Authors Work Hard and Should Get Paid a Fair Price for their Work

I wasn’t sure what to title this post.  It could have been many things because so many emotions are whirling around in me.  I know I have more posts to do on the Emotionally Engaging Character, and I will get to those.  I also have the last Larson questions post to put up.

I’ve been putting off doing this kind of post because I felt it was going to ruffle feathers.  I don’t really like confrontation.  I stay away from political and religious stuff because of it, especially on Facebook where people seem to argue all the time.

But there comes a time when a person reaches a place where they are just going to have to come out just respond to emails, Facebook messages, Twitter messages, and blog comments.  This has nothing to do with politics or religion.  This has to do with the value of an author’s work and getting compensated for it.

The comments I’ve been getting:

Over the past year, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had people write to me and say stuff like, “I will only read your books if they’re in KU.” Or “I’m on a limited income.  Do I really have to buy your books?” Or “It’s not like you’re the author of Fifty Shades of Grey or some other big name author.  No offense, but I can’t see putting money on a book unless the author is a bestseller.”  (I’m not quoting word for word.  I’m giving you the gist of the comments.)

Today, I thought I’d take this post to state my replies to each of the above.  Since some of  you who made such comments to me read this blog, I figure this is the perfect place to reply.  Then I respond to everyone at once.

Here we go…

First of all, not everyone reads from the Amazon store.  Some people prefer Barnes & Noble, some from Kobo, some from Smashwords, and some from iBooks.  KU requires an author to go exclusive with Amazon.  That means, I can’t be on the other retailers where people prefer to read their books.  If I go into KU, I am pretty much telling everyone who reads at those other retailers that I don’t care about them.

“Tell them to get the Kindle App on their device,” is an argument I often hear.  My reply to that, “No  I’m not going to tell someone to buy from a place they don’t want to shop at.” People have a right to shop where they want, and it’s not my job to tell them otherwise.

Yes, I get your point if you’re in KU. If you read a book under KU, you’re not “buying” it.  It’s like you’re renting a book, so you might argue, “I shouldn’t have to pay a full price if I only rent it, and I’m the kind of reader who’ll only read things once and be done with it.”  Well, that’s fine, and it’s your right.  But authors also have the right to ask to be paid the full asking price on their book.

For a moment, let’s talk about what it actually costs an author to write a book:

The first thing they give up is time.  They give up reading, watching TV, spending time with friends and family, and other things in order to write the book.  After that, they need to have it edited and get a good cover for it.  I spend about $600 per edit.  For a cover, I spend anywhere from $100-$400 depending on how complex the cover is for a particular book.  I do my own formatting to help cut on expenses, but some authors pay someone to do that for them, too.  I don’t have stats on what other authors pay out, but editors and cover artists work hard and deserve to be paid fairly, too.  (And you know what, they’ll have to pay taxes if they take on enough work.)  So I encourage authors to pay their editors, cover artists, formatters, etc fairly, just as you want to be paid fairly.

Now, the expenses isn’t over for the author once the book is published.  Authors pay taxes on the money they earn in sales.  I don’t bring home 100% of my income.  Authors are considered self-employed, which means they get to pay self-employment tax as any small business owner would.  I pay 40% in federal taxes and another 6.9% in state taxes.  (State taxes will vary depending on where you live and the income tax bracket you’re at.)

This means for every $1 I make, I only get to keep $0.53.  On top of that, authors don’t make the full amount they’re asking for their books.  A cut is given to Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, or D2D (depending on where the author uploads to).  So on a $0.99 book, I’ll make $0.35 because I get 35% of that sale.  On a $2.99 book, I’ll make $2.09 if I get 70% of the sale.  Since I’m not in KU, I will only get 35% of the sale in some international countries Amazon sells to, such as India.

