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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Donation Drive

As previously noted, every once in a while I have to ask for money.

Having given up military consulting work and having shut down my woodworking business and art studio (hopefully temporarily) when I left Alaska, I subsist for the moment solely on income derived from my social media sites and this blog.

A few years back, I wouldn’t have believed this possible.

A few years back it wouldn’t have been possible.

But despite the sneering criticism of certain vocal critics, it is possible for a writer to make a reasonably decent living this way.

Yes, writer.

It used to be “writer” was defined as somebody who assembled words and ideas into books, short stories, articles, and perhaps screenplays, fact or fiction, and submitted those efforts via various means to editors at publishing houses or various presses or various media outlets, and then lived on cheese sandwiches hoping a check of some modest amount would come back. Traditionally the profession of “writer” meant you repeated this cycle without healthcare or adequate hygiene or presentable clothes until you died, or gave it up for a real job – both of which happened with distressing frequency.

That model, that definition of writer, still very much exists.

And a lot of writers make varying degrees of living from it.

As previously noted, if you’re a Stephen King or a John Scalzi, you might make millions and live in a golden mansion high on a landscaped hill in the middle of a private island waited on hand and foot by an army of nubile, scantily clad olive-pitters (this is totally true and I heard it directly from one of George R.R. Martin’s gardeners). But more likely you’re a stringer for the local paper, and you might make enough to buy a cheese sandwich or two providing you’re not particular about the definition of “cheese” or those weird green spots on the bread.

Various degrees of success exist between those poles.

And that’s where I exist. In that strange new middle ground. I wanted to be a writer since I was kid. It’s a sickness, writing. A weird mental disorder that makes you sit in front of a keyboard for hours, daydreaming and playing with ideas and wondering why anybody would read the blather on the screen. But my grandmother gave me a Hardy Boys book (#8; The Mystery of Cabin Island) for Christmas one year when I was about 8 or 9. I’d been an indifferent reader up to that point, but that book captivated me and my lifelong obsession with words began right there. Somewhere shortly thereafter, in a staggering moment of epiphany, I realized there were actually people out there who got paid to sit in front of a keyboard and daydream and those people didn’t have to put on pants every day. Hell they might not even own actual pants – unless you consider pajamas legitimate work apparel.

I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.

I’d always intended to go the traditional route, cheese sandwiches and all.

I’d never intended to write about politics. But evidence would suggest that’s where my talent lies – if you’re charitable and agree that it is indeed an actual talent and not just something you could train a chimpanzee to do (they taught ‘em to fly spaceships, so I imagine political pundit wouldn’t be that difficult).

But by the time I was free to write what I wanted (upon my retirement from the military) and I started writing in earnest with the idea that someday somebody would give me actual money for it, the world had changed. How we connect to it had changed and continues to evolve at a rapid pace and a new type of “writer” became possible – well maybe not new new, but perhaps a more modern version of the political broadsides and pamphlets penned by the likes of Thomas Paine.

It’s amazing to me how fast this has gone.

Ten years ago, hell five years ago, I would never have guessed that Facebook would become my primary platform for day to day short form.  Facebook is a horrible platform for the kinds of things I write. It’s a bastard cross between a blog and public forum and doesn’t do either very well. It’s subject to arbitrary and random censorship. There’s no protection for intellectual property at all. It lacks the most basic of editing tools and formatting functions, its search capability is ridiculous and all but useless. Facebook’s interface, timeline management, and display are one of the single most infuriatingly horrible experiences in an age of limitless customization – limitless to everybody but Facebook users that is. It’s impossible to get any kind of help from the operators and it’s subject to every kind of cyber-abuse from bullying to trolling to sexual assault.

And yet – and yet -- it does one thing very, very well.

It does one thing that other technology cannot do, that traditional publishing venues cannot do.

Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and other social media platforms connect writers to people in an organic, viral, geometrically expanding manner that is completely impossible anywhere else.

Now, interacting with readers on a real time basis for hours upon hours every single goddamned day isn’t for every writer. It takes a certain degree of masochism to do it. In point of fact, a lot of writers become writers because they are anti-social bastards who enjoy living on moldy fake-cheese sandwiches and sitting around all day in dirty pajama pants and who tend to break out in a cold sweat when they actually have to put on pants and go outside where all the other people are.

