Category Archives: Rants

The hard truth of the financials for authors…

 

Once again, the cycle has come around, and it’s come in full force.  It’s about supporting your favorite authors, buying their stuff, and not stealing it.

First, let me say, I believe the vast majority of people are good and well intentioned. It only takes a very few people to convince you though, the world needs a good cleansing zombie apocalypse.

I did X-Con at myrtle beach a couple of weeks back, and had a table talking about my books, and even selling a few. A girl in her late twenties walked over to the table and asked for one of the scattered candy bars on my table, and I told her to help herself. She did.

She wanted to know about the books, and we talked for about fifteen minutes, in which time she ate every one of the candy bars on my table (about 10) and then no so politely told me I needed to give her a free book because she couldn’t afford it. Not even the eBooks, but a paperback. I politely declined, she told me to “fuck off then” and left the pile of candy bar wrappers on my table.

I tossed the wrappers, had a small internal meltdown, wrote a few notes about how this self-entitled whiny bitch is going to wind up dying in a future book, and moved on. Never piss off a writer with a twisted sense of humor, miss going to die by starving to death while being dipped into a vat of molten chocolate, allowing it to harden, and watching you starve to death while ants eat the chocolate away. #RantOver #SanitizedVersion

At the same time, a very lovely young lady came to my table several times, a fellow writer, and we talked a lot through the weekend. She bought my eBook, and I gave her a print copy so she’d have a signed one.

I’m mostly a business and tech guy, and I’m using my knowledge and experience to write a 101 type guide about the business of being an author or artist. And yes, writers are a type of artists, but with key differences in the business models. I’m pulling a piece of that (draft) out to post here, because I think it’s relevant.

We now live in a world of open source, and where so many people think everything should be free, especially digital content. At a convention a while back, I had someone argue about why I was charging for books. Especially eBooks, because they don’t cost anything.

So let’s break down the numbers:

 

First, let’s assume I’m a traditionally published author.

My percentage of sales will be 7 – 15%. Let’s assume a blended rate of $4.99 a book between eBooks and print (Low by today’s trade pub standards, but roll with me over the life of the book). Based on this, the author will make .35 to .75 a book. I’m feeling optimistic, so let’s take $.75 a book.

An average novel is @ 80,000 words. We won’t talk about my last 2 novels in the 105k range. What does it take to crank out that 80,000 words?

A productive average is 1000 words an hour to draft, so that’s 80 hours.

But wait, that’s once you have an idea, research, have fleshed it out, and have a plan, pitched and sold. 80 hours. (And that’s fiction)

Depending on your style and productivity, editing, rewrites, and the stuff that just didn’t work? I’ve seen people estimate as little as another 30-50 of the original draft, but for a commercially published work, it’s easily equal to four or 5 times the original first draft for the author to review edits, do rewrites, proofreads, punctuation, and everything that goes along with the rest. Not to mention the editors from the publishing house side. Let’s split the difference, and call it 300 hours.

Arguing with editors, agents, cover artists, and other administrative crap? 40 hours.

So doing a little math, that’s 500 hours. Based on 40 hour weeks, that’s 12.5 weeks, so let’s cut it to three months of working time, for 80,000 words.

Based on the proposed move to go to $15 an hour, and hopefully you think creative work is worth at least that, you have to sell… hmmmm carry the one, it’s $7,500, and at .75 a copy, you need to sell 10,000 books. High producers sell 50 – 100 a week, so let’s use the 100 a week, and so that’s 2 years of sales.

Not to mention all the hours of marketing, social media, and cultivating your fan base that aren’t in there.

But wait, there’s more!

Let’s say you’re doing a self-published work.

Our productive average is 1000 words an hour to draft, so we’ll still go with 80 hours.

But wait, that’s once you have an idea, research, have fleshed it out, and have a plan, pitched and sold. 80 hours. Stuff those other people would help you with, you’re on the hook for.

Now you’re also entirely on the hook for editing, rewrites, etc., and I’m going to make the assumption you hire someone to edit, so you’re still at the same 300 hours.

Arguing with editors, cover artists, and other administrative crap? 100 hours. Why? You’re now doing it all.

So doing a little math, that’s 560 hours. Based on 40 hour weeks, that’s 14 weeks, for 80,000 words.

Plus you have to pay for cover art – $100 – $250 (minimum)

Editing ($250 – $1,500) depending on the types of editing and level of polish you want to put on it. Or you have to put in the hours. Either way, you’re spending the time and money.

