Back when I first mentioned I’d be doing a blog series where I talk about the other side of writing and novels that you all don’t see, or may not know exist, someone asked about pricing, expenses, royalties and who gets paid (or do they) for books that are free.
Today, I’ll attempt to explain.
Just for writing in general there are expenses, some are revolving, some are one time expenses.
- Official website
- Up to date computer
- Word processor software
- Certain memberships (RWA national, local RWA, etc)
- Space and tools such as an actual desk designated for writing
For every book there are expense, most of which are paid before the book sees an audience and are paid in faith that the book will “take” and sell well enough to pay these off. Here are the bigger ones:
- Research–Some research is free at the library, but I often need to reference a book more than just once or twice or for longer than a week, so purchasing reference books or subscriptions is sometimes necessary. And so is visiting places like museums or the actual site the book takes place to get an idea of how it looks and the history of it. The cost of research varies depending on how involved you want your research to be.
- Editing & Proofreading–In order to have a good book, editors and proofreaders must be paid. Some get paid by the word and others by the page. Either way, it comes to several hundreds of dollars, and by the time it’s all done (editing & multiple rounds of proofing) it comes close to about $1,000.
- Printing–be it for the initial editing stage or ordering proof copies of paperbacks, I spend no less than $50 to 100 on each book just in paper, ink, and ordered proof copies.
- Covers–These vary by what kind of cover you want. Generally people will either buy the eCover or the full package because it’s cheaper at a discount. Those who buy just the eCover will then make their own wrap around by using a background color and positioning the text themselves. On average, I’ve paid approximately $100 for each of my covers which includes time, rights to the completed image and stock photos. For me, this is $100 that’s very well spent.
- Formatting–I format my own, but some don’t. If you pay a formatter it can range from $25 to $100 an hour.
- Advertising–Before a book goes live, many people will advertise via cover ads at large websites. These all vary. I’ve seen some places that will charge only $10 for an ad, but these are often places that don’t see much volume. Really big places where you can announce an upcoming book and have your book featured in front of people who are going there specifically to see what’s coming can cost upwards for $100 for just a few days.
- ARCs–Whether it’s a reader or a reviewer copy, someone has to pay for this, and it’s always the author. With an eBook the only thing they’re out is the loss of a potential sale. With a paperback, they have to buy the paperback either at cost or at 40% of the cover price depending on who the publisher is, then pay to have it mailed.
Expenses paid after the book has been released:
- Continued Advertising–Places like Kindle Daily Nation, Pixel of Ink, etc actually charge authors anywhere from $50 to $300 to be featured for ONE DAY on their site. Of course people pay it because they want to be featured and they have to hope that sales that day and in the future will justify the cost.
- Outside marketing and promotion–Pens, post cards, signed books, cleansweeps, magnets, business cards, all of these I’ve bought this year, and combined, I probably spent about $4,000 on it all. Add to that, that I attended three different conferences and two book signings where I gave some of this away which cost even more than the marketing and promotion items. Did it pay for itself? I have no idea. This is one of those, “you never know” kinds of things. Was I able to get my book into more hands by giving away free (signed) books or a USB drive with my name on the outside and two books already loaded on it? Maybe. But I’ll never really know. While this is a lot of money to be spent, I have to think being present and making myself known had to have helped some. And if not, at least I got to meet a few readers and spend the evening in a Scottish gown.
- Prizes & Giveaways–Whether is a free book gifted via Amazon or a $50 gift card, all prizes and gifts come straight from an author’s bank account. As my accounting year is coming to a close, I about fainted when I totaled up how many books I’d gifted, how many prizes I’d bought or how much I’d given to help with a large, grand prize someone was hosting.
Why aren’t all eBooks free, or 99cents even? I mean come on there’s no paper involved? They really shouldn’t cost anything, should they?
If you’ve been reading all along you might I’ve gone over what goes into books other than an actually writing as well as explained the many steps of editing, research, formatting, and other steps; then there are the expenses mentioned above. Sure, not everyone will spend so much on marketing as I have–but a little secret is, while word of mouth is your best marketing tool, sometimes word of mouth needs a little boost and by introducing yourself to those who’ve never heard of you or your books helps.
In short, though there is no paper involved in eBooks, there is still a lot of time (about 700 hours or so) and expense involved to the author to write the story, have it packaged professionally and to continue to market the book to help pay off the expense that went in to writing that book. It’s only fair that the person who labored and fronted the expense should be paid fairly for their work. It’s just a like a regular job. The only difference is were an author getting even Federal minimum wage at 7.25 an hour, an author would have made $5,075 for all that time, but since their hourly salary is not set, they must invest their time and money, then price their book at a happy medium for author and reader with the hope they’ll earn back what they’ve invested and enough to keep investing (and live!).
So what about a free book?
A free book is a marketing technique, nothing more. Nobody gets paid off a free book. Not the author, not the publisher. I put a book out for free for the same reason many others do: to offer something free in hopes that I’ll be discovered.
The particular book I have listed free I’ll openly admit is not my best, but it is my first and it’s where the story begins (kind of), therefore, it’s the best place to start. Does everyone who downloads a free copy read all of the others in the series? No. But from a business owner’s standpoint, you have to hope that a large enough % will in order to cover your loss on that book.
All right enough about this, tomorrow or Wednesday I’ll try to do a fun post. Not sure what it’ll be, maybe a little backstory between a certain maid who fancies the butler…