How to Fail at Patreon.

Hello my loves.

Sometimes folks have asked about how the writer financials are going now that I’ve pretty much divested myself of really trying to make money writing. I found a new toy to play with so we’re gonna get pretty naked.

Hang in. It is fixin to get HELLA nerdy up in this piece.

Okay so if this is your first time seeing one of these posts from me here is what I’m doing.

I am being transparent about my failures as an artist. I am not being “negative” it is just the truth of my experience so please no lectures. I’m not sad about it, I know what it is, when I do come across generally upset it is because I’m poor. Last thing, I spent a lot of the last half of 2019 ceasing the hustle.

I stopped trying to do freelance work. I closed down my Etsy shop where I had stories and poetry shit for sale. I stopped trying hard to make Medium a good source of income.

Currently here is how my hustle is set up. I post on medium when I feel like it. I share the free to read link and ask that if folks share they use the paid link. This only sort of works. However, in February I made a 8 month record high of $4.

I’ve been doing fiction again and the lit world has been a lil friendly. No, I am not famous enough to make money writing fiction. I just love it and will write it anyway so I’ve been doing some submitting.

Last thing before we get to some numbers. I fail at making my work financial sustainable. That is just what it do.

OKAY. So if you want to see what is potentially possible for writers on Patreon go check out this top 50 list. For context, every total listed is more money than I make in a month between my dayjob, patreonand the occasional bit of other work.

Now I know some folks on that list so I won’t use one of them as an example cause it’d be creepy. I couldn’t find a great example of someone doing what I’m doing so we’ll talk generalities.

My patreon is an ongoing experiment in writing Black, queer urban fantasy. I write a letter to my patrons that often includes writing advice, some craft nerdery and 3k + words of the story per month. That is the ONLY thing that has kept my patrons around.

For me in particular, this is the ONLY thing I can do on patreon and not lose money monthly. When Patreon released tiers, I suggested it and lost about 45$ per month in patrons. The trend is (and yes I have YEARS of correlated data for this) that if I offer more people are less interested.

Here’s the thing. This month I brought home $205.47. I support other creators so I don’t take home the full amount. I rely on patreon to fund things like, me repairing and keeping on top of my credit, I try to use it for my food for work. I use it to pay for things like having a web presence and things are pretty tight.

That said, I lowkey (not related to the pandemic) think that this could be the last year I do Patreon. My engagement and interest in the work I’m doing is at the lowest. Possibly because I embarked on doing a new thing with it. I understand a lot of folks are broke that happens. But over time, I’m seeing less and less folks interested in fucking with me on that level.

And that is really what my failure at Patreon comes down to. I’ve floated the idea to my social media about doing a Patreon for things like essay work like this and this, inside that particular plan, I also talked about doing some Patron only youtube stuff in the vein of For Harriet (whom I LOVE). A lot of people expressed interest when I just kind of blurted it out. When it came time to engage and actually do something…nah.

That is the pattern of my artistic life. I have a very wonderful core of dedicated reader folks. People who share when I ask, who read, engage etc etc. I understand that I am not great for a lot of people because I’m a big mouth asshole. That said I just cannot afford to do these things.

All this said here’s the deal. I am not an entrepreneur. I’m just not. I’ve taken classes, courses, been mentored and real talk I’m just not into it. That is not who I am. In the modern world that is to my own detriment but, I tried.

I am so grateful and in love with my core audience. I love all of y’all. Forever.

I am also going to write/make the shit anyway. I will share as I feel and I’ve FINALLY let go of tying my worth as an artist to these things. I still write essays. I still write craft stuff. I still am figuring out how to offer up some writing classes. I accept that occasionally I make tips or donations and they are amazing but as far as steady income beyond or better than my current Patreon is probs not gonna happen. And that’s fine.

I’ve learned that as a creator, I cannot pressure myself to make it financially sustainable. It is unfortunate that my failures financially mean I have to make a lot of hard decisions that make me feel bad. I may need to give up my website, I may have to give up more of my entertainment budget. And yeah, I would be really excited if I could make that second patreon and make it a thing.

But, I won’t punish myself for it.

I’m going to make my stuff. Write my shit and continue teaching myself what kind of artist I wanna be.

If you are discouraged or devastated about not being able to make money with your art, you aren’t alone and it doesn’t devalue you or your work. Capitalism sucks.

I love you all.

Comin soon, more reviews. Some publishing news and I’m working up some nerdy shit.

Why My Side Hustles Fail.

I’ve been doing a lot of deep analysis after some rounds of advertising in different ways. And we all know that looking deep into my statistics usually hurts my feelings but, if I’m gonna do this indie shit it is my job to do it.

So let’s get into it. My official FB author page.  My Amazon page where you can buy some stories and a couple of little collections (new one coming soon). Also note, the FB page will be where I do a LOT of my sharing and stuff. So for real it is best to follow there for the most up to date info.

Let’s talk about the performance of some things.

First thing. The general trend I see through analyzing both engagement with and action on things I share across social media (counting tweeter, tumblr, fb all in I have about 5-6k followers across all the platforms) is that I get shares and clicks when I share other folks work.

Now, I don’t grudge the other folks because I love them and want to share their work. I share things I care about. The part of the trend that bugs me is when a large number of those shares of other folks work, come from people I know rather than rando followers. I actually had a sample group and ALL of their interaction with things I’ve shared has only been the work of other people and was heavily skewed towards white women.

