Yesterday, I wrote 1,045 words on "Untitled Psychiatrist No. 3." I should be able to finish it today. It will be my fifth short story of 2017.
From Facebook, from yesterday:
Reality check for anyone out there who'd to be a world-famous writer just like me:
At 53 years old, after thirteen novels (all but two with Penguin), fourteen short-story collections, more than 250 published short stories, stints with both DC and Dark Horse comics, a major two-book movie deal, two World Fantasy awards and two Bram Stoker awards, my papers archived at an ivy league university, recognition as one of the best dark fantasy/weird writers alive today, and so on and so forth and what have you – at 53 years old *with all of that*, what do I have to show for it, for twenty-two years work and recognition?
I find myself in ill health (physically and mentally), and I have no savings, no health or life insurance. I'm still paying out close to half of my monthly income for rent, and I'm two years behind on my income taxes. At this point, I'm almost entirely dependent on readers who support me via Patreon and Sirenia Digest (and thank fuck for those wonderful, generous people). That's probably 85% of my annual income. What I make in a year on royalties from all that stuff I've already written and sold wouldn't keep the lights on. Add to this crippling student loan debt and a near complete lack of credit. And there is absolutely no reason to believe my situation will improve in the years to come. Indeed, the mounting health problems and the general level of stress have made it increasingly harder for me to work. Oh, and my ability to earn off my backlist has been seriously compromised by piracy via bit torrent and illegal ebook sites and the like.
This is the real world for me, at 53. And I think it's important for working writers to be truthful about what a nightmare this career can become, how there is no real correlation between talent and security, between recognition and staying out of the "poor house." Too many people don't even realize they're wearing rose-colored spectacles when they dream of being an author. For many of us, this is the reality, perpetual poverty that threatens our ability to even continue working. If I had any other line of work to fall back on right now, I'd be falling. I didn't become a writer to get rich. That would have been foolish. But I did hope for a little more than this.
~ and ~
One piece of advice that I would dispense to anyone in the States who has set their sights on becoming a working writer would be to stay the fuck out of big cities. You do not need Manhattan or Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles or Seattle. The space I rent for $1100 in Providence would likely cost me half that or less in a small town in Alabama or Nebraska or Iowa. Plus, everything from gasoline to groceries is considerably cheaper. The overall cost of living in Birmingham is a third less than in Providence.* It's a full 61% cheaper to live in Birmingham than Brooklyn. In the 21st century, "flyover country" is the writer's best friend. Following the cultural siren song of the Northeast is one of the places I went terribly, terribly wrong.
*32%, according to bestplaces.net
~ and ~
Another consideration: Freelance authors do not get cost of living increases. I get paid pretty much the same advances now, for short fiction, novels, and short-fiction collections (and actually less for comics), that I was paid when I started publishing in 1993, even though there's been a 69.2% cumulative inflation rate in the United States over that twenty-four year period. For that matter, authors in the 1970s, made about the same as they do now. Once upon a time, my income would have been fairly decent, for the same job, the same work.
~ and ~
I feel almost as if I have a holy calling to disabuse any and all young would-bes and wannabes of any and all romantic notions they might have about the nightmare that is the life of a professional, working freelance author. This is why I refuse to teach workshops. All I have to say is "For fuck's sake, don't do this." Also, I don't need the competition.
~ and also ~
One of the frustrations of talking about the fiscal, practical realities of being the writer that I am is that people want to be helpful, and one way that they try to be helpful is by offering suggestions, and it's inevitably annoying. I know that sounds sort of bitchy, but it isn't meant to be. The truth is that I'm working as much as I can possibly work, doing the only thing that I know how to do. And here I'm reporting, being honest about what this is like for me and also saying here's how you can help, if you are able and so inclined. But I'm not soliciting for advice. Unless maybe you've been doing this as long as I have and have been at *least* as successful as I've been and have some genuine wisdom to impart. Or a spare fortune lying around you'd like to send my way. It's like that.
~ and from this morning ~
Reason No. 32 that I hate 2017 and the Internet: The same day that a new book of mine is released, you can steal it off a pirate ebook site. Sometimes *before* it's released. My agent sends a cease and desist order to a pirate ebook side, they take down the book, and it just pops up somewhere else. (I predicted this problem in 1997, when I was essentially forced to sell electronic rights to Silk.)