I hesitated to post this since price is a sensitive issue, but once in a while, I do get emails from people who wonder why I ask a price on most of my books. So I might as well address it here in case others are wondering the same thing, but I’m going to make it a general answer because this applies to every author out there who is trying to earn an income from their work.
So here’s the thing…
Food, shelter, clothes, utilities, etc require money to purchase.
This is something we all have to deal with, whether we are authors or not. We either have mortgages or rent (unless our house is paid off). We all need to eat food in order to survive. We need clothes to wear so we don’t scare the people around us with our naked bodies. (Okay, maybe some of you look like Barbie dolls when you don’t have clothes on, but I have the frumpy “wow, you can tell she had four kids” type of body. Believe me, I do everyone a favor by putting on clothes.) Utilities are a must. We need heat in the winter. We need water. We need electricity (an author can’t write on a computer without electricity in the house), and we need Internet so we can engage in social networking and publish our books.
Everything on the list above requires money. Because of that, authors need to make money in order to pay for the these things in order to survive. So when we put a dollar amount on our books, we aren’t being greedy. We’re trying to pay our bills and eat.
If we don’t make money with our books, then we won’t be able to write.
Even if it’s supplemental income, getting paid allows us the freedom to write in our spare time. If we have to seek out other jobs, that will take away from our chance to write. Time is one of those things that’s finite. I love to write. I know a lot of other authors who love to write. But writing without a paycheck won’t enable us to write those books. Instead, we’ll have to find another way to earn money.
Authors do pay taxes on their income.
I don’t know how many people are aware that authors are required to pay taxes. I didn’t know this before I started making money off my writing.
Currently, I pay 40% in federal taxes and almost 7% in state taxes. Other authors might pay more, the same, or less than me depending on their income. I’m not a tax expert. I just know that almost half my income is money I never see. If I work outside the home, I could potentially have more take home money (depending on the job I get) because I’d pay significantly less in taxes, but I love writing books.
I’m willing to pay the taxes in order to do what I love most. But in order to do what I love most, I need to make money. Other authors I know feel the same way. They write because they love it.
The stuff I’ve listed above applies to every author, not just me. I realize this is an issue that makes some people nervous, but after much debate, I finally decided it was something that needed to be said. Thanks for reading.
A friend of mine posted this the other day, and I think it goes right in line with what you said:
For me, the hardest part is what you said: taxes. I, too, don’t get to keep half of my income. Between State, Federal, self-employment taxes it’s gone. Then I also do a lot of advertising. I think when I averaged it out, I keep only about 20% to live on and have as “extra” whatever that is.
Also, with taxes quarterly taxes are a killer (at least for me) because I have to pay this year based on what I earned last year, so even if I’m not making as much this year, I’m still paying like I am–which means I HAVE to earn a certain amount. I can cut back on my advertising or not make as many charitable donations, but quarterly taxes are just as much of a priority to me as my mortgage.
Enough about me. I totally understand your situation and even if making an income wasn’t part of it, I still think your stories are worth a price!
That’s a good post your friend put up. It really puts the price of a book in perspective. When you break down how much we get from the sale of one book, it’s not much at all. A couple days ago, there was a discussion in my family about the price of something (not a book), and I had to break down to my husband how many books I’d have to sell in order to afford what he was talking about. It takes a lot of sales to pay for the necessities. When you add the taxes on top of that, I want to faint.
I can’t imagine how much you pay in taxes. I just know I feel broke and we eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and go to the park for entertainment. We aren’t eating out every night and going to Disney Land. I just canceled a trip to see the in-laws this July because Runaway Bride didn’t do as well as I had hoped. We told the in-laws they are welcome here instead.
I don’t know if people assume we’re banking in all this money and living extravagantly, but the reality is that we are doing good to pay our monthly bills and make sure we cover our taxes. Taxes are definitely a priority. I’ll set aside money in my tax account before I put any in savings. I was telling my husband the other day that I want to make at least as much this year as I did last year because of the taxes I’m paying. There is a threshold you have to make in order to break even, and it’s based off last year’s earnings. When there’s a drop in sales, it adds that sting to our wallet. It’s not that we want to make more money for the sake of making more money. We want to make more money to cover our taxes, to pay our living expenses, and to do promotional things like giveaways and ads. I love doing giveaways. I’ll give up a lot of what I could buy for myself to do those because I love to send people who’ve been with me through the years a tangible gift to thank them for their encouragement and support. There are days I want to throw in the towel and give up but then I’m reminded that it’s worth it.
