People in the indie book world are sharply divided on whether or not crowd funding your author life is ethical or not. The arguments around authors starting Kickstarters and GoFundMes to either fund the writing of their novel or finish a series (with the implication that readers would not receive the conclusion to the series unless the fundraising goal was met) is always pretty much the same: one side feels it’s unethical or “just not done”, the other thinks that any objection to the crowdfunding model is a denial of any author’s right to compensation for their work.
But one thing both sides probably will agree on? Don’t call people who disapprove of your model “cock juggling thunder cunts.”
Author Payne Hawthorne has a dream to quit her day job and write full time:
I’ve spent the last 5 years struggling to become a full time author. I’ve been working odd and part time jobs and writing at night. I’m tired, but I’ve managed to produce 4 series, 9 individual titles, (All big/real books).
I’ve also produced 4 of these as audio books. (Invested $3500.00 just in the audio books).
I’m getting noticed and I’m getting awesome reviews on all of my books. I’m not however making enough to sit and write full time, (which would allow me to also sleep).
As a jaded sort of person, I have to admit that I snerked a little at five years of struggle. Everyone in the business can name someone who’s struggled for four times longer without achieving the goal of living off their writing. But that’s my person feeling, and it’s not necessarily wrong of Hawthorne to feel this way, even if it comes off as a bit entitled to other authors.
My goal is simple. I need to generate a $1000.00 a month. I do have partial support from my family. It’s not a full-time living by any means
Currently the sales of E-books and Audio books brings on average between $100-$200.00/month.
Again, considering I can name authors who make that figure per year, it’s difficult to sympathize. But no one is forced to donate to her campaign, so again, there’s nothing unethical about her sharing these feelings.
Most E-books sell for under $3.00, or less than a cup of coffee, and I get one dollar from that sale. Said E-book took me about 6 months to produce and roughly $1000.00 after paying for cover designers and editors.
Hold up. Her ebooks sell for under $3.00 a pop (less than a cup of coffee…why has a cup of coffee become a marker for what we should and shouldn’t spend our money on?), but her lowest donation amount is $5.00. For that $5.00 you get…
Hmmm. But whatever. She’s giving this information up front, so people donating know what they’re getting into, and they can spend their money to support her however they want.
Most readers are unaware it takes 20-30 hours of writing/editing/polishing time to produce 1 hour of readable/publishable material.
Show of hands, readers. How many of you are unaware that books take a lot of time and effort to produce?
Plus, it should take you longer than 20-30 hours to write a book, if you’re producing quality work. And 20-30 hours is a second job for most people. In other words…writing is already your job. Your second job. It just isn’t paying minimum wage.
Yes, its the most thankless, time consuming non-job on the planet.
The reasonable train has now just derailed and slammed into the station, causing mass casualties and millions of dollars of damage, lost wages, and worker compensation. First of all, if it’s a “non-job,” then it’s a hobby. And if you consider your hobby too “thankless and time consuming,” then you find a new hobby. Plus, I don’t consider writing a “non-job.” Since it’s, you know. My job. And a lot of other authors–even those who aren’t full-time writers–feel the same and probably strenuously object to this description.
Plus, writing is not thankless. If one person says they enjoy your stuff, that’s your thanks. Even if that’s all you ever received, you’ve been thanked. You’ve now effectively insulted all the readers who reach out to you and the reviewers who’ve given your book time and consideration. You threw away their “thanks” because it wasn’t thanks enough.
Does this mean that authors should work only for thanks and no compensation? Of course not. But while statistics often turn up a median living wage between $40k and $60k annually for writers, we have to take into account that some authors are paid astronomical sums for their work, likely bumping that median higher than what most authors are actually making. And as The Guardian reported in 2012, half of the authors in the self-publishing world make less than $500 per year. So in reality, Hawthorne is making more than what most indie authors can realistically expect to make.
Still, none of this is unethical. None of this is illegal. So why are people so mad?
For anyone who can’t read the text in the picture, it reads:
Karen Kennedy 4 hours ago
This is what the charming Payne Hawthorne thinks of people who told her she needs to hone her craft and stop asking for money from people to do something others have to work hard at. “Tonight, not sure why tonight, but my Gofundme campaign got a shit storm of negative comments. It’s been up for 2 weeks. I guess everyone just needed something to hate on. I wanted to say ‘Oh don’t hate me because I’m prettier than you,’ but I didn’t. I might however have called them cunts, or some derivation thereof, something like, Cock Juggling Thunder Cunts (that’s one of my favorites and if you’ve read Lumen, you’d recognize it).’ You’re not pretty, Payne, You’re thoughts make you unattractive to the core – listen to the advice given, go work hard and write something people would actually like to read and stop asking for a handout.
