Recently, I wrote a post about Self-Publishing and book pricing (you can read it HERE), and through writing that post, talking with friends, and viewing the impact that my previous post had on Twitter, Tumblr, and Goodreads, I decided to write a follow-up post, concerning what I've deduced about books from my findings and chats.
Books -- e-books, namely -- have become very inexpensive. This is simply a fact. Books are, perhaps, less expensive than they have ever been before (films along with them, though video games appear to be steadily increasing in price; one can't say the same for film downloads as for film tickets, however, but I'll talk about that in a minute). And if we -- yes, I say 'we', because I hope I'm not the only one who feels this is unfair -- don't ban together, the price of books, and also their value in people's (readers AND writers) eyes will diminish, as well.
You might be reading this, and think that the low price of books is not that big of a deal; you are not alone. Unfortunately, while books have become less expensive, everything else seems to have become more expensive, and there are such business things as supply and demand, cost, etc. to think about. But, it makes me wonder...I may not be the best with math, and I may not be the most successful nor proficient businesswoman to walk the planet (though I do my utmost), but when it comes to demand...why are books, some of the bestselling things on giant websites like Amazon, so inexpensive, and yet they are in such high demand?
I believe there are a few reasons for this. One can argue that books are selling because they are inexpensive, and I am sure that this is true to some degree. If a reader knows that they can pick up four full-length novels for less than five dollars, chances are they will come back regularly, especially if they are an avid reader. However, aside from the pricing point, I believe there is another factor as to why books are becoming (and staying) so low in price, and this is it:
Inadvertently, perhaps, by making books so readily available for such low prices (not to mention free online in various places) at the beginning of the self-publishing e-book boom, authors and companies alike have made literature cheap, in both price and in importance.
Now, I am in no way attempting to step on any toes, or to say that writers don't appreciate their work, and that there aren't readers who appreciate it, as well. There are most certainly many of both. As a writer, I cannot say that I haven't priced my books low to capture the attention of readers, or offered free e-books -- because face it, there are so many books out there, it's hard to get recognition, and not get lost in the crowd, and this is marketing, as well -- but I will never say that I priced them low because I wanted to; just the opposite. I started the self-publishing game late, and I had a lot to learn, and by the time I got a handle on the ever-changing market (as much as it can be handled), books had already become so cheap that it was difficult to ask anything more than practically nothing for my literature, because readers were not familiar with me, and no one really wants to buy a book from someone that they haven't read before, anymore (that is a whole other topic, however). Consequently, I believe that readers, having grown used to the idea that books are or should be extremely underpriced have become accepting of the idea, and may not understand how they could be hurting their favorite authors, or books in general, by supporting these low prices -- and consequently, how their continued support of low prices might harm literature in the future.
I personally hope that books can find a happy medium; what it might be, I don't know. Authors never do forget that not all readers have plenty of money to spend -- especially when that author might not make enough off their books in a month to buy a cup of coffee for themselves. I mentioned coffee last time, and how disheartening and downright heartbreaking it was to see readers complaining that even books they may rate 4 or 5 stars are too expensive, when they cost less than coffee, but it wasn't until I was speaking to a fellow writer recently that we, together, really began to realize how serious of a problem this issue causes.
In pondering the sadness of the fact that it's alright for coffee to cost more than a good book, my friend and I began to wonder why exactly it was that people in general were okay with this idea, and why they would rather pay for coffee than for a book, which will take them much longer to savor. The question we ultimately posed was this:
Have literature and reading become a mundane for most people, instead of an escape -- a thrill, a hobby, an interest, a passion?
It would seem that the answer is: yes. I can't say for anyone else, but I usually buy coffee because it is something I enjoy, something that I want to savor, a treat that I treat myself to. It isn't a chore, and I don't do it because I feel like I have to, or because I want to wake up (no effect there, sorry), or because it's just something I've always done. But, say coffee is just a norm for you -- okay, so what about film tickets? Plenty of people enjoy going to see a good (hopefully) film, and will pay ridiculous prices to see it in 3-D, and eat dinner while they are out; they are treating themselves to something they enjoy, and that is great (I love films). I love theme parks, and they are expensive too, but I wouldn't want to miss out on the experience. And what about sports games, or theatre, or clothes shopping, or hunting, or anything else that is a hobby and is enjoyable? It seems to me that reading has lost some of its enjoyment, and that is reflected in the cheap prices, and hastily written manuscripts, and sometimes awful covers. And, most of all, it is reflected in the author's measly paycheck.
