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

“Dangerous Request” – Excerpt from BLOOD DEBT (Project Prometheus)

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When Doctor Michael Banks asked his brother to find him a specialist to help combat the biological weapon wiping out entire villages in the Amazon jungles, he expected a dedicated, licensed doctor with enough lab time to make Albert Schweitzer green with envy, and warrior enough to handle himself in the Amazon.  So he was stunned and disappointed to find himself face-to-face with a petite spitfire of a woman with no degree, desert features, and china blue eyes.  To beat the poison, Michael will need everything at his disposal, and the Persian spitfire at his side has the key to his most valuable weapon — if he can keep her far away from his darkest secret.

 

“Dangerous Request” –Excerpt from Blood Debt (Project Prometheus, Book 4) :

Michael, his head bent in concentration over the most recent batch of blood tests, jerked upright as a scream tore through the camp. As his brain registered the sound came from the nearby blood-supply tent, where Shahdi was working, icy panic lanced through him.

He lunged for the lab’s entrance, and dashed out into the bright light of day, with barely an acknowledgement of moving as he tore into the canvas of the collapsed tent next door.

“Shahdi!”

“Michael,” her faint voice, even muffled by the heavy canvas, sent an electric charge of relief through his veins. Shoving aside canvas as he went, Michael waded through the collapsed tent, until he uncovered a sight that made his blood run cold.

Shahdi lay pinned beneath a large chunk of the main support pole, with the heavy beam wedged sideways across her body from left shoulder to right hip. That thing had to be crushing her!

Scrambling to her side, Michael grasped the pole, muscles straining as he lifted the beam away. It wasn’t as heavy as it was awkward to lift, but it was still heavy enough to do damage when dropped from nearly fifteen feet above. Discarding the pole, he dropped to the ground at Shahdi’s side even as she tried to sit up.

“Don’t move!”

She gave him an odd look — probably questioning the sharp fear in his voice — but subsided with nothing more than a sigh and a wince. Michael ran his hands quickly over her body, checking for cracked or broken bones and warmer than normal spots that would indicate internal bleeding. Relief poured through him when he found nothing.

“This is not how I planned to have your hands on me.” The humorous lilt of Shahdi’s voice snapped his gaze to her face, and he scowled as his fear boiled over into anger.

“You could have been killed, and you’re cracking jokes?”

She rolled her eyes as she slowly sat up, his hands steadying her in spite of her apparent strength.

“You must learn to not fret so, Michael,” she murmured. “The point is that I was not harmed. Therefore, a little humor puts the situation into its proper place.”

“You’re going to have nasty bruises by tomorrow–”

“But they will heal with time.”

“You’ll be stiff and hurting–”

“But I am alive.”

He eyed her testily, his nerves drawn to breaking point. Damn it, she was hurt; couldn’t she see how much the idea scared him? “You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”

“No.” Her good humor fled, and her somber blue gaze met his. “I do not know how to make you love me.”

Blood Debt – Available from Desert Breeze Publishing on May 11,2016

“A Mother’s Promise” — Excerpt from VENGEFUL HEART (Underground)

Vengeful Heart Cover (My version)Some wounds, even time can’t bind. But vengeance, and redemption, might. Tamia Carinson is convinced of it. When she left for Tibet, Tamia vowed to never give up on her search for the Mole, and her husband’s killer. In the two years since she left, she’s uncovered Jeffrey Colbert’s vendetta against Rick, and she’s convinced Colbert killed him. Now, with a vow of vengeance burning in her aching heart, where the pain she’s never learned to move past still haunts her, Tamia’s finally come home to New York City, and her revenge.

“A Mother’s Promise” — Excerpt from VENGEFUL HEART (Underground, Book 5)

Ah-ma.”

Tamia glanced away from the screen of Rick’s datareader at the tug on her shirt tail. A smile pulled up her lips as she met innocent blue eyes, and the familiar twin tugs of love and loss gripped her.

“What is it, baby?” She scooped her son into her lap at the Command Center conference table, and swallowed down the lump of guilt that lodged in her throat. Michael didn’t understand what was happening. All her baby knew was someone plucked him from the safe, low-tech world he knew, and dropped into this world of light and sound, where she was the only familiar thing he could find. It must be terrifying.

Po-po ka-bah?”

Her eyes closed at that anxious request, and she hugged him close. How could she explain that his great-grandfather, whom he adored, wasn’t here, and she had no idea when or if they’d ever see him again? Not that Kuron’s influence on her son wouldn’t far outlast his physical presence, or anything she could teach.

Po-po isn’t here, Mikey.”

