Prepare to be Poor

“The average earnings of a professional full-time author is just £11,000.”*

*Findings of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society 2014.

This is as much a message to readers as it is to all those who freely file share whether they do or don’t perceive the harm, pirates, and wannabe writers who believe a writing career will change their lives. I’m not up to date with the most recent statistics, but let’s just run over a few possibly eye-opening figures.

My father was one reader who mistakenly believed whether a writer made £1 per book or 1p, the trading of a million titles added up to ‘a lot’. Even if every author was guaranteed that number there’s a huge difference in earnings if the royalties are a pound or a penny, but the main trouble with this thinking is most writers cannot sell even close to such an amount.

Let’s look at sales:

Before the 2014 findings released I’d read articles reporting many printed, in the store, mainstream paperbacks sold on average 500 copies. Reports said celebrity-written novels selling between 100-200,000 were deemed flops owing to publisher expectations the books would retail well on celebrity status alone.

The situation can be even worse for electronic publications. I know many who never sell more than around 100 copies. I’ve been told some e-books won’t trade significantly above 200.

So which writers are making money from book sales? Those often seen in the top ten positions in the bookstores, but their success is the dream and does not include the ‘average’ writer. Which isn’t to say one cannot make a living in the industry. I know people who have given up the day job to survive on their writing income, but many have supporting spouses, and almost all say they live ‘carefully’.

One of the draws of electronic publishing in recent years was their higher than average royalty share. The usual contract for rates on print is between 7-10%. It doesn’t require a maths genius to calculate a paperback of £5.99 being approximately 60p a book earned by the author of the cover price. Understandably, royalties of 35-50% are highly attractive. When the print market got on board with e-books, there was a lot of resulting disagreements over the percentages these previously print-only companies were offering with many well-known writers demanding more favourable terms. Some of those early negotiations reached 25%–still lower than some electronic-only publishers.

Now let’s take these figures and see how the income starts dwindling in other ways:

Another pull of these markets is many sold primarily in-house so the royalty percentage received was based on the total cover price. When a distributor sells, their cut is first deducted before these contracted percentages apply between writer and publisher. We’re talking the differences between net and gross here.

To be fair prior to the existence of e-books, publishers were always distributors but one draw of e-book publishing was they did sell more in-house, translating into higher profit margins. A large portion, which usually disappeared in printing costs, found its way to the writer. Lately, I’ve been noticing these publishers immediately sending titles to multiple marketplaces so a writer’s slice cannot be construed from the full price on initial sales. One likely reason for this is that many are finding Kindle to be where most purchases now generate. Where many believed the invention of a good e-reader would increase readership, unfortunately, it took the exchange out of house. The app also allowed those who had no wish to own such a device to read on computers and tablets with the same ease. Readers like the ability to buy without difficulty and this is something Amazon does. Many publishers and writers have suffered because of simple single-click buying. I’m not claiming that this is the sole problem but I, like many, do believe it’s a contributing factor.

The distributor deducts their cut before anyone sees anything of percentages. As most distributors have clauses that allow them to set their own cover price and not the RRP of the publisher, and even the freedom to determine when a product should be available at a reduced rate, this percentage can be lowered even more.

If a £6 novel is given a 30% discount that generates £4.20. Let’s say distribution subtracts 35% of that customer’s outlay. We’re left with £2.73. If the writer’s segment is 50%, the earnings will be £1.36. If the cut is 10% that approximates to 28p.

We’ll be generous and use the average of 500 copies sold.

£1.36 x 500 = £680

28p x 500 = £140

Now, if applicable, calculate the removal of income tax.

Divide what’s left by the hours, days, months taken to create the draft. Shall we also throw in the anxious pursuit of a publisher, the editing rounds, and the promotion time put in, all of which I’m sure I’ll cover in other blogs?