So real time interaction with their audience isn’t something they consider a feature.

And that’s okay. “Writer” is a loose enough definition that it accommodates the gregarious right alongside the smelly hermit.

But, if you write well, if you write the things people are interested in, and if you’re willing to interact with your audience directly and in real time, then social media makes it possible for your work to spread far beyond the size of audiences normally available to traditional writers. For example: Two years ago, when I started doing this full time, Stonekettle Station averaged maybe 20,000 visitors per month – and that was after 8 years of writing every single day.  Maybe 3,000 people followed me on Facebook. Two years later, with some considerable effort, my daily Facebook audience exceeds 100,000 people and a single long form essay on Stonekettle Station can exceed 60,000 unique pageviews in a few hours.

Social media, for all its ills, has created new opportunity, an alternative to traditional writing models. Not a replacement, a supplement.

And that’s where I ended up. That’s where I exist.

I admit that in my case there is some degree of luck. I happened to be in the right place just as opportunity opened with the right experience and skillset and enough free time to take advantage of it.  It suits me. It’s not easy. Really it’s not. It sometimes (often) takes 14 to 18 hour days (I spent six hours last night just screening new applicants to the Stonekettle Facebook Group), research, writing, swearing at the screen, it can be incredibly frustrating at times for reasons you never imagine or anticipate. It requires constant attention, a constant presence, and everything becomes grist for the mill, making much of your life public – something that is often less than thrilling to your spouse.

It’s work.

Goddamn is it work.

I’ve been invited to a number of writer’s conventions to talk about this with other writers – or those who want to become writers under this new paradigm. That’s something I’m happy to do. I’ve been pretty lucky and I’m glad to pay that forward. The world is a big place, there’s plenty of room for many, many more writers in this new arena and I’m happy to help get them started.

If every one of those quarter million daily readers signed up for Patreon and donated a buck a month, well, I’d be writing this from the deck of my personal yacht and looking for property next to John Scalzi.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way and so every once in a while I need to ask for money.

I don’t like this.

But it’s necessary.

And it’s to your advantage.

Because this way I am independent. I don’t owe anybody, no business, no agenda, no political party or ideology, no boss, I don’t owe any of them a damned thing.  I write what I write, be it long form, short Facebook posts, or a simple Tweet, to the very best of my ability and as I see it – not as somebody else has directed me to see it. I maintain my social media sites, my Facebook page and the Stonekettle Facebook Group, my Twitter feed, as independent entities, managed by me and me alone to my standards and not some corporate agenda. 

That seems to be important to you, dear reader, and I take that responsibility seriously.

By remaining independent, I owe only you, the readers, the very best work I can put out and that’s it.

But it only works if you provide support.

I doubt I’ll ever get used it, asking for money, and I’m not sure I want to.  That aversion always, every time, makes me more determined to improve, to work harder, to produce a better product for you and to expand opportunities for YOU to have your say, to interact, in a safe and intelligent forum.


So, here it is: I’m asking you to donate.


Because my business model is evolving (IRS regulations, state and federal laws, etc, all of these things impact this process, I’m still learning the best way to go about it), I’m doing this a little different than the last few times.

The donation drive runs from June 1, 2017 to July 15, 2017.

I’ll be giving away a dozen Charter Member Stonekettle Station shirts (customized to the winner’s size and color preference. Also note: Charter Member shirts can only be gotten via this process, they are unique and are not available elsewhere. See the footnote below regarding shirts) and at least three signed copies of Alternate Truths – the best-selling political anthology which contains my short story: Gettysburg.

Any subscriber who donates any amount via the PayPal DONATION BUTTON between those dates will be put in the running for one of those prizes.

Winners will be announced July 20th, 2017.

To donate, click on the “Donation” button, either embedded in the text below or on the upper right side of this screen and follow the directions.



You may enter more than once. Each donation will be counted as a unique subscription.

If you’ve already donated to Stonekettle Station this month, you’re already on the subscription list.

Those of you who already donate via an automatic monthly payment, you’ll be entered automatically in the giveaway. (See the footnote below for additional information regarding automatic reoccurring donations)

Legal Disclaimer: To be clear, this is not a lottery or a raffle.  Donations are voluntary subscription fees specifically in support of this blog and the associated social media feeds and conducted in accordance with state and federal law.

