Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Piracy: Basically, You're Stealing My Kids' Lunch Money

I know, I know, when you download that book illegally it doesn’t feel like it matters. It doesn’t feel like it’s hurting anyone. Authors are rich, right? No one will notice that one little book.

But here’s the thing, *most* authors are not rich. I couldn’t survive on the money I make from writing—I’m lucky to have a spouse who brings in the income that helps us scrape by. My income? Well, it can hardly be called that currently. With no book deals in my immediate future and my advances from previous ones paid…this year I will be earning the least amount since I sold my first book in 2011. In fact, I am honestly considering not writing anymore because I cannot afford to.

So today I’m just hoping to put piracy into a little perspective. I’m sure people who steal books won’t care and I’ll still get flamed, but hey, I’m an author. I care about this. Piracy literally threatens my ability to feed my kids.

Here’s the hard numbers:

On my traditionally published US paperbacks, I make about .69 cents per sale. Yes, not even a dollar of that $9.99 price point goes to me.

On the traditionally published US ebooks, I make 25% of list, which is anywhere from $0.49-$2.00 depending on sales and how they choose to price the book.

On my indie books, it’s much more…but I sell drastically less. So we’re going to say it all evens out.
My kids’ lunch costs $1.75 each day.

I currently have TWO kids in school, so that’s $3.50 a day currently. When my last joins his siblings in school it’ll be up to $5.25 a day.

That might not sound like a lot to many people, but it is a lot to us. Some people might even say “Oh, well if you made lunch it’d be cheaper”…but I’ve priced that out and it’s about the same. Trust me, I try to save a buck when I can.

Let me throw more numbers at you. If I paid for this school lunch for all twelve grades, what would be the cost? Well, school here is about 180 days, so accounting for absences let’s say 165 days a year I’m forking out $5.25 for my three kids to eat lunch at school (and it’ll probably be more when they hit Jr. High and up and want to buy the fancier stuff).

165 x 3 kids = 495 school lunches a year

495 x $1.75 = $866.25 a year for school lunch

$866.25 x 12 years = $10, 395 just to feed my kids one meal a day

Add in school clothes and supplies, extracurricular expenses, doctor visits, college funds (which I can’t even begin to create)…supporting a family is hard. You think authors are rich? Honestly moment—I did not make 25% of that $10,395 sum last year.

Most days, I don’t even sell a book. If I had to feed my kids on what I sold each day…they would starve. Or one would get a meal if they were lucky. So if we’re cool with piracy because it doesn’t impact authors, please just remember that most days, I don’t make enough money on my writing to even buy my kids school lunch. When you pirate my book, maybe imagine that you are taking a meal from my kids. You’re kinda like that punk on the playground going around stealing kids’ lunch money because you’re bigger and you can and you don’t care. Maybe you even get away with it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt people.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dear 20 Year Old Me

So, 20 Year Old Me, it’s been 11 years since I was your age, and today I’ve been thinking a lot about you. There’s this thing on the internet (you haven’t gotten into blogging yet, but just you wait you will know way too much about “social media” very soon) where people write to their “Teen Me.” But I think I have a lot more to say to you, 20 Year Old Me, than to myself as a teen.

Besides, Teen Me wouldn’t have listened anyway.

But you? You’ve at least figured out you don’t know what the hell you’re doing (Sorry, I say “hell” now, you are surely appalled). And I know you thought the whole “being an adult” thing would be a lot easier than it has been thus far.

You’ve been doing well in college—something no one is surprised about. School was always something you could figure out, with your high GPA and over-achieving ways and crushing guilt at not turning in assignments. (You will probably be shocked to know I do not miss school one bit and would never go back now.)

It’s the life stuff that you have always struggled with. Making friends. Going out and trying new things. Meeting guys and attempting dating. Having a career or whatever. You have but a year of your undergrad left at this point, and you are fairly terrified of what happens after you don’t have school to focus on.

You’ve just gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship. Though you broke up with him three months ago, you are only starting to realize how messed up it all was, how scared you were of a guy you thought you loved.

It wasn’t really the best way to experience your first kiss, first relationship, first thoughts of spending your life with someone.

But hey, you dodged a bullet, and you will forever be grateful to that roommate who sat you down, showed you the cycle of abuse, and told you that you needed to get out and not marry that guy. And I promise that you will start dating an awesome guy, get married to him, have kids, and do all those things that seem completely impossible to you right now.

In fact, you already know the guy. You just don’t think of him in that way yet. And you might have sworn never to date someone with feet as ugly as his…and you will be eating your words.

What I really want to tell you, though, my dear 20 Year Old Me, is that you will make it. All those things about being an adult that seem like you’ll never get? You get them. And it’s pretty awesome. I’d tell you to stop worrying about it, but I know you won’t stop so I won’t waste words there.

Here’s the thing, though—it’s not going to be easy. Actually, your 20s are going to be probably the worst decade of your life. I don’t know what’s in store for us in the future, but I’m hoping things even out.

Because getting all those things you want is just plain hard. And being the wife, mother, and author you want to be is hard. (Yes, I said author, you’re probably freaking out now. One sec.) Achieving your goals has been easy for you up to this point—you have never really failed at school or work or anything, but you’re about to learn a lot about failing. You’re gonna become a pro failer, and somehow that’ll be more fulfilling than all the time you spent being a pro over-achiever.

You’ll be a mom, but you won’t be nearly as good at it as you thought you’d be. It won’t be natural. You won’t want to be “just a mom” like you expected. You’ll want more and it’ll be confusing and guilt-inducing. You’ll get over it. Kind of.

And then you’ll start writing. Because it’s always been your dream and it will never go away like you hoped it would. You have always wanted to be practical and you know writing for a career is not…and you will be very right about that but you’ll do it anyway because you must. You will try your ass off (sorry, I say “ass” now, too). You will fail just about constantly.

And all that failing at motherhood and writing will break you. Like, actually break you. You will contemplate leaving everything you love, emptying the bank account, and disappearing a la Breakfast At Tiffany’s. You will resent your family and faith and wish you’d never tried to do anything with your life. You will…start hitting your kids though you know you shouldn’t and you’ll feel horrible about it. You will stop going to church, stop wanting your husband, stop wanting anything you used to love. You’ll be consumed with escape, with being someone else with less problems. You will, for some stupid reason, still think you’re okay.

Until you realize you’re not, and that the pressure in your chest isn’t normal but panic attacks. They’ll happen daily, and you’ll get so used to it you don’t know it’s a problem. You’ll be really grateful to that doctor who explains to you that you have anxiety, and you’ll admit you need help and it’ll be shameful and liberating all at once. The medication will save your life and the life of your family, and you will be able to cope for the first time since you turned 20. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken so long for me to figure that out, and I’m sorry you have to suffer so long not knowing there was anything wrong with you.

I’m sorry that it has to get as bad as it got before things get better.

But hey, things do get better. And though you aren’t some huge bestseller, by the age of 31 you are the author of multiple books. That have been on store shelves. That have been published in other countries. That have been read and loved by some people. I know, 20 Year Old Me, that this is a big deal to you. Sometimes I forget it’s a big deal, but then I remember you and your dreams that felt impossible and I am living the life you wanted. You even have friends that have stuck with you through all this. I know how hard it was for you to make friends, but here we are—we even have that. And don’t get me started on how incredible your husband and kids are.

It’s awesome.

So hang in there. It’s going to be terrible for awhile, but so far the 30s are treating us much better. I really like the 30s. Or maybe I just like not being in that horrible 20s decade. We made it, okay? And that’s what matters, even if the journey was messy.


P.S. Just dye your hair red now—it’s better that way and you never go back to blond.