I'm N. K. Jemisin, and I need time.
I'm an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. I've been nominated for the Nebula and Hugo so many times that I'm starting to lose count. I've won the Locus Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award and I'm currently on the New York Times Notable Books list. I've published six novels so far -- the most recent one came out in August 2015, the seventh is forthcoming in August 2016, and the eighth is due out sometime next year (hopefully August 2017).
Here's the problem, though: I have a full time day job, and a writing career. Unfortunately the writing career -- like any small business -- has become more than full time over the years. Between travel, constant meetings, affiliated side-gigs, and promotion (e.g. interviews, speaking engagements, signings), I'd say it takes up about 50-60 hours per week. The day job is 40 hours. There are 160 hours in a week. You do the math.
I love my day job... but I'm getting tired. Working 9-7 most days doesn't leave me with a lot of energy to write at the end of it, though I do anyway because that's how you finish a book a year. Doing this forces me to choose between competing needs, however: write, or get some stress-relieving exercise? Write, or research home health care agencies for my mother? Write, or do book promo work like blog posts or interviews? Lately I haven't been able to choose "write" as much as I should, so I'm behind schedule on book 3 of the Broken Earth trilogy. But really, the time crunch is taking a toll on every part of my life. I can't remember the last time I took a real, non-working vacation. I don't watch much TV anymore. (I make time for Steven Universe and my cousin's show. But that's it.) I'm not as healthy as I should be. I've also been losing sleep worrying about my two aging parents who live 1200 miles apart, and who both have had serious health issues in the last few years. I'm an only child.
Don't worry; I've got a good therapist. But something's got to give. And I've reluctantly concluded that it's time I devoted myself wholly to one career.
Writing income is inherently unstable. It arrives in dribbles and dollops, at unpredictable times. Will I make the same money this year as last year? No way to know in advance. Will I make enough to afford health insurance? Possibly. Will the next check show up in time for me to pay monthly rent? Probably not.
This is why I've a) kept the day job, and b) accepted contracts to cover my novel writing. The contracts have meant more predictable money -- an advance fee on signing, another on delivery/acceptance, another on publication. The problem is that this nice predictable money comes with deadlines, which force me to sacrifice the more spontaneous parts of writing life in order to hit those targets. For example, I love writing short stories; used to do six or seven per year. Now I'm lucky if I have time to write just one. This is also why I only do reviews for the New York Times every other month; I can't guarantee I'll have enough time to read every month. I've had to turn dow n any number of really amazing pop-up opportunities -- convention guest of honor appearances, a TED talk, prestigious anthology solicitations, a writing-in-residence appointment, a chance to do a book series in collaboration with a Hollywood director... because there just. Isn't. Time.
And here's the clincher: writing requires reflection -- a room of one's own, in both the physical and psychological sense. I don't travel to other planets to get my ideas; I meet people and go places and experience real life, and distill that into my tales. If all I'm doing with my life is working and sleeping and stressing out over how I'm going to get everything done... well. Eventually that's going to take a toll on the quality and complexity of my writing. I don't want that to happen. If you've read this far, I'm guessing you don't, either.
Time. Specifically, I want people to invest in my writing business so that I can be more productive. Here are the things I'd like to accomplish in the forseeable future:
- Finish book 3 of the Broken Earth trilogy on time;
- Write a lot more short stories, and possibly put together a short story collection (or two!);
- Write more side-stories set in the Inheritance, Dreamblood, and Broken Earth 'verses, just for kicks;
- Get started on my next novel project, for which I've already written a proof-of-concept story;
- Sleep regularly. Eat better. Go biking and hiking and swimming more often. Breathe. All of these things will help me write.
I want to quit my day job. An extra 40 hours/week will make a big difference for my writing productivity. I can do this, safely, if I find another way to earn $2000/month.
My rent is $1600/month -- yes, I know. This is reasonable for NYC, though; if you're unfamiliar with the area, take a look at typical rental prices in my neighborhood. I can't leave NYC because my father's here, and I wouldn't want to anyway, because being here is how I've networked my way into a number of useful writing-career opportunities.
The last time I was unemployed, I got health insurance through the Freelancers' Union for $400/month. (The Author's Guild was worse, if you're wondering.) I'm older now, so the premium might be higher; conversely, it's possible that with the ACA I can do better than $400. For now, that's the figure I'm working with.
And that's it. I'm not look ing to replace my day job income; $2000/month will be a hefty pay cut, actually. I just want the most "monthly" portions of my life covered. The rest -- utilities, food, MTA card since I don't have a car, helping out my parents -- I think I can take care of from my writing income.
While patronage is building, I'll provide monthly content, but at some point if it becomes clear that we won't reach $2000/month minimum, I'll fulfill that month's content and then cancel the Patreon. (The goal is to make my life easier, after all!) If this Patreon earns more than $2000/month, however, I'll incrementally add fun perks. Like what? Bonus content per month! Maybe more NSFW drunk movie reviews! A Twitch collaboration with I Need Diverse Games! A podcast? More pics of KING OZZYMANDIAS (Ozzy for short), my obnoxious ginger cat? We'll see!
All patrons from the $5/month level and up will get access to monthly exclusive content, which you can digitally download and view as I post. At least once per month you will receive one of the following:
- A side-story set in one of my established universes (similar to what I did with Shades in Shadow);
- A test or draft chapter (in sequence) from one of my of forthcoming novels;
- A draft version of a new short story, or a trunked story I'm actively revising.
These need to be drafts, unfortunately, because otherwise the stories will be "published" once I share them, and I may lose First Publication rights. Still, my drafts are pretty clean. You'll see what I share with my writing group. Some of these things I'll go on to publish -- but given the usual vagaries of publication, they'll come out in their final form months or years later. Some will be things just for patrons. I'm gonna have fun with it.
Want to contribute more than $5/month? Cool. I'm adding some stuff that will be exclusive for people who contribute at higher levels -- videos, thank you calls, signed copies, that sort of thing.
Yeah, this is getting long. Let's get started!