He tilted his head to the right, in a move so very Kuron Tamia smothered a laugh, as he digested her words. Oh, yeah. The old man had one hell of an influence. No surprise there. In her own way, she absorbed her grandfather’s influence, as well. She’d just been too angry to act on it. She’d been stupid — something Michael definitely wasn’t. The scary intelligence behind Michael’s every consideration — as if he processed and dissected more than mere words — was all his father’s genes. As much as those deep blue eyes were.

Pa-pha?”

Tamia’s heart froze mid-beat, as her eyes fixed on her son in disbelief. Had her son picked up more than she realized from Kuron, even at this young age? Why else would he ask the one question she still wasn’t prepared to answer? She told herself she’d been preparing for this day ever since she first learned of the explosion that took Rick away from them. But the truth was, she was far from prepared, in the face of her son’s innocent query. Michael was too young to understand death, and she did everything in her power to shield him from it. She saw enough for both of them.

“Oh, baby.” She couldn’t help the catch in her voice as she gathered him close and breathed his sweet, baby-fresh scent. She rocked him in her lap as she fought down tears at the painful twist of her gut.

“Someday,” she promised in a whisper as she kissed his forehead. “Someday, I’ll tell you all about your daddy.”

Coming February 2016 from Esther Mitchell and Under The Moon publishing. Find out how the story begins with the rest of the Underground series, available now at Amazon.com  

“Gilded Cage” — Excerpt from MISTRESS OF CATS (Legends of Tirum)

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Phoenix Telyn Gwndal swore to return her friend and blood sister to her proper place within the Imperial Palace of Targoth. She knows the risks of even showing her face inside the Empire’s borders, but she owes Reaphia a second chance.

When a chance encounter with an out-of-place merchant from a legendary people brings Telyn into the middle of a struggle to free a woman held captive by her own will, Telyn finds herself up against a past she’s never really outrun.

Nothing can prepare her for what comes next.

“Gilded Cage” — Excerpt from MISTRESS OF CATS (Legends of Tirum, Book 4)

“No one said this would be easy.” Maltai circled her cage, watched her stalking movements match his stride warily as she pulled against the golden chain and collar that encircled her neck. “You’re not going to get out of there, no matter what I do, unless you’re ready to quit being so damned noble.”

 

She loosed a warning growl that rumbled in the air between them as he stepped closer, her bright yellow eyes narrowing as she bared her teeth. Then, backing off, she shook herself, shedding her feline form in the process. In the space of a breath, she went from imposing lioness to a lean, proud woman with tawny skin and dark hair, wearing only the short, tattered drape of cloth that denoted her servitude, and the proud, regal tilt of her chin that told him she was far from a broken slave.

 

“If I compromise my very core, and everything I hold dear, then I might as well stay here and become a slave in truth. What reason do I have to be free, if I sacrifice my soul self in the process?”

Want to know more?  Stay tuned for details about Legends of Tirum and this book, Mistress of Cats!  Meanwhile, check out Books 1 & 2 at Desert Breeze Publishing

“Unmake the Past” – Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum)

 

A friend’s quest for identity sends Telyn and her party into a land long draped in secrecy and legend. The truth they find staggers them all, because when the next Chosen is revealed, her identity will leave Telyn questioning her own fate, and the choices she’s made. And when Telyn’s life is upended by a disaster she never saw coming, she finds herself up against the most important question of her life: Is her pride and fear worth the cost, if that cost is everything she loves?

 

 

“Unmake the Past” — Excerpt from CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS (Legends of Tirum, Book 6) —

Telyn’s expression was pensive, even sad, and it tugged at Nacaris’ heart. It was an expression she wore whenever she thought about her parents. She must be thinking about her mother.

Moving to her side, Nacaris eased down beside her, hiding his wince as pain radiated up his left leg. He didn’t want to worry her more than she clearly already was.

“How are you doing?” He squeezed her knee lightly.

She glanced up at him with a wan smile, her lavender eyes so dull with sadness and guilt it twisted his heart. “Do you ever wish you could turn back time, do things differently?”

He frowned. “Not really. If I undid everything before, what would I be? Not myself. And I would run the risk of never meeting you. I wouldn’t do anything to risk what we have.”

She loosed a small sigh, and leaned her head against his shoulder. He liked that, liked knowing she felt she could still lean on him. She was silent for a long moment, only the crackle of the fire breaking the silence. Then, he heard her sigh again before, in a small voice, she murmured, “Does it make me a horrible person that I would?”

He told himself those words didn’t hurt — not much. Right now, Telyn was reeling with guilt, fear and pain. She didn’t mean it the way it sounded.

“No, balnyt.” He nuzzled her temple, wrapping an arm around her waist to snuggle her closer. “You’re facing something terrifying. Something I never had to face. I can’t imagine I’d feel any differently, if our roles were reversed.”

