Tag Archive for money

Some Creators Need a Smack Upside the Head

It’s okay to gripe about a job. Everyone does it at some point, and it’s good to get things off our chests once in a while. But to walk away from a dream job because it’s harder than one expected? That’s just stupid.

I have a lot of friends working full-time in the creative field. Some write books, some write comics. Some are artists, some are musicians. To many of them, this is the dream job. Heck, to me, this is the dream job. They’re realistic, though. They know there are pros and cons to this kind of work, and there are times they get pretty stressed out. Every so often, however, one of them wonders why he didn’t stick with a “real” job and avoid the array of troubles he’s dealing with.

This makes me want to punch them square in the face.

Let’s put these troubles in perspective, shall we?

Complaint 1: Money, or, “I miss a steady paycheck.”

Yeah. As if going back to the grind of a day job suddenly makes home improvements, emergency car repairs, and other unexpected financial hits go away. As if all of us can afford steak dinners and expensive bourbon every night of the week. Learn to manage your money as it comes in, rather than blowing it on books and bar tabs because you happen to have a full wallet at the moment.

Complaint 2: Insurance, or, “I can’t afford these medical bills!”

News flash: insurance is the single biggest hit on most of our paychecks, and it probably was on yours, too, back when you still had said “real” job. Even then, it doesn’t cover everything. Most affordable insurance plans are garbage. I’m still making payments on family surgeries from two and three years ago, just as you will have to do when you have that sudden unexpected medical crisis that wipes out your savings. (And you do have a savings account, right? Refer back to “learn to manage your money as it comes in,” above.)

Complaint 3: Taxes, or, “Holy shit, I owe the IRS a ton of money!”

Hahahaha! Yeah. You can move to a state without sales tax, or without property tax, but you’re still going to owe Uncle Sam. Our employers siphon Uncle Sam’s cash off our paychecks for us. Learn to do the same on your own.

Complaint 4: Working for The Man, or, “My editor’s a moron.”

Everyone is beholden to somebody, and that includes editors at major publishing companies. The bigger the company, the more stockholders and board members there are breathing down their necks. Congratulations, you’ve just figured out your boss is just as good or as bad as any other boss out there.

Oh, you’ve got deadlines? Poor baby. Remember inconvenient schedules, mandatory overtime, and someone watching your time card? Remember having to work holidays, or not being able to just take a break to work down at the coffee shop? Remember not being able to take a walk around the park when you feel like it to clear your head?

Work is a verb. It’s something you do, wherever and however you do it. Even if we start calling it “super happy funtime,” I’m sure there would be some part of it we hate.

Complaint 5: The Fanboys, or, “Man, they’re tearing me apart on this forum.”

Let’s take Superman for example. The problem is everyone knows who and what Superman is, what he represents, and how his story should work, but these things are not the same for everyone. When a fanboy says “Superman would never . . .” he means “My Superman would never . . .”

Now extend that same thing to any other character, or to a traditional monster like werewolves. Things are tough all over, precious. Many critics and reviewers write from the perspective of “I wouldn’t have done it this way,” and all you can do is ignore them and move on. If Stephenie Meyer lost any sleep over the “vampires don’t sparkle!” thrashing she received, she consoled herself with thick wads of cash.

Complaint 6: The Letdown, or, “This isn’t as fulfilling as I thought.”

Finally we have the Big One. It kind of ties back to work still being work, but part of it is perhaps reevaluating expectations, and why exactly you felt this was the dream job in the first place.

If a writer landing a regular gig at Marvel or DC thought that meant he got to hang around the hallways with his favorite superheroes all day, for example, then he had the wrong expectations. If a writer landing a tremendous contract with a New York publishing house thought book tours meant packed signing events and rivers of booze, then he had the wrong expectations. If a screenwriter thought his screenplay would make it to the screen without a million studio notes, directoral changes, and input from actors, then he had the wrong expectations. All you can do is do the work and hope for the best, and work work work until you reach a point that you have the juice and the trust to do it your way.

If the expectations of the work are in line, then maybe it’s time to ask what your expectations of satisfaction are. If you find fulfillment in the steady paycheck and the insurance, then fine, begone. Make room for the rest of us.

You have to find the work fulfilling.

Let’s compare two products: a fantasy book and a widget. Both bring in the same amount of cash for an individual, whether it was paid out through royalties, an hourly wage, or a salary.

The fantasy book gets mixed reviews. Some folks are calling it a Game of Thrones knockoff, but there’s also a group of people who really dig the book. It dips in the Kindle charts, there’s a modest movie option but no real traction, and the author moves on to his next project.

The widget, meanwhile, is just another product on the shelf. Whether we’re talking production or sales, it’s the same, day-to-day business: go to work, move widgets, go home, collect a paycheck. Once in a while the employee beats a production quota or sells a shitload of widgets and gets a pat on the back, maybe even lands a nice Christmas bonus. Then it’s back to business as usual. The industry slumps and rebounds, and pretty soon it’s on to the next widget.

