The title of this article is a quote from YA author Laura Lam, who recently wrote over on author Chuck Wendig’s blog about the fallout from Stacey Jay’s attempt to Kickstart a sequel to her Princess of Thorns YA novel and her subsequent cancellation of the Kickstarter after it was heavily ridiculed, mainly for showing that $7000 of money raised would go to living expenses. You can read the original Kickstarter here, and Stacey Jay’s explanations for why she abandoned the endeavour – here. You can read a bunch of the Tweets that led to her decision here.

“Not everyone can write for free and love and warm fuzzies.”

I think this line from Laura Lam perfectly illustrates why, as Stacey Jay had done, creators (writers, artists, film makers – anyone creating a media text) would ask for money towards living expenses as part of a Kickstarter project. We can’t all write for free, all the time.

Anyway, before we go any further, please go and read the Tweets, Stacey, Laura and Chuck’s words that I’ve linked to and then come back.

Done it?

“Was she asking for too much?”

Stacey wanted money to cover living expenses while she took three months out of her life to write and produce a novel. Some people who came into contact with her Kickstarter, rather than just not funding it, decided to level heavy amounts of criticism at Stacey for claiming for her living expenses while writing. Stacey had explained that a good chunk of the Kickstarter money she was asking for would be used to pay for her to have the security to write that novel without having to worry about having a regular job to earn money so she could pay bills, or, y’know, feed herself and her family.

As Wendig calculates in his post, the amount she was asking for was reasonable for paying someone to work on something fulltime. So she wasn’t asking for too much.

“It’s like an advance.”

Princess of Thorns img 1And that’s a problem, because? What? You’re not a business? But by commissioning someone with money to get them to produce something is a type of business relationship.

In traditional publishing, before the purse strings were so tightly drawn, writers would often be paid advances by publishers to produce a novel. Advances have become somewhat of a minefield in recent years for traditional publishing, but the advantage of an advance was, to me, quite clear: the author wouldn’t have to worry about food and bills so much whilst they wrote a novel that the publisher was investing in the creation of. While advances didn’t always come the way of first time authors, they’re definitely something that established authors tended to be offered. (This is all a very simplistic way of looking at how this side of traditional publishing worked.)

In the case of Stacey, she was already an established author, already considered good enough by a publisher to have her work published the first time. If her original novel had been more successful, maybe that publisher would have offered her an advance for a second novel. But that didn’t happen for Stacey and in some ways couldn’t. And looking back at some of those collected Tweets, the ones that suggest that it’s suspicious that Stacey was asking for money less than a month after the first book was out, questioning how it was too soon for a publisher to judge that it hadn’t sold enough for it to be worth another go? That’s publishing. Publishers will do things like that: refuse to publish a sequel after the first does meant their sales expectations within less than a month of a book hitting the shelves.

“But loads of people write novels while working a job, etc…”

Yes, they do. And until recently, normally did. However, the invention of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms means that writers have more options now about how they can go about creating their work. As Wendig explains in his post, just because something didn’t exist in the past doesn’t mean that those of us in the present should do without.

What’s that? You guys have got Twitter and email now and use it to network with people?

Well, back in my day it was all Royal Mail, booze ups or nothing.

(Said no marketer, ever.)

Should fantasy authors without word processors today, because J. R. R. Tolkien didn’t have one?

“She should have asked for living expenses through Patreon.”

Sure, that could have worked for an ongoing project. But Patreon is a bit more fickle. After all, backers could be all like, “Hmm, can’t afford this month,” pull out of that monthly payment and then if a bunch of them do it: no money to support the writing. The advantage of something like Kickstarter here, to me, is that you get a one off payment that you can then budget with, which is great when there’s only one product being produced rather than something that’s ongoing. A Patreon would have left too many insecurities to make working on a long term project desirable and would have put too much pressure on Stacey to constantly promote herself in order to make sure she had enough supporters while at the same time as writing the novel and then creating extra rewards for those supporters on an ongoing basis.

In the end…

I respect Stacey’s decision to not go through the hassle that she was having to deal with to ask for something that she was allowed to ask for. But I’m really disappointed that it went down like this. She didn’t break any laws, and none of Kickstarter’s terms, and she was way more open about where the money was going than many have done on other Kickstarters. I wouldn’t have put her campaign page together the way she had, but the initial flourishes of support showed that her supporters wanted to support her – and that’s what mattered.

Header image adapted from Daniel R. Blume’s “Thorns” under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.