Warning: Rationalization in Progress
Part of me treats this Web site as I would any vanity project, like knitting a sweater. If I want to spend my time knotting together lengths of dyed yarn until I have produced a luxurious but scratchy one-of-a-kind handmade garment that goes out into the world on the back of my husband for all to admire, then naturally I should bear the expense. Because, as with all creative acts, for me at least, the process itself is the reason for doing it, keeping the mind strong and flexible, learning how to tap into the source, and calming yourself with the knowledge that it's inexaustible.
However, if I wanted to offset the expense of something I enjoy doing anyway, say by trying to sell sweaters for at least what the yarn cost, plus maybe a little extra for the time involved, that doesn't make them any less warm or beautiful, except for that the sweaters wouldn't be made with a particular individual in mind, even though I could perhaps cynically sew in a label that said "Made for YOU with LOVE." The thing itself hasn't changed, though the intention it was made with has.
In the case of this Web site, I started it for myself, and then I became Internet Friends with some people who dropped in regularly and seemed to like what I was doing, and then one day I did something that felt a little weird -- I put up a link to my Amazon wishlist. Doing this is a tacit request for gifts, there's no getting around it, and it's also a way of sharing some of the things I'm interested in without bothering to post about them. Since 2002 I've received exactly two book gifts from people who read this site, and one apology from someone who wanted to buy me a certain CD on my list but couldn't, and who provided me with links to two songs on that CD that she took the time to upload onto her site so I could listen to part of the album anyway. Nice.
Last spring I took it a step farther and signed up for an Amazon Associates account, which means that whenever I provide a link to Amazon.com and someone follows that link and makes a purchase, I get, like, I don't even know, five cents and a pat on the head. So far I've earned about $19 from Amazon, which covers about five weeks of the hosting cost for this site.
But does talking about a book and providing a link that can make money for me taint the post and ruin my credibility? Yes, I suppose money ruins everything, in a way, if you let it. Or you can look at an Amazon link as a way to get more information, and you're free to click on the damn thing or not, and even if you do it's not like they pay per click, you have to go through the entire purchase process for me to get my wee little finder's fee, and you can circumvent me completely if you feel like it and just open a new window in your browser and go to Amazon by yourself and buy the thing I was talking about and cut me out of the loop completely because I'm a begging fuck. Or you can click and buy and flip me a little credit because it's your way of saying, Hey, lady, thanks for the tip.
Those two little Google ads on the left sidebar are different, I think, because they're not endorsements and I never know what's going to show up there, Google crawls the site for relevant keywords and chooses ads loosely based on something I've posted about. And they're purple and friendly and relatively low-key, and I feel okay about them. Those I think earn me (God, I have to read some of these agreements before I sign up) ten cents every time someone clicks on them? But if I click on them myself Google cancels my contract and feeds my primary e-mail address to Elbonian spam-bots.
Would these efforts to offset my relatively minor expenses (which I could avoid by going back to my free Blogspot page) be a lot more suspect if I really needed the money, man, and felt I had to burp up a daily dose of household hijinks to build traffic and get people clicking on the ads, and keep producing whatever slaphappy content gets me the most hits? Would I then be a total BLOG WHORE? I guess so, yes, and I guess I sort of am anyway. But also sort of not. You choose. You always get to choose, either close this window and never come back because money turns everything it touches into shit, or ignore the ads and keep getting whatever it is you get out of this site for free, or leave me an interesting comment (which is kind of better than money, really), or if you're still even reading this anymore and you think money is an appropriate way to show approval you can do all the clicky things I've talked about.
Your choice. Either way I'm still going to be here, doing this, because like I said, I am all hot-diggety about the process.