been there, OP. It's not easy, I know. You get to a certain point, and you start grasping at straws. Having a talent/skill like writing makes you want to go straight to that. And you do have a body of work to fall back on.

I'm going to go in a slightly different direction. I'm going to assume that your friends and family will know you're in a bind, and will be happy to have a booklet of your stories. I'm going to assume you understand the money side of things (because if you didn't, I'm sure you do now.)

First, as Janet says, anything that gets printed out for any type of public consumption is considered published. Even blog posts can be considered published, which is why many industry folks suggest not posting novels or stories you want to publish traditionally on your blog or website.

One thing that strikes me is, the OP says these stories were published in literary magazines. Because this will be considered publication, the OP should make sure that all rights have reverted to them for the stories. Most lit mags will buy only first publication rights and maybe non-exclusive reprint rights, but you want to be absolutely sure. Chances are, if you're only selling to friends and family, the lit mags won't know or won't care - but you want to be sure. Check out those old contracts.

I like Brian's suggestion of a GoFundme event. It's a way of doing what the OP was planning to do anyway, but with a better chance at raising funds. If you think people might be more inclined to give if you don't know how much they gave, you can ask someone else to set it up for you. Then the donor has a choice to allow their name/donation be public or only seen by the person who set it up.

I think the difference between Brian's suggestion and Miri's comment regarding crowdsourcing is this: the purpose of the crowdsourcing campaign.

Kickstarter, especially, gives people the chance to invest in a product of some sort. An investment is a risk in some type of profit. So, if you're asking for investments, the people will expect to receive something of equal or greater value than their investment (although value can be subjective.)

GoFundme, for one, is not solely used for raising money for businesses or products - it's not just for investments. It can be used to raise money for medical bills, text books, and more. In this case, people who pay into a GoFundme campaign are NOT investing, and they're not expecting an equal or great return on their money. What they receive is of more sentimental value than actual value, and they may only receive a 'thank you' by e-mail.

Back to the OP: things are going to get better. I can't offer advice on retirement funds, especially because I think you're in the US (you mentioned Social Security). It sounds like you have a computer and internet - which is great, because these days, those are as much a necessity as a phone or bus pass. They can help you make money as a writer, and they can help you find jobs. There are websites that offer freelance jobs - Freelancer.com is a good one.

And I agree with REJourneys: be wary of the scams out there. There are good websites where you can find freelance writing jobs, but you have to be careful there, too - even on the best sites.

Are you able to take in a boarder? I know - I don't much like having strangers in my house, but it seems, when I've needed help, someone's kid or an out-of-town friend needed a place to stay for awhile. It can help a bit with the mortgage, anyway.

Beyond that, just know that there are a lot of people here who wish you luck and hope everything turns out for you very soon.

Christina Seine said...

My heart goes out to the OP. I've been in your shoes. I pray that things get better for you soon.

Everyone here has given excellent advice. Here are a couple other ideas that came to mind:

1. Contact your local newspaper, one of the smaller ones if there are any in your area. Offer to write a monthly (or even weekly) column, or to attend a community council meeting or other local newsworthy event and take notes and write a quick blurb of what happened, or to fill in when someone is sick (even if it's just proofreading). Many newspapers have lifestyle sections which will accept unsolicited freelance stories. You have a unique point of view and may be able to throw together a feature article they can use. You'd be surprised how little news there is sometimes - editors love having something in the wings "just in case."

2. You might set up a shingle as a creative writing tutor. If there is a local homeschooling association where you live, that may be a good place to start. As a homeschooling mom I know I am always happy to outsource teaching a subject I'm not strong on (like math, yuck). The ability to write well is an important skill, and it's quickly becoming a lost art.

3. Of course there's always ebay. I'm always surpried how much money can be made by getting rid of items around the house we don't need. Of course, it's no steady income, but sometimes it can be enough to fill a specific need. It is more expensive than etsy, but not much, and there's a much larger audience.

4. Someone already mentioned Craigslist, but I will add that it is a great place to find both part-time employment (people seeking everything from babysitters to short-term companions for shut-ins to dog walkers to flyer-hander-outers) AND there are also lists of items people are seeking to buy. Maybe there will be one or two of those sitting unused in your garage.

Good luck - I hope things get better.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

The only thing I can add is that if you are considering producing a book to think big. If your stories are already published that's fantastic. They are worth reading. Don't underestimate your creative value. Rather do some mindless work to keep your passion intact.

Indiegogo is also a crowdfunding site. Crowdfunding success stories can be incredibly silly. The best use upbeat marketing language.

Good luck.

kdjames.com said...

When I agree with something, I just sit quietly and nod my head and move on. The times I tend to speak up are when I disagree. And then I get a reputation for being, well, disagreeable. Feh. So be it.

