Una Rose – Author

Putting the world to write!

How should we value books?


I have been a professional writer most of my working life and the average rate paid to freelance journalists hasn’t changed much in recent recession years at about 35p a word, so a 1,000 word news feature which will take about 1-2 days to research and write will fetch you £350. Work is variable so there are weeks even months you can go without a commission but there is usually someone out there needing words for sale.

Compare that then to what an author hopes to make. Most authors are these days are effectively freelance or “Indie” so all income comes from the sale of their books. It can take anywhere from 12 months to several years to write a book, then it must be edited, redrafted and laid out, which is a painstaking process which again can take months to finish. If you publish your book in the traditional method, you must fork out for printing costs and then spend time (unpaid!) promoting the book and visiting book shops and events. Paper books are still profitable though, as they can be made for about £2-3 a copy depending on your print run and sold for three times that value, but remember you will be obliged to hand over up to 40% in retail margin. So doing the maths, a book priced at £9.99 costs £3 to make, a further £1 in cover design and layout services, and £4 to the bookseller leaving a return of £2 per copy. An average living wage in the UK is £27,000 so that equates to needing to sell 13,000 copies! When book shops are unlikely to take more than half a dozen at a time, it is somehow unlikely unless you travel the length and breadth of the country. There are distributors of course but they are selective and charge more than booksellers so sales have to be even higher. It is not easy money and writing is certainly a vocation rather than a career with prospects.

Of course the digital era has awoken many would-be authors to write an e-book, with many in the hope that an agent or publisher will pick up on the book and publish it for them. An e-book costs can be minimal although I would always advise spending money on a professional cover and professional proofreading services. But with literally thousands of books being listed daily, the competition is fierce and the only way to get ahead is to be ruthless in your publicity and conversation with book lovers and hopefully future fans of your writing. And then there is the price of your book. We are used to e-books being much cheaper than the paperback versions but sadly readers are getting too used to reading books for free or next to nothing. Amazon is now offering the chance to make money from readers downloading a section of your book which is a step in the right direction, but it also encourages authors to offer their books for free to promote their books. Journalists are constantly told by unions and fellow writers never to agree to write for free as it destroys livelihoods and yet authors are expected to do just that. Of course the argument is that it enables you to get more attention from the bargain-loving public.

So I have decided to experiment with this thinking. I have discounted my book for one week to 99p and spread the word that for less than the price of a coffee or newspaper that will give perhaps a few minutes of pleasure, you can download my book (and millions of others) and hopefully have pleasure lasting days, weeks and if you fall in love with the story, a tale you will always remember. That is 99p for 300 pages or 124,000 words. If I were paid the freelance journalist recommended rate for this work, I would be paid £43,400! To get that in e-book sales I need 44,000 customers. It has been done by others in the past, but they are the lucky few when the wind is blowing in the right direction. I’d be happy with 1,000 sales!

I take great pride in my work and my professional standards, and know my novel has touched many readers with some great reviews. For the person willing to spend 99p, they won’t be disappointed (unless they hate all things Japan and Ireland I guess!) but I would hope that readers would also be willing to pay a fairer price too for books which like art, takes something of the creator to make and share. I sincerely hope that 99p is the lowest books will ever go to in price (cheaper now than a loaf of bread for God’s sake!) and that the value of a book begins to rise again. That said, I do hope that you will grab your chance of a bargain read and download The Tokyo Express right now!

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This entry was posted on August 12, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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