It’s so funny because I also use what number of books I have to sell in order to purchase whatever it is I’m being asked for.
I think that’s what we have to do. Sales fluctuates so much that I can never tell from one month to another what I can even set aside for taxes, and that is going to come before anyone can get anything (besides the necessities like food, etc). I’ve found breaking is down to people in my family when they want something by explaining it in terms of how many books I need to sell to make something possible helps them get a better perspective on the reality of being a writer. We don’t have a steady paycheck like other jobs offer.
What? You don’t live off of air and sunshine? LMAO!!!
I think this crosses over into ALL jobs. I just went through this at work yesterday. I sell furniture for a living. The delivery company we use charges $40 to deliver a sofa. It doesn’t matter if you live one mile away, or ten miles away, or anywhere fairly close; they charge a flat fee. They don’t charge by the hour. To me, $40 seems VERY reasonable. Anyone who’s ever hoofed a sofa up THREE flights of stairs will tell you, never, NEVER again! 🙂 The delivery company we use doesn’t charge extra for stairs. But…I STILL have people arguing that $40 is TOO MUCH!!! Hey! It’s not MY company. The delivery company has NO affiliations with the company I work for. He provides an outside service, and does it well.
The guy who delivers has to pay for insurance, in case something gets broken while moving said sofa up THREE flights of stairs. He has to pay for gas for his van AND insurance for his van. There are taxes to be payed. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the guy to want to have a couple of bucks left over to pay a bill or two and put food on the table.
I’d give your readers the same advice I give my customers: “You know, you don’t HAVE to pay for delivery. You could always move it yourself.” *Said brightly with a big smile!* However, in this case it would be: “You know, you don’t HAVE to buy this book. You could always WRITE one yourself.” 😉
Take care a have a great day!!!!
I wish I could survive off air and sunshine. Those flowers have it so easy and they look great, too. 😀
It does cross over into all jobs. I don’t see writing any differently from any other business out there. We all need to make a living if we are to pay our bills and eat. It’s simple logic.
When I buy furniture or appliances, I am happy to pay whatever it takes to have other people move the stuff in for me because I’ve been there (moving that heavy stuff myself) and it sucks. I’d rather save my back the pain. Those people are providing a great service. It’s sad that so much of what people do out there isn’t appreciated.
I’m fine if people don’t read my books. I’d rather they find an author they believe is worth paying for than waste time on books they don’t think are worth spending money on. There are so many books out there, it’s easy to find any book you want to read. No one is ever going to have to go without something to read. Honestly, if people never wanted to buy books, there are enough free ones already out there to keep them reading for the rest of their lives. So I don’t see why this is even a problem.
Thanks for sharing Ruth…I’m amazed that this issue needed to be addressed. Of course Author’s deserve to be paid for their work, I’m in shock that there would be people who wouldn’t think so. I totally understand having some books free for awhile…that’s generous and it also gets your name out there. But I do the same thing when I teach piano and voice students. I often give away music books and I cover the cost to have the recital, but they would think I was nuts(and so would my husband;) if students/parents didn’t pay me every month because it’s just like any other job. We all need money to pay for school, clothes, housing, children…that’s just how life works 🙂
I’m happy to write books whenever I get a chance too…right now as supplemental income…but eventually I’d like to make that full-time. Thanks for sharing about the tax thing too…my first book is out this weekend, so I guess I’ll start paying taxes too. There’s so much to learn!
Anyway, that’s my rant 🙂 Thanks for your honest post…probably something a lot of us needed to be reminded of !
I wish I had saved aside more money for taxes last year because the new IRS laws bumped me from 15% to 40% at the federal level. My state income tax remained the same so no surprises there. I wasn’t prepared for the federal taxes, though, and had to scramble around and sell stuff to make my government payment by April 15. It’s not fun to think of going to jail because you didn’t pay your taxes. I know some authors who aren’t in that 40% bracket, and I don’t know what the threshold is. I get my taxes done at H&R Block because my knowledge on tax laws is about nil. If I were to publish a book today as a new author, I’d save half my earnings in a separate account. Chances are, you won’t pay that much in taxes, but at least the money will be there and you can always spend it on whatever you need later.
