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‘Twas the night before VAT-MOSS…

30 Dec

I live in the United States –North Carolina, to be specific– and am a one-woman show. Each day, I get up and put in 8 to 14 hours on various projects. Comics, short stories, novels, products…  I do all of my own shipping. I answer emails (poorly, and usually in batches when I finally get a spare hour). I’m trying to salvage a simple Kickstarter that went so far off of the rails that I’ve had to start building new rails. You want to see me juggle plates? I will try to juggle plates! And then I will need new plates.

In other words, I’m exactly like every single other independent businessperson working for themselves in the creative economy. Sure, the tasks change: maybe you make music instead of comics, or put out .pdfs of knitting patterns instead of novels. Regardless of the flavor, we all put in the long, long hours because we love what we do.

(Lord knows it’s not for the money. This has been my first year as an independent full-time creator, and it’s been ridiculously rough. Sometimes I’ll search online just to learn what a dental hygienist or an actuary makes, and sigh.)

But as of December 30th, I’m making minimum wage for a typical 8-hour workday. In North Carolina, this works out to $7.25 an hour. That was my benchmark for whether or not I can (airquotes) make it (/airquotes) as an independent creator. I gave myself a year to see if I could do it. And I can! Woo hoo!

Here, I’ll save you the math: this works out to $290 a week, $1160 a month, and $13920 a year. Also, this does not include overtime. If I work over 8 hours a day, it’s unpaid labor.

(Did you know that an actuary can earn upwards of $250,000 a year?)

One of my steadiest sources of income are digital downloads. These are amazing! I create a product, bundle it in a handy downloadable file, stick it in my store, and forget about it. I don’t have to invest in maintaining an inventory or shipping. It’s an up-front investment of my time that can pay out again and again. Combined with Patreon*, digital downloads are a major component of my earnings.

Digital downloads are were also the best way for me to reach international readers. I no longer offer shipping anywhere other than within the United States. I will ship overseas when asked, but nothing turns a potential customer away more quickly than seeing that the shipping and handling on an item exceeds the cost of the item itself. There are no barriers to digital downloads.

Well, not until January 1, 2015.

I wrote about VAT-MOSS a month ago, when I first learned that new tax regulations would target digital products in the European Union. These taxes are… complicated. The stupid-short version is that taxes are based on where the customer is at the moment of purchase. Not where I, the seller, live and/or work. Not where the customer lives. It’s determined by the location of the customer when they decide to purchase a digital product.

I’ve been watching the subsequent VAT-MOSS clusterfuck like a dog watching that last pizza crust on the plate —Where’s it gonna go? How’s it gonna land? Will I be quick enough to take advantage of it?– and I’ve been hoping that the EU would simply decide to postpone the VAT-MOSS rollout for creators making less than X-Amount for another year. Since those supervising VAT-MOSS at the EU seemed surprised to learn that independent creators across the entire freakin’ planet had never even heard of this new legislation until it gained traction in social media, I felt that this wasn’t an unrealistic expectation. Allowing a one-year exemption for small independent creators would give everybody time to sort out the mess and prepare for the next stage in the creative economy.

As of December 29th, it appears that VAT-MOSS will roll out as scheduled.

There have been some minor changes to cushion the blow for small businesses, but these aren’t substantial and will have no significant effect on me. (I should point out that while the article I just referenced says “non-EU sellers are probably safe if they ignore [VAT-MOSS taxes]”, the breakdown from the gov.uk website states that “Businesses outside the EU (for example, the USA) that supply digital services to consumers in one or more EU member state are also affected by the changes,” and I’m gonna go with that one, thanks.)

So, I’m disabling digital downloads from my store to EU customers. This won’t involve much, since I use Big Cartel/Pulley as my shopping cart system and they are awesome. I change a setting, and EU customers no longer have the option of buying my digital products directly from me. Sorry, guys. I don’t want to be a dick. I’ll make sure you have access to these items through third-party vendors, Patreon, and by giving them to you free of charge when all else fails.

Finally, I don’t think this is a death knell for me as an independent creator. I was lucky enough to squeak in under the wire. But if 2015 were my make-or-break year… Well. It’s not. I got lucky. My sympathies to those who have to make major changes to their stores, or who have to abandon their creative pursuits altogether.

(I should tie all of this together with another joke about becoming an actuary, but that’s in poor taste when peoples’ livelihoods are a’splodin’ all over the world.)


*I should note that my Patreon has been lurking in the $750 range until mid-December, and the Spirit of My Readers are FREAKIN’ AWESOME! recently tipped it over the top.


