The Precarity of Subscription-Based Income
So let’s start out by saying that in the scheme of things, I am doing okay. I am not starving, I am not at risk of losing my home, and most months I can afford all the medications and medical care I am prescribed without difficulty.
This is a piece intended for online artists and other creators to work through the emotions of this kind of precarity and insecurity — it’s not intended to make any of my fans or my regular readers feel guilty for not giving me more money, or to guilt people into giving me money when they do not have it to give.
In fact, that mutual — if not near universal! — feeling of financial anxiety is precisely what this piece is about.
I have one novel out, for which I do earn some royalties, but the vast majority of my earnings come from Medium and Patreon. All of my streams of income together — book royalties, Medium, Patreon, and scattered bits and pieces here and there — I earn about $1400-$1500 USD a month most months, sometimes less.
Previously I earned less on Patreon but I was earning more royalties on books then, but as time goes on you tend to reach a plateau on book sales as you reach the organic audience for that book — the only way I’ll get a bigger boost to sales now is if I get very lucky with a review on a big publication or, (this will likely come sooner), I finish up another novel.
Some months I earn more, because I earn a bunch of tips, or there was a big boost of sales to one of my books. Most months, that does not happen, especially now that Twitter has died off as a platform — when I did TweetFics that got big, I was often able to boost my tip jar, but now that Twitter’s lost a lot of its traction, that’s no longer a possibility.
It’s not terrible money. It’s actually more reliable as income than when I worked hospitality as a porter, where between my own chronic illness and injury, and hotels loving a bit of casual “accidental” wage theft, I’d often end up with less pay than I was expecting.
What I make is enough for me to live on, for the most part, and I know I’m very lucky to make that much.