I’m going to use an even $1,000 to produce the work (on the low end of what you should budget)

Here’s the good news. Depending on how you structure yourself, Amazon is going to give you 35% – 70% of your sales. The down side, you probably are maxing out at $4.99, but we’ll stick with it for equivalency. That’s $1.75 to $3.50 a book. We’re rolling in the cash now!

You’ve laid out $1000 up front. So you need to sell 286 books to pay for that.

To sell those, you’re looking at advertising, and getting reviews, another $1000. Another 286 books.

So just to cover my outlay, I need to sell 582 books.

Show me the money!

At $3.50 a book to get minimum wage for my 560 hours, I need to sell another 2400 books! So let’s round up to 3,000 books!

High producing self-pubbed average 5-50 sales a week. Let’s say you are rocking it and doing 50 a week. That means I only need 60 weeks… at the same high pace to make my $15 an hour. Oh wait, now I don’t have a publisher, or anyone else to help promote me. And most self pubbed would be happy at 5 a week after a couple of weeks. And most books are $2.99. You’re looking at 3-4 years, unless you push really hard, and get a little lucky.

And let’s talk other opportunity costs. I work a full time gig. Much of my life, it’s been 60, 70 , 80 hours a week. I do all of this at lunch, and night when everyone else is asleep. Weekends. I’m behind on TV and movies. Most of what I read is research or doing stuff for fellow authors and friends.

So yeah, oh little miss self-important snowflake who is willing to drop $5 on a latte and come over and lecture me why you can’t spend a couple of bucks for a eBook, and tell me it doesn’t cost anything?

This one went a little long. I’ll save my piracy rant for next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call me to swap blog posts

Yeah, there’s a point to this one. You just have to get past the rant.

For anyone that knows me, has met me, or simply asked directions, I’m willing to talk about pretty much anything and everything. I’ve been told upon occasion, I can even be entertaining, or at least a warning to young children about what happens if they grow up to be like me.

(Do your homework kids.)

At one point, I was in the media, and I have occasionally still contributed to a variety of publications, mostly on technology, project management, or professional development. Other times, I’ll do a little something about writing and fiction.

If you want my opinion on Cthulhu for President, I’ll probably have one. And be more than willing to share it. (For the moment, I’m waiting to see what an elder god’s opinion is on concealed carry and NC HB2.)

In short, if someone wants a blog post, article or interview, I’m pretty good about doing them as long as I see your e-mail. And you can put up with a smart ass.

Names from here on out have been changed to protect the guilty, but I’ve had a couple of people hit me up recently for contributions, but with a twist. They want me to pay them for the privilege of being interviewed.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no issue charging for services, and if everyone agrees, it’s like anything else. I’ve spent most of my career consulting. I understand charging by the hour, and both charging any paying for services.

The first person tried to explain how they charged to help defray their website costs. That makes sense, except they also ran a lot of advertising and affiliate programs. Again, I don’t have a problem with that, but I politely declined based on the numbers. If they have the volume they proclaim, then the “nominal fee” shouldn’t be a factor in running the site. If, based on what I saw, they need my nominal fee for operating costs, they don’t have enough volume to be of any benefit.

And oh yeah, don’t ask me to write a professional piece based on my own developed materials for you to run on your site, and then give me a contract taking ownership of my IP.

And the second case, I had someone talk to me, they enjoyed some work I’d done, etc., and came to me for a blog post. Nothing big. Happy to do it.

The response was “Great, when can you deliver it.” And attached to the questionnaire was an invoice for $100 for marketing services, and a rate sheet for other services.

Uh huh.

Needless to say, I again almost politely declined. Polite mostly because it was in writing.

Again, I have no problems charging for services. I do it myself. If I am working with someone, depending on what it is, if you want a significant amount of my time and expertise, yeah, I’m going to charge you. It may be a beer, or real hourly rates, depending on how much I like you. But I’m up front about it.

Back door sales stuff pisses me off. Almost as much as the guy that sat in the driveway last week honking his horn for me to come out for him to do a sales pitch. Yeah, it was too much work to get out of his truck until I put the conference call I was in the middle of on hold to find out what jackass was setting off the dogs.

He didn’t get the business either.

Among the creative community, we have all been asked to do something for the “exposure.” I’ve even swapped it off. And yeah, I’ve done free work as a contribution. And I’ll do it in the future.

Out of choice.

So why am I writing this little rant?

Whether you’re a writer, an artist, a musician, a magician doing kids parties, YOUR TIME AND SKILLS ARE VALUABLE. Spend them wisely. Time is not an infinite resource. Make educated decisions. Treat your endeavors like a business.

