Maybe I can make this a new column. Honest talk. People either lover or hate me for it. But it's fun to read anyway, isn't it?
So here goes. This is about money... income... and the fact that it's a constant stress for freelancers.
First thing: Without an agent, and sometimes even with one, payment to authors is all over the place. It's not about who's more deserving, whose books have sold more, and so on... it's about who asked for more money and was stubborn enough to get it. I'm comfortable with where I'm at now. In fact, if I got paid more per book I’d be uncomfortable because I'd be too afraid that the sales wouldn't reflect my advance--no one wants that!
So I'm going to do something that I don't think any author has done before. I'm going to tell you all where I started. I'm going to list my advance. For my first picture book I got paid 8,000 dollars. Now a lot of non-published folks may say "Well, hey, that's great for a start... can't you be happy that you were published at all?" That's all well and good in theory but think of it this way:
I was living in NYC. My rent was 800 a month. I did one book that took A TON OF TIME. How on earth can anyone live off of 8,000 a year??? Suppose I did two books a year (which I didn't do at first). Then I would get 16,000 a year. Also NOT POSSIBLE. So of course I had a full time job. Full time job, and then I did a book on top of it. That equaled NO PERSONAL TIME, NO TIME TO WATCH TV, NO TIME TO RELAX, NO TIME TO EVEN EAT FOOD!!! I was a mess. I was VERY stressed. I had to put my rent on my credit card several times (still paying it off and that was about 6 or 7 years ago!!!). When I finally went to a doctor my blood pressure was 170/105 or something crazy like that and I was in my early 20s!!!
Okay, so of course for the most part I'm in better shape financially (thank god). BUT not right now. I have a ton of medical bills and because my fall 09 book was postponed I have literally no income for the year. My bank account is down to nothing and I am in the same place that I was 7 years ago. This sucks. I'm sick. I can't go back to working full time at B&N because of my illness, and I'm expected to be out there promoting my product.
So here's the other thing I don't think some people understand. I get requests from schools a lot, asking me to come do talks... only they don't always offer to pay! They think just me coming and getting to talk to kids is enough. Some don't even offer to order my books. Perhaps teachers don't realize that my income (despite the fact that I know theirs isn't great) is less than theirs. Would they go to schools and teach for free? I doubt it. I don't want to sound snotty. I would love to do some pro-bono stuff once in a while but I can't right now. My schedule is crazy; I'm stressed and broke, and feel well about 20% of the time or less.
So there's my bit of honesty for the week.
On another topic, I’ve discovered some really cool art books. I may start a "recommended art book" section on my website if I have the time.
The first book is called URBAN RECORDINGS and it's amazing--Tiny pen and ink drawings of urban landscapes--chock full of cars and buildings and amazing details such as every branch and leaf on a tree illustrated to its fullest.
The second book is on my wish list--Christmas maybe? It's 200 dollars. Yikes! But it's the coolest thing. It's a huge book that will barely fit on bookshelves (if at all). CHARLIE HARPER - AN ILLUSTRATED LIFE. He's a kids' book illustrator but I'm most intrigued by the medical illustration that's in there. It's done in a simple, kid-like fashion, which I find very, very cool.
Lastly, I've added some fun stuff to my website. In the astronaut section I'm adding coloring pages. In the Seabiscuit section I've added a video of the match race, a coloring page, and if you scroll to the bottom you can make your own Seabiscuit paper doll. The links at the top don't work yet but they will when I organize the page, so stay tuned!