Continue Being A Full-Time Writer

Ever since I was a young girl, my dream has always been to write full-time for my career.  That dream is now on the verge of dying, leaving me with nothing.  Due to circumstances beyond my personal control, I am unable to pay all of my bills, and will probably have to declare bankruptcy and give up my career, if I cannot get some help.

Here's the story behind why I've turned to GoFundMe for that help:

I am a favorite author of many readers in several fiction categories--I'm what is referred to as a "solid mid-lister" in the business (my books always hit the middle of the sales ranking lists at the very least).  But due to circumstances beyond my control, I may have to stop writing, or slow it to a virtual crawl.  I may even be forced to default on my contracts. Again, from circumstances beyond my control.

In February 2007, I got my first book published. It was an incredible experience; after decades of struggling, learning, and practicing the arts of a modern day storyteller, I was finally a published author, my dream career.  In the eight-plus years since then, I have had 20 books published, multiple short stories, and have been nominated for readers' choice awards, the Philip K. Dick Award for Outstanding Science Fiction as first published in paperback format in the U.S. (2011), and more.

With what looked like a good career ahead of me, I made enough money to put a down payment on a home in 2010, plus a solid cushion to brace myself against the lean times.  I was carefully managing my finances, too, because the vast majority of us authors, even the multi-published ones, do not make nearly as much money as far too many people assume we do.

Unfortunately I became increasingly ill in late 2012.  Things came to a head in February 2013. I didn't have health insurance at that point, and was looking at possibly losing my house because I would have had to pay for a surgery with an average cost of $50,000+, all of it out-of-pocket.

Luckily, I was able to avert that crisis for roughly two years with a little bit of $50 medication every so often. However, that medication gradually lost its effectiveness, and for late 2013 and over half of 2014, I was unable to write at my usual speed of a full-length novel every 3 to 4 months. In fact, I was ill enough that I had to struggle to write just half a novel in 6+ months.  I kept this news from everyone, believing that if I could just work a little harder, things would be fine...but they weren't.

My schedule for delivering contracted manuscripts went out the window--it's very hard to gather the concentration to do anything when you're slowly bleeding to death two to three weeks out of the month--but with the help of the ACA, I was able to afford one of the versions of surgery I needed.  That surgery worked, and I am now able to concentrate again.

But for an entire year, I was unable to keep up with my daily expenses.  Now, I had planned my finances carefully; I knew going into this career that I had to plan a years' worth of budget in advance.  I had a cushion of funds to hedge against an emergency, about eight to ten months' worth...but that was assuming I'd still be able to work at close to my normal output.  The brain-draining quality of my illness put me behind schedule by over a year, as well as heaped thousands of medical bills--even with the ACA's affordable insurance attempts--on top of my daily expenses.

That cushion has now vanished, plus some. I made $25,000 in 2013, just above the federal poverty level, while living in an area that requires at least $50,000 a year to survive. (Yes, I live in an expensive area; yes, I could have moved to a truly cheap part of the nation, but had I done that, I would have lost a lot of the support and help from friends and family that I ended up needing over the last two years due to my medical problems.)  I still have 5 book contracts that are pending, awaiting being written, shipped off, approved, and published for sale.  All of that takes time.

In the meantime, I cannot get any new contracts (and with them, any associated advance funds) until I catch up with that backlog of 5 manuscripts I owe my very kind, very patient, very understanding publishing company.   Even if I could get another contract, everything moves very slowly in the publishing industry.

Getting a new series greenlighted takes months. Getting the contract takes more months, and even if I hand in a manuscript quickly, getting it approved takes even more months, plus it can take a year or more for the book to hit the bookstore shelves, and then you have to wait over half a year on top of that to see any money from the royalties...presuming the book earns more money than the advance, because it is exactly that: an advance which is "paid off" by the first of the incoming booksale royalty funds, before an author sees a single penny more.

Now, most of my medical bills have been paid--which is why this is probably going to be posted in Wishes, not the Medical section--but I've also had to replace bathroom fans, electric wall heaters, the hot water tank, and my refrigerator over the last 2 years.