The subject matter also matters. I will get shares if I post something where I am exposing my own racial pain, performing poverty by ranting about my cash situation (however it doesn’t translate into action but we’ll get there) or if I’m just being my ain’t shit self and saying something shady.

Those stats are mainly from my actual following.

When it comes to randos, I see more interaction, more shares, of my work. My little kindle books, my Ko Fi.

These are two groups of people responding to the same marketing shits. The call to action, my pleases and thank yous.

Looking deeper at my FB page stats, the trend I’ve talked about for the last decade is made very very clear.

Like a lot of other Black women and femmes, when I ask for action directly folks don’t wanna do so in public. In private I’ve had many offers of boosts, help, sales etc and the numbers don’t lie that it doesn’t happen.

There is no outright public refusal which would be easier to deal with. This constant factor in my life (and the lives of MANY in my community) baffles some of my friends. When I’ve told them stats on things they are boggled.

For instance, my most read public piece (I won’t link to it right now) this year so far involves very deep racial pain. It has the most shares, the most reads. That one thing, flawed as it is has more reads and shares than everything else I’ve put out this year. From that one piece I’ve gotten DMs and notes from folks holding out the offers of whatever I need. Support etc and none of it has materialized.

Now I look at twitter and the most staunch advice I’ve got about using it as part of my publicity/marketing is the imperative ask to RT. On average, I have to RT myself and ask 3 times to get on the whole about 2.8 (some weird number close to this) shares.

The more interesting thing about tweeter is this. When someone who isn’t me or who doesn’t use my name shares something I’ve done, even if they have a significantly smaller following than I do, RTs galore. Clicks. Sometimes sales.

I’ve also seen this happen on FB.

Now let’s talk supporters. My most staunch and constant source of sales has been the folks with the least. The marginalized folks. The other poor people I know. Not the privileged folks I know. There are a few but I’ve also seen the issue of when they tag me or mention my name, that post goes silent. I watched it happen with a friend who is way more famous than me. Their posts generally get HUNDREDS of reactions, the one with me got about 10 and no comments and no shares.

My friend Dom said this the other day and it really strikes at the heart of my continued failed creative hustles:

When people offer help publicly on social media, yet don’t follow through, it gives the appearance that a person has support, when they really don’t.

This isn’t about one person or incident. It’s happened so much, for many complex reasons, and surely happens to others too. It’s just sad that this stops people from getting care they need.

Bolding mine.

I think what Dom is saying here is a large part of my ongoing problems with getting my work seen. A lot of the time if I mention I’m working on something, a good number of folks will be HYPE about it and saying they will share it. But, when the thing happens crickets.

I’ve tried a few methods of doing this. Returning to the original thread(s) to post the link, doing the random FB tricks and well…meh.

One of the things I am very conscientious about is giving folks options. If you follow me on FB or tweeter, you know that I am very specific about the actions that are helpful.

As I’ve mentioned many times, I have an entire community of folks like me who have this same problem. Folks (especially more privileged people) LOVE to get all in our stuff cheering for us. And yet, when we ask specifically for what we need, well…..

All this said.

If you are in a position where you can’t drop a couple of bucks on a book or magazine etc, you can still do the work to support the artists you care about. That is what I do. I share links when asked when I can. I pay attention. Right now, I’m stoked to say that my Patreon is “successful” enough that I am supporting three other folks. Not much but it means a lot.

I also want to be very clear.

I’ve been told that me talking about these things in this way is “excuses” and “negative”. Look. If you really believe that, I got nothing for you. The only way that the going advice will EVER work is if all things are equal. And they are absolutely not.

I also want to say that I am very grateful for my ride or die magical space babes. Y’all know who you are.

I am not alone in this. My community suffers from this. Folks tell us how much they want to see us do X thing but do nothing to help us get that thing done. I watch a lot of my community rage out about it because it is fucking hard. A lot of us don’t get action unless we’re doing long ass twitter rants about how broke and scared we are. Or we rant about these issues and get some pity likes.

It is exhausting.

However, I’m gonna keep doing me. I guess. I have reservations but, I gotta do the shit I do.

Dassit.

First Side Hustle of the Year Updates.

OKAY.

Hi y’alls.

Folks ask me so I will probably do a monthlyish hustle update. (Medium links are paid links)

Medium still fails, my stats, these are not ALL of the things behind the paywall just the “top”:

Adventures in Being Black in Public $5.99
How to Learn to Write Non Fiction $0.00
This is America II $0.00
Post FatAss: Current RageAss. $0.00
Dear White Feminists. 2018 is coming. $0.00
How to Make a Witch II $0.00
How To Diversify Your Literary Publication $0.00
Self Care Like A Boss $0.00
This is America $0.00
So a bit from my top earner for the month:
The weight of that look, the look Black folks who are in situations where they are the only Black person there, or are visibly in distress know. The curled lip, the purse clutch, the sneer, the loathing. It is the look when you are both invisible and hypervisible. I was already panicky, trying to text my partner through my tears, terrified that (not logical but….) immediately the money I’ve been working so hard to save would be gone, that someone would fuck up my credit I’ve worked so hard on, everything.”
I wrote about a real bad day. I wrote from my aching heart about a really bullshit ass experience of my Blackness. it hurt. It hurt to read.
On average when I bleed out on the page this way, using Medium I might make 5$. When I’m exhausted angry and hurt, sometimes I make a little cash. For instance, this article I made about 13$. A record high. This piece was ghosted by four editors at ladymags who’d asked for this sort of thing. Two rejections because it is strident. So I took to Medium.

