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.”