Even if you’re only engaged in your creative work part time and aren’t making a living at it, YOUR TIME AND SKILLS ARE VALUABLE. And so are the time and skills of everyone else.

I have a lot of fun doing posts, and contributing to other people’s sites. I’m always happy to boost the message for people who are getting work out the door. My door is always open for someone who wants or needs help, even if it’s just an encouraging word or feedback.

And I’m willing to pay for valuable services when I need to, because I know time and skills are valuable. But if you’re asking a creative type for time or money in a way that benefits you, ask yourself how it benefits them too. That couple of hours it may take someone two write some copy for you, the Photoshop and graphics work for your event, whatever it is you need and are asking for. Remember, that’s time the other person isn’t spending working on their own stuff, or binging on Netflix. Be thankful and respectful of what others do, and remember.

Exposure isn’t remuneration. I’m not saying don’t do free work. Just think about it like loaning $20 to a friend. Don’t plan on getting it back, but if it pays off, it’s a bonus. Do it because you want to. Not because of guilt, or some nebulous perceived payoff.

And yeah, I’d love to swap blog posts.

#HB2 #WeAreNotThis

HB2, Laws of unintended consequences, and rearranging the deck chairs on the NC Titanic

Last night, half paying attention, I was surfing ye olde book of faces and an article popped up North Carolina Governor Sets Up Hotline To Report Anyone Not Using Correct Bathroom. I live in Charlotte, and I have friends on both sides of the argument, and being the jackass I am, I reposted it with a generic comment.

Within a few minutes, I had a friend respond “Fake News Site,” to which to me, was mostly irrelevant. And that point was proven over the next couple of hours after I agreed, and even commented on a couple of times in the thread. It was the overall ire and rant the post triggered. What was most interesting to me was how believable it is that we have devolved to this point in our society.

For anyone not paying attention to NC and US politics, HB2 was a bill passed, that in my view, is a poster child for the marriage of ‘The Law of Unintended Consequences’ and ‘Knee Jerk Reaction,’ being babysat by ‘Small Minded Well-Sheltered Ostriches.’ And they all have their heads up their ass.

First, let me state, I believe the law was ridiculous in principle, much less in execution. Its stated purpose was trying to fix a non-existent problem that was already covered by existing laws, even if it were an issue. In my opinion, this is a giant publicity stunt gone wrong in an election season, and has the potential to become the biggest States Rights case in decades. Why you ask?

It totally blew past long standing Federal Laws, and we are already seeing blowback on the people who are the most likely demographic to have thought it was a good idea. For example, the age discrimination suits that now have to go to Federal Court: http://www.wsoctv.com/news/local/man-files-federal-lawsuit-over-age-discrimination/209361628 and http://wncn.com/2016/04/01/nc-woman-suing-for-age-discrimination-gets-caught-up-in-hb2-bill-fallout/ for example.

Before we go any further, let me state I am a firm believer in States Rights, and in many ways the Federal Government has overreached its authority. This being said, my view is the power of the states exists to protect and guarantee our freedoms as people, not exert more oppression. And have no doubt, this bill is oppression of all people in this state, and will be for the others who are considering or who have passed similar legislation.

My personal beliefs go to the point where I don’t necessarily have to like or agree with your personal views, but as long as you are not forcing them on others, or harming others through your actions, I will defend your right to believe them to the end. I don’t want to live in a homogeneous society of drones, ala a Stepford community or even worse, Demolition Man.

No way am I doing Taco Bell every day.

At times in my career, I’ve been in traditional media, alt media, politics, small business, and the largest corporations on the planet. With the exception of small business, and sometimes even this, they all rely on the same motivator. Fear.

If you’re afraid of everything and everyone around you, you are easier to control. Almost all of the news is bad. Fear porn.

Politics used to be about motivating you to vote for someone or something. Look at the current election cycle. All of the discussion is about finding the least of the evils, and getting you to vote to stop someone else from getting into office.

Businesses rely on fear to sell you goods and services. Fear your neighbor will have something you don’t. Fear you might miss out on the next big thing. Fear that if you don’t have their service, you’ll be a victim. Don’t go in the bathroom without a baseball bat and a genitalia cop.

Guess what. This law doesn’t mean any more to a predator than ANY OTHER LAW. It’s a piece of legislation to make self-righteous people feel better about themselves and a little more false sense of security, it gives the media a firestorm to latch onto, and it lets us do it on the backs of people who are having more than enough challenges in their lives (just like the rest of us) without trying to figure out where to take a whizz without it becoming a potential life and death situation.