I think free samples of anything is a great idea. How else will people get a risk free chance to find out if they want more of your product (whether it be books, music lessons, or anything else)? Big businesses give away stuff all the time to attract new customers. So I think the idea of free for a small percentage of what we do is a wise business move. But I think most of our stuff should be paid for so we can pay our bills and eat. There’s no reason why authors shouldn’t make a living off their writing. There’s a lot that goes into creating a book.
Congratulations on your first book! Would you mind giving me the link?
Thanks for the tax and savings tips Ruth…I think saving half of the book earnings is a smart move:-) Also, the free samples is a good idea…I know as a reader I love that option. But I’m so glad that writer’s have the possibility of making a living from their writing…because a lot of work does goes into creating a book.
Thanks for the encouraging words for my first book…It all seems so surreal right now:-) Here’s the smashwords link…it won’t be up on Amazon until Mother’s Day !
You’ve got a great cover! I put it in my cart but won’t buy it until I’m back home. It is nice that we have a chance to make a living off our work. I know back in the late 1800s the authors who wrote dime novels made a living off of it, but I can’t think of another time in history (at least recent) where it’s been possible except if you were a huge name author like Stephen King.
Glad you liked the book cover Ruth…hope you enjoy it 🙂 Working on Book #2 !
Really wanting to learn to write better…are there writing conferences that you would recommend?
Some smaller conferences are great for giving ideas on how to write better. I’d check out a list of the different workshops that they offer before going to one. It really depends on the conference and the speakers there. So far, I’ve found them to have little nuggets on writing better but the focus seems to inevitably be more on marketing, and while I think marketing is important, the more I’m in this business, the more I lean toward betting a better writer. I have not yet found a conference that I would recommend for becoming a better writer. RT Booklovers Convention seemed more about support, ideas, marketing, and engaging with readers. To be honest, I don’t remember what the one I went to in November had for workshops (this was Heart of America Christian Writers Network) because I was one of the speakers talking about marketing and that was all I could focus on (ironically). I do remember a lot of agents and editors and small publishers hanging around to talk to people. The same was true with RT Boooklovers Convention. Maybe the biggest thing with conventions in general is building connections and meeting people.
Honestly, I’m not sure if there isn’t anything you can’t learn from online that you can’t learn at a convention. Now I’m tempted to tell you to go online for what you’re looking for. LOL But I think it’d save you money and time to do that if you want to stick with things on how to write better. There’s a lot of free time at conventions that make it hard to justify the expense involved. A blog I love that goes into some writing craft posts that are spot on is Kristen Lamb’s blog: http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com. She does offer some classes and even an online conference. So I think this is where I’d start if I was new at this.
Thanks for sharing Ruth…I’m amazed that this issue needed to be addressed. Of course Author’s deserve to be paid for their work, I’m in shock that there would be people who wouldn’t think so. Like everything else people needs to be paid for their work, if everyone went to work and did not get paid they would not like that. I, too, don’t get to keep half of my income. Between State, Federal, Health insurance, it’s gone. I love to read books and I do get some free books but do not mind paying for them either. Keep up with your writing I’;m always’s waiting for ypur next book to come out.
I didn’t even think of health insurance. Yikes! I know that is expensive. Since my husband retired from the military, we have that covered as part of the benefits he gets. We do pay more out of pocket than before when we see the doctor, but at least we don’t make payments for having it. You have my deepest sympathies.
Thanks for being so sweet and supportive! I hope you’ll enter one of my giveaways. I plan to do one next month. 😀
Have you ever gone to Walmart and took something to the cashier and said, “Hey, I don’t think you deserve to be paid for this, so I’m just taking it for free”? Seriously? I can’t even begin to understand why people would think books should be free. I keep my older books priced low, but I charge more for my newer books. Guess which ones sell better? Because people want cheap. Or free. I do like a bargain, and I won’t pay what I think is too much for an ebook, but I will pay a reasonable price, just like with any product. If I read a sample and the book is good, then I’ll pay for it. even if it’s priced higher. You have to pay for quality. The term starving artist doesn’t work for me. If I’m not going to get paid, I’ll do something else.