ETA (5:15pm): Big Cartel also has a tax setting, and is aware of the VAT-MOSS changes. They are looking into workarounds so they can collect and report tax directly, but it will take time.

PITCH US! 2014 (makers)

23 Dec

I try to do this every holiday season over at the comic, but I’m slammed this year and I thought it’d be nice for people to have a permalink to their sites. Plus, I’m slammed this year and can’t email the emails. I’m so slammed, I’m just cut-and-pasting this header from the previous writers’ and artists’ pitch posts.


That moment when you realize your search for "makers" is already weirder than anything you could add to it.

That moment when you realize your search for “makers” is already weirder than anything you could add to it.

Makers! Knitters, woodturners, programmers… lend me your fingers! LEGO master builders, Sudoku puzzle crafters, hobbyists and pros of all stripes… What do you do? And why do you do it? Tell us, please, and be sure to link to your work!

(Please try to keep it short. If you’re a writer or an artist, there are other posts for you!)

Never-ending List of Things to Do, October Edition

30 Oct

I’ve promised myself I’ll do one of these project roundups every month to keep myself on track–Hey! It’s almost Halloween! Better get writing.

Art Projects

Hahaha nope. No time. September’s projects are still on the List.

I’m overdue to do a cheesecake wallpaper, though.

Novels & Stories

Gradually making progress on Rachel Peng #3 and Hope Blackwell #1. Both of these have had title reveals for Patreon supporters. I’m thinking I’ll do a broad reveal for title & draft cover art in November.

I’m also working on a short story about Ami the Assassin. As November is NaNoWriMo and I have no chance whatsoever in finishing two 120k-word novels, I’m aiming to get the Ami story fully completed by the end of the month.

Kickstarter

My head’s in a bad place with the Kickstarter. Recording has been postponed for very, very valid reasons, and I know I need to make a status update. I’ve been working on an extra bonus story to apologize for the delays. This bonus story will complement the “League Night” story, and will take place from Shawn’s point of view.

This second story has been an interesting project. At the time Rachel takes Shawn bowling, he’s been putting himself back together for about three months. Not very long at all! So while the story’s in first-person, he’s still a completely unreliable narrator. My intention was to have readers take away absolutely nothing of factual use from this story–any hard data Shawn provides shouldn’t be believed–but Shawn’s emotional state should be clear.

It was fun to do. I don’t know if it works, but it was fun to do.

Giveaways

Same as last month. Fortunately, we’ve got a holiday season coming up.

Other Projects

I’ve finally mailed off all international orders, posters, and other assorted such-and-such. I need an intern, badly (I hear they work for the joy of basking in my warm glowing warming glow and don’t actually want me to pay them? What? They need to eat, too? Nuts… no intern for me.)

I’m behind on emails. See: intern.

The Weeping Closet

I adore my Weeping Closet. It’s so dark and warm in there. I’ve made a little blanket nest for me and the dog…

I might be a little overworked.

[maniacal laughter]

Never-Ending List of Things to Do, September Edition

5 Sep

Planning out the next couple of months, and thought you might like a glimpse of the schedule.

Art Projects

I try to do comic-related charitable donations, and this year I’m redoing the Mangina Kaiju slapdash art for a print. I thought long and hard about which charity should get the donations. Ideally, it’d be a women’s-centered organization, but there’s this thing called the Internet in which every single decision you make is dissected down to its bones and found lacking, and I didn’t want to promote any Stupid (e.g.: implying women are monsters, implying men are monsters, implying the female reproductive system shall rise from the sea and throttle us all and aaaaaah!). So all proceeds will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association, which is a cause near and dear to my heart. Fuck Alzheimer’s.

Also, Halloween is coming up. I try to do some sort of art pinup. This year, I’m thinking some members of the comic’s cast dressed as characters from Penny Dreadful, but I’m still open to suggestions.

Novels

The third Rachel Peng novel has a title, and the cover art is in draft stage.

I’m still playing around with the idea of releasing a Hope Blackwell novel at the same time. These books would deal with one or two of the same plot elements and events would align chronologically, but from the perspectives of Rachel (no ghosts) and Hope (all of the ghosts, oh God so many ghosts). With Patreon as a supplemental salary, it is more likely that I can afford to take the time to do this than it was a few months ago. However, this would push the release of both books back until mid-2015.

Patreon

Beyond awesome. Simply beyond awesome. I’m eating so much crow about this, and it is delicious crow! You were right, I was wrong, and I hope you’re happy!

Now, what to do with all of these collected dick jokes? I want to release the older, stale ones that Patreon supporters have already seen to encourage newcomers to become supporters themselves. I’m leaning towards a Tumblr account that receives a huge batch update of dick jokes every three months or so, but I’m open to suggestions. My rationale for using a Tumblr is that it’s got zero overhead, requires minimum time investment, and gets massive traffic and reblogs. Any other ideas?