Actually, I DON'T disagree with what Janet said after she answered the main question. Self-pubbing one book of short stories has very little hope of making any significant amount of money. I know this from experience. I don't necessarily disagree with anything the other commenters have said either. Some good resources there.

But.

What's the harm of trying? Unless you're terrified of being labeled "self-published" -- and some people are and that's fine -- why wouldn't you do this? Why not invest the time to learn how to do it right and take a chance? Why not dare to fail? Maybe you'll succeed. Maybe it will feel awesome even if you don't.

No, it's not a strategy for reliable income. No, it won't help the financial situation.

But will it hurt?

I don't know this person's situation and I'm not trying to give advice. We each have our own path to follow and our own reasons for doing so. But I'm a bit dismayed that no one over here is encouraging this person, even a little, to do something courageous and creative for reasons other than money.

kdjames.com said...

To be clear, I'm not dismayed that Janet didn't offer that kind of encouragement. That's not her role in this forum. At all. I'm talking about all the writers in the comments.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

It seems to me that a couple of key statements in the OP question are:

"I'm thinking of using MS Word to print out a booklet of my lit-mag-published short stories..."

and

"I don't intend to do a national marketing campaign or anything.."

To me this sounds a bit like saying you're going to depend on the lottery. kdjames asks "what's the harm" but note kdjames also says "Why not invest the time to learn how to do it right and take a chance?"

Investing the time is key, otherwise it's a bit like hoping you'll win the lotto and if you're only strategy is to hit up a few friends and family members for sales, then I'd say the better route is to simply ask them directly for monetary help.

I appreciate that this option reflects using your resources, and by all means, do use it, but I wouldn't rely on it as a quick fix. Take advantage of all the other resources in your life, including the myriad advice already offered above.

bjmuntain said...

There really is nothing wrong with doing as the OP was originally planning (though I would still go through the old contracts to be sure all rights belong to the OP).

Yes, even if it's only printed out in a chapbook format and handed out to a few friends, it's still technically published. Will it affect future sales? As Janet said, that's very unlikely. My thought: If these have already been published, then you no longer have first rights to sell for them anyway. Reprinting them won't make a difference.

If it makes the OP feel better accepting money from friends and family by giving something in return, that's the OP's business. If the OP wants to do the work and professionally self-publish this chapbook, that's their business, too.

I wish the OP the best of luck, whatever path they decide to take. As I said earlier, life will get better. This is but a speedbump on the road of life.

Colin Smith said...

kd: I don't think anyone would object to our friend trying something different, or being artistically adventurous despite the risks. My concern is that, given the situation, our friend would be motivated more by financial pressure and desperation for a quick solution than by craft and love of writing. It's true to say that some great works of art have been created out of the fires of desperation, but that's not the best model since those works are far and few between. Not every poor single mother has come up with Harry Potter. And JKR was writing that series while she was working, and would have continued to write it on toilet paper if she had to.

My hope is that in the midst of the discussion here, our friend will find hope, inspiration, and support, no matter what s/he decides to do. :)

kdjames.com said...

Colin, I think this person has been thoroughly disabused of the notion that this could be a money-making venture. No worries there. :)

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a vast amount of truly great art has been forged in the fires of desperation. Far more, I imagine, than has been created while in the throes of complacency and contentment.

Donnaeve said...

kdjames, you ask: "Why not invest the time to learn how to do it right and take a chance?"

I don't think they have time, not from the sound of it, as they said, "At this point in my life, I have no job and little income, and am falling behind on utility bills and mortgage. In order to keep my house and electricity...,"

You asked, "Why not dare to fail? Maybe you'll succeed. Maybe it will feel awesome even if you don't."

They can't afford to fail, not really, can they? Not from what it sounds like. I don't think they will feel awesome, I honestly don't, not if they do this, and it doesn't work b/c then what?

You said, "No, it's not a strategy for reliable income. No, it won't help the financial situation. But will it hurt?"

I say yes, it could hurt. If they wanted to do this on the side, while maybe picking up some other viable way for income, then by all means, they SHOULD go for it. But self-publishing the book shouldn't be the only choice b/c it really sounds a lot more dire (IMO). This is high stakes, not (again IMO) the time to try and make a dream come true.

I always come in from a pragmatic view b/c I put my own writing on the back burner for decades - until I was financially able to even think about it again. I was a single mother, raising two kids for a long time. I didn't eat many nights - so they could. I wanted to write, and I did, but not with the idea it was going to be my answer to my current situation, not back then. What I'm saying is, I couldn't afford to do it.

Sometimes we have to sacrifice our dreams for a little while, in order to make them come true.

bjmuntain said...

Thank you, Donnaeve.

My addition to Donna's comment:

Maybe a lot of truly great art is forged in the fires of desperation.