I will go out on a limb and speak for a lot of us othered folks. We cannot and do not want to continue giving free, amazing scholarly lessons on basic don’t be a racist. It is damn near 2018 and our fucking world is burning. Want to be the best gosh darned intersectional (also please interrogate your use of that word and if you don’t already know, find out about where it comes from) feminist ever?

Do the work.

Some stats for that piece:

Published 

VIEWS BY TRAFFIC SOURCE
353.

So frankly, y’alls. This is a large part of why I am in the process of redoing how I work. Honestly, letting it ALL out like that might be cathartic sometimes but it also is so much labor. And aside from maybe one magazine I can think of, even when that sort of work is asked for I’m not the one getting those bylines so no $$.

In other hustle news. My Etsy store will be closing on 2-15. I kept loose track and worked well over 75 hours on etsy stuff in the last quarter of 2018 and that made my hourly rate less than a dollar so. Nope.

What I am doing is making room for a big, shoot the moon, HOLY SHIT I AM DOING THIS SHIT type thing. I’m not ready to share ALL the details but, I’m taking a big fucking risk and I am so excited about it.

What else is happening?

I’m reading a few really good books right now. I’m getting ready to roll out some new shits. Since The Evil Empire   I mean Amazon changed their affiliate program I’m working on a WHOLE ass page of hand picked books and links.

I’ve also got a directory of Black Patreon creators going and I’ll be going live with it soonish.

I’ve got a real hankering to provide some more resources up in this bitch so keep an eye out for that.

I’ll be back probably next week where I’m going to need to talk some shit about people who try to sell best seller secrets willy nilly.

OH and if you are or know Black creators on Patreon drop them links for me please!

 

Hustleverse and fails.

Buckle in babes. It is gonna be a lot.

For reference today I’m going to be talking about Patreon, Medium, and other specifically writing related hustles.

Before I get into my feelings, I really want to stress that yes, YES OF COURSE as I tell my patrons every month I appreciate the fuck out of them. They have fed me, helped me pay bills and they are great.

As far as the platform itself goes, I love Patreon. Very simple. I enjoy it in terms of the user experience.

My problems have more to do with eh, okay.

Let’s start with engagement with both my current audience, my social media audience, and other maybe or likely not interested people.

I’ve done (I’m looking at them) no less than six 4 question surveys in the last year.

The first survey was a single question survey posted on Patreon, Twitter, Tumblr, facebook and in my newsletter.

Would you be interested in occasional to bi-weekly shortish podcast type posts about writing as a Patreon perk?

100 views.

6 responses.

1 yes. 4 no. 1 no with a I can’t afford Patreon.

Across my social media, I have approximately 5k followers with probably about 500 overlaps.

I reran the poll several more times and got no further responses.

So that was useless time spent for me.

Another data gathering thing I did was via twitter specifically.

I posted this freebie read  and asked folks the same question and specifically asked for it to be shared. The tweet had about 250 impressions, 10 likes, 4 retweets, 0 replies and 6 clicks.

I have more data but the upshot of my promotional efforts, engagement efforts and more so asking my community for what I need, is failure.

At this point, I know how to use my technology. I do what a lot of the advice (as I am ALWAYS talking about) and frankly it ain’t gon’ work. I’ve been on this quest to figure out some kind of sustainability for my income and writing, and I just am not sure it is going to work out for me.

Part of the problem is who I am. I am a Black Queer Purple lipstick wearing loudmouth. I am not palatable on any level to a lot of people. I know that. Quite frankly, at this point I’ve given up trying to not do the work that works for me. I accepted that a long time ago.

That said, if you do some quick googling you’ll see that as it is, there is generally a lack of support for POC creators, Black women and femmes in particular. Our fundraisers go unfunded, we do a lot of heavy intellectual lifting, we deal with a lot of specific marginalizations that result in not much cash for most of us. The reality is that for every ONE funded, successful Black woman/femme author, there are hundreds of us struggling.

I think I’ve reached the understanding that unless something very drastic happens, I will not be one of those top tier folks. That’s okay. I don’t need that.

That brings me to this.

I can’t find the entry but really, the world at large, my network, is not super interested in my hustle and my work in general. This is something as I’ve mentioned before that has been a problem since I started. I work at it.

Some stuff I do:

  • I offer a shit ton of free stuff. Fiction, poetry, non-fiction. Social justice. Etc etc.
  • I ask my community for what I need. If you can’t buy, please share. If you’ve been here a while you’ve seen it.
  • Offer and create resources.
  • Make a variety of methods for support clear and available.

This shit takes time and effort. A lot of my time spent working on trying to upgrade my Patreon to give readers more bang for the bucks, to share literary work,  is honestly a waste.

With Patreon specifically, I am feeling really conflicted. I average around 40 patrons and the most number of folks who read the patron only stuff is less than 80% of those subscribed. What has happened is that over the last year, my patrons have steadily declined and I can see from the data that likely they weren’t interested in what I was offering but they might have been feelings support and they dropped off.

This leads me to a few things.

