Monday, March 28, 2016

This Author's Earnings

I have been a writer since I was about thirteen years old and spent the summer hammering out a fantasy adventure novel on my Mom's old Underwood typewriter. And I started submitting stories for publication at the age of seventeen.

My first fiction sale happened a few years later, in 1992, for which I received five US dollars and a contributor's copy of the small press magazine the story appeared in.

Since 1992, I have either made money or the "payment in copy" equivalent of actual payment that I, as a young and desperate writer seeking to build a "name" was willing to accept in the very early days. Of course, as time went on, the pay I was willing to write for moved upwards towards what is considered "professional rates."

Along the way I have always had a day job in order to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. This came from the oft-given parental advice I received when I said "I'm going to be a writer." My folks reminded me of the importance of having a good day job so that I wouldn't go hungry while pursuing my dreams. So I sought a "day job" that would keep me as happy as writing makes me. Hence, my ongoing role as "bookseller."

In terms of "day jobs" I've been extremely lucky - always working within my field.  And, as the Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo via Kobo Writing Life (a role I've had since October 2011), it continues to be a rewarding and fulfilling career.

So while I don't yet make enough money from writing to support being a writer full-time I must pause to admit that, even if I did earn enough from writing, I'm not sure I COULD leave the fulfilling and satisfying career and role I play.

But with respect to looking only at that "writerly earning" I just finished putting together the numbers for my writing earnings and expenses for 2015.

And, even though my "day-job" involves supporting thousands of authors who are able to earn enough money from self-publishing to be full-time writers (something I'm extremely pleased to be assisting them with), I don't yet fall into that particular bucket myself. In fact, though I'm a huge advocate for self-publishing as a viable option for writers, I personally earn more than half of my writing income from "traditional publishing."

Here's the breakdown of my writing income sources for 2015:

Income from Traditional Publishing:  52.75%
Income from Self-Publishing: 36.10%
Income from *Mixed Sources:  11.18%

* Mixed Sources refers to income that doesn't come directly from publishers or from direct self-publishing royalty sources. It includes other writer-related income from things such as Public Lending Rights (mixed titles), direct sales of print books, speaking and writer appearance honorariums, etc.

I should add a few caveats to this pie-chart, of course:

First, my numbers show that in the previous year almost 60% of my income came from self-publishing, while only about 35% came from traditional publishing. So it's interesting to see how, in a single year, things can change. This, to me, highlights the importance of being OPEN to all opportunities available as a writer. You never know WHERE the income might come from in the next 12 month period.

Second, if I were to break the income down and only look at eBook sales, self-publishing still leads with almost 90% of my income. The Traditional publishing game, for me, is all about PRINT books. Fortunately, my non-fiction books continue to do well in traditional print venues. However, I barely earn anything from the digital sales of my traditionally published books.

Third, if I were to look only at non-fiction sales, traditional publishing accounts for about 95% of my income. When it comes to fiction, the exact opposite is true. About 90% of my income from fiction comes from self-publishing.

All this is to say that there are pros and cons to each side and I benefit from being open to both.

A few take-aways for this particular writer:

1) Traditional publishing continues to be a good experience for me, particularly with respect to non-fiction titles that are distributed to print retail markets. I'll likely work on at least one book per year for that market.

2) I will continue to self-publish in both digital print formats (using POD - print-on-demand) for projects that earn me decent income but are not likely to appeal to a traditional publisher. Niche market material, etc.

3) Being open to new opportunities and new revenue sources remains a focus for this writer -- I have begun the process of getting books converted into audio, and will continue to be open to new opportunities as they present themselves.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Life Reflected in Art

I've been reflecting all day on the fact that it has been thirteen years since my Dad died.

A few nights ago, when he was feverish and having trouble falling back to sleep, as I laid in bed beside my son trying to comfort him, we chatted in the dark.

He asked me if there was anything I regretted. With tears in my eyes, I told him the one thing I really regret was not having spent more time with my father when I was younger. While I had made it a point to spend time with him once I was a young man (ie, in my early twenties), I often think about all those additional fishing and hunting excursions I could have gone on with him when I was younger -- all that father/son bonding time that I missed out on.

Because the times spent with my dad were always so very precious; and the memories I have are good ones -- fun ones.

I told Alexander that's one of the reasons why I love to spend so much time with him; why the traditional week-long "Boy's Road-Trip" we do every year the first week of July is so important to me. While I do spend a lot of time traveling, I have made spending time with Alexander a top priority.

Every year, on this delightful day in which we're supposed to all turn a little bit Irish and drink a toast, a cheers to St. Patrick, I find myself offering a special little cheer to the many beers that I shared with my Dad over the years. I think of the happy memories, all we had, and not the regrets.

And, today, I have been thinking about how many of the books I've written are reflective of that important father/son bond.

When he was still alive, one of my biggest fears was my father dying. To that end, I struggled with the thought, and imagined having to face it head on. From that fear and anxiety came the novel MORNING SUN.

