A Writer’s Value: Breaking Down the Math

There’s been a lot of discussion, lately, about the value of a writer’s work. I have to say, it’s not just about authors, though I will be approaching this mostly from a writer’s perspective. But I have to say it: Artisans in general have been devalued, because people say “I can do that” without a clue what goes into the art.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people, right in front of me, say “Oh, I can make that myself” when looking at my jewelry.

You know what? Maybe you can. But you won’t. And it’s likely in most cases you won’t take the time or lay out the money to learn how to do it.

Writing involves learning, and the layout of money, on the faith that someone will find your work worthwhile enough to pay for. Most people have no idea what writing requires. I’m here to tell you.

It requires having the idea.

It requires research (months of it… sometimes years).

It requires focus.

It requires hours and hours of dedicated time, away from family and friends, with focus entirely on the work being done.

It requires a desire to create something larger than yourself — characters that people are going to care about more than they will ever care about you, stories that can convince readers to suspend reality.

My average book takes anywhere from four months to three years to write, depending on how deep the research goes. Can you honestly say that isn’t worth $6 for the final product?

If you calculate out the hours spent, versus my royalties on a $6 book (that’s roughly $2 I get per book sold), that means I have to sell at least 4 books just to make 1 hour’s pay, at minimum wage($8/hr). When you factor in that I spend, on average, 2,500 hours on each book, and calculate that out at minimum wage, it breaks down like this:

2,500 hrs x $8/hr = $20,000
(to break even just on time spent, at minimum wage)
+
200 pgs (average) x 4 printings (average) = 800 pages /500 pg per ream = 1.55 reams of paper x 3.64/ream = $5.47 paper cost (average)
+
0.67 cartridge ink (average) x 4 color (1,200 pages per cartridge) = Use of 2 2/3 cartridges (average) x $20/cartridge = $53.40 ink cost (average)
+
Notebooks, copies, pens, etc items usually come to about $50 per book, on average.

So, on average, that totals out to:
$20,000 + $5.47 + $53.40 + $50 = $20,108.87 on average for a book, and that’s just in production cost on my end (the writing), and assuming a publisher will pick up publication costs.

Now, remembering I will only be making (on average) $2 per book sold, just to break even, I’m going to have to sell 10,055 copies just to break even on writing one book… and that doesn’t include any advertising costs or other post-production expenses I’m expected to eat as an author.

You want to know what my average yearly income from writing is? About $30 (if I’m lucky).

Considering how much I have to fight torrent sites, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn I’m probably losing 10 times that amount to people stealing my work because they feel entitled to read it for free.

So… It takes a certain amount of dedication and drive to write a whole book (never mind a series or three), and the sacrifices. And everyone who devalues authors with “Oh, I could write a book if I wanted to” and “It’s not like it’s hard work” or “Well, authors make so much money, they can afford to lose the sale if I get it for free off a torrent site” are so full of crap, it’s coming out of their eyeballs.

Could you write a book?
Yeah, maybe you could. But you probably won’t. Because the minute most people realize how difficult and thankless it actually is, they give up. If you aren’t writing now, you probably don’t have the dedication and drive to do it for a career.

Is it hard work?
You bet your ass it is.

It’s grueling.

It’s time-consuming.

It’s hours and days and months of aggravation, missing out on things because your muse has you glued to a notebook or computer screen, writing away.

It’s heart-breaking at times, and exhilarating at others.

It’s 72 hours straight without sleep because you’re terrified if you stop, you’ll lose that brilliant idea that’s currently consuming you.

It’s ripping out your heart and soul and offering it up so some critic who’s having a bad day can make themselves feel better by stomping all over it, and then pasting on a smile and saying “Well, I learn from the bad reviews”… And days of bouncing off the walls with joy, and no one to share it with, when someone deems your hard work the best thing they ever read.

It’s a damned roller coaster of “I don’t know what to feel, right now” when you’re stuck between watching a love affair come together, and watching a life fall apart, right there on the page, and not being quite sure how either came to be, because they damned well weren’t in your outline, plot cards, or rough draft.