  • Folks don’t really like where Cycle 2 is going.
  • Folks don’t care about the work they just want to offer some support.

I have asked how folks are feelin and we already went over engagement so bloop. Except for a core of ride or die folks. I have a list and literally the most shares, thoughts and support come from about ten people who have been doing it for years. Y’alls are the real Gs and I am not talking about you.

#2 y’all. It just makes me feel bad. I appreciate and need the support so much, but I am not about that rookin folks life and don’t want folks paying for shit they don’t actually want. Part of why I was looking into offering extra goodies would be to draw in those folks who maybe don’t like urban fantasy but would want writing class downloads, exercises, AMAs etc. However, if there’s no interest it can’t happen.

The other thing is this. My Patreon project is a LOT of work. All in with everything else I do, I probably write about 7-10k words a month. 95% of those are free. 100% of that involves a lot of emotional labor. I work a full time job. I feel like I’m just burning myself down for nothing.

I have to play capitalism too. I have to eat. I also feel like my grand experiment in sustainability etc is just a big ole fail. I also get really depressed.

The depression is why I haven’t posted in a minute. I get discouraged when I go all in to help my community, show up and provide for folks and not very many people respond. I did this list of folks who need financial help and it took DAYS of me asking where THOUSANDS of folks could see and it was a struggle.

I get discouraged when I literally take the step of making EVERYTHING that I charge for seriously financially accessible. For Patreon in particular, my intention was not to set tiers but to leave it at, hey if all you have is a dollar per month you get this stuff too. My lit stuff at etsy is 5$ and under. And I can’t get shares or responses.

It hurts.

I’m discouraged. I’m tired.

And really, if people just don’t want what I have to offer it is fine. But, that also means that I will need to scale WAY back on what I give for free because, as much as my heart says to just give everyone everything, that is unsustainable and bitch gotta eat.

I have been doing some lit world submitting and that is good. I’m at a bit of a personal impasse I suppose. I’m sad because my dreams of things I KNOW I can provide and that would be a great value to folks cannot go forward if I cannot get the eyes and shit.

I’m accepting that my social capital does not translate well to my work as a writer.

I’ve accepted that for a lot of folks I’m just a big nope.

I dunno y’all.

 

 

 

 

Hustleverse and Art and Shit.

OOOKAY y’alls.

I’m on my hustle and we got THINGS HAPPENIN.

Let’s start with some evil empire (amazon) links.

An older book of mine I put together as part of my beginning idea of showing how the sausage is made is Wayward WordsI transcribed things out my notebooks, some flash pieces and poems. I talked a bit about them. It’s a little thing you can read on your Kindle app and enjoy for a little bit.

Next up, I was in Thuglit Issue #5 and that was a fave story I’ve done. I’ve really enjoyed running around in crime fiction and the whole issue is pretty solid.

Want something a little racier? I was in an issue of Infernal Ink with some pyro crime erotica. Get U SOME!

Full disclosure about my amazon links. I get a few cents on clicks and buys. They discontinued their store program so I will be making a page of book recs with said links. Yes I know terrible however, bitches gotta eat.

Now some more direct stuff.

These links will give me more cash in hand.

I’ve reopened my Etsy Store. I’ve included a brand new Etsy exclusive essay. I’ve reopened Etsy to get ready to list some handmade shawls and I’m pretty excited.

I’m also still fundraising. We’ve got almost 1400$ all in for lingering move related bills and staying alive. I hate it but, we gotta stay alive.

If you’re a paid Medium member. I put a new thing behind the paywall. Claps are free y’all know. Also, if you’re paid and like what I’m doing, throw some claps on other pieces.

I’ve also got some free stuff happening.

Read about why, yes the fuck I will unfriend over politics. And appropriate to this post, a little thing about Making a Difference.

Something that I believe in is, helping folks on a small scale. We can’t all be the viral helpers and sometimes, the best route is to just help folks stay alive.

Can’t buy? Totally okay. Share links. Tell your friends that you have a homie in need who has a variety of ways to provide support.

Show up.

If you don’t want to do that stuff, I got tip jars too.

https://www.paypal.me/WordsnThings

https://cash.me/$weebeasty

https://venmo.com/Shannon-Barber-5

Later this week, I’ll be posting up some new free to read stuff about writing. Follow me at Medium for that. Want a loveletter to your creative heart? Subscribe here and get a tiny vacation weekly from the trashfire world.

Hustlin updates and stuffs.

So I know it has seemed bleak but, here’s the thing. When I figure out how to work, I fuckin work.

The method I’ve adopted for now is write like a mother fucker, accept some freelance, submit to literary shits, get rejected rinse repeat.

My other hustle is my Patreon. Let’s talk about that a little bit. I don’t make much at Patreon, a couple of hundred bucks that pays for some bills. It is one of my favorite things. Some of y’all are new so let’s talk bout what I’m doing there. I’m writing an ongoing urban fantasy very queer Black n brown ongoing story. I’m calling each novella length chunk a Cycle and my goal is to just write in this world (a magical Seattle and currently a few other spots) and play.

When I talk about the Daiyuverse this is what I’m talking about. It is where I go to play. I am creating a large magical system, I am connecting POC cultural and diasporic spiritual magics. This is not vaguely European fairyland. It is absolutely Queer and not a White centered world and I just love it. Part of what makes it fun for me is that the curtain is pulled all the way back. We’re into cycle 2 and I’ve left in my own editorial remarks, mistakes, do overs.

