I've been an author now for twelve years. This is my only source of income. So, I thought I'd bare all and lay out for those reading this, just how much cost and work are involved in writing a novel.
Cost of Actual Work. It normally takes me 8 months to write a novel. I used to work 50 hours a week, but since I've been caring for my granddaughter two days a week, I've only been putting in about 35. Okay, so let's say I should be paid $15. That's actually minimum wage here in California. Of course, for someone with so much experience and skill, I should be paid more than that, but I'll accept minimum wage. (Not saying I'm highly skilled, but just putting a novel together requires a skill many don't possess)
35 hours a week. 4.3 weeks per month x 8 months = 34.4 weeks x 35 hours a week = 1204 hours x $15 = $18,060
List of expenses per novel. (I'm listing my expenses from 2015)
Cover: $400 (Can be anywhere from 200-2000. I usually pay $400)
Editing $500 (Can be anywhere from 300-3000 for the best editors)
Office Supplies: 125.69 (Printer ink, envelopes, stamps, etc)
Professional Services 2835.23 (Web fees, Audio Narration, Backup Systems, ISBN purchases, Copyright purchase)
Commissions and Fees $184 (Membership in various writer's associations)
Contest Fees $90
Marketing: $2461.25 (This includes the cost of shipping for all books awarded to readers, beta-readers, postcards, bookmarks, purchasing stock photos, newsletter costs, online ads, online book tours and facebook parties, ordering paperback books-yes, they cost me, etc...)
And this doesn't even include all the free books I hand out. Plus last year I didn't travel anywhere for research, which I normally do.
NOTE: I should note that the above is from self-publishing, which is what I do now. If the book is traditionally published, I would get a lump sum called an advance from the publisher which could be anywhere from $5000-$15000 depending on how well they expect the book to do. And I would not pay for the cover or editing and some of the marketing. I still would pay for some marketing I chose to do, research, education, office supplies and contest fees. I would not get another dime from the publisher unless my book "sold out" or made more money then they paid me. And then it would be a very small percentage of each sale, something like 15%
Total amount of my cost and investment in each book I write: $24,863.17
I can tell you with all honesty that except for perhaps one book, which I'm not sure of because I don't have all the records, I have NOT made that much per book. This includes the books that were published by a traditional publisher as well as the books I've published myself. When you purchase an ebook for 4.99, I do not get 4.99. I get a percentage of that determined by the store in which the book is placed. It can be as high as 70%, but in most places it is around 30%-40%.
I could not live here in California if I were the sole breadwinner in my family. I would not be able to write without my husband's salary.
So, should authors be paid for "the stories in their head"? I think most people must have a vision of authors who just write out a few chapters at night in their spare time and then go on to live a life of leisure the rest of the time. Being an author is a full time job. And speaking from someone who used to be a software engineer, being an author is a very hard job. It takes incredible brain power, time, and talent to put together a coherent and interesting plot with deep characters who grow throughout the story. We authors sweat blood and tears over every book. That is why it is so hard sometimes to get trashed online by nasty reviewers. Imagine putting in a year's work at your company where you did your best work and worked harder than you ever had and then to be called into your supervisor's office and told you weren't going to be paid for any of it.
Okay. Enough said. Many of you reading this don't expect books for free. I thank you for that. But perhaps this will give you a glimpse into the financial struggles of many authors. We love what we do. Believe me, most of us are not writing for the money. We write because we want to share our stories with others, to entertain, to bless, to encourage. So, next time you fret over paying $5 for a novel that will give you hours of pleasure, think about all the hard work and money that went into creating that book.
Have a great weekend!