One of the things that I have been reading about lately is the sheer number of fans who seem to think our work should be free. Yes, I don’t have this problem because I have no books out … yet. In September my first self-published book will go live. Rather than feel excited about it, I’ve read fans griping about the cost, and authors griping about thieves who get their work from free on torrent and other piracy sites. One author calculated how much she lost in royalties from one site where her book had been downloaded over sixteen thousand times.
I admit this made me curious, what is the actual cost of publishing through Amazon and Createspace? So I sat down and did some math. I’m sure other authors may disagree with the numbers, but this is what I believe is an accurate representation of the time and cost of bringing my first novel to fruition.
- Research – Every author will tell you this is where to begin and I absolutely agree. Yes, I wrote an urban fantasy novel, but I still needed to learn about myths, folklore, and what is considered acceptable for my genre. Total time spent @ 350 hours.
- Story Development – For me this was figuring out what story I wanted to tell and how I wanted to do it. This is not plotting, this is the world-building, reality-bending, mind-numbing creation phase that can make or break you as an author. I got lucky, my story showed me where it needed to go fairly quickly. But I still spent @ 125 hours pulling it all together.
- Plotting/Outlining – Again, I got lucky everything came together quickly and I managed to put the plot together from beginning to tentative end over 8 weeks. I still spent about five hours a day, seven days a week working on it. All of it when my family was asleep because that was when I could focus. @ 280 hours.
- Writing the first draft – My family supported my decision to join Camp NaNoWriMo and they helped me created the time and space necessary to write the first 75,000 words during Camp. I spent a little more time on this than the plotting stage, but I was able to write quickly. My novel ended up at 93,000 words and I spent @ 350 hours doing it.
- Revisions and Rewrites – This part is harder to figure. I actually walked away from my novel for two weeks to come back at it fresh. I proceeded to rip it apart and rebuild it only when my family was asleep. Four revisions, five beta readers, my sister, and niece read it gutted it and all over the course of several months. @500 hours but since not all of that was my time I will only claim one quarter of the time. @125 hours.
- Editing – I paid for editing services and I got lucky. I was given a great deal with multiple revisions. $1500.
- Cover design – Again, I paid out of pocket for this and got an amazing deal from an amazing designer. $270.
- Other Professional Services – This can include formatting, social media banners, giveaways, etc. I haven’t had these expenses yet so I cannot report about the costs.
Now let’s do the math:
Total hours spent by me on Golden Opportunity = 880 hours
Oregon’s minimum wage = $9.25
880 x $9.25 = $8,140 + $1,500 + $270 = $9,910
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, if I actually expect to be paid for my time I’m almost ten thousand dollars in the hole before I ever sell a single book.
Now, for argument’s sake let’s assume that I only sell my book as an eBook for $2.99 per download. Amazon will allow me to have a 35% royalty on said eBook which means I will receive approximately $1.05 per mythological book I sell. Let’s say I don’t think I’m worthy of minimum wage and that I would only like to make back what I’ve spent out of my pocket on my novel, that totals $1,770. So a little more math tells me that $1,770/$1.05 = 1,687. Now, I need to sell 1,687 copies of my book to BREAK EVEN and not make any actual wages.
I’m so glad that fans think we authors are all making bucket loads of money on our version of make-believe. I’m also glad that everyone thinks we “just make stories up” and don’t deserve real wages. For the record I, like most of my fellow authors, don’t write to make millions, but if I can make enough money to pay back the money I’ve already spent. That will allow me to spend it on the next book I write then I will be ecstatic.
Yes, I know I didn’t add in the cost of classes, conventions, marketing, reviewer copies, and a million other things. Partially because those are variable, and partially because I don’t want to break down and cry like a baby. One last thing, I hope to see everyone who has the dream of being published achieve it … and …