I had buried my ten-year-old nephew Caleb in the sand and I recorded his amusing diatribe as he tried to escape. It's had a little over 400 views, life to date.
Less than a year later, I recorded my friend Mary's adorable father demonstrating how to play the musical saw. He was still dressed in his tuxedo, having just returned from a night at the symphony with his wife. That video has over 30,000 views.
Thanks to the success of "How to Play the Musical Saw," YouTube invited me to be a partner in their AdSense program, meaning that I could make money if I decided to run ads on my videos. I figured "what the heck" and gave it a go. I monetized the applicable videos and went so far as encouraging my friends and family to click on them when they saw them.
That's right. I actually encouraged my watchers to click through and visit the websites of my advertisers. If I was an advertiser, I would want a million of me.
Now, when you sign up for AdSense, you promise not to spend all day watching your own videos and clicking on all your own ads. I made this promise and never did anything to violate it. I don't have enough time in the day to do my own stuff, never mind waste hours clicking on YouTube just to earn $0.02.
I knew it wouldn't be a moneymaker--there are plenty of articles about how much creators *don't* make on YouTube. But in the publishing world (especially these days) every little bit helps.
The minimum you must earn before AdSense will cut you a check is $100. As of yesterday my earnings total was a little over $68.
Next month, Caleb turns 17.
In April of last year, I launched my vlog series "Princess Alethea's Fairy Tale Rants." Every Monday, I post a short video of myself summing up one of the original Grimm or Andersen or Lang and then chatting a bit about the ridiculous parts. It's a labor of love that's gained me more subscribers than views, but it's kept me going.
The Rants were awesome to have as my year slowly went to Hell in a Handbasket. If you watch the whole series from the beginning, you know when I was in Baltimore for my sister's surgery, or when I was in Newport News while Granny was on life support. I pulled in guest stars along the way, including my best friend Casey in Charlotte, NC...where I went after breaking up with my significant other and before moving to Florida.
I took a hiatus on the rants after Jay Lake died this summer. I had just gotten back on the horse--I even wrote an essay about vlogging for the SFWA blog!--when my nephew unexpectedly and inexplicably passed away.
I did not explain my absence, I just didn't vlog. I received fan letters asking if I would continue the rants and I assured them I would. I just didn't say when.
It was an inspirational STAR workshop led by Roxanne St. Claire that got me back in the race. I decided that the universe--and NY publishing--had beat me up enough. I was going to start self-publishing in a serious way. I was going to assemble my fans--those lovely people I've spent a decade cultivating into dear friends--into a Street Team. I was going to revive my old newsletter. And I was going to start ranting again.
All of these things happened in the same weekend. I posted the newest Fairy Tale Rant. I wrote about it in my newsletter. I shared it on Twitter and G+ and Facebook and everywhere else I could think of. I told the Street Team about it, and mentioned that they should click on the ads when they saw them.
Yesterday, I got an email from YouTube (bolding is mine).
With our advertising programs we strive to create an online ecosystem that benefits publishers, advertisers, and users. For this reason we sometimes have to take action against accounts that show behavior towards users or advertisers that may negatively impact how the ecosystem is perceived. In your case, we have detected invalid activity on your AdSense account and as a result it has been disabled.
We are limited in the amount of information we can provide about your specific violation. We understand that you may want more information about your account activity. However, in order to protect our proprietary detection systems, we are unable to provide further details.
Essentially, they cut me off and didn't have to give a reason.
They also kept my $68.
I was allowed to appeal, however, which I immediately did. The appeal was an online form, in which I was given the chance to explain my actions...even though I had no idea why they disabled my account. My best guess was that the Street Team had gone in and watched all my videos and clicked on all my ads.
That's right, two weeks before Black Friday, I sent a bunch of dedicated fans to click through to all the advertisers on my videos.
Obviously, I deserve to be punished for that.
Very early this morning, I received an email from YouTube saying that my appeal had been denied, and my account was now officially terminated.
I tried to sum the whole affair up to my mother over coffee, and as I was detailing what I had written in my appeal, she held up a hand. "You don't even know what you're appealing, am I right?"
"Yes," I said. "That's true."
"Then let's face it. It's a classic Bait-and-Switch. You were getting close to your $100 minimum and they decided to keep your money. Plain and simple."
Thanks to YouTube being "unable to provide further details," I don't know who is right, me or Mom. Part of me doesn't want to know, because I don't like thinking that I live in a world where a huge money-making gigantosaur like YouTube is petty enough to yank $68 away from a struggling, glitter-covered vlogger in a tiara three weeks before Christmas.
The silver lining in all of this is that my fans now don't have to sit through all the advertising that clutters up my videos. Plus, I can now forward all my links to Patreon, where fans of the series can donate as little as $1 per episode if they like the show, instead of having to click on all those links and pop-ups.
But I'm not going to lie...that $68 still bothers me. And if YouTube was a person standing right here in front of me, I'd probably kick him in the shins.