That is:  you’re paying for content not a chance to win something.

I am not claiming any tax-exempt status or charity. Donations are considered business income and I pay all applicable state and federal taxes on that income and I have the records to prove it.

The items I give away are my intellectual property, created and paid for by me.  As such I chose to randomly gift them to supporters, just as I give away my custom made pens to my fellow writers.  The giveaway list is generated randomly from voluntary subscriptions, since I have no other way to determine who readers are.  You are not donating for a chance to win a prize, you’re paying for the content of this blog and my associated social media feeds and I’m using this opportunity to give something back other than just my usual blog essays, Facebook posts, and Tweets.

As always, thank you for your support.



1. Shirts: I recently acceded to reader requests and began selling Stonekettle Station T-Shirts. There were some production problems with a few shirts in the original run. This is to be expected of a new process from a small business. Especially in the volume we’re suddenly doing. Anyone who purchased a shirt and who experienced a problem needs only to contact the vender via her Etsy site and it will be fixed. That said, we’ve made a number of improvements to the process. All future shirts, including the Charter Member special additions, will be created using this new improved process. New shirts will be available for purchase later this month. I’ll put up posts here and on Facebook telling you how you can get one for yourself.

2. Reoccurring Payments: If you’ve set up a monthly donation via PayPal and you suddenly realize it’s been cancelled, that’s not me rejecting your money (because I would never do that. I need the money and I’m not too proud to say so). Likely it’s something to do with the PayPal process, usually your card has expired. I have no control over that.

52 comments:

  1. Always happy to contribute! Keep on keeping on. =)

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  2. Hey Jim, have you considered accepting money through Patreon? I contribute regularly to several of my favorite artists this way and I really like it. I don't know how it works out for the artist, but for the patron its great. It sets up a monthly contribution that occurs automatically if preset conditions (X articles per month, for example) are met. Most patrons only give a small amount, but imagine if all of your subscribers gave a dollar a month? I would happily support you through patreon.

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    Replies
    1. I do have a Patreon account. You can donate to it via the link in the upper right hand corner of this page (non mobile version).

      I like Patreon, it does provide a certain degree of predictability each month. BUT, there are certain drawbacks having to do with fund availability and other issues. For me, both the PayPal function and Patreon are the best solution so far.

      Delete
    2. Oh there it is! Done.

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  3. You're always a good read. Someday I hope to follow in your footsteps.

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  4. Done. Patreon inbound.

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  5. Monthly subscriber here. I just dropped one subscription that wasn't worth supporting any longer, so I will roll that amount, already budgeted, over to what I already give. With pleasure.

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  6. I solved the smelly pajama pants problem by writing wearing a nightshirt.

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  7. I am trying to donate, but my PayPal account can't seem to find Stonekettle Station.

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  8. Jim,
    Are credit card one-off donations at all eligible in the prize dept.?

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  9. The link on the web site worked; the link in the email didn't - at least for me.

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  10. Done. Finally, you asked for a donation at a time when the bills are covered for the month. Been meaning to do this for some time. Keep up the good work!

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  11. I wish I could do more than I do (mine is through Patreon)... but I hope to in the near future. In the meantime, keep pissing off the masses and amusing the rest of us that matter. :D

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  12. Thank you for the great opinion pieces, I often refer to something you had written while in conversations with others. I am only too happy to kick in a few dollars. All the best.

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  13. Have you considered Patreon? I support lots of my favorite content providers there. It seems to provide a nice, predictable stream of income for folks who create regularly. Some creators let you donate per month, some let you donate per "thing" they produce.

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  14. Whoops, scratch my last post - not only are you on Patreon, but I already subscribe there. So new suggestion - make a bigger and more obvious Patreon button on your site!

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  15. I happily donated for the first time to a "writer" such as yourself today Jim. Over the last year I've appreciated your voice and it's impact on my thoughts and actions. Keep up the quality work.

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  16. I'm a Patreon patron, but this month's payment didn't go out because replacement debit card blah blah blah. I'll fix that as soon as the goddamn card comes in (18 days so far). Keep giving them hell.

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  17. I've been meaning to donate for a while now, so to make up for it, I've taken out a subscription. Thanks for all of your hard work!

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  18. My grandpa was a writer and the biggest influence in my life. He said he was the fastest two finger typist in DC.
    Us chickens �� have your back

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  19. Tried to donate using Discover. After entering required info, all of it, it said Discover declined. No explanation.