So are authors really paid all that much per sale they make when you factor in their expenses and their taxes?  Your average self-published author isn’t exactly going around buying extravagant vacations, a BMW, a really nice cabin in the woods as a writing retreat, or an upscale home.  What you see in the movies is not anywhere near what it’s really like.  I own two 10-year-old cars, and I live in the double-wide trailer.  This isn’t exactly luxurious living here.  Most of the time, after I pay my bills (including the mortgage on the trailer), I have enough for taxes and home/car repairs.  I have to save up for trips like everyone else.

I’ve talked to KU authors, and while they may look like they’re getting a lot of money because of their ranking on Amazon, the truth is, they’re not making all that much either.  For a $2.99 book, they might make $0.80 that month.  Then they’ll have to turn around an pay taxes on that $0.80.  Amazon just did something to decrease the pages read in some KU authors’ books, and they saw a 10-20% decrease in income because of it.

Please, if you really love your author (whether that author is in KU or not), pay for the book.  Because the truth of the matter is, if the author can’t sustain a living wage at writing their books, they will be forced to find other jobs.  And if they do that, they won’t be writing any more books that you love so much.  Now, maybe one author is as good as another to you, and it really doesn’t matter who you read because you pretty much figure all authors are the same.  But for those of you who have that one special author or two who really “wows” you, please pay them.  Otherwise, they will be forced to either write less or not write at all.

In regards to people on limited income: 

I feel your pain.  Really, I do.  Because I’m on a limited income, too.  Most authors are.  You’ve probably heard of the authors who make $1 Million dollars with their books.  Please understand these authors are the exception.  They are rare compared to the total number of authors out there.  It’s like winning the lottery.  The majority of us just don’t do it. But you’ll only hear about the ones who do.  Why?  Because sensational news like that is popular.  No one wants to hear about the struggling author living in a one-bedroom apartment who’s barely getting by.

We work just as hard as you do (or did, if you’re retired and living off social security.)  I get it.  I know the price of everything is going up while it seems the amount you’re bringing in seems to shrink all the time.  I have just experienced a 60% drop in my income over the past two months, but I still have to pay taxes as if I was making the same amount as I did last year.  This puts a huge strain in the budget (esp. when I have four children to take care of and bills to pay).  At the moment, my husband stays at home to free me up to write more books, but we’re currently talking about him going back to work.  If he does that, I will write less.  If I’m the one who gets the job, I’ll be surprised if I can get one book out for a year.

What I’m asking those of you on limited incomes to do is to please don’t try to wiggle a free book out of an author who is already struggling.  Authors run giveaways, they often put up sales so you can get the books at a discount, and they might already have some free books out there.  Most authors (like me) are trying to keep the price of their books as low as they can to give people like you the best deal we can while still being able to make enough to live on.  This is why I still price new releases at $2.99.  I know the economy sucks.  I know people are struggling to make ends meet.

But we work hard, and we do deserve payment for it.  So please, don’t try to guilt trip an author into giving you a free book.  Wait for the giveaway and enter it.  Or, offer to give the author an honest review in exchange for a free copy.  There are legitimate win-win ways you can help an author while not breaking your budget.

For those of you who won’t buy an author’s book unless they’re a big household name:

I don’t know what you hope to accomplish by saying this, but I would never go up to a waiter/waitress at a cafe and tell them, “Unless you work at a five star restaurant, you don’t deserve to be paid for your work.  I still expect you to serve me and give me a good meal, but you won’t be seeing a tip.”

If you don’t value someone’s work, by all means, don’t buy it. (Also, don’t read it.  Authors don’t want someone reading their work if the person doesn’t value it.)  I have no problem with this.  But don’t insult them by telling them how they are not “worth your money”.  That’s just rude.  As my mother said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”


About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to other genres, but her first love is historical romance. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and a couple of children. To find out more about her books, go to
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48 Responses to Authors Work Hard and Should Get Paid a Fair Price for their Work

  1. Susan Germain-Wachs says:

    I am on a fixed income. But I buy your books at B&N for my nook.

  2. I read somewhere that the average indy author makes less than $1,000 a year, and that most “successful” ones make the less or the same as a McDonald’s employee. I don’t have the link, though, but it sounds about right.

