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?