Life Happens

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have noticed that I was less than happy with life last week. Part of that was family stuff that I can’t talk about publicly, but the rest of it is very relevant and I’ve only avoided talking about it until now because there were people who needed to be told first so they wouldn’t worry.

Basically the situation is that the global economic crisis has finally caught up with my day job, and as a result I am facing a 40% reduction in my income. This is not a total disaster. I should still have enough money to pay the rent, taxes, utility bills and still have something left over for food. But unless I can find other paid work to fill the gap I’m not going to have any money for things like books, conventions and the like.

At this point you may well be thinking it is a good job I have this second business to fall back on. However, like most businesses, Wizard’s Tower did not burst fully-profitable from my brow. New businesses need nurturing and investment, and right now most of what Wizard’s Tower does loses money.

Dark Spires is close to earning out, which is a great relief to Colin and myself, and I actually have a couple of (ebook only) books coming out very soon. However, the ebook sales are very low and I don’t expect to make more than a few dollars off then. (Most of the money goes to the authors and retailers.)

The bookstore is making sales, but it needs professional online shopping software to provide the sort of service that publishers and customers expect, and that costs money. At the moment sales are not covering costs, let alone making an income for me. It is possible that now I’m going to have more time on my hands I will be able to ramp sales up by doing more PR, so Kevin and I will keep the store going for a few months to see what happens. We’ll see how that goes.

The big drain on my finances is Salon Futura. That costs me several hundred dollars a month, and the income is practically zero. I simply can’t afford that any more, so it will probably have to go. I have sufficient funds to cover all of the material I had promised to buy, and I’m going to stretch that into two slightly thinner issues rather than one fat one to give me a bit of time to look at alternatives, but I’m not hopeful.

One thing I am not going to do is run a “save Salon Futura” appeal. Given the level of readership I doubt that would generate more than enough for one more issue, and then we’d be back where we started. What the magazine needs is a regular source of income. As it is pretty clear that substantially more than 99% of its readers do not think it is worth paying for, the message has to be that it isn’t worth doing. I’m very grateful to the small number of people who have donated money or bought ebook copies, and personally I think the sort of material that Karen, Jonathan, Sam and the other contributors have produced is worth paying for. I just can’t afford to do that myself any more.

In the long term this may turn out to be something of a blessing as it gives me both the time and the incentive to try to diversify my income. However, given the current economic climate, the next few months may prove rather depressing. I shall try not to inflict this on you.

What this does mean, however, is that there is no chance of my being able to get back to the USA in the foreseeable future. It also means that I will be cutting back drastically on conventions. I have existing commitments to Eastercon, Eurocon and Finncon. They are also all part-paid for, and the air travel can probably be done on points. I’ll also do BristolCon as that only requires a fairly cheap train ticket. But everything else is currently on hold, and priority will be given to events where I think I may be able to find work.

26 thoughts on “Life Happens

  1. I’m sorry. 🙁

    I want you to be paid well for everyone’s sake, especially yours.

  2. Sounds like a week you don’t want to repeat.

    What sort of work should I direct your way?

    1. Given that you probably won’t hear about energy economics consultancy, I’m always open to writing and editing jobs. I can also build websites and make ebooks.

  3. I’m really sorry to hear about that Cheryl. I thought you were doing fantastic work with Salon Futura and I’m sure that it will rise again from the ashes once the financials sort themselves out.

  4. So what you’re saying is that if I go on an ebook buying splurge in the Wizard’s Tower store I get to pretend I’m doing a good deed?


    1. Buying from Wizard’s Tower is always a good deed as almost all of the money you spend goes to the small press publishers whose books we stock.

  5. Thanks for all the kind words, folks. I appreciate you all, but will only reply to comments with specific questions, otherwise it could get dull.

  6. I was pondering what your big expenses were with Salon Futura. I suppose it must be paying the writers… was trying to envision if there was a way for Lethe to take it over… and help with the burden.


    1. Paying the writers and cover artist are the biggest bills. Also buying books to review for my column, so though I don’t pay me my column can cost almost as much as a paid one.

      Email me if you have ideas.