I love art, of all kinds. I think artists overall do not receive enough for their efforts -- and there is plenty of effort put into any work of art. Last time, I calculated even a quickly written 60,000 word novel would take over 90 hours to pen (minus cover art, marketing, etc.), with more like 300 to 600 being a realistic norm. It kills me that our readers seem to think all that is worth is $0.99...which might give me $0.35 for my effort, in the end.
I don't want to see the world lose its appreciation for literature, self-published or traditionally published. I don't want to see books become penny candy. I work too hard for that; we as authors work too hard for that. There is a reason the saying of 'To write, open a vein and bleed' exists. And, honestly, readers deserve better than this 'cheapness', too. Eventually, a disheartened author might want to either give up or not write the masterpiece that they could write -- because it seems as though it's all for naught. If not even large name authors can price their new works at $10.00, then no one is going to want to bother writing a good, not to mention decent book, because if they can't make something from their stories, then how are we, the lesser-knowns, supposed to? Why is it wrong to want decent money for your story? Why is it wrong to not want to work for free, or for very little, when so much time is spent 'on the clock'? Writing is not a profession that one should expect to make millions from (unless you're very lucky), but that doesn't mean it should be wrong to want to make something.
The biggest thing to any writer is that the reader enjoys the story, but when readers say your work is too expensive, it's like saying you're not good enough, like you're not worth that cup of coffee your reader might have bought their best friend -- it's like saying your work is cheap, and you are cheap, even if the reader praises the book, and really means well...because you spent time on it, and you know it's not trash, and it shouldn't be priced like it's trash; it's part of you, and it's important to you. I don't know about other authors, but hearing this makes me feel like: "Well, if you like my writing, if you praise it and enjoy it, then why isn't it important to you, too? You got behind J.K. Rowling, and James Patterson, and Nicolas Sparks, and Cassandra Claire, and all of those other authors -- why not me?".
So, what can be done about this? Readers, I hope this has opened up your eyes a bit. We as authors wouldn't be anywhere without you; you keep us going. We love that you love our work, and we appreciate your support, but at the same time, I think we deserve more. I'm not saying that books should be ridiculously priced -- no -- but I do believe that there needs to be a change. We are worth more, our time is worth more, and our stories are worth more. I don't want my life's work to be nothing more than one cup of coffee.
So, if you're a reader, please think about this, and please say something to your fellow readers. Speaking out is one of the best ways to be heard. And authors, please do the same. Let everyone know what you think, ban together with other authors. I think it's really high time we started saying something, and reminding everyone that, hey, we all have our things that we're passionate about -- but I'm passionate about literature, and I don't want my passion to go to waste; this is important to me, not just another fad, not just something that should be thrown away. Blog about it, talk about it, make videos, make gifs, write books, do whatever you can, but make your voice heard, and connect with other authors. I'm happy to help pass the word along!
Literature is still important. It doesn't matter if it has become a social thing, or if it's electronic, or if anyone can publish or not. Literature has not stopped being important -- but if we don't say something, some day it might not be considered as important, and that will truly be a sad day.
So, I was on Twitter today, and saw a tweet saying how books are underpriced, and how readers should support authors by buying them (free reads are great, especially as marketing tools…except the author doesn’t make any money). This got me to thinking about just how much time an author spends writing, and how much we make for it.
I know money is tight. I get that. But if someone is willing to spend $3 (or more) on coffee at Starbucks, which they will undoubtably drink much more quickly than they will read a book, why isn’t anyone willing to spend money on literature?
I can’t answer that question, unfortunately. But thinking about it has led me to drawing up some numbers, concerning how long it takes to write a novel. There are variations, of course, because every writer is different, but this is a basic outline.
Say your book is 60,000 words, just over novel length. If you’re like me, you can type over 1,000 words an hour if you want, if you’re really into it (which is hit or miss) but for the sake of those who take more time to type (not a bad thing, at all; whatever works for the writer!), we will factor in 500 words per hour, too.