I have one medical bill pending.  It's for almost $2,000 and it's being contested, which means who knows when that'll get resolved; I may have to find the money to pay it tomorrow, and that's almost as much as all of my bills for just one month (gasoline, electricity, phone/internet--and no, I don't have a smart phone; I have a land-line phone--water/sewer, car insurance, etc, plus house payments). Not including groceries. I might get lucky and not have to pay it at all; I don't know. If I have to pay it, there goes groceries and one month's mortgage payment, or my electricity, internet, & mortgage... You get the idea.

Beyond that, though, I have one HUGE debt lingering over everything, bleeding my finances away month by month.  No matter how fast I write, that debt is bleeding away the last few scraps of my money.  Though I am back to being able to write a story within 3-4 months, either I must now somehow magically work superfast to pay it off--and there is a limit on how fast I can compose story ideas, scenes, dialogue, action, and just in general write--or I must quit writing and try to get a job.

I haven't held a traditional job in over twenty years. This means, no matter how many life skills I may be able to fill in on my c.v./resumé, nobody will hire me for anything more than minimum wage, and minimum wage will not allow me to keep the roof over my head.

That is the debt I have, and my most fervent wish.  I wish to get out from under my mortgage, so that I am no longer plauged by financial worries, anxiety and panic attacks, and fears of yet another medical problem wiping out the last few dollars I don't have to spare any more.  I have very few other debts; my car is completely paid off, I try to pay off my credit card as quickly as I can (I cannot do that right now), I try to pay my bills on time--in short, I try to be fiscally responsible, and not a burden or a deadbeat in any way.

Good intentions, however, won't pay the bills.  The best of intentions won't pay the bills, nor will the strongest willpower in the world fix a body that requires medicines and surgeries to set it back on a healthy, non-hemorrhagic path.  Good intentions certainly did nothing to stop the recession from catching up with me. (Everything in the publishing industry moves 2-6 years slower than everything else.)  My mortgage is a huge debt I can no longer meet on my own, and it is affecting my work.

My Wish is to continue to make a living as a full-time writer.  I just need a little help to get back on my feet.

Even if the goal I've posted is not fully met (the exact amount, not including change, due on my house--I also made the mistake of buying 6 months before the housing bubble finally burst--as of the end of February 2015), just getting SOME support would hopefully help me be able to sleep at night without having to get up and take an extra dose of my heart medicine. (Literally; I have heart problems due to all the stress, now.)

I've tried appealing to my readers; I've even tried a Patreon campaign, but It's not enough.  It's not going to be enough. Not in time to fix things.  I will run out of money, completely, sometime later this year because I no longer have even enough money to guarantee I can buy groceries three months from now.  My royalty cheques (which arrive twice a year) have varied so wildly, that I cannot predict how much the April cheque will be, nor whether it will be enough to stretch my finances to the October cheque, nor any clue what that second cheque of the year might be.  Most likely, it will not be enough.

Not everyone has a dream job, a career they've longed for and dreamed of, a goal for which practiced their skills for over and over.  I know I'm lucky enough that I can try to make a living at what I love doing most in the world.  I'm even luckier than most, in that what I want to do more than anything else in the world is entertain others.

It's been a combination of luck and talent and hard work that I've finally been able to entertain others, to educate them, to give others an escape from their own problems and worries, if only for a few hours of reading at a stretch. But I don't have the "magical secret" of how to make my stories go viral...and even if they did, I'd have to sell tens of thousands of books--hundreds of thousands--between now and June 2015 for me to have a hope of recovering financially.  I don't know how to make my stories go viral.

I can no longer escape my own worries and cares. Because my body failed me for two years, I am going to have to either beg you for help--and I can no longer afford to be too proud to do that--or kill my dream of making a living bringing joy and humor, love and courage to my readers.

Authors Do Not Make What People Assume We Make.

Please help me out, so I can continue to focus on writing stories that inspire and delight thousands of people around the world.

Please help me keep my lifelong dream alive.

~Jean
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Organizer

Jean Johnson 
Organizer
Everett, WA
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