I’d love to hear a news story about someone pulling their cart up to the Walmart cashier and saying they don’t think they should have to pay for the items in it. You know that would be plastered all over the news. LOL
But sadly, authors get asked for free books all the time. I probably get some kind of comment about it once every two months. That’s why I finally made this post, to explain authors aren’t being greedy when they ask to be paid. I don’t know what it is about books that some people don’t think is worth paying for, but if I couldn’t make money at it, I wouldn’t be able to do it. The bills have to be paid and it takes a lot of time to write and polish up a book so it’s ready for the public. I assume some people think we snap our fingers and the book magically appears as a finished product. If they understood how much went into it, they’d probably understand why we deserve to be paid for it.
Like you, I price my new books at $2.99. I started this is 2011. My $0.99 ones still sell better. I keep hearing higher priced books sell better, but I don’t see it played out in my sales.
Seriously, everyone deserves to be paid for there service, I honestly have no idea how authors do it. Some books aren’t that expensive but then they have to made shipped yadda yadda yadda the list goes on, I worked in a book factory and other companies were taking are work because we charged so much. So obviously they had to move onto a company that could do it cheaper. And there most employees made only 10 dollars an hour but until recently are health care was taken care of 100% which is great nowadays. And Ruth, I don’t know how you do it you have so many books for free and other for .99 I’ve never paid more than 5 dollars for a book. Which is wonderful by the way. I have a very tight budget and that’s a huge help. But again you all have to eat and pay to take care of your basic needs. So I’m actually surprised you don’t charge more.
I’m able to keep my prices low because I have so many books out there. I was fortunate that when I started, my husband was in the military and I didn’t have to work. That was why I could do free and $0.99. I bumped it up to $2.99 for new books at the time he was getting ready to retire and I wasn’t sure how our financial situation would be. I like to keep my price as low because the economy isn’t doing so well and I know people aren’t able to afford things as easily as they used to. I know I feel the pinch. I’m watching my spending much more than I used to. I used to be heavily in debt and finally got out from everything but the mortgage. It’s not that we had a lot of money back then; we just were really stupid with it because we had that credit card and car loan mentality. I never want to go back there.
Thanks for telling me about how things worked in a book factory. That was fun to hear about. 😀
Oh, and that’s great about the health care being covered because $10 an hour doesn’t do much of anything.
I have been worried about what the cost in real dollars will be if I try to sell my work. Your post gives some great information about what I can expect (and validates my fear that I’ll end up paying to write!).
Do you have any reading and resource suggestions for others to help them realistically look at finances and plan tax wise? Taxes especially are a huge mystery to me. Most of what I read is cheerleading about how wonderfully easy the internet makes it to make a living as an author and seems to operate on the assumption that writers do just need air and sunshine!
Well, I just wrote a lengthy comment and lost all of it. Basically, I live in the US, so I’m only familiar with US prices and taxes. I’m not sure what your situation is. If you’re outside the US, then I don’t think I can do much to help you. I mean, I can tell you that in terms of US dollars, $0.99 still attracts the largest number of buyers. $2.99 is where I make a living. I have not been able to successfully sell at $3.99-$4.99, though I hear other authors who report those prices work well for them. There is no one set price point that will work for every author. I recommend exploring with different prices and seeing which prices works best for you. Just don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong for asking to be paid for your work. There are some people out there who will try to make you feel guilty for wanting to be paid, and those are not the type of people you want reading your books. You want people reading your books who value your work and time enough to pay for it. (This is a hard lesson to accept. I know I struggled to understand this. Writers tend to be more sensitive and want to please everyone. But it’s not worth it to try to please someone who doesn’t care enough about your work to pay for it. I think giveaways and having a free read are great and generous things to do, but they shouldn’t lead to people expecting everything for free. Big businesses offer samples and prizes all the time but charge for their products. That’s called a smart business decision. Giving everything away for free is a surefire way to starve to death if you rely on that income to pay bills.)
So I’m going to point you to excellent resources:
Dean Wesley Smith http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=3736
Kristine Kathryn Rusch http://kriswrites.com/freelancers-survival-guide-table-of-contents/
They’ve also written books on these topics, which I’ve bought and found very useful. I don’t agree with them on the pricing. I price my books lower than they do, but you need to modify things the way they best work for you. There is no one size fits all.
I hope that helps. 😀
Immensely. Thank you so much for your time and sharing your experience and these links with me!
You’re very welcome. 😀 Dean and Kristine are the best in terms of the business side of writing and even the craft of writing (in my opinion). They’ve been at it for three decades (I think it’s 30-some years) so they have a ton of experience.