This is a naked first draft. This is (to paraphrase Jerry Stahl again) me naked and fucked up at 4 in the morning writing and it is wonderful. I don’t ask for a lot, I don’t do tiered anything. Regardless of how much you are in for, you get usually a little letter and about 3k words of the verse. Sometimes I toss in extras, WIPs, essays or whatever. Once life is settled I’m thinking about doing some Patron only videos about writing or stuff.

It is great.

Now let’s talk freelance. I’ve just made my re-entry into freelance and I am so proud of the piece. You can read it here at Wear Your Voice. CW for racism and some hard shit. One of the reasons freelancing can be the shits for me is that, writing easy stuff is not really my lane. My fluff gets deep regardless of subject matter. I want to write about fuckin eyeliner, I talk about Western Beauty standard bullshit.

As emotionally taxing as my non fiction can be for me to do, it is just who I am as a writer and human. It me. I fought it but, it is just who I am. The same day the above piece went live, I wrote this lil thingy on Medium because some folks were bothering me. I spat it out and kept it pushing which is how I work.

I toss little jokes in with my seriousness because I’m a goofy mother fucker.

One of the things that all the marketing advice for writers in the world won’t give you is that sweetness of connecting with your audience. I know who y’all are and I fucking love the shit out of you. Yes, I do talk about how/when/why my audience doesn’t give a shit but, I know a lot of you do and that’s deeply meaningful to me.

WHen stuff like this column by a fave magical being I know named Misha went live, I read it and got teary eyed at the bus stop because when people tell me that something I said touched them, the fucked up hustling isn’t so fucked up. I’m still poor and not in the best of health but fuck y’all, I do feel the love.

While there has been a pattern of fuckery in my literary world, there is a bigger pattern of when my words do what I want them to and work themselves into another persons heart, that makes it better. When (this happened a while back) a shy young Queer person on the bus, whispers did you write at XOJane about self care to me and when I say yes they light up and say thank you, that is the realest shit. When I get dms saying, yo that poem was fucking fire.

I think a lot of my life has lead me to this point. I’ve made the decision not to play the recommended game. Fuck that game. I’m not going to compromise, I’m not going to shut up, I’m not going to filter myself so I can make money.

I will still freak out about money because I’m poor. I will sometimes write lengthy shit about how much I just want to sell some fuckin stickers or whatever. That said, I can hold that and hold space for doing what the fuck I want to do and writing what the fuck I want to write, because that is who I am.

It me y’all.

My dreams may not be lucrative and won’t buy me new make up but, I believe they will fulfill my soul and that my friends is what I want.

That’s all for now. I love y’all.

OH yeah new loveletter later today about trusting your process and taking a leap. Come sign up. No spams. All love for your hams.

Side Hustle Thoughts.

I’m in a mood. Buckle in.

I’ve been (as always) looking at my hustles.

Before I dive in here is my view. I still don’t like freelancing that much. I’m not a fan of wading through new bullshit with usually White editors who mean well but ultimately exhaust me and I wind up doing a lot of emotional labor I don’t get paid for. I also don’t like publications that let their readership go fucking wild on authors and just delete the posts but not the articles.

There are a small group of editors I trust and some opportunities I’ve been extended. Some of the problem with that for me is, I do not have the ability to do what equates to a bit more than a part time job especially when the pay is not commensurate with an actual PT job.

Okay.

The essential going advice is pretty much Field of Dreams- If you build it they will come. Most advice talks about offering the good content, promote it, make it available etc. I do that and unfortunately as I’ve said and experienced for like a decade, it just does not work for me.

Again, recently at the behest of some folks who were super hype, I reopened my Swag Shop.  And again, not ONE of the people who asked shared it, looked at it or purchased anything.

I know my price points tend towards beyond reasonable. At one point I was offering up about 110K words of fiction, non fiction etc for 11$ and only one person bought it. I have a TON of content I offer for free via this blog, medium etc. I am always very specific about how folks can help out. Even if you can’t drop a dollar, I always ask that things are shared.

This does not work for me.

Quite frankly, I get the most support if I’m having a public internet meltdown about not being able to pay for something and frankly doing the I AM POOR AND PANICKING dance is humiliating and exhausting.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and every time I try with the side hustles it comes down to this. I do a thing, write a bunch of shit or whatever and after a few days when there are zero reads, no shares etc, I feel completely devalued.

I am a Black Queer non binary femme person. I have to deal with being undervalued constantly in my life. From my dayjob to engagement with people, to the thousands of hours of emotional labor I’ve put in around meatspace and the internet, it is something that is just a shadow in my life.

For a few years now I have tried really hard to believe that if I provide the good shit, the good shit will flow back in return. I had a come to Odin talk with myself and really examined my pricing and whatnot. On one hand, folks have told me to charge more for stuff, that I am worth so much more than the few bucks I ask for.

Yet, the proof is not in the pudding.

Here is what I have come to believe now. It doesn’t matter what think I am worth. It doesn’t. The thing is, I can’t pay myself. I also can’t keep getting my hopes up. I am a terribly sensitive flower. I want so much to believe that the work I do can help sustain my life and do some good in the world, when there is just zero interest or follow up it just crushes me.