Sharing parts of the first draft with him that I was working on while my Dad, my cousin Rodney and I were on Manitoulin Island during deer hunting season. (Dad and Rodney were hunting, I stayed back and hammered away on the laptop on the novel)

Dad & I on Manitoulin Island. Him reading MORNING SON; me with a beer

MORNING SON (a novel which I haven't yet published - it remains in a drawer) is more of a contemporary story with a bit of an underlying mystery. It's the story of a bereaved man who learns that his father's last dying wish was to have his son scatter his ashes at his favourite fishing hole. The only problem is that he always kept his favourite fishing hole a closed guarded secret. The young man, a bookstore manager who continually escapes into work as a way to avoid conflict in his life, finds himself compelled back to the Sudbury region to explore his father's past and find that secret locale. But in the midst of uncovering the past, he also unveils a closely guarded family secret that explains why his father was estranged from the rest of the family.

The novel contains many autobiographical details as well as several details from my father's own life. All fictionalized, of course. But many elements -- my father's near fatal motorcycle accident, the less than out-doorsy bookworm son with epilepsy -- are based on reality.

Here's the prologue for that novel:

I never spoke so many words to my father as I did when I was thirty-two and traveled with him from Ottawa to the sprawling network of fishing holes off Highway 144 in Northern Ontario. The only thing that took any real pleasure out of the experience was the fact that my father was nothing more than about five pounds of ashes in a silver-plated urn that I had strapped into the passenger seat beside me.
     A man of few words his entire life, my father's Will reflected the same, stating that everything was to go to his only son, and that upon cremation of his body, I scatter his ashes at his favourite fishing spot. The only problem was that my father's favourite fishing spot was a more closely guarded secret than the US president's nuclear launch code. That and I hadn't fished with my father since I was eleven; I was about as likely to remember where he'd take me fishing all those years ago as I was to guessing the winning Lott 649 numbers. And I would be just as at home reading a topographical map as I would be reading the French language my namesake suggested I possessed.
     Nonetheless, leaving my wife and child behind, I set off to fulfill my father's request, taking myself on a journey of introspection, self-discovery and, finally, a clear picture of who my father really was.
     Despite some of the shocking secrets I discovered, the realization that my father was as flawed and fallible as myself, and the fact he had been dead for several weeks, I never felt closer to my father in my entire life
     And I couldn't have loved him more.

As I mentioned, I haven't yet published the novel. I did send it off to a few publishers back when I first completed it and received a few polite rejections. Apparently, mainstream more "literary" novels just aren't my forte. I then moved on to other writing projects; but every once in a while I wonder if I'll pull it back out, give it another polish, and send it off to a publisher or perhaps self-publish it.

One novel that I DID publish, and which was based on my father's actual death, was, again based on some things from both my father's life and my own. The afore-mentioned near fatal motorcycle accident; my initial adoration of computer programming back in the Commodore PET computer days; not to mention that the novel mostly takes place in a fictionalized version of the building where Kobo's home off is. (I changed the company my hero works for to an online insurance company).

EVASION was inspired by my father's death, and the anger I felt towards the doctors, towards the hospital, towards everyone involved. It also came from the odd thing that kept happening to me for years after he died. I kept imagining I had spotted him in a crowd or driving the car beside me on the highway. It made me wonder: well, what IF he really is still alive? How could that be? Why would it be? The answer to that turned into a thriller -- one in which a man investigating his father's mysterious death finds himself hunted by everyone he knows and encounters. And thus, the novel, EVASION was born.

Here's the beginning of the Prologue for EVASION:

Scott Desmond was looking at a dead man.
     He shook his head, swiped at the sweat running down his forehead and into his eyes, tried to focus more clear-ly on the sight before him.
     There was no mistake about it.
     The man he was looking at across two sets of train tracks was none other than his father – a man who had died almost eighteen months earlier.
     Scott shook his head for the second time, rubbed his eyes, tried to focus through the humidity of the August day. But there was simply no disputing the fact.
     The man he was staring at across the GO train plat-form had to be his father.

EVASION is available in print, eBook and now in audiobook versions. You can also read the entire text of the first draft of the novel (unedited, so you'll have to just suck up the typos and grammar and other issues) on Wattpad where it has had almost 200,000 reads. I'm quite delighted with the audio version and think that Brian Troxell does an amazing job reading it. Click the link below to listen to a sample of it.

Evasion on Audible

I have already written most of the sequel to EVASION. It's a story that focuses on the life of Lionel Desmond. (Lionel was my father's middle name, and, yes, much of Lionel' character was based on my own father -- it was so much fun writing Evasion and based certain personality traits on my Dad. Even more fun exploring a fictional childhood from my father's perspective)

My father has shown up in a few other stories I have written; stories and tales he has shared, or that have been shared about him have surfaced in so many other places, including direct tributes that became a collaborative effort such as the time I wrote him a poem inspired by a painting and he turned the poem itself into a beautiful piece of art. So while these, so far, are the only two book-length works he has appeared in, I'm sure he'll continue to make himself known in other works along the way.

That's the reality of art that pulls snippets from life. That's the reality of continuing to be inspired by someone who meant so much.

Here's to the continued inspiration, the memories and the never-ending love. Thanks, Dad!

Eugene Lionel Lefebvre: June 28, 1938 - March 17, 2003