Many authors, painters, and sculptors get asked this question: Why is it so much? Newbies, you will want to read this.
Coming from a very artistic family, my brother was often asked why his paintings cost so much? I have been asked to give books away for free.There are several ways to gauge a cost: How famous is the creator? How much time went into creating this work? How much were the materials to create this work?
The one people most commonly will understand is how much material went into the work. They are more apt to understand a higher cost of something if, say a sculpture, was made of copper. The one people don’t usually understand is the value of time.
Almost all people are paid by time; by the hour. You put in 8 hours at work and you are paid for those 8 hours. Of course, the hourly wage will depend on the type of work. Let’s just say that any indie artist is paid minimum wage (in CA that’s $10). As an independent author, writing a novel may take me 300 hours (that’s being generous). In theory, I should make $3,000. But nobody is paying me. My income comes from sales of books.
On average, an independent author receives about $2.00 from the sale of a physical book and $1.75 from the sale of an e-book. Those prices fluctuate depending on how they went about publishing, so +-$1.00 in either direction.
Here’s the math:
At a $15 dollar book, making only $2.00 royalty per book, I need to sell 1,500 books to earn minimum wage for my 300 hours. the average indie author sells 10 books. It’s a labor of love.
Here’s some more math:
I pay an editor $1500 to edit my book. I pay $100 to buy an ISBN for my book to be sold. I pay $500-$1500 to have someone professionally format that book. Then, I either publish on my own (Amazon) or go through a vanity press, in which you can tack on another $1,000 to $5,000 dollars. So recoup those costs, I’ve got to sell another 3,ooo+ books.
But wait! There’s more.
A book lost in cyberspace is just that: Lost. Now I’ve got to let people know this book is alive. As an independent author, I’ve got a few devote friends and family, a loyal stalker or two, but no huge fan base that jumps for joy whenever a new book comes out. So I have to start marketing. My latest Facebook ad cost $38.83 to reach 2,300 people total. But that’s just reach. I need clicks. I need purchases!! Of those 2,300 reach 171 clicked through to see what I’m selling and about 7 downloaded the e-book. I spent $38.83 for 7 sales and made about $10.
The question again: why does a book, painting, piece of art cost so much? Why can’t you float me a book for free?
Because it cost more than I may ever recoup and nothing is ever really free. Even if I gave the book for free, it actually cost me my soul. See below for my October royalties. In total there were 9 books or e-books sold (ignore the 19 I had an author order of 10 books in there). Total gross sales were $68.83 and royalties paid to me were $15.40. I made about a quarter of the gross or $1.71 average per book. Who else would work for that?
So why do it? I get asked that quite a bit. Why? Because writing is in my soul. This is what brings me comfort and peace. And if i could write for a living, I would absolutely do it. Once a year, maybe twice, I’ll get a great review, or someone who says that my story touched them or made them think. One person said she picked up the phone and called her father after ten years of being estranged from him, after reading my book Be Still. Yeah. That’s why. Happy reading and happy writing.
Tania L Ramos RN BSN