Start here with Derek Murphy’s wise words:
The number of times I’ve wanted to punch someone for implying that artists ought to starve to create, that our lives and time aren’t worth more than pennies, is a number higher than zero but not a number so high that you need to call the police. So put the phone down.
See that last sentence? “It’s also the reason we have an epidemic of authors who are feeding a billion dollar publishing industry by spending more than they make on their books.” That’s not a joke. That’s the very awful reality of many authors.
Because, somewhere out there in the web of crazy that is the internet, someone told a young author that giveaways and a pretty cover will sell books. The advice looks something like this…
“To throw a good launch you’ll need a great cover ($800), giveaways ($300 w/ shipping), a launch party ($50 for cake and plates), and don’t forget to send reviewers copies of your book ($7/book/reviewer going up to $500 to pay a big name publication to review your indie work)!”
That will generate a lot of buzz. But you’re spending up to $2000 out-of-pocket to promote the book and earning royalties of something like $0.30 to $3.00 per sale (depending on price and royalty rates). If your book is selling as a 99cent ebook (very popular for a time on Amazon) you need to sell close to 7000 copies of your book to break even.
At that rate, the author will earn back their money in 26.6 years.
BUT ONLY IF THEY KEEP SELLING.
This is where it all falls apart. People do these big launches, they maximize their newsletters, invest in their careers, and then launch a book into the world that is the what cat drool is to caviar. A poorly written book isn’t going to sell.
I mean, sure, you can buy 5000 copies of your own book and make it look great, but it won’t be a great book. You might get a buzz off of it. If it’s erotica you might get a few sales from hate reads. But a bad book isn’t going to sell 250 copies a year. It isn’t going to sell 7000 copies in 27 years. The idea that an author should write anything they want without thinking about market, audience, genre, or deadlines is absolute horse hockey. Telling writers to write in a vacuum, writing for passion rather than pay, destroys careers and leave authors broke and suffering.
Good authors write on deadlines with an audience in mind.
To quote a friend, “Shakespeare wrote to deadlines, with actors standing, handed out for the scripts he had written that day. Dickens wrote for a magazine with a deadline. If he didn’t write quickly, his story did not appear. Same for Conan Doyle.”
Good authors publish so they can get paid.
Writing is an intimate act. For some it’s therapeutic, for other people it’s a hobby. When you publish you are saying to the world, “I have this thing of value, that I have invested time, thought, and education into. It has worth. It will be good for you. It will sell.”
Never apologize for telling the world what you are worth.
There will always be people lining up to tell you that you, your time, your effort, your education, your intelligence, your talent isn’t worth paying for. Those people are liars and thieves who are hoping to take advantage of you. Ignore them. You have worth. Your work and your effort have worth. A year of your life writing and editing a novel has worth. Real, actual, measurable, pay-me-in-cash worth.
Authors as a collective group need to stop humbly accepting the push to starve authors, to make us work for free. A world without art is not one worth living in. Books are an affordable luxury, a vacation in 300 pages. Books are love, comfort, and family to the lonely. Books are happy memories for the sad. Books are magic. The world needs books, it needs authors, and it doesn’t need anyone to starve and suffer to make the world a better place (the whole There Must Be Poor! fallacy is something we can discuss another day).
Know your worth. Charge what you are worth, plus a little extra for inflation. And don’t apologize for getting paid.