If the writer does 1,000 words per hour, then the 60,000 word novel will take 60 hours to write.
1,000 WPH = 60 hrs
If the writer crafts 500 words per hour, then the 60,000 word novel would take them 120 hours to write.
500 WPH = 120 hrs
You might not think this sounds so bad. 60 hours is full-time work, yes? In that case, a novel could be written in a week!
Not so easy, unfortunately. No writer I know can sit at their desk 60 hours per week. Most writers have more than one job…factor in writers’s block and planning, and that 60 hours is looking more like months.
But, to keep it simple, we will stick to the strict writing time.
Yay! The author has finished their novel, in 60 and 120 hours, respectively. Everything is done, yes? Sorry, but no. Now it’s time for revision.
The sage author or writing teacher will tell you a novel needs to be revised seven times before it is ready to be edited. In many cases, that requires re-writing, sometimes a re-write of the entire novel.
Let’s pretend that our author is mildly happy with their novel. But, they start reading and hate bits. They end up re-writing the novel twice, and revising smaller bits the last five times, until they are as happy as they can be with it.
Let’s do the math.
The writer who writes 1,000 words per hour just tacked on 120 hours by re-writing the entire novel twice. They now have a grand total of 180 hours, and they have only done two of their seven revisions.
60 hrs x 2 = 120 hrs (120,000 words)
+ 60 hrs = 180 hrs (180,000 words total)
The author who writes 500 words per hour has now added 240 hours to their roster, with still only two revisions. Their total is now 360 hours.
120 x 2 = 240 hrs (120,000 words)
+ 120 = 360hrs (180,000 words total)
Revisions are a little hard to calculate. Generally, 10 pages are read per hour for editing. Factor in the fact that the author is going to read the manuscript and edit, then put all of those edits into the computer, you double the time per revision.
If the novel is 150 pages when printed out (it varies by font, spacing, etc.) and 10 pages are read/edited per hour, then you’re looking at 15 hours - but then you have to add another 15 hours for input, and making more changes, which brings you to 30 hours per revision.
You still have five revisions left.
30hrs x 5 = 150 hrs
So, in total, with revisions and re-writes, the author who writes 1,000 words per hour is looking at 330 hours to completely finish their novel.
180 hrs (writing) + 150 hours (revision) = 330hrs
The author who writes 500 words per hour is looking at 510 hours to finish their novel.
360hrs (writing) + 150hrs (revision) = 510 hrs
This doesn’t factor in copy editing, if the author edits their own work, which would add 30 hrs to each, making them 360hrs and 540hrs, respectively. Plus, if the author does their own marketing, typesetting, and cover art, you’re looking at more time.
But to stick to the basics, the author of the 60,000 word novel you just bought for $2.99 - or maybe even $0.99 - spent at least 330 hours of their life working on it. And even if they only revised it once or twice after editing, you’re still looking at at least 90 hours to write, revise, and edit it, not including layout or marketing, and if you’re like me, it’s never only 90 hours.
The sad thing is, that $2.99 on Amazon that the author gets 70% of might look nice and pretty up front, but you add in delivery costs, and the author isn’t really getting 70%, and it’s still less than three dollars for all of that hard work.
Writing is a hard business. I once had a reader say my book was fabulous, they loved it, etc., but it cost too much at $2.99, because books just shouldn’t cost that much. When I thought of all the time I had put into it, and the fact that a cup of coffee was worth more than my novel, I wanted to cry.
Books are hard to price, and unfortunately sometimes they have to be priced lower to sell anything. But, just a thought: after all that hard work, how much does your story deserve?
The Holidays are coming up quickly, and with them, the release of the next book in the Snowflake Triplet, Clara Snow! Snowflake Triplet fans, you're going to love this one.
Today, I've decided to release a teaser from the new book, but before I do that, I have some exciting news...
Clara Snow has a new publishing date! Thanks to my amazing new editor, and some hard work, Clara Snow will now be released in October. The tentative date is October 18th, but as October draws closer, I will be posting more updates, and an official release date for the next book in the series, which you're not going to want to miss.
But for now, here's the teaser!
And he wouldn’t let Clara get caught in the middle, either. If Eclipse wanted the Immortals gone, as it seemed, then he would have to take Jack down first, and attempt to survive it.