Kickstarter

Digital Divide is done, but Maker Space is still in recording phase. Summer was a rough time for my family, and also for the woman who is doing the reading for the audiobooks. We’re likely going to resume recording on Maker Space later this month.

I’m arting all of the arts on the other Kickstarter gifts, so hopefully I can get these out in one large push.

Giveaways

Several generous people purchased extra copies of Digital Divide and Maker Space and told me to donate these to readers in need. I’d like to do something nice, but the usual “Retweet this to be entered in my contest!” is both annoying and dull. How about a Post-It contest? Write GIMME BOOK! on a Post-It and send in a photograph of where you stuck it… I dunno. That’s the best I’ve got right now.

I Know I’m Forgetting Something

I know I’m forgetting something.

I’m Totally Forgetting Something

Yeah, I’m aware.

Seriously, This Is Going To Bug Me All Day

I’m just gonna hit Publish now, okay?

Disasterhouse update

1 Apr

It’s spring! The home projects have resumed. I might or might not* lose a fingernail because of them.

*I will totally lose a fingernail and be happy it was just a nail and not the finger.

Schedule for 2014

4 Dec

You know that moment when you’re all like I NEED TO WRITE OUT MY SCHEDULE FOR… OH HELL JUST PUT IT ONLINE AND CALL IT A BLOG POST? I did not just have one of those moments. Nor is this my rough schedule for first-quarter 2014*

JAN 20 – Launch 30-day Kickstarter for the DIGITAL DIVIDE and MAKER SPACE audiobooks.

I’m keeping production of books and audiobooks completely separate. MAKER SPACE will exist no matter what. Audiobooks? Well, that’s what the Kickstarter is for. Since Rachel is blind, I think it’s critically important to make the Rachel Peng series available in audiobook form and improve accessibility of the story to persons who may be visually impaired. However, producing a high-quality audiobook is pricy. Boom. Kickstarter.

MARCH 3 – MAKER SPACE RELEASE DAY

I learned quite a few things from the release of DIGITAL DIVIDE. I think “set a release date and stick with it” might be the most important of these. Then you can schedule the production phase of the book, and add some extra time when all of these internal deadlines go whooshing past like doves. Or bullets.

MAY 1/JUNE 1 – JOSHSMUT THE SECOND

The next Joshsmut will be a treasure hunting adventure through ancient ruins (giggity). It will either come out in early May or early June, depending on how well the Kickstarter does and how much time I have to spend on shipping.

AUDIOBOOK RELEASE(?)

Again, depends on how well the Kickstarter does. I’ve heard a high-quality audiobook can take over a month to record and another month to edit.

And then there’s the comic, and the paid work, and the home repairs, and the work on the next book in the Rachel Peng series…

Bye gonna fall down for like six days okay thanks.

* This is totally my rough schedule for early 2014

Disasterhouse Update

4 Oct

My butterfly weed has popped. It’s fluffy and dear and I have collected it in a box. I might also be allergic to it, I’ll soon find out.  My eyes, they itch so.

Disasterhouse Update

30 Sep

The Disasterhouse blog is alive…ish.  I need to do some catchup blogging from the projects we finished over the summer. Good thing: the house looks much better than it did. Bad thing: the projects cost much more than expected. Also, I use the word “whee.” Twice.

Disasterhouse update.

26 Jun

The Disasterhouse has been updated.  As has this text conversation with Brown…

ME: Ursula just told me: “At some point, your insurance company is just going to advise burning it down for the insurance money.”

BROWN: “I can’t tell you to do this, but I’m totally telling you to do this.”

ME: You should come home to deal with the insurance guy. I’m not good with subtle nuances.

ME: Or fire.

BROWN: Please tell me if you seriously want me to come home and do not set the house on fire.

ME: Yet?

BROWN: DO NOT SET THE HOUSE ON FIRE.

Website Overhaul!

19 Jun

I apologize if there was any /rss fussery last night and this morning.  I liked the old design but it was too cluttered to make a good first impression, so the theme has been changed and the platform was overhauled.  This version is much cleaner.

Haven’t decided if I’m going to take Hope and Josh out of the masthead yet.  The bedroom eyes are sort of creeping me out.

Now I need to talk my husband into starting that podcast he’s always talking about, because there’s too much hangspace between “STORE” and the end of the line.  Adding a “PODCAST” page would balance the text perfectly… Oh, OCD, you’re never boring.

As always, if there are any problems or oversights, please let me know!