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Artistic Fantasy vs. Financial Reality

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.


By Gamal Hennessy

At some point, every artist needs to balance the relationship between their art and their finances. A musician might want to spend all her time practicing and performing, but if singing isn’t making her enough money to live, she might have to take an office job and spend less time with her music. A writer might want to create experimental work outside of the mainstream, but agents and publishers might push for a YA or historical romance, because the market for those books already exists. When your bank account and your craft pull you in different directions, you have to make a choice about what you can and can’t do.

Independent artists have an additional layer of complexity when it comes to the relationship between financial and creative resources. Many of us have finance the production and marketing of our own projects. Not only are we trying to make enough money to have a home to live in and food to eat, we need to pay to get our work out into the world. The new era of digital distribution has made it much cheaper to release work, but it still isn’t free (See How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book Anyway?) Successful projects will cover their costs and turn a profit (See Profit and Loss Statements for Independents) but it might take a book several years to recoup its production costs, and some books never turn a profit at all.

In the face of this reality, I realized I have a problem for my books. My publishing goal for the next four years is to release two books per year (See What is Your Publishing Plan?) This goal has two parts; the creative side where I have to write the book and the publishing side where I have to pay to get the book out. From a creative standpoint, things are going well. My second book for 2014 is done and so is my first novel for 2015. I’m 60% done with the first draft for my second book for 2015 too, which puts me ahead of schedule. As a writer, I’m very pleased with my pace and my progress.

As a publisher, things are not so great. Various circumstances (some positive and some negative) limit my ability to fund my second release of this year. I’m uneasy about the idea of crowdfunding (probably because I’ve never tried it) and the idea of pushing the release back six months throws off the momentum I’ve built with my core group of readers. As it stands now, I simply don’t have the financial resources to cover my artistic goals.

So I made a choice. The book I planned to release in October (See The Dark End of the Street) will be put on hold until I can figure out a new spot for it in the publishing plan. Maybe I’ll put it out in 2016. Maybe I’ll release it as a series of short stories to spread out the cost over a few releases. Maybe it will become the “lost undiscovered book” people get excited about after I’m dead and all my other books have become well known movies. Whatever, it will go in the can until I’m willing and able to release it properly.

I know this isn’t a major problem. Many writers struggle to get just one book out per year and many more aspiring writers never release more than one book. We all have to balance our creative goals with our real world resources. In my case, I hope this is just a minor detour on the writer’s road.

Have fun.