But how many good business decisions are made that way?

A lot of truly great art was sold for pennies when the artist had nothing to eat.

Now, I'm not saying OP is in that state of desperation yet (at least, it didn't sound like OP was there in the original message.) It sounded like the OP wanted to make some quick money, but didn't want to put a bullet through a toe industry-wise. Industry-wise, as long as all rights have reverted to OP, there's no problem.

And if OP ever wants to go into full-scale self-publishing, there is enough information and encouragement in this post and these comments to get a good start. :)

stacy said...

OP - client-based, work-for-hire writing might a good way to earn income, sometimes quickly. You obviously know how to write since you've been published in lit mags. Some people have mentioned a few sites already. Here are a few more: freelancewriting.com
freelancewritinggigs.com
freelancejobopenings.com
odesk

I hope the hyperlinks come though. If not, I'll delete and try again. If I think of additional sites I'll list them. I used to know a lot more of them. One caveat--I'm not sure any of these do much vetting, so that's something to keep in mind when looking around.

I would suggest setting up a PayPal account if you haven't already. If I remember correctly, the account itself is free. Reason I mention this is that some clients pay via PayPal or may be willing to, and it can be a good way to get paid quickly if they're set up for it. It's pretty easy to set up invoices from there, too. And be sure to have a resume handy for clients if you decide to go this route. A lot of the suggestions here are really good, and you may find you'll have to more than one to make ends meet. This is what us freelancers love to call "multiple revenue streams."

I have been where you're at more times than I care to remember, so I feel for you. Good luck!

kdjames.com said...

Donnaeve, I didn't say this person should try self-publishing in lieu of other efforts to earn income. I believe I implied the opposite. I think we're actually in agreement about that. Although I am cringing a bit at the idea that a person can't afford to fail at a creative effort.

I'm coming at this from a different perspective, I guess. I self-pubbed something very similar (short, previously written pieces) in Dec 2011, at a time when I was working at an extremely demanding job. I had no "extra" time and very little energy at the end of the day. So I know how much effort was involved. Well, for me anyway. It was exhausting. And daunting. And scary as hell. It was a steep learning curve that seemed to take forever to grasp. I had absolutely no illusions about it making money; I knew it wouldn't. I did it anyway. It was a huge accomplishment (for me) and it felt pretty damn good at a time when I needed that boost to my self-confidence.

We've been given a glimpse into a very thin slice of this person's life. With no idea of his/her other options or abilities, or even a true picture of how dire the situation really is. Maybe a self-pub effort would be a huge distraction that would take valuable time and energy away from more immediate concerns. Maybe it wouldn't. I do tend to think people are capable of more than they imagine they are. I'm sometimes mistaken.

As I said, I'm not giving advice one way or the other. But I think it's something for this person to consider. NOT as a means of earning income, not with this project, but as a creative effort. That said, self-publishing isn't for everyone. I'd never suggest that it is. Not everyone can or should attempt it. In fact, I fully intend to go a different route with the thriller I'm writing.

But I wouldn't dismiss any creative effort out of hand simply because it wouldn't be profitable.

AJ Blythe said...

Firstly (((hugs))) to the author of the question. The Hubs and I have been in similar circumstances, and it really knocks you for six.

I hope the advice given by this wonderful community is helpful. Not being in America I can't contribute (things work differently in Australia), but it reads like there are some really good ideas here. Best of luck.

mhleader said...

First, been there, done that. I TOTALLY empathize with your predicament.

I hate to rain on the reverse mortgage parade, but you're not ELIGIBLE for a reverse mortgage until you turn 62. And you have to have a LOT of equity in your house to get any money from it. Typically, unless you mostly have paid off your mortgage, you're not going to get any significant amount of money. Mostly they require you to have at least 50% equity in the current market value of the house to get anything at all.

Do you have academic skills? A college degree? If so, I'll suggest that you do what I did in a similar situation--try doing academic papers for pay. You can start bringing in income (as in money in your account) within two weeks of starting. And the pay is semi-decent--if you're reasonably efficient you can earn at least $20/hour doing it--more if you get really good at it. If you want more info, please feel free to email me privately. (meg @ megleader.com) I can highly recommend a couple companies that will NOT cheat you and will pay you well--and reliably (not all do that!). You have to really hustle to earn enough to live on, but it IS possible to earn a living wage.

The big drawback is that you probably won't be able to do much creative writing while you're doing the academic stuff. But it'll keep you going until you can start the SS income coming in. And you can do it from home.

Best of luck to you. Please don't give up. And do email me privately if you want more information.

JEN Garrett said...

While I can't empathize with your situation, I can sympathize.