AC Marchman 1 hour ago
So you’re prettier than us? Cock juggling thunder cunts?? Really? You’re so classy. Please keep it up. And maybe if writing doesn’t work out (which it obviously hasn’t) then maybe get a full time job…
These comments were deleted from the GoFundMe page, but Hawthorne doesn’t deny making that Facebook update. In fact, as of writing this, it was still public on her personal Facebook page:
Now we’ve reached the real meat and potatoes of this DON’T DO THIS EVER post. First of all:
Okay… please remember this is my personal page. Not a business page.
Here’s a big mistake you can easily avoid, authors: if you don’t want people to see it, don’t post it publicly on your Facebook page. Just saying, “This is my personal page” doesn’t take it off the record, especially if you’ve got readers and authors friended on that personal page. And making the post public? Also not a great idea.
After the “cock juggling thunder cunts” paragraph quoted by Karen Kennedy above, Hawthorne goes on to say:
The reason is simple. How dare these people judge me and condemn me for asking for help. Especially when I’ve not divulged anything else about myself apart from, I need help. I’m struggling in all aspects of my life at the moment. Plain and simple, if I don’t generate something soon, I very well might be at the corner with a cardboard sign asking for help.
Maybe that’s a part of the problem. She didn’t specify that she was in dire need. She said she didn’t want to work an outside job. The dire need was only mentioned, by her admission, two weeks into the campaign, and only after people objected to it.
Why does that garner a better response than what I’m doing? Does it? Do these same Pharisee judgmental bastards spit on the homeless beggars as much as they all just spit on me?
The reason it garners a better response is because for the most part, people are more willing to help someone in dire need than someone who’s asking to have their fantasy lifestyle indulged. The fact that Hawthorne left out the “cardboard sign” portion of her plight might very well have everything to do with the negative response she received, although if she were to include that bit of information, she might want to remove the part where she says she’s spent upwards of $3k producing her own audiobooks (which aren’t a part of many indie authors’ models for the simple fact that they do cost so much to produce, release, and distribute). It should go without saying that objecting to a controversial payment model is not in any way comparable to physically spitting on a homeless person.
I’m kind of shocked all these wonderful, upstanding citizens who apparently have full time jobs, and families, and they write full time as well, how do they have time to malign me? It’s really interested actually.
Is she accusing other authors of not working enough? I’m not sure what this has to do with anything.
I’d like to challenge each and every one of these wonderful women to a writing contest. How about an 80K (that’s 80,000 words people, not dollars!) novel. It needs to be fully edited, proofed and a professional cover designed for it. Oh, and they have only 6 months to do all this. Ok, go. Get back to me on this when you have time in between all the shit slinging. (Oh yeah, I’ve written 12 novels people! 12, over 70K word novel in less than 5 years!)
Okay. I accept the challenge. Let me check my watch. Yup, I won.
The output Hawthorne is bragging on isn’t any different from what many indie authors are producing, many in much shorter time frame. Hawthorne seems to be under the impression that authors are paid for the volume they produce, when the truth is, we’re not even paid for the quality we produce. It’s clear that she feels cheated by readers because they haven’t thrown gobs of money in her face, but that’s not the way the industry has ever worked.
And what happened to the old adage; It never hurts to ask? When was the last time you asked someone for something and they turned all venomous on you? Like turned it back around to make you feel like shit for asking? Did I just manage to block all the passive aggressive bitches lingering in the trenches? Good!
I agree, there’s nothing wrong with asking for something. People were mad when Stacey Jay asked for money to finish her series, it’s true, but mostly it was because she flatly said that she wouldn’t be finishing her series if her Kickstarter goal wasn’t met, and negative opinions were generally centered around that; readers felt the book was being held hostage. But for the most part, just asking isn’t a bad thing at all. I’ve done it. I’ve got a Patreon, and I used to accept Google wallet donations. Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking” TED Talk changed my life, because I realized that I could ask for help. Did people think I was being a jerk for asking? Yup. And I still get the occasional email or Facebook message saying that I shouldn’t have a Patreon for my blog. People have a hard time accepting a crowd-funded model. This isn’t news to the industry.
How dare you come to my page, my house, and insult me the way you all just did! How dare you treat me like a less than because I’m asking for help. In what world do we live in where if someone is humble enough to ask, we treat them like shit?