No, we don’t live in a perfect world. The more we fear, the further we’re driven into out caves, starring from the darkness hoping we get passed by when the angel of layoffs comes to town, or someone wants to sell us the latest upgrade of smartphone or else we might miss out on something. Guess what, in the process, you’re missing out on a lot.

I have a very simple answer to it all. Be true to yourself. Respect others, especially the ones you don’t agree with. There’s a very famous, and simple rule… Do unto others… as you wish to have done to you.

If we all lived by this one, life would be a hell of a lot nicer. Stop throwing stones in your glass houses, and throw them at the people causing the real problems.

Just because it’s Halloween, doesn’t mean you can be a troll

I’ve seen an extraordinary number of stories, reviews, articles, Facebook posts, and even a few talks with friends recently that all center around one thing. I’m not talking about constructive criticism or critical evaluation. I mean people being nasty, negative, and non-constructively critical, i.e., TROLLS.  And more importantly, people responding to them.

As I read this article ‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic I felt a mix of what might pass as emotions. Its easy to see all of the ownership that goes into any creative effort. In this case, an author producing her first work. And is often the case, she got a bad review. Unfortunately, she became obsessed with it. Despite warnings about engaging, she did.

I get it. When someone likes and appreciate your work, you want to thank them. Maybe even engage with them as positive reinforcement and encouragement. And by human nature, when someone is negative, you want to find out why, and possibly even try to change their mind. In this case, her pursuit revealed a lot of disturbing potentials, including revealing people using something other than their own identity. Well, it’s the internet. I could as easily by a hyper intelligent trained alien marmoset. My wife will just tell you I’m a smart ass. Some days, it’s just an ass, but I digress. And only possibly from another planet.

But when I read this, here is what I saw more of. A great draining waste of time, energy and resources that could have been spent improving her skills, creating more work, or even simply enjoying life. I wondered what this personal trial meant for her, her career, and life.

Another one, this time a restaurant review where someone threw a tantrum because the establishment stuck to their business practices, was short, and to the point. The response was well crafted, and undoubtedly drawing a lot of good attention, but there will always be someone who will take the side of the customer. But at least it was a quick and direct response. The review system is a system that can be gamed.

So why am I going off on this? Some other personal family and friends have been victims of various levels of trolldom. So here is my message for anyone stressing over it. And I’m trying to keep this fairly clean. Take feedback for what it’s worth. Haters can F*** Off.

When I pushed out my first self pub story, it had been through numerous self reviews and an external editor. Since then, its had a couple more external edits and reviews. And every time I flip back to it for something, I find something else. The good news with ebooks, I fix em when I find em. And if you have refresh turned on for kindle, you’ll get the updates. The first version version let a couple of things slip through that would have sent my English teacher mother into apoplexy. But, its getting cleaner.  And for the most part, reviews have been fair. And I’m happy that most of my readers have forgiven a few sins in favor of enjoying the story.

I’ve gotten a few messages baiting contention. I deal with enough of that in the rest of my working life. I ignored them. On the other side, I’ve gotten more encouraging messages, and even questions about where my work is going. Those I’ll respond to.

I write because I enjoy it. It’s cathartic. I’ve written for most of my life, mostly to get stuff out of my head, and it lets me work through other events in my personal and professional life. I write for me. The fact that others are enjoying it is a bonus. And the idea that there are some haters out there? I have no expectation that everyone will love, or even like my work. No creative person should. Creativity is a drive to produce something of yourself. Most creative people are unwilling or unable to expose that part of themselves to the world at large. It is the few of that crowd that are willing to risk or tolerate the criticism that inevitably comes with opening yourself to the public, whether on an individual basis or in the greater electronic world.

I wrote this to give a little encouragement for everyone who is trying to bring life to their creative pursuits, whether personally, or because you are trying to make it part of your creative life. Take positive and negative commentary for what it is. Feedback. Use it to improve your skills, but don’t lose who you are, or your style. Be true to yourself.

And a message to any of you out there whose only creative outlet is being destructive to others. Make your criticism’s constructive. If you are going to take the time and effort to be critical of the work of others, do it with the nature of informing the creator, and their consumers. People are smart enough to recognize haters. And trolls.

And in the worst case, writers can kill you off in really embarrassing, creative ways. Or even worse, keep you alive.

An addendum from one of my favorites, Harlan Ellison.