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Writing in Terms of $$

I seldom post anything about the marketing/profit/sales side of writing, but here goes.

 There’s always been discussion about how much is too much to spend on an ebook.  Some people say they never spend more than $2.99, even for big authors. Some say they don ‘t spend more than $0.99. Others say they get only free books. Some feel like they get a better deal to buy a paper book than a digital one.  Some use the public library for most of their books. But everyone seems to think that ebooks are priced too high. And when I can get a paperback for less than I’d pay for the e-version, I have to agree. Well, my recent excursion into self-publishing has opened my eyes about the business side of writing. I had seriously never broken it down to dollars and cents before. Boy, what a shock! o_o

 Suppose an author spends 100 hours to write, revise, rewrite and polish a 50,000 word book. S/he then hires an editor at $250, cover art for $100, a formatter for $35.00. The author spends $100 for advertising. S/he has spent about $385. How many copies does s/he need to sell on Amazon at $0.99 to break even? S/he would receive about $0.345 per copy in royalties. That means that to just break even, 1116 copies would need to be sold. That doesn’t pay the author for the hours s/he put into writing.

I can see why so many authors choose to skip paying for editing. After all, they want to make at least some profit to help pay the bills while they write the next book. I have read some books that the author edited him/herself and they were great, well-written books. And I have read some that were not.

It’s easy to believe that every book will sell 1000 copies, but frankly, they don’t.  750-1000 copies over a year is pretty normal. A successful author might sell 2000 copies, which would bring in $690, or a profit of $305. How many of us would be willing to make $305.00 for 150 hours of work? Personally, I’d like to make a little more than $2.00 an hour! I guess there’s a reason authors jokingly refer to themselves as “starving artists”. But is it really a  joke?

I understand that a lot of readers have only so much money to spare for buying books. I’m right there with you. Money is tight these days for a lot of us. About the time a mom has finished buying school clothes in September, it’s time to start buying  Christmas presents, and it’s tough to squeeze out even $20.00 out of a tight budget for ourselves.  But reading, even at $7.99 a book, is still pretty cheap entertainment. How much do we pay to go to a movie? I would say $9.00 is a usual price for the ticket. Do we buy popcorn and a drink too? So for 2 hours of entertainment we could spend easily $15.00.  We could buy two ebooks for that price, and have 10 or more hours of enjoyment. Actually, more, because I can re-read that same book a few months later for no extra charge, but I’d have to pay again to watch the movie.

Maybe the movie analogy isn’t the best. An avid movie goer probably goes to 3-4 movies a month. An avid reader might read 4-5 books a week. But I wanted to give you some information about the business side of writing. I write because I love to do it, but the royalties are nice too. 🙂  I figure most people have no idea how the royalties work, so I thought I’d share.


10 Responses to Writing in Terms of $$

  • I totally understand what you are saying about the cost to authors and what they charge for books. Where the problem lies for me is that I will pay over 5.00 for a print book, have many, many times but ebooks have different rules. A print book I can loan to anyone, at any time, as many times as I want because it became mine when I bought it, but an ebook doesn’t have the same rules. If you own a nook and the author, publisher or whoever it is that decides these things allows it, you can loan a book to one person. I haven’t figured out if you can do that with the kindles or not yet.

    I guess what I am saying is the readers want to pay for what they get. Yes! We love our authors. The books all of you write take us to places some of us couldn’t go to otherwise. Do I think you have earned and deserve more, yes. However, us readers feel the same. I have no problem paying up to 5.00 for an ebook and here again, have many times. I have even paid over that if I had the extra to do it, but it just seems unfair that we can’t share the book with our family. My daughter is a single mom, doing her best with a part-time job, no insurance of any kind, to raise her daughter.. The last thing she can do is buy books. That is an extravagance she just can’t afford. I buy print books to give to her when I am able to make a trip to see her. But, for every print book I buy, that is 2 or 3 ebooks I don’t buy. So, while one author might be making a bit of money off of one book, the other authors aren’t making anything from me one the ones that I couldn’t buy. Does that make sense? Sometimes I mix my words.