Find out what happened. Look for CHILD OF FALLEN WATERS, coming August 11 from Desert Breeze Publishing. Read the story from the beginning, with DAUGHTER OF ASHES, from Amazon.com or Desert Breeze Publishing.

“The Hit” – Excerpt from NOWHERE TO HIDE (Project Prometheus)

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This particular piece comes from NOWHERE TO HIDE.  Meet Candace Billings, daughter of a man with connections that could get her killed.

As far as the world was concerned, debutante Candace Billings knew nothing beyond a life of privilege. But the high gates of the Billings estate housed a secret darker than any prison facility, and Candace would do anything to escape it. When her father offered her the chance to travel to South America on holiday, she eagerly accepted, determined to never return to the life she left behind. But a bag exchange in a Columbian hotel brought her back into the United States a criminal, released into her father’s unyielding custody. A stolen car and a nighttime collision brought Candace to the attention of a man who could neither abandon nor absolve her. But, just maybe, he can save her.

 

“The Hit” – Excerpted from NOWHERE TO HIDE (Project Prometheus, Book #16) –

            This is it.  I’m going to die.

The thought slipped through Candace Billings’ mind like a snake, gone in a flash as the dark sedan slammed into the side of her sports car again. Grim humor gripped her as she acknowledged it wasn’t actually her anything.  She didn’t know a damned thing about cars. This was Ben’s car, sliding out of control on the rain-slick road as she fought to break free from the shove of the other vehicle.

God, please don’t let me die here.

What she was praying for, she didn’t know.  Death would be preferable to being returned to Ben’s fancy townhouse, or worse, to her father’s sprawling mansion.  Still, Candace gritted her teeth and fought the out-of-control car, and the jarring pound of the hitman’s vehicle.

And she had no doubt he was a hitman.  One of the cartel’s thugs, no doubt, employed strictly to take care of people like her.  Candace barked a sharp laugh, but didn’t dare spare a glance for the backpack on the passenger seat beside her, or a thought for its contents.  She didn’t have time.

A guard rail loomed in the beam of her headlights, and she swore softly beneath her breath as she slammed the brake to the floor.  The screech of the expensive machinery protesting the hard use joined the chorus of squealing rubber and the splinter of crushed metal and fiberglass.  Then, there was a sickening crunch, and pain seared through her body as she flew forward, caught between the guard rail to her left and the gunning engine of the sedan to her right.  Her breath stopped in her lungs as the seat belt strangled her, then snapped, and a nauseating crack filled the compartment.  She slumped sideways with a groan as pain exploded through her, and only the tortured squeal of the windshield wipers kept her company as she tumbled into darkness.

Want to know more about Project Prometheus?  Stay tuned… And pick up your copy of the Eppie-Nominated Project Prometheus series debut, IN HER NAME, available now from Desert Breeze Publishing!

“Her Father’s Keep” — Excerpt from PHOENIX RISING

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Phoenix Telyn Gwndal gave up the love of her life for the destiny she was born to bear. As she undertakes the quest levied on her, will she uncover a secret alliance meant to destroy her, or can a shadow from her past save her from the ultimate mistake?

“Her Father’s Keep” — excerpted from PHOENIX RISING (Legends of Tirum, Book 2)

The crumbled ruin of a soaring war keep loomed on the forested horizon, bathed in the bloody streaks of Helios’ setting light.  Telyn’s breath caught in her throat as she stared at the structure, imposing in spite of its dilapidation.  Pain wrenched her heart, startling her.  She’d never been to this place, so why did the mere sight of that decaying ruin fill her with such grief?  Her eyes stung, and she blinked away the tell-tale signs of impending tears.  She didn’t have time for this foolishness.

Determination fueled her forward, toward the destroyed remnants of her father’s lineage – all that remained of her heritage, and the once-mighty Phoenix Clan.  One day, she promised herself silently, she would see it restored.  For now, she intended to search every nook and cranny of the old ruin.  The Phoenix Book was still here.  She could feel it.

Pelarius Brunnari was an evil man, driven by an insatiable desire for power that didn’t rightfully belong to him, but he wasn’t stupid.  Oh, no.  The old fox was wily, right up to the end.  He knew the legends of the Phoenix Book, and probably better than anyone left alive, at that.  It was said, she’d heard whispers once, that the removal of any of the sacred artifacts from those entrusted with their care would not only render the artifact useless, but also quite dangerous to the one who did the removing.  The Aerai Majin, it was said, made sure of that.  And those whispers confirmed Telyn’s gut feeling – the Phoenix Book never really left Phoenix Hall.

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.

Get your copy of PHOENIX RISING from Amazon.com! Want to see how it all begins? Find Book I: DAUGHTER OF ASHES, available from Amazon.com and Desert Breeze Publishing !