Write when you get work

So, I was talking with my sister on the phone, playing catch-up. A couple months ago, she’d finished an online retraining course with a “guaranteed” job at the far end of the tunnel, except — you can see this coming, right? — the projected number of jobs aren’t there. Nobody figured that the senior people in the bidness who had been laid off would be willing to go for the junior positions in order to, I dunno, keep their health coverage and some money coming in. And nobody figured that the companies in need of such people would rather hire experience. I mean, honestly, who could have predicted any of that?

Anyhow, this means that my sister is hooked up with a temp agency, doing whatever they can find for her, which at this time of year happens to be order fulfillment. She takes things out of bins and puts them into mailing boxes, 10 hours at a stretch. It sounds. . .exhausting. In fact, she sounded exhausted, but glad of the paycheck, which, if she can keep quota, is good for six or eight 70-hour weeks between now and The Day.

In the circular way of conversations, she asked what was I doing now? Always a dangerous question to ask a writer. I explained about the three book contract, and Splinter Universe, and Pinbeam Books, and how maybe next year I’d be looking at doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund a novel. . .The kind of stuff that’s only fascinating if you’re actually doing it. I could hear her eyes start to glaze over down the phone line, and paused, thinking I’d better ask about her guinea pig.

And into that pause she said, “But are you earning any money?”

Um. Ah. Well. . .yes.

So, I explained about the up-front money, and royalties, combined with sales of echapbooks from Amazon, BN, and Smashbooks, which pay monthly after your probation period, plus patron support of Splinter Universe, and a little about trying to have as many streams of income as humanly possible, so that if one dried up, the household wasn’t entirely beached, and how, if there was a good month or an exceptional royalty payment, you paid forward – the electric bill, the health insurance, the cellphone contract — whatever, so that in lean months you had a cushion. Basic Freelance Survival 101, really.

“And these stories – people just send you money?”

Well…yes. Sort of. It’s like royalties, or. . .loaves on the water. Not every story earns the same amount of money — there are a buncha reasons for that, including the quality of the story, and the state of the reader’s budget — we all know about budgets and cashflow, here. It’s a little hard to quantify which stories are doing “better.” For instance, on paper it looked like the first story we put up, “Kin Ties,” brought in a nice solid fourteen cents a word, but that was right when the website was getting organized, and some folks were donating to the site, and not necessarily to the story.

“Guaranteed Delivery,” the second story, earned about three cents a word — if you count story-specific donations — while “Tinsori Light,” the newest one, had so far brought in just about a nickle a word.

It’s not a science, I said. You just keep juggling and hope not to drop an egg on your face.

“And you feel better,” said my sister. “You’d rather be doing this. . .scrambling around, than having a. . .real job?”

Oh, baby.

Yes, I said. Yes. I would.

“Well…” she said doubtfully, and there was a pause.

And into that pause, I dropped a question about the guinea pig, who’s doing well, for those who are fans of the furry, though a little disappointed about the cutback in running ball time, due to the long hours my sister’s currently away from the house.

We talked a little more, then she said that she ought to get off the phone and go to bed, she had to be at work for the 4:45 a.m. meeting, and we hung up, promising not to go so long between phone calls this time.

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