duskpeterson: (bookshelves)
[personal profile] duskpeterson
"The thing about my friend of the fire escape was that there were so many of him. You saw him all over, thousands and thousands of him, in every city of the land. Younger versions of him shoveled snow, in their black dress shoes and double-breasted business suits - the only clothes they had to wear, and the only thing they could find to do. They prayed for snow. An inch of snow was a dollar's worth of shoveling. You saw him in his improvised huts, cardboard or sheet tin, in the parks and the vacant lots, whole communities of him. And he could be you."

--Frederick Pohl's The Way the Future Was, which I first read as a middle-class teen.

My life has become surreal.

After years of writing about the poor, and after a lifetime of reading about the well-off turned poor (Sara Crewe in A Little Princess, etc.), I'm about to become poor myself. Poor as in "not sure how to pay for food, medicine, and shelter."

I should have thought of doing this long ago. This is excellent research material. I'm learning all sorts of neat stuff, such as that the average newspaper and magazine is aimed at people who have enough money to pay for the basics (I've switched over to reading African-American newspapers) and that everyone in America is assumed to be rich enough to be able to afford phone service. Even the folks who give out food stamps assume this.

When I've not been handling this sort of research fodder, I've been focussing on two things: getting ready to move to a smaller place, and figuring out how to raise my annual income from $1400 (that's how much I earned professionally last year) to $30,000 (that's how much I need to earn next year in order to survive, if I ignore income tax; my health care costs alone are going to be $13,000).

Figuring out how to move to a smaller place

I might get through this with shelter over my head. If so, Noakes and I will be moving from our 3000-square-foot house (which is overfilled with my accumulated belongings from the forty years I've lived here) to 800 square feet. Among other things, I'll be going from having room enough for twenty-four floor-to-ceiling bookcases to having room enough for roughly five bookcases.

"Sequestering" is a mild word for what I'm going to have to do during the next few weeks. "Utter panic" is the better term.

Raising my income

In order to meet my financial goal - based solely on the number of fiction e-books I plan to publish this year - I need to get my overall sales rate up to an average of 15+ copies per e-book monthly. (That is, not every e-book has to sell fifteen copies monthly, but the overall average has to amount to that.)

Currently, my sales rate for my thirty-nine e-books is just under an average of two copies per e-book monthly. This is one more copy than I was selling a year ago, so I'm pleased, but I'm running out of time.

Based on my sales rate and the relative lack of reader reviews, I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm one of those niche authors who's liked a lot by certain readers, but who just doesn't appeal to a wide audience. My only hope seems to be to get as many e-books published as possible, selling them in as many bookstores as possible.

So I'm saving up some of my precious pennies for ISBNs, since I can't get into several dozen bookstores without them, and once I've finished getting my fiction backlist published, I'm going to start bringing out reprints of my old journalism articles, in case there's an e-book audience for them. Every e-book I publish raises my income by a tiny amount. (Well, except for my Three Lands novels, which don't seem to sell at all well.)

Oh, and yes, I've looked into taking other jobs. My disabilities are still vetoing every other job I propose.

So tell me about your own short-of-money experiences, if you feel like sharing them. I know that I'm not the only person here who's struggling, especially in this economy. Maybe we could start our own literary community.

Edited to add: Several people who read this post were kind enough to offer suggestions on what type of work I could be doing to raise my income. If you were planning to comment about that, you might like to read this comment first.

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