But Hawthorne wasn’t humble. Her GoFundMe description indicated that she felt she deserved more than what most people are making for doing the same job. Again, nothing at all wrong with asking, but publicly declaring that you haven’t been thanked enough or compensated to the standards you expected isn’t being humble. It’s asking with one hand and doling out ingratitude with the other.
Seriously people? I know full well that most, if not all of you who I spent the entire evening deleting and blocking, are Christians. How dare you treat someone else, anyone, and especially another child of Jesus the way you all treated me tonight.
What’s Jesus’ policy on calling people “cock juggling thunder cunts” or comparing your desire for a full-time writing job to being homeless? I’m not a child of Jesus, so I’m a little unclear here.
It’s not only absurd, but malignant and cancerous, and no, I will not stoop to a reply. You don’t deserve the space for the comment in the first place. And yes, I delete and block all of you. I don’t care if I lose every single friend.
She said, in her reply, which she will not stoop to make.
I made myself from nothing and got this far all by myself. You have no fucking idea what I’ve been through or how hard I’ve struggled to get to where I am. No fucking idea! How dare you pre-judge me without even knowing me! And funny thing, not one of the twenty something blocks I enacted tonight were friends. They know nothing about me in the slightest.
This paragraph highlights exactly what people have been objecting to every time an author puts up a GoFundMe or a Kickstarter asking for living wages while working on their books. Every author struggles. Even mega names like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have struggled. Yes, even E.L. “astronomical success out of nowhere” James produced her work without expectation of payment at the beginning. No one is guaranteed success or money for their work in any artistic field. Is it right or fair? No, but no small business owner is guaranteed success. And that’s what authorship is. It’s running a small business.
One of my friends on Facebook suggested that authors have started taking the “starving artist” thing a little too close to heart. Maybe that’s so. But Hawthorne seems to be suggesting that every author who objects to crowdfunding has never known a taste of struggle. We all have. Believe me.
So yes, I called them, Cock Juggling Thunder Cunts for a reason. They are! I pity the men in their lives. I pity their children. Run far, run wide. How dare they malign me in such a way, in my house no less!
Back it up, drama queen. The internet isn’t your house. And while Hawthorne has every right to delete negative comments from her Facebook or remove people from her online life if they’re causing her psychological stress, no one has actually come into her house and attacked her. And again, trying to take the moral Christian high ground while calling people cunts and suggesting they’re somehow abusive to their families (who should leave them) isn’t a tactic likely to open wallets.
Yes, they are fucking cunts and if that means I am excising potential readers, so be it! I wouldn’t want them in my life or my words. My words are precious and every single story I write is one of my children.
Honestly, I would be less turned off by an author calling someone a cunt than I would be reading them calling their words “precious” or their books their children. That’s honestly the red flag that keeps me away from a lot of authors, and I know this is true of other readers, too.
And on a final note, have any of you heard of sponsors for artists? Like seriously people, starving artists get donations all the time. I personally know of quite a few authors who have kickstarters or crowdfunding campaigns. What is the difference between me asking for help and some other artist being gifted money to continue painting, or sculpting or what have you. I simply don’t get it.
And here’s where we reach another real problem with her campaign. Patrons of the arts give money so that art can be created. But they’re not under an obligation to purchase that art after it’s produced. If I donate money to someone working on a screenplay, I probably get a copy of the movie for free. If I become a regular donor to the local symphony, I probably get better seats or free tickets for some kind of upcoming gala or something. Patrons give artists money to ensure that future creations will be funded. But what Hawthorne is offering to readers is material that’s already been produced (other levels upward of $5 are offered audiobooks or ebook collections from her backlist), and it’s assumed that she still expects readers to pay for her books in the future. Other authors who crowdfund their projects offer the future product to their backers, not the work they’ve already produced.
So it offends you? Move along, walk away, slither back into the shadows. What gives you the right to kick me when I am at my most vulnerable?
None of these people knew that Hawthorne was at her “most vulnerable” based on her GoFundMe page. What they saw was a writer describing the average life and larger than average compensation of any indie author and asking for more. And while there’s nothing wrong with asking, some people don’t like the model. If they sent abusive comments, that’s not right. But neither is suggesting that anyone who disagrees is just jealous because she’s prettier than they are, or calling them “cock juggling thunder cunts,” which is, by the way, not original to Hawthorne’s book, but a well known and often quoted insult from Blade: Trinity.
Whatever your stance on author crowdfunding, invoking Jesus and Christianity, comparing your larger-than-average author salary to the life of a homeless person, repeatedly insulting authors and readers, and invoking hardships you’ve never previously mentioned as a way to shame people into giving you money in your very public author meltdown is a big, big Don’t Do This Ever.