I hate asking for money. I’m sure PBS and NPR hate it, too. The Center for Inquiry, publishers of Skeptical Inquirer, probably hate having to ask for donations, but that doesn’t stop them from sending me letters every week asking for cash. So, today I’m launching my 2015 fundraising appeal, for reasons I’m going to outline below.
This was a blog post I had hoped not to have to write. As many of you remember, last year I was supposed to release my book Cthulhu in World Mythology through Atomic Overmind, a small publisher specializing in Lovecraftian and gaming books. We had a contract and a revenue sharing agreement, and the publisher had big plans for marketing the volume. However, while the publisher released a PDF of the book, he never released the limited edition hardcover or the paperback as the contract required. The publisher also never paid me a dime in royalties. Over the past year, I have repeatedly tried to communicate with the publisher, and after initially telling me that the company suffered financial problems, he stopped communicating altogether. I have no idea how many PDFs sold, if any, nor have I been able to get an accounting of what went wrong, or the return of my intellectual property.
This was a pretty big blow because that book was projected to have returned some significant royalties, money that I was counting on and thanks to the publisher failing to live up to the contract, will never see. The problems were compounded when I learned that McFarland, my regular publisher, had priced my Jason and the Argonauts book so high that literally—and I am not making this up—only a few dozen bought the book in its first year of release, mostly libraries. I believe something like three people purchased the book who were not libraries. Where previous books, which carried lower prices, saw decent sales and royalties, this one didn’t even make back the money I spent on printer ink, paper, and postage. My other books were, like most, pirated on Chinese-operated book piracy websites, where they have been downloaded thousands, if not tens of thousands, of times. If even a fraction of those downloads were real sales... well, you can imagine how much money has been lost. My book A Hideous Bit of Morbidity was running 40:1 pirated copies to sales when my publisher last sent out cease and desist letters.
While this alone might not have been an insurmountable financial problem, it coincided with several concurrent issues. First, when I am not writing this blog I do freelance writing and editing work. My largest client saw his business collapse, and he cut his editing and writing orders by 80%. So far there isn’t anyone to replace him. As it happens, writing online about ancient mysteries makes a person unattractive to corporations, which are looking for writers who don’t have “opinions.” Worse, trying to get paid for work is now nearly impossible. I have honestly had clients ask me why they should pay when they can just hire a college student to “intern it” for free. This isn’t the case only with corporate communication, but with writing of all kinds. Barbara Ehrenreich recently had an article in the Guardian where she noted that only rich people can now afford to write because the internet and the glut of people willing and happy to write for free for “exposure” has destroyed the market writing of any kind.
In the last year I have had only one publication say that they would pay me for articles. That one was Gaiam, the multimillion-dollar NASDAQ-listed yoga company that employs David Wilcock and George Noory as a streaming video hosts. They didn’t realize who I was and offered $100 per article (up to three per month) to write about how yoga taps into universal consciousness and/or space aliens, for their Gaiam TV holistic “lifestyle” and fringe science website. Virtually every other publication I have been in contact with wanted me to work for them for free, while they, of course, collect ad revenue and subscription fees.
So at this point, I am facing down some immense bills that are coming up over the next few weeks. Quarterly taxes are due, as is the unknowably large school tax bill on my house. Albany, New York, unlike most places, doesn’t allow for installment payments on taxes. The entire bill is due at once, and if you can’t pay, it keeps going up each month until they take your house. Then the property tax bill, equally large, comes up only a couple of months later.
In short, I’m looking at many thousands of dollars in bills against shrinking income that won’t cover them. This leaves me with only a few choices, none of which are particularly good. The best option is to ask you, the readers, how much you value this website and this blog. If you enjoy reading it, I ask that you consider using the PayPal button on the right hand column or below to pledge your support with a donation, however small, to help me afford to work on this website. If everyone who visits my website on just one day gave as little as ten dollars, it would generate a full year’s income for me.
My other options are, in descending order or revenue, to (a) stop writing this blog or significantly reduce its frequency in order to pursue full time work in another field; (b) place significant portions of the content of my website behind a paywall, where far fewer people will read it; or (c) make the site worse by devoting significant space to banner ads, popups, interstitials, and other advertisements and hope someone clicks on them. Since options (b) and (c) are likely to generate a less than 1% click-through rate, they are unlikely to be terribly lucrative.
Consider this: Giorgio Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens gets paid nearly $10,000 for every speaking engagement he does, according to his booking agent. Skeptic magazine and Skeptical Inquirer, fancying themselves academic journals, pay nothing for articles and ask for donations—and then sell those articles (including mine) on Amazon for cash. I would hate to have to try to monetize my content, and thus lock out the majority of the people who actually benefit from reading it. But the reality is that I can’t work for free.
I hope you will appreciate that I am leveling with you on what it takes to produce my website. I hope you will consider helping to make it possible for me to continue.
Duke of URL
8/13/2015 04:33:59 am
The only gripe I have about making a donation is that it forced me to go through PayPal. Don't misunderstand - I use PayPal for several things.
8/13/2015 05:17:19 am
As a Paypal "merchant" (by way of eBay), Paypal takes just under 3% of my gross receipts. Unfortunately, even given the above, I doubt that Jason qualifies as a "charity" but they would still take 2.2% + 30 cents per donation. I don't know what the credit card companies take but it is probably comparable.
8/13/2015 05:31:03 am
As a resident of Albany myself I understand you property and school tax woes. As I enjoy your posts I'll send a donation soon and hope others will as well.
8/13/2015 05:38:57 am
Done. Keep up the good work!
