I posted this a while back under Minimum Wage For Authors. It's still true today, for the most part. I will add a few things in to update it, however. Pricing and Marketing go hand in hand. How you publish also makes a difference with your marketing plans.
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I hear from people who ask me why they should pay .99 for a short story because that's highway robbery. Well, besides the fact that a short story can tell you if you would like to buy more of this author's work in longer form or even more short stories, let's go to Math 101. First we'll take the case of a self-published author.
You walk into a fast food place and think about the employees who would like to enjoy a livable wage. Some say $15 an hour is fair. Okay, let's take the case of an author who sells a short story of 3,000 words for .99. Whoah, you say. That is really short. Yes, it is. But is it worth at least what a small order of French fries would cost you?
I say without a doubt.
3,000 words equates to around twelve pages. The author has to pay for cover art for the ebook. Let's say $50 for that, if you're lucky. Formatting is $1 a page. Editing at least that. Maybe double. So without the author's time, we're at $80 already. If the author is a super whizz-bang and can write the tale in three hours, should she/he not be paid at least as much as the burger employee? Of course. Add another $45. We're up to $125 now. And this does not include marketing so someone knows the author's book is out there to buy. Add another $50 at least between the author's time and a paid professional's time.$175 now.
These are rock-bottom prices that you'll be lucky to get.
So how many books on Amazon does the author need to sell? You will get around .35 royalty per book. Thus, the author needs to sell roughly 500 books to cover the $175. How many authors do this with the typical ebook? Not many. 12 hours at $15/hour comes to $180, so we're close here.
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Now lets take the case of an author going with a small Press. There will be only two expense factors here: the author's time, which will be the same $45, and doing their share of the marketing. Add in $25. Total time at $15/hour comes to $70.
At 4.7 hours, the author needs to sell 400 books to reach minimum wage if the Press and the author each share the royalties evenly. Not every Press is as generous as this. The Press needs to sell roughly 600 books to cover expenses, while the author has to sell 100 less books to stay at minimum wage. The Press needs to sell 200 more because of the added expense. Of course, once the 600 books are sold, the Press is making money because it is now in the black for this book. Again, the chance is this might not occur. So in this model, the author comes out ahead going with a Press, at least until the book sells a lot of copies. Even disregarding the minimum wage factor for a second, we see that at 400 books sold, the author has $70 and the Press has $70, but the Press is in the red by $29.
At any rate, no matter how you look at it, the author deserves minimum wage. A lot of books need to be sold to make the author some money.
So, the next time someone asks you why they should pay .99 for a great story, spout the facts.
It is about time authors started getting fair compensation for their work.
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A few things I want to add to this post. These are my own personal feelings. You are free to agree or disagree.
In the cases above, the author makes more money going with a small Press because of the lack of outside expenses. All well and good. However, how many Presses continually hang around? The list is short. Many Presses lose money. Part of it due to an author not pulling their weight with marketing. Some of these authors complain the Press is not doing enough for them when in reality it is the author who is the weak link. It's getting increasingly more difficult finding a Press willing to take on an author who does not have a viable marketing plan in order. One case in point: you better have a website and you better use it. In the right manner of course. I'll be bringing in more examples of this as we go along.
There is also another way to attack this. Let's say two people, as in the case of Blazing Owl Press, do all the work. They do the writing, editing, formatting, and cover art. Terri and I edit each others work. We're both editors as well as authors. We do our own art. Terri does the formatting. I handle marketing. So, even though we still spend the time that other professionals would take to do these things, each project is entirely ours and we don't need to pay anyone else for any part of it.
Writing - $45
Editing - $15
Formatting - $15
Cover - $50
Marketing - $50
Total - $175
So, the total remains the same as for any self-published book. However, there is no immediate outlay needed, and the ebooks are available to be sold forever, so there is plenty of time to get your money back. Bear in mind that the more books you have for sale, the greater the chance that someone will purchase one of your older books as well as a newer one.
Of course, not everyone can take advantage of this method. And never forget that no author should edit their own books.
Another add on is the pricing of books for free on Amazon. This helped some authors in the past, but in my opinion, it screwed the rest of us. People loaded up their Kindle books with freebies. The authors wanting to gain a following by going this route hoping it would garner more excitement for more of their offerings. I don't believe it did. Instead, it made readers expect free books from new authors. None of my books will be free. I don't believe this is a good marketing.
This series will be continued. Some of my thinking might not agree with yours. That's up to you to decide. I'm not perfect. None of us are in this business. It changes every day.
Hope to see you again.