By L.K. Chapman
Money has been on my mind a lot recently. Why? Because my book doesn’t make any, and I want it to.
It’s a confusing, conflicted situation. I never really wrote my novel, Networked, because I wanted to make my fortune. In fact, I’m not sure you really can write a book with that in mind. When I write, any thought of my book as a commodity I have to sell makes me feel painfully self-conscious and destroys my connection, my engagement, with the story. But the fact is, almost everything comes down to what it is worth.
I’ve always thought a lot about money- what it makes people do, what it makes people feel, how the more you have the more choices open up for you. I used to think money was basically a “bad” thing. Necessary, but bad. Now I realise that it’s actually far more complicated than that. Money can motivate people to do incredible things. I understand how necessary it is as a reward; how there is little else that exists to rival it as a way of literally saying, ‘you’re valued’. However, I thought that to some extent I’d be able to rise above this. I knew it was unrealistic that I would make much money by writing, and that if I ever did it would probably take a long time. I wrote and published my book because it was my dream and it felt like the right moment in my life to make it happen.
Yet somehow, I find myself sitting clicking “update report” on the sales graph for my e-books. I get out a calculator and start working out how many sales of e-books or paperbacks I’d need to get per day to get an outcome of various different annual salaries (I don’t recommend doing this: It’s terrifying!). It’s this reward, this sense of value, which I’m craving.
Book sales are such a funny thing. When you start thinking about large numbers, the mind boggles at how much you can make. It seems that there is no upper limit- even if each sale is only worth one pound, a million sales is a million pounds! But then there is no lower limit either. You could make more money than you ever dreamed of, or you could make no money at all.
Whenever I moan about this- an activity my friends and family are becoming all too familiar with- I generally start with the apologetic statement, “I know I wanted this, but…”. I feel terrible for complaining about it because I’m following my dream! I’m incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to do that, and after all, no one asked me to do it.
The funny thing is, people do want me to do it. People’s reactions when I say “I’m an author” are fascinating. I’ve never had a negative, or even a mixed, response. Everyone always thinks it’s great, and people are so passionate for me to succeed – I’ve even been sincerely and wholeheartedly wished luck by people I’ve never previously met and will likely never see again! It’s amazing how much it means to people, how much they want to help me. What is it that makes people so excited for me though? Is it because of this great unknown quantity; these potential earnings that have no upper limit? Does everyone wonder what that would be like? Will I ever find out, and would I even like it if I did?
It’s a shame that I allow money to impact how I feel about myself and it’s a shame that money has to be everything- how you live, how you value yourself, how you compare yourself to others, how it affects what you can do, where you can go, what your future will be. When money and creativity collide there is always this enormous, fundamental contradiction. I don’t create to make money, but I need money to give me worth and I need a sense of worth to carry on.
But then happiness isn’t ever really going to be about the amount of money I make. Once it gets beyond a certain point where I don’t actually have to worry about it, does it really make that much difference? I’m at my happiest when I’m not aware of myself at all; when all I’m doing is writing and the hours slip by practically unnoticed, and I eventually emerge, blinking and confused, as though from some sort of wonderful trance. I certainly can’t put a value on that.
It’s never going to be easy to balance the craving for something tangible a reward that I can see in my bank account- with the reward nobody else can see; the satisfaction of getting my ideas out on the page. The reality is that to carry on I’ll have to walk this uneasy line and be a business person one second and a creator the next. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and I was right about that, but until the time I actually can measure what I’ve achieved in money, I guess I’ll measure it by what I’ve achieved through the journey. Self-publishing has been many things, and although so far “lucrative” is not one of them, it’s certainly been one hell of journey.