The sexy website Lucrezia Magazine has published some stuff from my new book Sex Sin and Zen.
Here's their review.
And here's an except they published from the book.
And speaking of that book, I have about 6 copies of Sex Sin and Zen, maybe eight of Hardcore Zen and a few Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate but no copies of Sit Down and Shut Up (sorry!). So for a limited time, I will sell you a personally autographed copy for just $25 (it's a rip off! You can get 'em for way less than that without someone's writing inside!). Send in a donation (the button is on your left) and attach a note saying which book you want and who you want it signed to and the address to send it to. I can't promise they'll make it in time for Christmas. But I'll do my best. If I happen to get orders after the books are gone, I'll refund your donation.
Why am I doing this? Because New York is like a giant vacuum cleaner sucking up all my money -- even though I have the most amazingly cheap rent you could ever imagine.
So I thought it's about time I wrote an article I've been thinking about for a good long while. I've called this "The Economics of Zen." But it's more the economics of Brad. Still, I think there's a lot in my specific personal experience that relates to many people in this business. I hope this post won't come off like a bunch of whining, but instead be somewhat instructive and useful.
Before I begin, I want to state clearly that even though I will be referencing some future speaking gigs that I'm in the process of setting up, none of what I'm going to say here should be taken as any kind of a veiled message to the people I'm organizing those gigs with. Whatever I've needed to say to you I have said or will say directly. But the examples are too good to pass up. So I'm going to use them. Just don't read anything into this stuff. OK? Thanks!
OK. I often receive invitations to speak in cool exotic places. And I love speaking in cool exotic places. This year I've been to Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Helsinki, Belfast, Wupetal and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, just to name a few! It's great.
But I think a lot of people who send me invitations don't really get what all's involved. Many people assume, for starters, that I make a decent living off of book royalties. Not so. What I get from book royalties alone keeps me well below poverty level. There is no way I could live off just book royalties unless maybe I moved to a corrugated cardboard box in the basement of Shinjuku Station or something. Seriously, though, I did search for a place in the USA that I could afford just on book sales and came up with nothing. Not even in Akron, Ohio!
Like almost every author I have to supplement my income somehow. What I've been trying to do the past two years is to do what lots of writers do and supplement my book earnings through speaking gigs.
Let's say you invite me to come speak in Bloomington, Indiana. You get me for two days. You offer me a generous $200. Hey! That's $100 per day. Not bad! And really, if you think of it that way, it's not.
But for me to get to Bloomington, Indiana, I have to spend three or four days just getting there and getting back home. And in order to be able to be available for a gig in Bloomington, I can't be holding down a regular five-days-a-week 9-5 job. No job I can think of would be happy with me running off at random intervals for a week at a time.
This is why I usually ask for traveling expenses and a speaking fee. My fees, by the way, are really low from what I've been able to learn about what other writers and Buddhist teachers charge.
Some people invite me saying that I can collect donations (dana) and sell books. That's OK. But sometimes I get to a place and sell three books and the dana ends up being like $75. It's too risky for me to give up other potential income (like a 9-5 job, for example) on that kind of a gamble.
Remember there's no retirement plan in this and no health insurance scheme. Then there's the car and its insurance. It's all gotta come out of my pocket.
Various people I've encountered or read about in the Buddhist teacher business have different means of dealing with this sort of thing. Many belong to large organizations who have networks of temples and can support them should donations not be enough. One guy, a Canadian I met in Japan, was from a sect that doesn't allow him to handle money. But I found his tactics a bit suspect. He was very slick about getting the people around him to pay for all kinds of stuff that I couldn't afford -- and I was working a real job at the time I encountered him. I wouldn't feel right doing that kind of thing. I'm too proud and Midwestern maybe. I could do the Genpo Roshi thing and ask for $50,000 to spend five days in a luxury hotel with me. If anyone wants to make that offer, I'm ready to talk. Yeah, right.
I talked to a Zen teacher I respect in California who told me that what he does is ask for a "minimum dana." I haven't tried this myself yet. But I might.
So now I'm thinking about what to do next. All the traveling I'm doing is fun, but it wears a fella out! Plus it's only just barely covering basic living expenses. I'm really grateful for all the donations and suchlike I've received. It's a beautiful thing. I can't tell you how wonderful. I know a lot of people are digging deep for my sake. It's a tremendous thing. But, at the level I'm at now, I'd have to be traveling almost constantly just to get by.
I made things work for most of 2010 by not having an apartment of my own and just trusting things would work out. They did. But being homeless is tough. Think about it. Where do you pick up your mail? I've had about six temporary addresses this year. A lot of important stuff has gone missing.
I have gigs in February and March that'll probably come close to covering my rent. Hey, I may even make a little scratch. But after that I'm seriously considering packing in the traveling author/teacher thing and just getting a normal job again. That is, if there are any of those left anymore.
I hope this doesn't sound too complaining. Sometimes the few people who already understand what's involved take things I say about this stuff way too personally and think I'm whining about them. I'm not. Or else people bitch in the comments section about how I promote my books and stuff. Yes, I do. I have to. Nobody else is doing it.
I'm not really complaining. Life is good. I just feel like, since I get so many invitations all the time, it's good to let everyone know what it is they're asking when they invite me to come speak somewhere.
And for all of you wondering where the "dharma" is, well, this is it. Lots of folks don't talk about this side of it. But it's there and it always has been.
Thanks for listening!