What’s an Author Worth?
I’ve been thinking about this for a while and then came across an article in the Huffington Post that had a similar thought. Since it’s always nice to find a kindred spirit, I decide to join in the debate. Why do self-published authors sell themselves so short that they charge less than $1 for their efforts?
Sorry readers, I’ll apologize in advance if this causes book prices to go up on your favorite independent author, but it’s truly a fair question. Publisher set prices on Amazon generally in the $6.99-$9.99 range for their electronic versions and frequently even more. Yet many self-published authors have engaged in a race to the bottom for something they have worked on for hundreds, if not thousands of hours. In many cases, the quality of the book is every bit as good, and entertaining, as more established authors.
Here in the USA you can find someone reading on their kindle, or tablet, in every coffee shop in the country. They spent an average of $4.50 for that coffee and, if they ordered coffee cake on the side, they’ve invested $7.00 in total to sit and read their $0.99 book. If they go watch the movie the book was based on, they spent $14.00/ticket and another $6.00 for a soda-pop.
So how did $.99 cent books become so prevalent in a world that is so frivolous? Why do independent authors feel their work has so little value that they will charge less than the coffee their reader is drinking?
Due the nature of my “day-job” I’m forced to do math on a daily basis. So let’s break this down to hard numbers, which I will round up and be optimistic towards your total number of sales. If you are charging $1 (Actually $0.99) for your book, and Amazon pays out 35%, you are making $.35 per book. If you are phenomenally successful and manage to sell 100,000 books you will make $35,000 in total. (according t bookscan the average number of copies a book sells is now only 250 per year and 3000 over its lifetime.)
Neither I, nor anyone else is going to complain about an extra $35,000 but if you are writing, or trying to write as a career, then let’s break that number down a little farther.
I write about 4 hours a day 5 or sometimes 6 days a week:
Low-end 20 hours a week.
In most cases it takes 6 months to a year to finish the entire story (FBOM took over a year):
Low-end 26 weeks
Editing and proofreading another month or more:
Low-end 4 weeks
Formatting and cover design (let’s assume you pay for it to be done):
Minimum $300 for basic services or as high as $8000 for professional design and copyediting.:
Low-end reality $1000
Total hours: 600
Average rate per hour IF you sell 100,000 books?
$56.67 (includes $1000 up-front costs)
That sounds like a pretty good day for most people, but keep in mind those numbers are all on the low end and assume a very successful number of books to being sold. If you are only moderately successful and sell 10,000 books (3 times the national average) that number drops down to $5.67/hour. If you simply come in with average sales numbers of 3000 over the life of the book… $1.75/hour.
That, my friends, is why publishers don’t charge $.99/book. It’s not because they are ridiculously greedy (although they might be that as well), it’s because they need the ability to recover the costs they spent in order to get the book to market, whether it is printed or in an electronic format. They’ve done the math… Have you?