Can we afford to lose even one sale?
Not a snowball’s chance in Hell. We’ve bled for each and every sale, long before that book hits the shelves for sale. Writers are fragile creatures, and we base our self-worth on how worthwhile you, as the reader, consider us. Telling us “I want to read your book, but you’re not worth a measly $6 to read” tells us you think we, as a writer, are worthless… Many a good author has given up, discouraged, because they feel worthless in the eyes of their readers, because readers make the mistake of thinking every writer is the #1 Best Seller book, and making millions of dollars.

But you know how a book gets to that exalted position? People buy it.

So, unless you’re willing to buy, don’t call yourself a fan.

Books 01

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“Againt the Rules” — Excerpt from MIND KILLER (Underground)

MindKillerCoverMatt Clipper is a product of the streets. His slot with the Commandos depends on his ability to keep playing a game with death he’s growing tired of. But with no military skill set, no education to fall back on, and no special skills to call upon, the streets and gangs are his only way to contribute to the team. But when the game he’s been playing goes from deadly to suicidal, his only hope of salvaging his sanity could rest in keeping how close to the edge he really is to himself.

 “Against the Rules” – Excerpt from MIND KILLER (Underground, Book 2)–

This couldn’t be good.  Jen LaSaulle swung her chair toward the hydrolift’s monitor as the signal of keycard activation buzzed in Comms.  The only people not in the Underground tonight were Ishmael, who was probably at least three thousand miles away, and Matt, who shouldn’t be back until dawn.

She sucked in a breath and fought away the grip of queasiness as her gaze locked onto the image of the black man currently slumped against the wall of the hydrolift, one hand pressed to his side.  Was he injured?

Her heart twisted as she searched his face for signs of pain, and found only weariness.  He must have forgotten about the monitoring system, or he’d never show this kind of vulnerability.

“Rough night?”  She spoke into the Comms headset, aware only he could hear her, in the confines of the soundproofed hydrolift.

Matt’s head jerked up, and all hint of vulnerability was gone as the badass returned full-bloom.  Only now, she knew it was all bullshit.  “Nah, I’m great, Catwoman.”

She rolled her eyes, even aware that he couldn’t see her expression.  When was Matt going to actually let her in?  “I’m a psychologist and a profiler, Clipper.   Give me some credit.”

He swore, and glared toward the camera as the ‘lift came to a halt in the Underground.  “Then read my mind, Doc.  I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Annoyance zipped through her.  This was an old argument.  She wasn’t prepared to have a relationship with a man who couldn’t share himself with her, and he only seemed to want to have a good time.   So they stalled at sex.  She told herself she was fine with that, then called herself a liar.  Still, they had the job, and if he couldn’t respect her as a lover, he was damned well going to respect her as a teammate.  “You don’t have a choice, tough guy.  You have to report in.”

The door to the hydrolift slid closed, but not before she saw his response in an uplifted finger.  Her cheeks burned with fury.  Damn it all, she was sick of this.  She couldn’t get him to talk to her, anymore, without pulling rank as the team fitness evaluator.  Even then, she knew he was handing her a line, even if she couldn’t prove it.  Matt Clipper was not okay.

Shoving to her feet, she stalked through the door and out into the corridor just in time to see Matt heading up the hall toward the housing sector.

“Get back here.”  Her words were cold, and laced with all the fury and pain she held caged inside her.  Matt wouldn’t treat anyone else on the team with this kind of careless disdain.  Why her?  “You know the rules, Clipper.”

He turned, and for a split second, the walls dropped.  Jen sucked in a gasp of surprise and dismay.  Matt was close to dropping – not unusual – but his eyes were wild and troubled.  She had no doubt where he was headed, or what he would do once he got there.  Her anger was forgotten as she hurried toward him.

“Please,” she softened her tone as she approached, and saw him tense as if he meant to flee.  “Just talk to me.  Let me be your friend, Matt.”

He shifted, and his face blanched.  Jen’s eyes widened and her gaze dropped to the floor, where she saw a growing puddle of blood on the concrete and steel floor.  “Oh my god!”

Join the Commandos! Pick up your copy of the critically-acclaimed book that started it all, TAMIA, at Amazon.com today!