    • I read that, too. It’s easy to forget in this Internet age when we’re bombarded with posts about the few authors who make tons of money that most of us aren’t getting rich off of our books. When I was in college, the teacher said, “If you’re going to be a teacher, don’t do it expecting a lot of money. Do it because you love it.” The same is true for writing. If people are going to write, they have to love it. That’s the only way to survive the ups and downs of this business.

  3. ergh. I hit enter and it posted. Gotta love mobile wordpress. Anyway, I am sorry you’re getting these emails 😦 That really sucks that people would say those things!

    • I hear some other authors are getting similar emails. Part of that is what prompted this post. I didn’t just do it for me. I was thinking of other authors when I wrote it.

  4. Casandra Gilbert says:

    I subscribe to KU, but still buy your books. I buy them because I like your historical novels, plus they are pretty inexpensive compared to some. Don’t give in. You do an awesome job and should be paid for it. Writing is hard work!!!!!!

  5. Marcia Montoya says:

    As being a senior citizen, I am always amazed at alot of people’s attitudes. We are on a fixed income but we’ll fit in books (we’re thankful to have kindles which we got from our kids fou our birthdays several years ago.)as a major part of our enjoyment and relaxation. We don’t enjoy going out much but really love reading, and you are on our top 5 author choices. We love that your books are affordable for us, have all of your historical western romance in our kindles and can’t wait for the next to come out. Do we thank-you for you fan devotion and for giving us your time.

    • Thank you, Marcia. That’s very sweet of you. It means a lot to me, and this is why I want to keep my prices low. People like you have been so encouraging, and it’s helped get me through some rough patches in the past. 🙂

  6. Marcia Montoya says:

    Please excuse the errors above. We do thank-you for your time,etc.

  7. It takes even more cash if you pay for a copyright from your nation’s copyright office. Seriously, we want people to read our works, but we have to live too. Please try and see it from our points of views. Most of us do have day jobs, after all. We need support, not people asking for freebies.

  8. says:

    I’m a Barnes and Noble lady. Your books absolutely wows me. I could be in the middle of a series and would stop when you release a book. Thank you for writing at the price that you do. Know this I would pay fifty shades price for any books that you write.


    Tierney Grate


  9. Mary McCall says:

    When I’m notified you have a new book for sale, I buy it, whatever the price. I love your books! You ARE like E.L.James of “50 Shades of Grey” fame, because You Are A Writer! One day, a book you write will Flame to the top, and that will quiet the haters. Your books are So reasonable for my Kindle! Thanks for that! I often paraphrase an old adage, and I believe it’s THIS way: Those who can, Do! Some who can, Teach. And Those who Can’t, sit around criticizing Those who are Doing, and those who Teach. Ruth Ann Nordin, Please keep Doing what you do so well!

    • Thank you, Mary! The biggest thing is that I know people like you are in my corner. It really helps so I don’t feel alone. 😀 I appreciate everything you’ve done over the years to encourage me. You’re awesome.

  10. Yes. Yes! YES! Do these people go to Walmart and ask for free stuff? Do they go to a clothing store and say “That dress isn’t a designer dress, so I think you should give it to me for free”? We authors put our hearts and souls into the books we write. And, like you said, time AND money. Why should authors give away their hard work?

    And shame on everyone who wrote those emails. Not cool.

    • Amen! I see what people are willing to buy. I don’t know why books aren’t seen as having as much value as other things. You’re right. People don’t go into Walmart or a clothing store and say they should get the stuff for free. It’s because, deep down, they know it’s only fair to pay for the product they want.

      Sadly, I’m not the only author who gets these emails. 😦

  11. LOVE this post, Ruth Ann! I suspect a lot of readers think we all have Stephen King’s bank balance in our own accounts (I wish, lol) – or at least a lot more than what we actually earn. I’m glad you were brave enough to set the record straight. 🙂

    • I think a lot of people believe we are writing from our second home, sipping wine, and listening to music while we put our stash of cash in the bank. The reality of writing is so different from what is portrayed in movies and on TV. I don’t blame the general public for not knowing how it really is. I remember watching Back to the Future where the father publishes one book, and he’s in a very nice house with nice things, pulls out his one book and it’s an automatic bestseller that puts him on the charts.