8/13/2015 05:42:46 am
I have a copy of your "Jason And The Argonauts" book, and it wasn't that expensive. Do you mean something else?
8/13/2015 06:07:34 am
Patreon seems to be the newest way for people to try to make money from the free content they've been offering. It's working quite well for some, but not so well for others. It's tough to even come close to earning an annual salary through Patreon, but every little bit helps.
8/13/2015 06:33:07 am
I should add that I think you'd be one of the more successful users of Patreon if you went that route.
8/13/2015 07:44:52 am
Donation sent...good luck Jason.
The troll Krampus
8/13/2015 08:15:14 am
I would't pay to read your blog even though, honestly, it is one of the best blogs at putting critical review on fringe claims and topics ( AA Debunked is another one). I'm also not one to donate because then you'll just keep asking for money. That's annoying. I suggest that you find a more financially secure job and do this whenever you have time. That way you won't have to rely on your readers who may or may not come through for you.
The troll Krampus
8/13/2015 08:26:22 am
As a side thought perhaps you've made enough enemies in the fringe community who are conspiring to sabotage you. Since you point out how they make up fantasies and sell them as truth.
8/13/2015 08:21:59 am
I read your blog every day on a tram, on my way to work so donation sent.
The troll Krampus
8/13/2015 08:33:46 am
The only downfall to having his readers pay him to write a book is that they may not be satisfied with the finished product. He would certainly lose funding for future projects. Not to mention having to donate for the "kickstart" but then to have to pay for the book. In my opinion that would be asking too much from the readers.
8/13/2015 09:44:57 am
Jason,your website is the ONLY one I read daily! Donation sent!
8/13/2015 10:14:33 am
Have you considered making a PDF of "Cthulhu in World Mythology" available on this blog for a fee? I'd probably pay for a download. I don't know if you still have publishing rights, but if this publisher is so destitute that they can't honor their contract, it seems unlikely that they would be able to pay for a lawsuit to retaliate. Plus, they violated your contract, so they'd probably lose anyway. It's a shame that it's been pirated, but if there's a legitimate way to buy the book I'd like to read it, and I most likely know other people who would as well.
8/13/2015 01:48:43 pm
Just sent you a fifty. Keep up the good work.
8/13/2015 04:15:52 pm
Jason, I donated $5. I hope that when I tell you that I had less than $20 in my bank account, and only make $50 a week, it will not seem like too little an amount.
8/13/2015 05:31:42 pm
Ask, and ye shall receive. I've made my contribution to a worthy cause.
8/13/2015 08:35:54 pm
You need a long-term strategy to monetise your expertise. You're articulate and, as we've just seen, good value in broadcasting. Have you considered getting an agent and working at becoming a celebrity?
8/13/2015 10:29:29 pm
Bunk sells.De-bunking does't
8/14/2015 01:25:34 am
Jason can do much more than de-bunking- he can show students the sort of things to watch out for in their research, or if all else fails, he can lecture businesses on how to maximise the effectiveness of bunk.
8/14/2015 03:05:19 am
Total nonsensical assertion: "lecture businesses on how to maximize the effectiveness of bunk." He is saying here that he is a failure in "maximizing the effectiveness of bunk." Businesses seldom pay people to lecture them on how to do things when the lecturer is a failure.
8/14/2015 04:57:38 am
I very much doubt that Jason has ever personally tried to "maximise the effectiveness of bunk", but that doesn't mean he is not an expert on the topic. While somebody with a proven track-record of effective bunk would, at first glance, seem preferable, Jason should be able to provide a wider perspective than somebody who has hit on one or two neat tricks and made the most of them.
8/14/2015 03:38:01 am
Just want to thank you writing this blog. I did my part. Hope it helps!
Day Late and Dollar Short
8/14/2015 06:16:22 am
8/14/2015 08:14:26 am
I too could only donate a little tiny bit, as I have been unemployed for over a year. The timing is is bad because I am about to be re-instated with the National Park Service next week (which means no paycheck for a month). After that I will have the ability to make larger donations, but that may be too late for your payments.
8/14/2015 10:06:01 am
Just donated $35. More to come. Keep up the good work Jason !
8/15/2015 01:43:00 am
Donated $50. Also as a kind of Thank you for the patience with me. This blog has to live on despite certain disagreements. The story with the unreliable publisher makes me sad. And I am so glad that I do not depend on the sellings of my books. Books which really create added value of knowledge do not fit into the patterns of the usual consumer. They rather pay to get support for the beliefs they already have.
8/15/2015 09:49:09 am
donation made! I would hate to see an end to your great work. Best of luck!
8/18/2015 05:47:06 am
Happily Donated. I enjoy bickering with too many ancient alien goofballs not to help out. Keep up the good work and huge props to all the work you do. I don't know how you do it, but I thank you for it :)
8/19/2015 12:10:06 pm
Medical bills will be going away in October; will see what I can do then.
Not a freeloader like you
8/31/2015 12:24:17 pm
I bet you are kicking yourself for studying a worthless skill or trade in school? Mathematics, sciences, computers, or engineering would not have led to this appeal to solicit this community.
2/13/2016 10:48:46 pm
Not at all, "Not a freeloader like you." Colavito is here to save us all from ourselves. He, like so many liberals... er... independents (as he is so quite to proclaim), is here to save us from our supreme stupidity. You see, if we plebeians see it on TV, then we're so stupid we believe it.
9/1/2015 02:27:17 pm
See, I think of this as more a search for patrons in the way <i>any</i> artist might seek patronage; if the art---in this case, literature & debunking---speaks to you, if you find it useful, then you might feel moved to help financially support the artist who is producing it. If not, then <i>not</i>.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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