For now, let’s use NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as an example and say it’s a short novella, with a draft produced in a month and the writer is fast. Even if we round it up to a generous minimum of 50 hours of work, oh look… Based on the lower rate before tax amount provides an income of £2.80 per hour…before we take into account all the additional days required. Consider that some may take 3 months, or 6, or a year to construct a book and you quickly see your ‘average’ writer wakes up daily questioning what motivates them to do this job.

“At least writers can boost their income by attending conventions. They get paid to go, and there’s all that prestige, and they’re sure to sell a load of books at these things.”

Only recently, best-selling author of His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman withdrew from the Oxford festival, having grown tired of ‘writers expected to work for nothing’. As he rightly said, everyone else, “from the cleaners to the people who put up the marquees” get paid, so despite being a patron for the last five years, he resigned.

Now tell one of these writers he or she is ‘rolling in it’, that authors can withstand not to be paid for some of the things they do, that it’s ‘okay’ to pirate their work, that £5.99 for a full-length novel is too expensive. Better yet accept my challenge of waiting behind at a writers’ convention until you’re the only reader in a room full of authors and say it aloud. If your family doesn’t have reason to wonder why you never made it home, then do anticipate being killed in a few new releases. Many writers know where to hide the bodies.

The reality is a sad truth. There’s money to be made, but don’t expect to become rich overnight, if at all. One of the first things I was warned of when I chose to be a writer was unrealistic expectations. If fame and fortune are the main reasons to put pen to paper or hands to the keyboard, the wannabe might turn into one of those who makes the ten top slots regularly, but may also be extremely disappointed to hear he or she has only sold 200 copies. Success, like how much a book is ‘worth’, is largely subjective.

You may wish to check out these articles:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/08/authors-incomes-collapse-alcs-survey

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/philip-pullman-quits-as-oxford-literary-festival-refuses-to-pay-its-guest-authors-a6813066.html

Acting Out available now

Acting_Out200x300Note: this book was previously published by Musa.

Can a kiss really change everything?

Having made a very successful film together, friends and actors, Nick and Alex have to decide whether to take on another joint venture or go their separate ways creatively. Then the perfect manuscript arrives, offering financial security and the opportunity to one day run their own production company.

The film is Nick’s dream, incorporating amazing effects, a wonderful script, a character every actor aspires to play with the director everyone’s begging to work with. There’s one snag: Nick and Alex will have to get rather personal on set.

Nick has to refuse but much to his surprise, Alex isn’t willing to take no for an answer. Nick eventually agrees, despite a nosy reporter and his brother turning against him. After all, it’s just pretence. It’s not as if he’s gay and wants to make out with his friend…not until Alex kisses him. Then it really gets interesting.

Available now from JMS Books and many good retailers.

Guest Spot: Chris Pavesic

A little late for Autumn, but anytime is cooking time, right?

Fantasy author Chris Pavesic is in the kitchen with her delicious and healthy addition to your dinner menu. The kitchen is all yours, Chris.

This recipe is one of the first I make during the fall season to go along with the bountiful harvest of apples available in my area of the Midwest.

 

Photo by kornnphoto

TeaOrganic Ginger Candy

I use organic ingredients whenever I can. I find that it improves the flavor and I think it is healthier for me and my family. However, this chutney can easily be made with non-organic ingredients as well. It is all up to you—the cook.

Traditionally apple chutney is a savory sauce made from apples, brown sugar, vinegar, onions and various herbs and spices. It has a sweet and tart flavor that complements meat dishes such as roast chicken, beef, ham and pork chops.

In my family, certain people are allergic to onions (myself included). So I adapt recipes to take these allergies into consideration. I thought I would share my recipe with you.

 
Easy Apple Chutney
⅔ cup brewed tea, warm*
8 organic ginger candies
5 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced.
1 cup celery, diced very fine
⅓ cup Key Lime Juice
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
¾ cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. dried mustard powder or 2 tsp. yellow mustard
1½ tsp. sea salt
¾ cup dried cherries

Partially dissolve the ginger candies in the tea. Do not be concerned if the ginger candies do not completely dissolve. They will continue to melt during the cooking.You can substitute 1 tbsp. powdered ginger or 2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger in place of the candies. If you do, increase the light brown sugar to 1 Cup, lightly packed.