I have printed booklets at the local office store, and you can get a nice looking - albeit nonprofessional - product fairly inexpensive. I've also put short stories (that I don't plan to get traditionally published) in sheet-protectors and folders for gifts to friends. If something like that is what you are planning, then theoretically you could get a little cash to at least pay down a bill.

Like has been mentioned, check your contracts for reprinting rights, but I think probably you'll be fine there.

I agree that you'll probably need more than this idea to keep you fiscally afloat, but I also agree that technically being self-published should not hinder you in pursuing an agent for your novel.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Whaddya know? Heidi-Come-Lately can actually add something to the conversation that hasn't already been previously covered.

I assume you've asked yourself the hard questions: How much money do you need, and for how long will you need the extra money?

Sounds like you're looking for an ongoing supplemental income source. Selling your writing may or may not be that source. However, I will say this: your proposed model will NOT accomplish that for several reasons, including setup costs and potential audience size.

There are easier ways of making a little extra money other than writing.

However, if you insist on following this route, I recommend you pursue the easier course--electronic publishing.

The flaws of your current proposed publishing model:

1. printing a booklet on your printer for sale is NOT the most cost-effective way of selling your writing. You will be up for paper and ink costs. Also, quality may be an issue if you are not familiar with layout and design, and this will affect your final product's selling price.

2. Your friends and family may not be your best target audience, especially if you need more than a single injection of a couple of hundred bucks. After all, they can only buy your book once.

3. There's 6 billion other people out there that you haven't considered tapping into.

So you want to reprint some of your lovely previously-published stories? Sure, why not? (Assuming rights have reverted to you.) This is called "making your backlist available".

Personally, I recommend indie publishing them through ebook distribution site like Amazon or Smashwords. This can be done with no upfront costs and can make your work available immediately to a much wider audience. Books do not need to be printed hardcopy to be valid or to make money.

If you want some really nice hints about self-publishing, you could go hardcore at the Smashwords blog. They've got lots of lovely clues. Don't let the depth of the subject matter scare you.

Speaking from experience, single anthologies generally do not provide a significant or reliable ongoing income. The royalties for my first anthology added up enough for me to buy a king-sized Mars bar at the end of the year. My experience is typical.

What does bring in regular income is having several books for sale. Depending on how many stories you've got, you could consider two or three short anthologies (novella-length, they're called). Group them together with some sort of theme.

Also, no reason why a writer with enough talent and persistence to be published once couldn't write new stories.

Essentially, the more work you have out there, the greater your income potential.

(Oh, and make sure you have beautiful covers. An ugly cover can put off potential buyers.)

Make money from indie publishing? It could be done, but no guarantee it can be done.

Like I, and my fellow woodland creatures have said, there are easier ways of making money. But if you want to do it this way, do it right.

lorrie beauchamp said...

I love the generosity of creative people; we all want to help each other. Like the OP, I'm a writer with no income and almost six decades of life at the other end of the pen/keyboard. I tackled the self-publishing challenge and it was exhausting and exhilarating. I learned a lot about myself, my potential readers, and the industry of publishing. I would not attempt it again, and did not make any significant income from my book, although I admit that I never made the effort to market it properly (which is a joke, because the book is about marketing).

I think writers and other creative people in the New Digital World have to really examine their individual and collective motivations. The joy of creating is free and easy - I write every day for hours, mindlessly and with no thought to sharing or publishing what I write.

Still, and particularly after decades of joyful creative writing, I yearn for my voice to join the others "out there" in the published world. Is it a yearning for fame? Or just inclusion? Is it my ego, or just a desire to be recognized as an individual? Or is that all the same question? Certainly it has nothing to do with money. In my opinion, money is a commodity which has lost its lustre. Taking money for a beautiful creative piece feels dirty. Unfortunately, we live in a capitalistic economy, which means we have to deal with it.

After you discard the notion of fame or fortune, the real question remains: Why do you write? Who do you want to read what you write? I now find myself at a point in my journey where I seek to find my readers. And that means getting my "stuff" out there as much as possible and seeing who is listening, watching and absorbing. Getting it out there is the real adventure; I refuse to "pay" to enter literary contests (that feels a bit perverse, honestly!) but I have no qualms about offering my writing as a gift, just as musicians and photographers do. If I have enough people interested in my "free stuff", I'm fairly certain that I can ask them for compensation of some sort at some point in time. I have bought music and art from online artists, haven't you?

I've also noticed that people will "buy stuff" from people they LIKE and ADMIRE.In discovering Margaret Atwood, as an example, I now consider her one of my best buddies in the literary world, and will read and/or buy anything she writes. Love is unconditional once you fall in love with a writer.

Be a writer who some people (not all, don't aim for all) can fall in love with, and who will continue your journey with you. That's great motivation, in my humble opinion. And have faith that when you're doing what you love doing, that the rest of the stuff will sort itself out. With friends and faith, you can do it.