“Very humorous,” Eclipse threw his head back and laughed, his fedora nearly falling off, before he leaned forward on his cane again, halfway hunched, shaking his head at Jack. “That would be a pitiful excuse for a twist. But...” he trailed off, putting the ball in Jack’s playing field once more.
Jack shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Alright, so I had to try,” he said, and then he bit his lip, appearing falsely worried now. “So, if you won’t let me out, then...how about a challenge, just like Clara? Rosaline has always liked riddles, so why doesn’t she give me one to solve? She brought me here, so it’s only fair,” Jack could see the light dawning in Eclipse’s eyes, the fire of curiosity, so he continued: “If I can solve her riddle, then I’m free, and I’ll help Clara duel, but if not then Clara’s on her own, and I have to watch. Is that interesting enough for you?” Jack raised an eyebrow at Eclipse, crossing his fingers mentally.
To add Clara Snow to your Goodreads TBR, click here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13...
For more information on the Snowflake Triplet series, including where to purchase books -- the ebook of Clara Claus, book 1, is FREE right now! -- please visit the Snowflake Triplet page.
My first published work, Clara Claus; the cover was re-designed in 2012, with red and green "sparks" added.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
With the anniversary of my first time publishing coming up (mid-October), I've decided to do a series of posts about my publishing journey. It's my hope that these posts will both help and inspire, and hopefully encourage, other authors, or authors to-be!
Looking back, it's been a long, hard road full of both trials and tribulations, but also, I've learned so much from publishing. This year marks my third year being published, and before I start spouting about my journey, I really want to take the time to thank everyone who has helped me accomplish all that I have. Dearest readers, I could not have made it this far without you, and I am truly thankful for you. I love seeing your reviews, and excitement, and the knowledge that my writing has inspired you is not something I ever want to take for granted. So, thank you, from the bottom of my writerly heart.
It has been a long four years, and yet it seems as if no time has passed at all! I remember that first year somewhat fuzzily, starting at the end of 2010, in October. I had been searching for months for the best publishing solution. SOPM (Shadows of Past Memories) was nearly completed, and CC (Clara Claus) was done. That year, I sent out query letters to what felt like a million agents, and was rejected each time. It felt like my spirit was being crushed, but I didn't want to give up, so I kept searching. Self-publishing was beginning to become a thing then, and so after much debate I decided to try it.
I learned a lot that year. In October, I first published CC, through lulu.com, in paperback. I was so excited to finally get a copy of a book -- my OWN book, my own! -- in the mail, and was so excited about the prospect of publishing. I didn't know then how important e-books might be, though from what I remember they were still fairly "new", and I didn't know much about marketing. I remember printing out fliers, and posting them at the local Paneras where I attended write-ins during November (NaNo). They were home-made, but they actually looked very nice; I even handed them out at a garage sale that year, as I collected money for the YWP (Young Writer's Program) at NaNo. My fellow writers were all excited for me, but of course there were also people in the group who had been published for a little while, and thought I didn't know what I was doing--
The thing was, they were right. I didn't sell many copies that year, and I didn't do much marketing, not how I should have. I looked into everything I could, but resources on my end were small, and it was mainly me and my mom at the time, trying to figure this publishing thing out. I was only 19 at the time, and not very used to business. After spending years at home, helping to care for my brother after his accident, I had sort of lost touch with the world, and was trying to find my way back to it again.
This is where I can offer advice: search all of your options, and be sure you know what resources are out there for you. The internet is a great place for marketing, but as I was to learn later, don't completely ignore the real world, either. (I'll get more into this later, probably in another post.)
Christmas passed, and it was onto a new year. CC wasn't doing very well in the grand scope of things, and so I decided to search for other routes in my publishing. I then found Amazon, and e-books, and Smashwords, and also Goodreads and Twitter. I poured everything into releasing SOPM, until it came out in August, and into getting CC ready on the Kindle and paperback platforms (I switched to Createspace at this point, and I still really like them, especially since Amazon is such a large seller).