Combine the tea mixture and all remaining ingredients into a Dutch Oven. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes on your stovetop, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and cook for about another 20 minutes. You want the excess liquid to evaporate and the chutney to thicken.

Dutch OvenRemove from the Dutch Oven and set aside to cool. Store covered in the refrigerator.

I like recipes that can be made in Dutch Ovens and Crock Pots. They really save a lot of time/effort. This one is probably one of the more elaborate ones—and yet the prep time is only about 15 minutes.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 70 minutes

*I use Trader Joe’s Specialty Pomegranate White Tea made with Organic White Tea Leaves, Hibiscus Flowers, and Lemongrass.

 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way with any of the products/companies discussed in this post.)

Cheers!

Here is a brief introduction to Wonderland, the latest fantasy book by Chris Pavesic. Enjoy!

 

You may think you know her story.

You don’t.

Throughout her life Alice has faced fear and isolation, but she has never given up hope. In the City by the Bay she has one last chance to find happiness; one last chance to find friendship; one last chance to find Wonderland.

Click here to watch the YouTube video.

 

Read excerpts from all of the books written by Chris Pavesic on Amazon.

Chris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends. Learn more about Chris on her website.

Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Amateur

Let me stress I mean no insult when I use the term amateur. Every new writer is a nonprofessional. Some have an advantage of a journalistic or similar writing background but they, like everyone, learned their craft. Stories follow certain patterns and by studying these layouts one learns how to produce effective narratives; even if wishing to alter these standards to create something new, it is a good idea to recognise plot. Understand the ‘rules’ to break them.

I’m not going to catalog all the errors editors pick out in many draft manuscripts, but I will list one of which almost every wannabe is responsible. Even the successful author can be guilty although often the story-teller will catch this error in self-edits. If the writer doesn’t, a good editor will.

Many new writers begin their stories with long-winded paragraphs of exposition and description. Trained authors do this, but with good purpose. In those instances, the writers in question set the first chapter aside to use for their own information, extrapolating the necessary particulars into the narrative of the book, breaking up the details and ‘peppering’ the facts between the pages.

I once read an excellent piece of advice: Write your story and begin at the second chapter. Many writers, but particular ‘new’, will describe their characters from their height, hair, eye, and skin colour, to the checked pattern on their garments. This over description doesn’t end at the character but extends to the environment. These details may be important, but are best passed on as an ‘impression’. Study a book bearing this in mind. Examine how the author presents the main character. Is he or she described as being six feet tall, with brown eyes, and long brown hair swept over his or her shoulders? Of does the author describe this person through someone else’s impression of them? EG:

“His eyes were the same deep brown as the colour of his hair. Such eyes should have made her feel welcome. The way his full lips twitched suggested his gaze would be twinkling with amusement. Alas, when she risked straining her neck to look up to his face, his expression appeared taut, his lips tight, his gaze narrow.”

Fine, not the greatest paragraph. I haven’t put much effort into it, but the piece is more entertaining than a list of characteristics. As an alternative to saying he’s tall, she’s having to gaze up to such a degree she may strain her neck. The section indicates brown eyes and hair, but instead of stating the man is unhappy, the reader notes his expression may be hostile, is at least far from welcoming. Is he displeased about something, or with her? Right away, questions will likely keep people reading to discover the answers.

Likewise, it is never a good idea to include an information dump whether at the beginning or later in the book. On rare occasions, this is necessary. A rather tedious chapter exists in James Herbert’s The Fog. However, the data is necessary and is presented to the reader as a meeting. Do not begin by introducing a character, describing the room he or she occupies, and listing the background of how, when, where, and why the person came to be there, who their relatives are and what they are all thinking of having for lunch. Too much explanation slows narrative, can be boring, and also requires the reader to take in a great deal of information too fast. An editor will grow weary even faster. The manuscript will go straight to the slush pile.