Please help me continue doing what I love best
This site has been running since 2006, when I foresaw a downturn in the newspaper industry that had been my bread and butter since 1988. As of today, you’ll notice a new feature to the right (or, if this column has been archived, on the right side of the home page). That new feature is a donate button.
It’s there because today I’m doing something I never wanted to do: I’m going to ask you to help me continue running this site, writing my books and speaking out about serious topics like child sexual abuse and domestic violence.
If you’ve read my book, you know the newspaper industry helped save my four children and I from going on the public dole. But even more important, it provided us with a decent standard of living and gave me the chance to stand where I do today: as a survivor who has come very, very far from the battered, frightened and woefully insecure victim she once was.
In 2008, as the print journalism world took a steep nosedive, I left my last newspaper job at the Cumberland Times-News in Cumberland, Md. I carried away two awards for the newspaper columns that readers have known me for from the first one I wrote just before Linda Benson first gave me a weekly column in 1988, which we together titled “Vintage Berry Wine.”
I’ve tried to make this website a continuation of that very first column, as a way of reaching out to all of you—”old” readers who have followed my newspaper work—and new readers who have found out about me in other ways. I’d like to think I’ve succeeded, even though my writing hasn’t occurred at a weekly basis here. Sometimes it’s been more, but often times, it’s been much less.
That’s because last year I finally jumped into the shark-infested waters of the self-publishing world. I did this so I could give you what you’ve been asking for since you first heard of it: Sister of Silence, the memoir that covers 14 years of my life—beginning when I was sexually abused at 13, and continuing until I finally faced the demons I’d been living with for so long, by checking myself into a mental hospital in 1991.
To do this, I formed my own small, independent publishing company, Nellie Bly Books. (It’s no mistake that I named my company after one of the best journalists in the country, Elizabeth Jane Cochran, a Pittsburgh, Pa., journalist who went by the pen name “Nellie Bly.” She was credited with many things, including the invention of investigative journalism and in 1887 she went undercover at a “lunatic asylum” in New York City. Her subsequent exposè is said to have been responsible for bringing about some much-needed reforms in mental hospitals. Bly courageously exposed corruption and wrote about, among other things, social reform and unwed mothers.)
If I believed in reincarnation, I would say I was Nellie Bly in a past life. But I don’t and besides, I’ve only accomplished a tiny sliver of what she did, and my writing might be worthy of being called a poor imitation of hers, at best. But getting back to the business of writing . . .
Since I have a business degree, I knew exactly what I was doing when I formed this LLC—and why it was such a big gamble. Business classes taught me that the majority of small start-ups fail within the first year. They also taught me the best way to minimize that risk was to have enough working capital on hand to keep NBB afloat until it started to turn a profit—or for at least two years.
Using just such capital—with proceeds I’d squirreled away from my unemployment—I paid $6,000 for a small print run of 2,000 paperback copies of SOS. (This figure does not include shipping or the other hefty fees involved, such as filing for and receiving approval for the NBB logo from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.) In the meantime, I hired consultants to do some necessary work I couldn’t do (such as designing the book cover and logo, or formatting the new SOS e-book), and paid for a part-time office worker.
I also gave away hundreds of books—and ate the cost of shipping and handling myself. If you divide only the print cost above, and tack on $3.62 (the average cost to mail just one book at media rate), you will see that each paperback book has cost me more than $6 apiece. But that figure is still quite low, given all of the other work that goes into making sure you—my readers—receive the quality products you deserve.
So the measly $6K does not begin to cover the expenses I incur, when I fly to conferences and speak about about abuse, or talk to high school or college students—for which I have not been reimbursed by anyone. Nor does it cover the upcoming SOS book trailer—which will be filmed next week, and which will require two days worth of food, some lodging, a few props, and other costs for our small group.
The long and short of it is this: I had hoped to begin making a profit sooner rather than later. And while my ebook is selling quite well, even on the best days those sales nets me only a few dollars, at most. That isn’t enough to do all I need to do, to continue doing what I’ve been doing for the last 13 years. Especially when I’m not getting a salary every two weeks, like I did at my last job.
In addition, I am woefully overworked—and I’ve never been a workaholic. I’m passionate about researching, writing, and reporting, but I have other things I enjoy as well, that have nothing to do with my work. The entire reason for this particular column came about earlier this week, when I met a friend at 7:30 a.m., after just 3.5 hours of sleep, to do some volunteer work.
She and other people have been coming out of the woodwork this week, urging me to seek financial assistance in the form of donations from individuals and other companies. That’s why I’m taking their advice today. When donations have reached a level where I can continue my work without killing myself, the “Donate” button will come down. Until then, it’s there for anyone who wants to help support a “starving writer” determined to continue doing just that: writing and providing something meaningful for you to read.
Thank you for reading, for helping, and for just being here!
Editor’s note: For the time being, the donate button has been disabled.