In my last post, I said “Ultimately, regardless of legality, it’s the reader’s decision to ‘lend’ an e-book out and to my fellow authors: dudes, there’s not really anything we can do about it.”
I was wrong, because there is something we can do about it: educate people on how little we actually make.
I don’t mean cry, whine, rant or rave like idiots about it. Just plop it out there so they’ll know.
Following Dhympna’s suggestion, here I go doing just that.
First, a bit of background information I feel the need to share in order to give a clear picture.
A smart independent (or self-publishing) author does research before coming up with a pricing structure for her work. She needs a price that will cover PayPal fees and/or distributors’ splits, while earning her a bit of profit from each sale.
She also needs to keep in mind that e-books are extensively marketed as a cheaper alternative to print books and that readers have no idea who the hell she is because she hasn’t yet built a reputation as a writer.
Now despite the fact I’m perfectly capable of pulling some real boners, I do try to pretend I’m reasonably intelligent, so I researched.
Roughly three dozen small presses later, I’d learned fiction e-book pricing based on word count was pretty standard. I averaged out the prices I’d seen for each word count tier to create my own pricing schedule.
I’d say, based on the fact that I have sold e-books, that I’ve set reasonable prices.
My next hurdle was to decide where to sell them. After all, slapping them up on my website wasn’t going to result in millions of readers rushing to buy them.
No one had heard of me as a writer and I had neither the knowledge nor the time to aggressively promote myself and my titles. The logical conclusion was to go where the readers were buying books.
I chose Amazon and Lulu as my first sales venues, and that’s when I questioned my pricing schedule. While Lulu only collects 20%, Amazon collects 65%. But believing I’d settled on sound pricing, I stuck to my schedule.
I sold 2 e-books to friends, and two months after putting the one title I had up on Amazon, I received my first sale from someone I didn’t know. Earned a whopping 88 cents. I was thrilled (and still am at every sale!), because a stranger had paid for something I wrote!
Of course by then, I’d twigged onto the fact that more titles would hypothetically equal more sales. So I made sacrifices, as did my family in putting up with me, so that in 2008 I was able to write my ass off almost every single day.
More titles did result in more sales – and in regular sales every month. Pretty awesome, right?
Let’s take a look at those sales and my earnings from them:
2007 – 2 e-books sold, $ 4.30 earned.
2008 – 60 e-books sold, $ 94.97 earned.
2009 – 239 e-books sold, $386.20 earned (as of this morning)
So with 691 days of being a selling author, 301 e-books sold for a total of $485.47 in semi-gross profits. I say ‘semi-gross’ because PayPal fees and distributor splits are taken right off the top and I don’t see that money.
In 2008, determined to polish my writing skills, I paid someone to tell me things like I was misspelling ‘separate’, dangling participles all over the place and using words like ‘very’ too much. This year, I discovered a couple of causes I really wanted to support.
Take $439.57 out of those semi-gross profits for editing expenses (which have been totally worth every penny!) and my paltry portion of proceeds earmarked for donations from three titles to those causes.
My net profit, for almost two full years as a selling author, is $45.90.
Which means I’ve earned 70 cents daily before expenses, and 6.6 cents daily after them since deciding to become a writer.
I’m not whining about it, but it is a pretty stark realization of how little an author earns. I’d hazard the guess my experience is probably shared by 50-65% of other independent authors.
This is likely the reason why some authors foam at the mouth like rabid weasels about piracy so much.
We spend hella hours and effort on our stories to earn pennies a day. It has a tendency to make you very protective of your e-book babies and what people do with them.
You likely see every instance of a copy going to someone who hasn’t paid for it as money lost, whether that’s the truth or not.
On the whole, we’re pretty much poor people just trying to earn a little extra income by sharing our imaginations and trying to entertain people.
‘Little’ being the operative word.