      I wish it was that easy!

      • LOL. Wouldn’t it be great if that was how it really worked? I think it does happen for the occasional author (think Stephenie Meyer with Twilight or JK Rowling with Harry Potter) – but even then, there’s usually been a lot of written words through the years that didn’t earn them a dime.

        Another thing – and I find this true with my family especially – is they think I get an idea for a book, sit down and write a perfect final draft in a few days or weeks (skipping the planning phase, the hours and days – over and over and over – when words just won’t come, editing, etc…). Like the income misconception, I wish writing was that easy. 😀

        • So true. We have to work hard to get our books polished and ready for prime time. I can’t remember what author said he pretty much bled every single word he wrote. (This is a famous author who is now dead.) But that idea is pretty much how it is. There are days when it’s like pulling teeth to get even a couple hundred words down. Sometimes we have to go back and rewrite scenes or move scenes around. Then there’s the edits.

          Real life finds a way of slipping in and pulling us away from the computer. I have heard of authors who can write a whole novel in a couple weeks. I know of one who writes a 25,000 word novella in a week. But I can’t do it. I have to take care of children (and I know you have an adult child with special needs who needs your care), and if I don’t make the meals, no one will. I know your time is just as valuable.

          It’d be nice if the myth of the writer who spends all day writing in an office would go away. It doesn’t play out for most of us.

          • And now I have my daughter and the baby here for at least the rest of the year – and I’m the babysitter, lol. Writing ten words a day is proving to be a challenge lately but we’re going to set some rules. Rotten as I sound, I’m not setting aside my career for a year, much as I love them both. Besides, it’s hard to buy everything I want for the baby if I’m not working. 😀

            And yes! That myth needs to go away. Now. 😀

            • Oh man, that takes me back to when I was writing with four little kids under the age of 5. I remember those days of trying to sneak words in and how frustrating it was to be in the middle of a good scene when I got interrupted. I know it seems like a mean thing to do, but rules are definitely a good thing. I felt like a terrible mom when I started insisting my husband watch the kids for an hour so I could go to my bedroom to write. But, as you said, it’s how we earn the money that then provides for everyone. We wouldn’t think twice if we had a job outside the home. We’d just get in the car and go to work. For some reason, when you work at home, it’s not “real” enough to make others understand how valuable that time is. Maybe that’s why the myth of the writer sitting alone at a cabin working on their next bestseller came to be. It was something writers wishes was true. lol

              Good luck on finding that balance, and I hope everyone can settle into a nice routine around your writing! 😀

  12. Reblogged this on Kristy K. James and commented:
    While I rarely post anything about the unpleasant and/or business parts of writing (though they’re often the same thing), I just read this article by Ruth Ann Nordin. It clears up a lot of misconceptions about Kindle Unlimited, indie author income, and the realities of being an independent author. I’ve been fortunate in that I don’t get many emails like Ruth Ann does (and for that, I am thankful). But in case any of you question why we do the things we do, she’s explained it very nicely. Thanks, Ruth Ann. 🙂

  13. Pingback: Excellent Post About Indie Authors!

  14. Liz Joyce says:

    A good post. Informative and thoughtful. Also, I learned a lot about the book business. Authors deserve to be paid. Love your books!

  15. Great post, Ruth Ann Nordin. These are some items people who do not know the business need to know. God bless.

  16. Hear, hear, Ruth Ann!! I have made it into the “successful author” category but I still don’t make enough to live off of. I’m retired with other sources of income, thank God. But most writers are writing plus have a day job, plus families to care for, etc.

    I took my books out of KU about a year ago because I was getting emails from folks who preferred to shop at B&N or Apple or Kobo. Like you, I didn’t feel right about telling them that they didn’t matter.

    I still make as much as I did before on Amazon, and I make almost that much again on Apple, with B&N starting to take off as well.

