Friday, May 12, 2017

Writing: How Do Authors Get Paid?

If you're like me, you receive a number of emails each day offering discounted or free e-books. I confess that I often take advantage of these, and sometimes (not as often as I'd wish) I find a new author so I end up buying more of their books. Of course, that's the whole idea behind these "loss leaders." It's the same reason grocery stores have sales and put a discounted item on an end-cap or other prominent place. They want customers to think, "For that price, I'll try it." And often (they hope) the customer comes back for more, even at full price.

Authors do this for the same reason. But I'm afraid our culture has reached the point of agreeing with Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku: "For free, take. For buy, waste time." On one of the author's loops of which I'm a member, an author recently said she was told, "I really like your books. When the new one's free, I'm going to get it."

The average author spends six months to a year writing each book. If they have a contract with a traditional publisher, they receive an advance against royalties, but not a cent more until the book(s) in question "earn out." Since many books never earn out their advances, the author doesn't get any more money. The publisher runs specials and puts them on sale at a discounted price, but it rarely lines the author's pocket.

If an author is one of the new breed of self-publishers, they've paid out to have cover art developed and the manuscript edited (if they want the book to be something that will bring readers back for more). Their royalty structure is better, but there's a certain amount of up-front cost to them.

What do you think? What's a fair return for the writer's efforts? Or should books be available for free, much like air for our tires at a 7-11 store? Oh, wait. Those compressors require payment now. What's next?

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Patricia Bradley said...

I'm afraid we've created an entitlement attitude for readers with the free book. My first book is run free every so often, and it has helped to increase the sale of my other books so I can see an upside to it. But I'm not sure it's a good idea. :-/

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, I agree that this is a two-edged sword. Making the book free (for a given period, or even--for, say, the first book in a series--permanently) is good marketing. But the reading public has developed an entitlement attitude, and the recompense for authors is going to be affected.
Thanks for your comment.