Sunday 5 June 2011

How NOT to speak publisher - B is for bucket

As some of you know, my Small BInt has been unwell for many months. I'm the sole breadwinner and the sole carer, and these two are incompatible in times of illness. I'm also now the educator in the midst of GCSEs, which stretches the time budget to breaking point. That's why there hasn't been much on here recently - sorry, patient readers.

How is this relevant? Well, it's relevant because none of us knows when someone else will need our time and love and emotional and creative energy, leaving little or none for work. And it's something worth thinking about if you want to be a professional writer (or, indeed, any type of freelance professional). How many months' money do you need in the bank for emergencies? How much will you tell your clients (publishers) if things start to go wrong? My answer to the first has always been £13,000 (after tax), which should last 6 months at a push, though I'm not sure how I arrived at this figure as the optimum. As for the second question - as little as you can get away with.

I have written before about telling publishers of your own health problems or difficulties, but those of your dependents are a rather different issue. It all seems even more out of control. If you're unwell yourself, you know how unwell you feel, what you might be able to - and how much information you are willing to share with the outside world. But when your child (or partner, or parent) is sick, you are dealing with someone else's feelings and privacy. It's very difficult. It's also very difficult because their sickness is so much more painful than your own, and the feelings of helplessness and despair are far more acute than if you are ill yourself.

I have shared very little of my Bint's illness with my publishers, and have only asked for any kind of concession from one client (who was extremely gracious and generous in giving it). Otherwise, I have turned work down or negotiated longer deadlines right at the start of the project. It's not their business, as long as I can continue to deliver work on time and up to standard, and I increase the likelihood of that by taking on very little. Of course, now I've blogged about it, they can all see it. But they also know I've delivered everything on time so there's no threat to them. And the GCSEs will be over soon, so the pressure will ease a little.

So B is for bucket (sick), and it's orange. And worn out. That's all you need to know. Other than that, yes I will deliver the MS, even if I'm up till 2am each night. And when she's better, I'll be working even harder to replenish that emergency fund.


  1. Good luck to you both, Small Bint and Big Brave Momma! This was a useful topic to write about for a variety of reasons, and well & sensibly (& movingly) explained.

    Money matters need to be talked about more often, especially as so often the book money is not any kind of living wage and certainly not like ti appears in the media.

  2. I agree with Penny - great post. I do hope your small bint is soon totally recovered! :)

  3. Thank you, both. No idea when small bint is likely to be better; I'm just assuming it will happen one day.