    I tried again and it would not bring up either the credit card page or the paypal page.

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    Replies
    1. Tried again today. Shows only 0.00 and just shakes when I enter either paypal or credit card.

      Delete
    2. You have to enter a dollar amount first before it lets you enter paypal info.

      Delete
    3. Thank you! Simple, but I did duhn't figure it out.

      Delete
  20. Just tried the "Donate with PayPal" link; it gives me a page with $0.00 and a couple buttons below it ("Donate with PayPal" and "Donate with Debit or Credit Card"). Using Chrome on MacOS, I can't enter a value in the field. I tried a number of things to get it to work and nothing seems to. Gonna set up a regular Patreon donation instead; your efforts are worth it.

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  21. Thanks for all you do. I'm new, got lucky. I'm not as clever as you or your ardent followers, but appreciate your hard work, opinions, and some opportunities to laugh in these times. I'll donate.

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  22. What The hell. I can skip a couple of cheese sandwiches every month.

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  23. Glad to make a contribution in appreciation of both your writing talents and the effort invested in creating our online community. Grateful to be a member.

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  24. Glad to give a contribution, but I wish it could be more as you deserve it!

    Thank you for your writing.

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  25. I was finally able to donate a small amount. I really wish I could do more, but hopefully every little bit helps.

    Thank you for all you do!

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  26. Sorry to hear that your woodworking has suffered. Do you need shop space? Not enough of you to go around? What does ShopKat think about all this? I certainly don't mean to pry, but I know what rosewood shavings do to for my mental health.

    Due to the current godawful political environment we find ourselves in, my limited amount of resources is going to things like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and other similar things, but I always save a bit for you, Mr. Wright. You are the Business; thanks.

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  27. I love your posts and have contributed via PayPal previously. Now, I'll contribute the small amount I can via Patreon. It's not much, but I hope it helps you continue your great work. Thanks, Jim!

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  28. I'm happy to pay for quality journalism, but, didn't want to embarrass myself by asking a dumb question about Patreon sponsorship. I sent you an email and hope you can find that time to respond, thanks, Marie

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  29. Currently a $5/mo contributor for your tip bin. Happy to help the cause.

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  30. Well worth the money!

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  31. Happy to oblige. I understand the business of relocating, it can be hell. I understand the business of writing, it can be hell. I understand the business of being self-employed, IT IS HELL.

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  32. Done. Wish I could do more, but I am of modest means at the moment. I did what I could and hope others do the same. Thanks for all you do Jim!

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  33. Happy to donate, Jim. As noted elsewhere, you're a worthy enterprise, and a damn fine writer.

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  34. This was the reminder I needed to finally set up the monthly donation via Patreon. Which I keep reading as Patronus.

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  35. Oh God, the joy of trying to figure out which accounts have to be updated when my debit card (or my husband's) is compromised and reissued....ugh.

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  36. Perhaps you didn't plan on writing about politics. Perhaps your talents in other areas aren't being utilized right now. It seems to me at times we are called to do what needs doing, and your writing about politics is something that our times, and we, desperately need. Thank you. Been meaning to send in a donation for a while. Your note was the reminder I needed. - Martha Zimmerman

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  37. Wow, Paypal worked for me for the first time and I didn't have to go over to Patreon like I did for my monthly. Keep up the good work.

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  38. I need to scrape the rust off the PayPal account.
    I have no idea how Amazon works but they claim no knowledge of you. Any way to fix that? I'll buy your book.

    I'm often struck by the cluelessness of "fans" who assure the author they'll read the book - as soon as the library gets a copy!

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  39. Did it and glad I did! And I wish it was more.

    Been "stealing" your stuff for a while. Your post on being in high school during Carter years, the Iran hostages, your anger; then your later-in-life awakening - brilliant! Been trying to tell that to my Reich-wing 'friends' forever - it ain't easy, there's always more involved, and there are NO simple solutions to complex problems.

    A.J. (At one time in my life, 1st Inf. Div.)

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  40. This is one less person to shake down for your dollar a month! Keep up the great work, I always enjoy how thoughtful your essays are.

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  41. I'm a retiree, so I don't have a lot, but I enjoy reading your essays and I want you to continue.

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