On one hand, having started in short literary fiction I am primed for rejection. When I’m in submission mode, I eat rejection. But, that rejection is not the same. It isn’t the build up and then nothing. That is the thing that is wrecking me over and over again.

The truth is, like a lot of other marginalized folks, the people who have shown that material support, who have bought my echapbook and stories and whatnot are in the same position I am.

The truth is, I’m not the beloved type of Black person with opinions so the people in the position to do the most, don’t.

They don’t.

And I’m not even necessarily talking about strangers. I’m thinking about people in my immediate circles who I’ve seen elevate other people, triple funded vacations, therapy everything and I can’t get a share of a link?

Y’all.

Real talk?

It fucks me up. It hurts my heart, it hurts my wallet it makes doing the shit I’m good at harder. And to have the idea reinforced that if I provide, others will provide so jammed down my throat, it hurts because obviously that is not for me.

I have to make a commitment to myself that is loving and preservative of my sanity and feelings.

I cannot give space to the whole woowoo idea that the universe (or my community) will do shit for me unless I am doing my poverty dance. I can’t.

I’m not sure what that means in terms of my work and how I offer things. I may just go to submitting only and freelancing a little and trying other avenues of revenue that aren’t writing.

I dunno. All I know is that I can’t keep working so hard and trying to hard and winding up with a deficit of both coins and good feelings.

That’s it for now.

Hustle Report And Whatnots.

Hello there.

My life is chaos soup with a stress bomb salad right now so let’s talk hustle updates.

So it is now about the end of Feb and I am in the process of changing my hustle yet again. Here is where I was at new year.

I’ve been experimenting with my side hustles. Namely Steemit and paid content at Medium. Starred items at medium are behind the paywall.

Let’s talk stats and whatnots.

Medium first. At Medium I’ve experimented with humor, feminism and reprints.

I started the experiment Sep 24, 2017. For three pieces posted behind the paywall that much I got $1.61. One body image essay, one much rejected literary essay about diversity and one racial pain pornish essay. The only one that earned was the race essay.

It had: 107 views, 29 reads and 5 fans and 144 claps. For medium speak, that is fairly average for my stuff.

My highest earnings were in Oct 29, 2017 through Nov 26, 2017 I earned $28.29, one of my humorous but serious Dear Sir/s pieces earned the most at $26.71. Everything else was either 0 or neglible. At the time I had 5 total pieces available behind the paywall.

For the last two months I’ve had 11 total pieces available behind the paywall at Medium and made about $2.

On the advice of someone, I have a fairly varied selection. Some shorter things, a little humor, some literary, some body image, some race stuff. But, most of it either goes entirely unread or performs very poorly.

For Steemit, after my first month on a good day I average 2 views of things from poems to photos. So after an initial run of some okay tips on fiction and poetry that has bottomed out.

Now if you’ve been here a while, you know this is fairly common for me and has been for years.

The more interesting thing to me is this.

I have posted hundreds of thousands of free shit to read. For at least a decade. Fiction of many flavors, essays, how to, photos, poems, body image shit ALL THE THINGS.

I’ve been experimenting with some concepts that are popular for artists/creatives and the bottom line is this.

The advice has revolved around creating content and varying it etc.

Here’s the thing, there are barriers. Some of those, I cannot force my way through. I can’t make folks do shit. I can ask and at this point I don’t expect those needs to be met through my side hustles.

I am wrapping up this experiment mostly. I just don’t have the energy to do that much work for no return.

This quote:

I had a mantra in my head. I said, I may not be the best writer out there, but I’m going to work harder than the best writer.

By Morgan Jenkins in interview with Jennifer Baker at Electric Lit. Go read it.

We know I do need the hustles but I am rearranging them. I’ve got an amazing opportunity I am considering doing. I’ve had some editors from mags I really really love reach out to me to suggest I pitch them.

What else?

I am still doing the most at Patreon. I even have a new free post up you can check out here. My expansion at Patreon is going. I’m dropping an extra post or so a month for Patrons and that has been good.

The other important thing going on is that, I’m getting out of my feelings about the things that don’t work for me.

I can’t lie. Sometimes I read through some of the higher earning stuff on Medium etc and I just get depressed. I feel like, I work so hard to give something to my community of value and hear crickets and some silly 400 word thing folks are dropping kudos and cash on. The worst is when I get to thinking about the failed etsy store etc etc.

Add in the resurrected and new traumas from doxxing and losing some really precious resources and whatnot, shit has been rough. Trying to rebuild that sense of community without exposing myself to a certain type of lady writer has been hard as fuck. I don’t like it.

Part of this experiment has been me trying to work out those bad feels. A large part of me working out the feels is diving straight into how I tend to feel them. Hence my analytics and shit.

I really had to go through it so I could get a clear idea if I was just being overly emo or if it was some real shit.

The bottom line is the following.

For me, offering things from me as in me posting stuff etc, doesn’t work. It isn’t just funky FB algorithms, etc. This has been a thing for more than a decade across many platform and encompasses all the shit I like to do.

To tell y’all the truth I’ve been working on this for a long long long fuckin time.

Collating the data on how much a lot of people don’t care has been real hard on me but, I did it.

I am free..

SO that said. I’m off on some new hustles, I’ve let go of needing and/or expecting the community to provide.

That’s all for now babes.

Thoughts on Expensive Lit things

Or why no I’m not applying to ALL of those conferences, residencies and whatnots.