    So I’ve got very little patience for the readers who complain that my books aren’t in KU. Sorry, I’m not going to cut my income in half and cut off a bunch of other customers so that KU participants can read my books for free. That would be a dumb business move.

    • I’m so glad someone has gotten emails asking for books on Apple, B&N, and Kobo! Sometimes I feel as if there’s only KU and nothing else. Just the other day I got another comment about my books being awfully expensive (a $0.99 one at that) and I was breaking the person’s budget because I wasn’t in KU. I just don’t know how to answer things like that. It really puts an author in an awkward situation. I can’t afford to be in KU. That would drastically cut my income. I know what you mean. Every bit of income counts. Thankfully, my husband is retired military. His earning is modest because he never became an officer, but the savings on having health insurance through his retirement plan alone is a huge relief. I feel so bad for people who’ve gotten clobbered on their raising insurance costs.

      I’m so glad you stuck it out when you went wide, and I’m EXTRA glad it’s paid off! I love hearing it when authors are selling on other sites. Apple’s been my best one, too, with B&N and Kobo behind. Even better, this hasn’t hurt your sales at Amazon. 🙂 Having that additional source of income helps me sleep better at night. When we sleep better at night, we write better books.

      Thank you for taking the time to tell me your experience. I find it very encouraging!

      • I’m glad I could help bolster your resolve. I’d suggest ignoring comments that a $0.99 book is somehow breaking someone’s budget. I think other readers seeing that review will see how ridiculous that statement is.

        I think you hit on why readers make such comments about why aren’t we in KU. They don’t realize that Amazon requires exclusivity to be in there, and that means a lot of lost income from other book retailers. As Apple is getting bigger and better at selling books, it will be harder for Amazon to keep authors in KDP Select.

        • I think you’re right. I don’t think readers know we have to be exclusive to be in KU. That’s one of the problems. I should probably make a note when I have a new release that my book isn’t in KU because doing so would require me to be exclusive with Amazon, which isn’t fair for people who read at other retailers.

          I hear Apple and Kobo are expanding pretty well outside the US. My international sales are better through both retailers than they are with Amazon. I also hear we’re going to see some good growth in the international markets over the next couple years. It’ll be interesting to see if that plays out.

  17. Gail says:

    I admit that I am one of those on a limited income, but I love your books and $2.99 is such a reasonable price for an e-book. I have won some of your books, and I am very appreciative of them. I have also bought most of your books when they come out, and I try to review them as soon as I finish them. It must be very difficult to raise four boys and produce as many books as you do. I certainly do not take your books for granted, and I appreciate everyone of them. I will also admit that I do look for free and $.99 books. Please keep writing, and I will continue buying!!

    • As a reader, I have gone to the free books first when I’m looking for a new author, so you’re not alone. As an author, I think it’s a smart move to have at least one book free. The more books an author has, the easier it is to expand the free titles. 🙂 What I like about free is it gives someone a risk free chance to see if they like my particular brand of storytelling. I know my books are not a good fit for everyone. I write for a specific type of reader. What free does is allows the readers who like my brand of storytelling to find me a lot easier. As a reader, this is how I best like to discover new authors.

      The only problem comes in when people then think every book should be free, and those are the kind of emails I get. I don’t get emails asking me if I could have more $0.99 books. I only get emails saying things like, “You’ve have this book out for six months. Isn’t it time you made it free?” or “I will only read your free books.”

      I think giveaways are awesome. 🙂 People should definitely take part in them. I would much rather give books in a giveaway than be told people only want my free books.

  18. I’m late to this party but I really liked this post. I’m the exact opposite of the people who have been writing you. I am on a limited budget and because of that I value quality over quantity. I’d much rather get 2 books a month for 6 to 12 bucks from authors who value their own work than pay for KU and have to sit through the slush pile masquerading as a good deal. I make ample use of the look inside feature and then buy what I like.

    • I purchase the same way you do. I’m a picky reader because I don’t have a lot of time on my hands. Each book has to be worth reading. I’ll gladly pay for a compelling story.

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