13 July

Subscriptions; My New Life, The New Way, The Next Step

by Jon Katz

This is my monthly post on subscribing. Please do.

Day by day, inch by inch, word by word, photo by photo, dog by dog, horse by donkey, friend by friend, I move closer towards my dream of building a new kind of creative life, a new kind of writing life. Every day since those very hard days on the big farm, when my world disintegrated, when publishing collapsed, when the economy imploded, when my life came undone – it was as if hit my world was hit by some huge bomb dropped by the sky – I have set out to explore the idea that I could build a new and productive life as a creative, as a writer and a photographer.

I got the help I needed, faced the truths I needed to face, but I never gave up on writing, on words and images. I never will.

I had been a writer for more than three decades, and how I loved that world. More than 25 books, some best-sellers, book tours all over the country. I was one of those rare creatures who made a living as a writer for most of my life. I was so proud to say I was a book writer, an author. My life came undone as did the lives of so many of the people reading this, and I chose to not be defeated by this, to remain a writer and change.

So I am a writer still, and have not been defeated, like so many of my friends and colleagues. The world of the writer, once so protected, has become a harsh and challenging place. I welcome it and accept the challenge. I am no longer only a book writer, I am also a blogger and photographer and essayist. My blog has grown beyond my own imagination, more than four million people a year visit the site. I write books, but they are no longer the primary source of my work and my income, they are one important part of it.

The challenge for me all along has been to find a way to earn a steady income, one that would replace the old and dismantled system of royalties and substantial book advances. I could whine about the future or join it. The blog was my biggest gamble, at the time i started it, blogs were the subject of much eye-rolling and disgust in the literary world and in corporate publishing. They are expensive to design and maintain.

Two years ago, an Internet marketer and documentarian came to interview me and he challenged me – quite directly – to face the future and begin a subscription program for my blog. It is good, you publish it every day, your photographs are strong and free, you need to ask people who read it to contribute to it’s upkeep and give you a way to make a living. You have, he said, the right to be paid for your work. I was stunned, it was so true I was also reluctant, nervous, it was a huge step for me, a very proud author who loved to say he made a living writing books.

And what if people didn’t think I was worth it, abandoned me in droves, as so many writers have felt themselves abandoned by the new realities of the publishing world.

Divorce late in life is a good teacher, it helps bring perspective to life, the big shot in me wobbled and toppled over,  like some statue of Stalin in Red Square. I got to work. I love my  blog, it is my great work, my living memoir, one day it will replace much, maybe even all, of the income I lost during my troubles and storms.

The marketer was right when he said most people would not subscribe, but I am eternally grateful to him. Many people have subscribed, and they have made a huge difference. Blog subscriptions have really helped me do my work over the last two years, they helped me survive the process of transition and exploration and risk, very much ongoing. This continues to be a challenging time for me and for Maria. For four years, we fought to keep the first Bedlam Farm out of foreclosure, and we succeeded, but at great cost – we ended up in debt and with our savings gone. Beyond that, I need to do major work on my website and blog to make it compatible with the revolution in mobile phone and tablet reading.

That will cost $10,000 and I may have to explore a crowdsourcing project to do it.  I need some new photo equipment as well, the technology to do this kind of blog is expensive. I will figure it out.

Today, I view subscriptions differently. It is simply a way to get paid for my work. The subscriptions are as safe as they can be. It is simple to subscribe, even easier to cancel. You can use Paypal or major credit cards. You can also send a check to Bedlam Farm, c/o P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. A week before subscriptions expire, you will be notified and given a chance to bail out.  I understand the financial lives of people are not simple. I am touched by the messages of support that I constantly receive. I am proud that the blog matters to people.  For your safety, I have no access to your subscription programs or you money. You subscribe, only you can cancel, it is quite simple.

There is a tag (soon to get even bigger) on the subscription page where you can manage your account, raise or lower payments, leave it alone or cancel it instantly.

No financial information is stored on this site, two different security programs protect it. I offer three different levels of payment – $3 a month, $5 a month, $60 a year. You can the full blog either way, nothing is held back from anyone. The money supports the blog and the photography and to some extent, the cost of the animals on the farm. It is a small farm, a simple life, but life in America is not really ever simple these days. The blog is free to everyone, those who pay or those who can’t or won’t. I want to keep it that way, so many of youstuck with me, I will always stick with you.

The blog is the story of a life, told as authentically and openly as possible. It is my great work, my living memoir. And it is the story of my love for Maria and my life with her. It is also the story of the animals on the farm, of my small town, of some of the wonderful people who have come into my life.

Somebody asked me why I started the blog, why I work at it so continuously. It’s because I get messages like this from Janette:

“I am so happy I found your daily blog.   What an inspiration to all animal-lovers like me.  I look at your photos of all your beautiful animals so FREE to just be and the tears of joy just roll down my face.  I love what you and Maria are experiencing and how it touches my soul every day that you share your experience with us.  It’s my dream to be in an environment like that and I am working on it a day at a time.”

That’s why I do it. That means the world to me.

Of late, I have been writing about the wish of so many people to keep animals in our lives, there are a growing number of persecutions of animal lovers that seem unjust and unreasonable to me. I want to keep writing about that issue. The blog has grown in range and audience, something I would like to keep encouraging. It is both important and creative to explore stories like Joshua Rockwood’s poignant struggle with charges of animal cruelty and the remarkable rise of Blue Star Equiculture as a model for the future of animals and the love of people in our world. In fact, the future seems to be a theme for me, in my own life, in the animal world.

I’m not sure what the blog is worth, but the idea of Internet marketing is to get large numbers of people paying small amounts. I like the model. This was unimaginable to me just a short time ago. The big shot dies slowly. But I like it, it is good to be paid for one’s work.

My blog will always be personal and open,  the story of my life (with Maria) and of my animals, but it is also the story of the effort to understand them and keep animals in our world, even as they are irrationally and increasingly being taken from us. I want to contribute to that. You get the real Jon Katz, good or bad.

So if  you can, please subscribe. It is a small amount of money, it is helping me fulfill my dream to cross the great bridges of change and help pave the way for writers to remain writers, for words and truth and ideas to matter in a chaotic world. If writers cannot be paid for their work, there will be no writers.  If you can’t afford to subscribe – very few of those four million people do – you are very welcome here, and thanks either way.

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