Before I get into it, understand this is no shade to those who can. I’m going to talk specifics to me and my lived life.

Ookay. We’re going to talk about why the famed residency etc type things that you apply for with work samples and cash are not really going to be a thing for folks like me. When I say folks like me here’s what I mean:

  • Poor
  • Breadwinners
  • Caretakers
  • etc

Now when I’m talking cost here, I also have to take in the following:

  • Do I have paid vacation time from work?
  • Can I use it?
  • Do I have sick time accrued in case I get sick?
  • Can I -get- that time off?
  • How long would it take for me to save to cover costs if a scholarship isn’t granted?

We’ll assume that for the spots I’m mentioning, I get into them.

So let’s start with four of the most famous that I know of. Breadloaf. Hedgebrook. Clarion West. And a personal holy grail Vona. We’re going to pretend I’m applying for all of them.

So all in, just to apply I’d need to have available:

105$. (+if after an early deadline an extra 25$ for Clarion)

Now because I’m a practical kind of potato, I’d also only rest easy if I had the deposits available for potential acceptances:

I could only find deposit info for Vona which would be another $200.

Now. In terms of work for me that is almost half a weeks worth of wages. At a total of 330$ is more than a month of groceries for my family so it is a significant chunk of change.

Now let’s say I get in in the same order as above here are my fees:

$3,395 BL

$0 for H for a residency.

$4,200 for CW

$1100. V.

Except for Hedgebrook each of these is more than my two week take home pay paychecks. So for a base just me getting to do the thing, is in general about a month of wages.

This doesn’t include transportation. Hedgebrook is in WA but, to get there I would spend at least another 100-200$. Getting a Lyft from my front door to where I work costs me about 30$ not including a tip and that is ten miles. Hedgebrook in Freeland WA is more than 40 miles from where I live. To take buses that far north (I know from experience) can take up to six hours. It is 3-4 in a car.

If we calculate travel for things not in WA, it’s going to be at least $300-400 bucks.

Now I’ve been told in the past that great success requires great sacrifice. I have also been told that to get myself to these things, presuming I got accepted I should do the things, fundraise, save money, side hustle. The community will have my back.

In reality, not so much.

Let’s use my trip to AWP2016 as an example. That year, I was named as being part of some bully squad because I loudly and frequently objected to AWP giving primacy and promotion to racist poets. I was supported in this. A lot of people really wanted me there. About 9 months prior I started fundraising. As is my habit i was very clear about needing help and support. In almost a year I raised about 200$. The ONLY reason I was there was because of donated membership and a lot of scrambling and debt.

The fact of it is, even to move I’ve been fundraising for over a year and just recently got to about the quarter mark. My side hustles including things like dollar stories, sold nothing. My merch shop sold nothing. The community does not support me or my work in a material way historically. There is a very small number of people who do, including folks at Patreon. This number has remained the same for about five years or so regardless of what I’m offering or why.

So I’d have to rely on my day job.

To go to let’s pick the most expensive and say Clarion West, that would be more than 2 months of my wages. That is without paying rent, buying food, providing my partner his medication, not buying my own medication just straight paychecks.

if you’re new, I am the breadwinner in my tiny famfam. My partner is completely disabled and gets the least amount of assistance available. I make less than 25K a year take home including my side hustles. I am a working poor person.

Now in order for me to attend a few weeks of something I would have to be able to save vacation time for more than two years. However, only 40 hours carries over yearly where I work. So I’d be able to use that to pay for 5 days. My sick time accrues more slowly and this instant, because I got sick in January and had to miss a couple of days, that would give me another 8.42 hours.

So five days and 8 hours.

So I would have to go without pay or income for the time of the workshop entirely. I would also have spent about 2 months of income to do this.

Even with a scholarship to cover tuition, that would not change missing time off of work for which I could lose my job. I would still go without income.

Some folks say, do the one day workshops. These cost $150. Let’s say I want to go to the one Nisi Shawl is doing. April 8, 2018, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. So it would cost me, 8 hours of vacation time, the equivalent of about 9 hours of wages. In transportation the location is approximately a 2.5 hour (first part during rush hour) ride for me.

Outside of the initial layout of cash, let’s estimate that the real life cost would be about 3 times the cost of just paying to put my ass in the seat.

I say all of this because this is the reality of telling folks that these programs are radical and accessible. Financial accessibility is a thing. This is why, I don’t enter chapbook contests, why I closed my etsy store, why when I say I can’t/won’t do this stuff.

On one hand, fuck yes shit like Vona is amazing. I know alums, many of whom have gone on to huge success and that is fucking awesome.

Unfortunately, banking on a future maybe success is not enough for me to starve my family. I’ve said before, poverty ain’t romantic. Food insecurity, not romantic. I have fiscal responsibilities that mean, I can’t in good conscious put a maybe success ahead of putting food on the table.

There you go.

Be That Shit: My Hustleverse

*This appeared in a longer version at Patreon*

Let’s talk about how my writing hustle breaks down by readership, interest and earnings.

First a snapshot of my follow counts across various platforms.

WordPress as of the end of 2017:

631 followers.

7769 Views

143 likes

23 comments.

My most read post was my where to read my work post. https://shannonsdreams.wordpress.com/where-to-read-my-work/

At Medium:

1.1K followers.

