Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writing Wednesday: What type of writer do I want to be?

In a lot of the agent blogs I read about publishing they have talked about some of the problems of the publishing industry, and I promptly ignored those posts. I just tried to zero in on what they wanted out of a book, besides a guaranteed best seller, which no one can predict.

Oddly enough my goal was never to be a best selling author, my dreams were of being the type of writer that was shown in the Marilyn Monroe movie, THE 7-YEAR ITCH. Where the publishers didn’t care what the content was, they just put a flashy cover on it and provocative title and shipped it out.

That’s how some of my favorite writers got their start.

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to break into the paperback market anymore. At the time THE 7-YEAR ITCH was made cities had lots of newsstands and small book shops, as well as small general stores in every neighborhood. The chances of getting a book in few thousand-niche markets were pretty good.

Now paperbacks are carried in Wal-Mart and Borders the micro bookstands are gone and the small bookstores are being crushed.

Wal-Mart is famous for screwing over manufacturers and Borders has a new marketing plan where they order 10 times the amount of books they think they can sell and return 90% of them.

So instead of having a break even point of 2,000 books sold paperback publishers have a new break even point of 20,000 books. That means publishers need to be very cautious of what books they print and only print knock offs of best sellers.

I could if I wanted to scan the best sellers and write a fairly decent knock off, but if I’m going to do that I might as well get back into selling insurance, as writing that way would be actual work.

It would also be low paid work as a mid-listed author can expect to make $12,000 to $15,000 per book, which isn’t to bad considering I could probably pump out a rough draft in a month and spend two months editing it. That’s 3 to 4 books a year or $48,000 a year, a decent living. However publishers want to limit their mid-list titles to one a year so the author can spend the rest of the year promoting it.

Looking at all this I realized someone would have to be crazy to want to put forth the amount of work needed to become a mid-listed author and make basically minimum wage. I realized that makes me qualified but I still should try and find another way. I think I found it.

I stumbled across this blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, by Joe Korath a successful mid-list author. He has switched entirely to self-published ebooks and his numbers are impressive. He has the huge advantage of already being a mid-list author so I thought I would try and take his model and scale it down to something I might be able to do.

Goal: 2,000 ebooks sold at $2.99

Gross Sales: $5,980

Net at 70% commission: $4,186


Artwork $50 (I can draw a rough outline and have an art student do a better job than a lot of titles out there).

Proof Reading: $150 (I can hire a senior English major to catch 90% of my mistakes, this wouldn’t pass for a novel someone paid $20 for but for $3 it’s a totally different story.)

Cards, fliers the whole marketing thing: $50

Total Expenses: $250

Profit: $3,936 per title.

Titles per year: 3

Annual Income: $11,808

In other words, using his model I can sell so few books that a major publisher would want to hunt me down and shoot me and still make the nearly the same amount that I would as a mid-listed author.

Luckily I’ve got the perfect book to start with.

I wrote the “Setting Earth” purely for fun. It was heavily influenced by Arthur C. Clarke and Heinlein, two authors that agents say they would put an email block on if they were alive today.

I’m betting that there are enough fans of their works out there that would be willing to part with $3 to make back the $250 (125 copies) I will spend on getting the book ready.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts


LM Preston said...

I see where you are going and you have some great point. Although, I think one that many miss is pricing. Sometimes when using POD the price of the book is more expensive than what most consumers desire to pay. Most authors that use these resources fail to ask themselves if they would pay double the cost for a book with the same number of pages, storyline as a similar book. However, with the increase in ebook sales, Indie Authors can offer more competitive book prices because they don't have to pay for printing.

Stephanie Barr said...

I'm not an expert on Arthur C. Clarke but why would anyone put an email block on Heinlein?

Project Savior said...

When I started Querying agents for THE SETTING EARTH I was told by several agents that there is no market for near future Science Fiction any more.
They either want the present, like X-Files or Far Future like Star Wars and Star Trek.
So stories that are limited to the Solar System are out. Which is a pity because with a little large scale engineering we could have over 5 times the land mass of Earth to play on.

Project Savior said...

It's the pricing model that got me looking at alternatives. When I signed up with publishamerica their price was $25 for a trade paperback, about $5 higher than the market. That can be overcome with some hard work. By the time it was published they raised their price to $30 about 50% higher than the market. By the time they worked out their distribution problems, sort of, it was $35.
I'm the author and I love my book but I wouldn't buy it when I could have a hardcover, a paperback and still have money left over for a light lunch for the same price.
I'm working on a way around that price but its horrible when the book is priced so high that the author can't recommend his own book.