    Anyway, I just want to be able to buy the books I want to read from the authors I love and have them make some money at the same time as me and my family are enjoying their hard work. I don’t know if an even ground can ever be found for this.

    • Yes, Deb, you’re right about the differences between print and digital books. In the “old days” before I had an ereader, me and two friends would have a monthly lunch date and then we’d go to the bookstore. We’d discuss which books each of us would get, and then we’d trade back and forth. It was an economical way for us to try new authors and read a series. It was a win-win. If one of us LOVED a new author, chances were that person would collect the other books from that author. If a book wasn’t a hit, we would sell it to the used bookstore and we didn’t feel like we’d wasted a lot of money. I had a good time, with good friends who loved reading too. I miss those days!

      Personally, I have no problem with friends lending an ebook between themselves. Just like if it were a paperback, it would be with one person at a time, so
      it’s not like I was lending a book to 500 of my closest friends, and each of them also lending it to their friends, etc, etc.

      Thanks for commenting, Deb. I appreciate hearing your opinion.

      • I guess I am too honest sometimes. In 99% of the ebooks it states that we are not to share them in any shape of form and if we want a copy for a family member or friend to buy another one. That would be fine if I didn’t have to pay the same amount for an ebook that I pay for a print book, but here again, I don’t want the author to lose out and feel like they can’t continue to write because then the rest of us would lose out.

        I’m glad you give permission to share with friends and family. I don’t have any friends to share with as I am home 99% of the time. I will however share with my daughter. She won’t share with anyone else.

  • I don’t know about most people, but I probably spent about 20 to 25 per week on books. I am mostly at home due to health problems, I haven’t been ton a movie in over 15 yrs. It not a matter of the cost of the book but if it is interesting, I can re read book weeks or months down the road. I don’t shop a lot so reading is my hobby. My husband says go for it. I hope the writers get to make more money on each book. Because without you all I would be lost. A good book is better than watching TV.

  • Sounds great, Deb. Hope she enjoys!
    These single moms need a break now and then!

  • Belinda, books have always been good friends to me. I hardly ever go to a movie. There’s not that many that I really want to see, but there are always books I want to read! And there are a few books that I re-read every year. 🙂

  • I’m an avid reader and I read a book a day. I’ve read like this for over 10 years now. My entertainment is reading and writing. I spend about $65.00 a month on books and I do reread several. I used to buy books from book stores then my house became like a library and my children complained as did my husband, I bought a kindle and sold the books on ebay. Now everyone is happy. I go to the movies at least once a month here in NY. the movie is $12.50 each add the cost of popcorn and soda and in total it’s $32.50 times 2 equals $65.00.That’s why I buy $65.00 worth of books instead.

    • Martine, I still have some books in paperback, but my entire apartment is decorated in “bookcase eclectic”! Being able to buy books on my kindle is a life saver. I have some series in three different formats. Like Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series. Some are in paperback, some are in hard cover and some are in .mobi. It’s really nice, though, to be able to download a book while I’m in my jammies instead of waiting for the store to open, getting dressed, driving …

  • I also am an avid reader and use my money from a second job to buy books. I agree that an author has the right to charge what they wish and the reader has the right to choose not to buy. I am also in agreement with the fact that you should be able to loan an e-book the same that you do a paperback. I admire you Ms. Barone for being one of the FEW authors that allow loaning. I read on kindle and it is very easy to loan your book out just click on actions. I enjoy the world you have built and look forward to each new book. Your books make me happy when I read them. You are a generous author with your website and the small books you give us (your .5 books). You understand a reader cares about all characters not just the main ones.

    • Hey, Julie, I’ve discovered some of my favorite authors and series because I borrowed a book from a friend. Sometimes I’m just too strapped for cash to be able to buy every book that looks interesting. Once I found I really enjoyed a book, I would usually buy myself a copy, and then buy other books by that author. If I hadn’t been able to borrow the book, I might not ever have found some of my faves.

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