At the end of December, I had a total of, 498 reads views, 248 full reads (on Medium views means someone clicked reads mean they spent time and read the thing).

In general, my Medium nonfiction pieces get about a 20-30% read. My fiction or fiction related work on Medium is lucky to get 1-3 reads a month and zero interaction.

So being that I’ve used those the most in 2017 let’s talk about what it has shown me.

In trying to work out how to make my artistic life more sustainable, what to do with my Self Care Like a Boss concept and work and trying to yanno live, I’ve been keeping steady track of what works where, who reads what etc.

Now I am not fishing for compliments here so please don’t, this is what the data has shown me and reinforced over the years.

When I collect up the hard stats on what happens when I do stuff, a lot of the time it doesn’t look good. My fiction and Self-care stuff does terribly across all platforms. My poetry on occasion performs well at Ink Node. Overwhelmingly, when I publish or post work myself, the support of folks who have often asked for said work is nil. No retweets, no shares, no clicks, no reads.

I’ve tried a long list of methodologies and there’s the usual FB fuckery in terms of what shows up when but, there is legit a circle of about 20 or so people who click, read and/or share. The same group for years now and who have mainly been the ones to keep me from ragequitting.

The thing I spent most of 2017 trying to make sense of is this.

If a large number of folks tell me, HEY PLS YOUR WORK PLS MORE!! Or are gassing me up in public but, the actuality of numbers shows me the opposite, what do I do?

This has extended a bit to Patreon. When I was polling prospective Patrons or trying to rather, nobody really answered except to literally on my survey tell me to stop begging. The thing that was really fucking me up for a while was this huge discrepancy in what has been asked of me as a creator and what has been given to me.

For a lot of 2017, this discrepancy left me feeling both used and unseen. This doesn’t even touch the free labor I’ve been asked for in terms of things like FB arguments, random dm’s from white folks demanding I teach them how not to be so racist etc. This feeling comes from my own community at large.

I had to learn to accept a few things.

First thing is that this is a real thing. Years of analytics from way back when I was a semi-popular fat blogger and got a book deal dangled in front of me to the occasional agent related hey I like your work –but- notes from social media etc to these days when I’m sort of methodically shotgunning what I do with work I don’t necessarily believe will sell that, I’m just not gonna be the one if I put it out myself.

After feeling shitty about it, let down and just uh, wrong as in the wrong sort of Black person I decided fuck it. However, as fuck it as I feel sometimes, it still gets me down.

I think for the work I in particular do, this is just going to be a thing.

I’ve accepted that in this particular timeline, my most idealized dreams about what I do with my writing will likely not wind up being sustainable. The biggest component I need for that to happen just is not there for me at all. At least not on the level I need in order to be both sustainable and be able to spend the time, spoons and money on stuff.

So here in 2018 I’m spreading my hustle a bit.

The big thing is I decided not to go ahead with my plans for Self-Care Like a Boss. The main reason is that the level of work it would take for me to get it all the way I want it, and the cost of hosting and paying folks for guest blog posts (another thing we’ll get to why I don’t do so much anymore) was just too much for me to foot the bill.

That decision took months of crying, writing, cryng some more and a lot of bitterness because when I started publishing and talking about self-care, well people went fucking in on me. My first self-care book sold a good number of copies, I still have folks who talk to me about it. The second version wasn’t my best work and I failed at it and thus the book didn’t go well.

That said, when I got the blog going and other things and I wasn’t asking for money the support I was counting on, that I was told from various sources was just not there. Not for merch I designed, not for me presenting that work as an independent creator. Real talk, it was devastating and really made my vision for SCLAB (and the domain I bought) just unfeasible. It was a hard decision but, I had to make it.

Beyond the feasibility, the thing is this. I’ve had to not only acknowledge but embrace the fact that I do not possess the spoons to produce work on the scale that I used to. I have had to really take in and live with this. I may want to provide my community with ALL OF THE GOODNESS I have. But I can’t do that without support. Well let me put it this way, support that doesn’t evaporate when I ask for something.

In terms of production, I’m still doing okay. I write a LOT of shit that never sees the light of day because it sucks. As I mentioned in my blog, I have a roster/short list of editors I’m comfortable with and will be doing some more freelance work this year. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to pitch/sell and what I want to put out myself.

Some of that work is going to be Old Queer Yelling at Clouds and I’ve accepted that. Some of it may earn me some coins behind the paywall at Medium and any coins are good coins. I am gonna write what the fuck I want to write regardless and I have to adjust my expectations of what that looks like for me.

This is where I want to talk very specifically about y’all.

 

[redacted Patron only section]

As bad as I want to be the high dollar mega super star, I want to write what the fuck I want to write.

I’m learning to work with my output. What’s amazing to me is that unlike in years past, my fiction writing is much slower and more deliberate. Less in the planning way and more in the, I have a goal with a story and am thinking carefully about how to get there way. My non-fiction is kinda flowing far easier. I’ve got subjects on deck to tackle that I’ve been afraid to previously.

2018 I am setting myself free artistically speaking.

I’m going to work the fuck out of my Weird Voice. I’m gonna write and make some ugly shit, some of it will shiny up nicely other stuff well….some stuff just gets put away.

I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to try out creatively and I’m going to because yanno, life is too goddamn short for me to be torturing myself because I fail at being a “successful” artist.

That’s how it is going down.