“The Green Man” — Excerpt from PHOENIX RISING (Legends of Tirum)

PHOENIX RISING CoverPhoenix Telyn Gwndal has finally accepted the Majik that’s her birthright. But when her mission to finish her father’s quest sends her into the beleaguered Borderlands, she’s about to discover Fate has quite different plans from the ones she’s made — and they involve a man she’s already promised herself never to love, and a proud people she can’t turn her back on. Can Telyn escape Destiny’s designs with her heart still intact?

 

“The Green Man” — Excerpt from PHOENIX RISING (Legends of Tirum, Book 2) —

Excitement pulsed a fiery song through her veins as she urged Bloodcloud toward the forest surrounding Phoenix Hall. She had no fear of its darkness — her Bathron eyes would grant her vision even in its darkest corners and brambles. And, if Kishfa rode with her this night, she’d have the Phoenix Book in her hands before the morning light.

Bloodcloud, however, didn’t appear as thrilled about their destination. At the edge of the forest, he shied up and danced away from the path several steps on two powerful legs, nearly throwing her from her seat on his back. Gripping his flanks hard with her knees, she leaned into him until he was forced to drop his weight back down. Yet, he refused to move forward, digging in with the tenacity of a pack mule.

Telyn’s brow furrowed. She’d never seen him act like this before. Bloodcloud was a trained warhorse, and until now, she’d have sworn he didn’t have a skittish bone in his whole body. If he backed away, it was for a very good reason.

“Come now, old friend,” she crooned to him as she stroked sure, calming hands over his softly bristled coat. “What bothers you? Is there Majik in these woods?”

“Now there’s a fool’s query if I ever heard one!”

Telyn’s head snapped up at the sound of a new voice. She’d swear she was alone out here. There shouldn’t be anyone within a league of this place. But there, just in the shadows of a large roan tree, leaned the form of a man — if indeed he was a man, and not some form of spirit come to haunt her. He was whipcord thin and dressed head-to-toe in what looked like moss, leaves, and brambles. Between his crossed arms rested a long bollstaff decorated in what appeared to be shiny eggshells, silverflower, and crane feathers. Every sense she had went on alert as the anaqueri at her side hummed to life and began to sing a familiar tune — impending battle.

“Who are you?” she demanded, uncertain she was willing to battle what might turn out to be some specter of this place. “How did you get here?”

He straightened, and stepped forward into the light, blocking her path into the forest. “Those would be questions for me to ask. You, after all, are the stranger here.”

This was becoming more confusing by the moment. “You mean you… live here?”

His eyes — a deep, forest green that blended into the darkening wood behind him — glinted with cold humor. “These wood be my home, and all that is seen. For I, Warrior Maid, am the Jaran Green.”

“The Green Jaran?” Telyn barely held in her scorn. The Green Jaran was a myth — a tale told to children to frighten them into good behavior.Said to be the lingering spirit of one of the Old Gods, the Green Jaran supposedly guarded the wood and all it housed, and often stole naughty children, whom he made into his goblinesque servants in punishment for their wicked ways. “Who are you, really?”

His gaze narrowed in cold fury that gave her pause. “Trust not your own eyes?”

Telyn frowned as she let her gaze travel over his unusual appearance. He certainly looked the part of the Green Jaran. Hadn’t she just learned the impossible about herself? Who was she to doubt the man before her?

“All right. So you’re the Green Jaran. However,” she paused, considering the wisdom of her next words. She had no idea what kind of power he truly had. Then, she shrugged. If he meant to kill her, there wasn’t much she could do to stop a god, after all. “I’m not a child. You can’t frighten me.”

He flicked her words away with one long-fingered hand. “You’ve come for the Book.”

She gaped. “How… I mean…”

“I know much about all who venture through my wood. But you, I have known since the moment of your birth, and I knew that one day, you would come. You have come for the Book.”

After what he just said, it would be foolish to deny his words. “Aye.”

“Then you should be terrified.”

Follow the Legend from the beginning… Get your copy of DAUGHTER OF ASHES, today at either Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.com!

From The Pages: A glimpse from TAMIA (Underground, Book 1)

Tamia 02

Pick up your copy of TAMIA today at http://www.amazon.com/Tamia-Underground-Book-Esther-Mitchell-ebook/dp/B004TCVC02/ or find out more about Esther Mitchell and her books at www.esthermitchell.com