Me, I’ll take the fantasy book every time. I’m not writing for fame and fortune, I’m writing because I enjoy it. Some parts of the business side are a pain the ass, but some parts are a lot of fun. I know not everybody is going to enjoy my work, and I know it may not bring in tons of cash and solve all my financial woes, yet I still find it fulfilling.

So again, every job sucks. Some may sound like the bestest gig ever!, but then you still have to deal with people, and with disappointment, and with financial hardship. It’s okay to bitch about these things.

Just don’t sit there and tell me you never should have taken on that dream job, or that you’re going to walk away because it’s too difficult, because you clearly haven’t considered the alternative.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

It Ain't for the Money

It’s amusing when people think I’m sitting on a secret fortune after they find out I do a little writing on the side. Or they think someone like Brian Keene or Tom Piccirilli are making money hand over fist because they’ve got several novels available. The reality is most writers don’t make a lot of money. Sure, some luck into Hollywood cash or a mega-hit series like Twilight, but even bestsellers are far from guaranteed riches.

Now one writer has proven that by posting her royalty statements. She sold over 47,000 copies, which sounds exciting. However, for all that, she’s made a little over $30,000. Sounds like a lot, but if that was the only book she put out that year, she’s earning the equivalent of about $15.00 an hour (and she still needs to pay her own taxes on that $30k). Even worse, she hasn’t earned out her $50k advance at that point, which means she faces the possibility her publisher will dump her. It’s more like being fired than getting laid off, as the next publisher may look at her numbers and not want to take the risk on her.

The inevitable next question is “Then why do you do it?”

The easy answer is because we like it. Some writers like to tell you they have to, but I’m not going to get all metaphysical on you. The plain truth is I enjoy the process of writing, I enjoy the business of it, and call it ego, but I like the idea of people being entertained by something I’ve written. Yes, the financial realities make it impossible to go full time at the moment, but I’d love to be at that point sometime. I don’t need to get rich doing it, but I’d be content to do it as a job.

It sure beats solving others’ computer headaches all day every day.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

I'm a Billionaire!

In Zimbabwe, anyway.

Not that I’d ever want to set foot in the place. I may not be the best-looking dude around, but I’m sure I would look infinitely worse if someone split my head with a machete.

But hey, Zimbabwe, don’t fret! The way things our going, your dollars will be catching up with us soon.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Stimulate Me

Congress just sent a bill on to Bush to spend $170 billion (yes, billion) to “stimulate the economy” by sending us tax rebates.

I’m all for more money in my pocket, but we’ve already got a deficit of over $9 trillion! How about we do something intelligent, like revamping the tax system or cutting pork barrel spending? Cripes.

Before anyone tells me there’s nothing wrong with the tax system, let me lay out an illustration. In the 2006 tax year, the feds refunding every penny I gave them. For the 2007 tax year, they only kept a couple hundred bucks. How does this make any sense?

If I get a $1200 check like the article suggests, the government is giving me free money, which is actually a loan we’re going to have to pay for later. They may as well be saying “Well, the economy sucks, here’s a free 42″, high-def Vizio for everybody! But don’t worry, you’ll pay it all back when the next administration raises taxes to fix the mess we made.”

Assholes.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Insurance Scam

I understand arguments on both sides of national health care, but when you see a lot of the instances of insurance companies abusing their own systems, it’s not hard to see why people are fed up with the current system and are pushing for the government to do something about it.

Check out this post on The Daily Kos. If you don’t feel like surfing, the gist of it is Blue Shield told him they’d pay a claim, then spent seven months assuring him they’d pay, and in the end refused to pay anyway. And to put a little more force into the nutshot, Blue Shield told the anesthesiologist behind the claim that they paid the patient (Kos) and the anesthesiologist needed to collect from him. Kos, of course, never received a check.

It’s a travesty what companies decide to pay and not pay. The guy’s paying $800/month in premiums, and Blue Shield is fighting him over $632. I think it’s just as bad for the doctors; the anesthesiologist is short that money and is getting the same runaround from Blue Shield, and the insurance company bean counters come up with their own pricing for procedures. Not to mention the times insurance suits make decisions on whether a patient should or should not have a procedure based not on the patient’s health but on the cost of the procedure.

The problem I’m dealing with now is an increase in premiums. Our group is fairly small, and we’ve had some major problems hit our staff in the past two years. As a result, our insurance premiums are going up 62%. The insurance agent says that’s the worst news he’s had to deliver in his several decades in the business.

I crunched the numbers on my pay stub and learned I’ll be coughing up another $100. That was bad enough, but as I showed my wife the figures it dawned on me I get two of those stubs a month, so I’m actually looking at an increase of $200/month.

That’s almost my car payment. It also means I may take a pay cut on my net paycheck compared to last year; my raise this summer came to around $60 a paycheck. The insurance agent is shopping around for other options, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

If the increase goes through, this will be the second time I’ve had this happen. My employer the first time didn’t much care, and he refused to talk about alternatives. Hopefully things will go better this time.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.