      1. No thoughts occur to me that are remunerative in the field of literature/ publishing, Cheryl, but on the heels of “I hope the world becomes more interested in energy economics shortly ” further down the thread, and with the utmost of caution, I do wonder whether or not you’ve explored the possibilities of Teaching?

        Your Academic credentials would appear ..from my High Point View over a field of ignorance given that I took early retirement from my modest tech support post 10 years ago .. to be pretty good from both the scientific ‘ Energy Management ‘ and ‘ Literary ‘ fields in Higher Education in the U.K. and so you MAY like to consider what might be available to Visiting Lecturers in local institutions of Higher Education ?

        And so, this being said, it may well be that your friends in Higher Education in the U.K. might know of possible opportunities ? A full C.V. … with and enlarged educational base in mind .. may, just May, help in this …though if you HATE teaching this, of course, wont work.

        The thing is that, in the U.K., institutions of Higher Education really are replacing full time .. U.S of Americans call them Tenured ..posts with Visiting Lecturer posts that are paid by the hour … quite well paid by the hour but utterly insecure by the once upon a time standards of U.K. Higher Education.

        Beyond the U.K? Distance Learning Packages in your chosen fields of learning?

        1. It is a good suggestion. I have, after all, spent a lot of time running training courses for people in the industry. Unfortunately my chances of getting employment in the UK are pretty much nil, especially if it involves contact with the public.

  7. I’m very sorry, Cheryl.

    I see this, and I see things like Liz Williams’ recurring sales and I do wonder if many writers and genre people like in your boat can make a living in the field.

    1. Oh, almost nobody makes a living in the field. Even if a writer appears to be full time it is likely that they have a partner with a full time job that pays the bills. Remember the Small Press podcast? Only one of the four people on it made a living from publishing.

  8. I had a bit of a think about the Salon Futura thing. Given that I am willing to buy ebook versions of magazines I can read for free online (my love for Lightspeed Magazine is so intense it borders on creepy) why don’t I feel the need to horde… I mean collect… the epub versions of Salon Futura?

    I realised that it’s because 1/3 of the magazine is missing from the offline epub version – the video interviews. And for me they are actually the highlight of the online version. I have an inkling that creating text transcripts would be far too labour intensive to be a practical solution to the problem, but apart from that I can’t think of a way of making the ebook version more appealing to eInk eReader users.

    1. You are dead right. I did invest in a copy of Dragon to see if that would help with transcription, but it only works well if the sound quality is really good and there’s only one person speaking. You have to train it to your voice.

      I could embed both audio and video in the epub, but then they’d be so big that people would complain about download time and space taken up on their mobile devices.

      If you read the epub in Ibis you are only two clicks away from hearing/watching the audio/video. And I did make sure they’d play on an iPad. That seemed like the best compromise.

  9. no need to reply,

    but I will say I wish you well and you are awesome. I am unlikely to hear of paying work that would be useful to you, but if I hear anything I will of course send it your way.

    if wishing can help, I’m wishing for you.


  10. I’m also very sorry, Cheryl – and feeling a bit angry and impotent because I wish there were some fast, efficient way to help you solve this. I still remember that dinner last July at Oxford, when you first told me and Juliet McKenna about Salon Futura. You were very happy then, and you made me feel happy too. I sincerely hope things turn out for the best soon.

    1. Good question. It will certainly have to move, as Libsyn is way too expensive (as well as being horribly unreliable). If I can substantially reduce the cost of hosting it then it may be worth continuing, but only if people want to be on it and/or listen to it.

  11. Very sad news; I remember how I felt when I had to stop buying fiction for Futurismic for very similar reasons late last year. We’re all caught in the economic churn, especially those of us in the fringe-y world of genre publishing. It is my hope that we’ll all ride it out and come out the other side armed with hard-earned lessons; there’s too much passion in this scene for it to die off, and few people exemplify a commitment to hard work and sacrifice as thoroughly as yourself. It’s probably a bit late to say it, but if there’s any way I can be of assistance, I hope you’ll feel free to ask. 🙂

  12. OK, this is one of the reasons I wish I would win the lottery (and I do play, so it is possible). All I can do now is offer *hugs* and I hope somethings comes along that makes things work out.
    *more hugs*

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