This year came with a lot of changes. I spent a lot of it trying to figure out what I was doing, and where I was going in my writing. I made some good friends on Goodreads, and even some fans, and learned a lot more about marketing. To be honest, everything from then seems like kind of a blur. It was rough year for me, as my grandmother was with us and I again sort of lost touch with the world. But the one thing I can say for this time in my life was, I definitely had touch with my writing.
A lot of writers struggle with the balance -- work, writing, editing, revising, marketing, publishing; it's a lot to take in, a lot to manage. Nowadays, writing is more than writing, more than a full-time job, even if you don't have the ample time to give to that schedule. Sometimes I feel as though it ends up being more about how fast can I publish, what marketing do I have to do today, what connection can I make, than about, well, writing. And though all of these things are important, and part of business, at times I wish that I could go back to those years when all that existed was me, and my story, and the bond that we shared.
Here, I hope that I can stress to you something that I have learned: never lose sight of the story, of the beginning, of what made you write in the first place. Marketing, publishing, business, they are only means to ends, and shouldn't be the focal point of your work, or your time. They are important, but if you become wrapped up in them, instead of in your story, not only will you have a story that is not as good as it could have been, but you also lose something in your writing, and therefore lose something of yourself.
Writing requires thought, time, and care. It is a part of you, your story. It comes from within, from what you notice about the world, from hard work and perseverance. Even if you're not the #1 bestselling author, or even if you are, in the end the story should be the most important thing.
Writers do not, generally, make a lot of money; this point has persisted throughout the history of the craft. Writing has, in some ways, become the next big thing, the thing that everyone wants to do, or should do, and in a way that's great, but some things about the craft will probably never change, the money aspect being one of them. If you're writing for money, you probably need to find another field; it's not to be rude or unkind, it's just a fact. In the end, the story is the driving force, or it should be. Without it, there is nothing, and it needs room to grow into what it can be, what it should be. The story needs to come before marketing, before money, before social media or blog tours. Without the story, you have nothing.
To go back to my writing journey, I didn't learn too much, by way of greatness, that first year, and at the beginning of my second in publishing. At the time, life was riddled with so much else -- with life itself, something that also can seemingly become swallowed by media and marketing, and all of those other things that are important in their own right, but should not be everything. It isn't until I look back, at those hours spent in that other world, where I could vividly see my characters, and picture their thoughts and feelings, writing down what I could of their adventures and trials, that I truly understand what I learned from that year, and my trip into the second year of publishing.
I miss it. I miss them, my characters, vivid and real and all-encompassing. I miss the worlds that I would go to, that I was constantly trying to figure out, to chart, as if they actually exist somewhere in the universe, and only I am privy to seeing them, until I release them into the world. I miss the days where writing was more about writing than about my Amazon number, or the number of followers or fans I have, or the number of reviews. I miss the days when things were simple, but not simple at all.
It isn't until this year, until now, that I have realized how precious those times were -- and that they don't have to go away. It's hard to balance the business side and the creative side of writing, but it can be done; it should be done. Your story deserves it, and you deserve it, as an author. The writing world is far too full of copies of other people's ideas, and while not everything can be brilliantly brand-new, nor should it be, your writing deserves the best you can give it. If we don't take our time, and show our care, then in the end, even if our works are bestsellers, will we as writers ever really be happy with our work? Writing should be fun and exciting, even if it is difficult at times, not the bane of our existence.
Last night I watched a film, one I've been searching for as inspiration for a project of mine: Finding Neverland, with Johnny Depp. It is based on J.M. Barrie's life (the author of Peter Pan), and was very inspirational. Sir James Matthew Barrie is one of my writing idols, and I have learned a lot from his life and stories, Peter Pan especially. Watching the film, which of course isn't completely accurate, I began to think of Neverland. It might sound odd, but if Neverland could be so real and encompassing, if only to the author, then I want to have a world like that, a place where I can go to be a writer, and nothing else. I want to see stories in everything, like I used to. I want to feel that my writing is special again, and I don't want to worry about numbers; I'm a grammar person, not a math person, anyway.
To say all of this, I think the thing that I learned, most importantly, that first year and some change was the beauty of the written world -- the world that readers' and writers' see in their minds. I've been working hard, after some revelations this year, to find my way back to that place...
Well, that concludes my first post about my publishing journey! Thank you for reading. Comments are always appreciated. Next time, onto year 2 -- with edits and writing trials!