17 OCTOBER 2012
TO BE RICH – OR TO BE READ?
I wrote in my blog last week that I proposed to start a new webpage with the idea of serialising some of my work. This was to be called ‘The Weekly Read’. I still intend to do so and this will begin on Saturday with the first instalment of my story entitled A BRASS FARTHING. I will effectively be giving this away of course, and as an aspiring professional author it has caused me to have some thoughts as to whether I should be doing this.
I am aware that there is considerable debate in writing circles as to the ‘value’ of our work. We are constantly encouraged not to undersell ourselves - ‘because you’re worth it’, or so we are told. These sentiments strike me as all very well coming, as they often do, from those who occupy the privileged position of having an established and loyal readership. Such people are presumably in receipt of regular income from their writing – and good luck to them, I have no doubt that they’ve earned it. Anyone who can sell their ebooks via Amazon and make money at it certainly has my respect.
As yet, I have been unable to do so. Despite three months continual effort, I have barely sold any and my greatest successes have come by way of the KDP free promos – and even then, I have struggled to reach the number of downloads that others seem to achieve. I don’t suppose for one moment I am alone in this and I suspect that the vast majority of the ebook publishing public is in exactly the same position. What alternative is there then, for the thousands of Janet and Johns like me who inhabit this cruel and competitive world?
Let’s begin by looking at the maths. Assuming my book retails at £1.99 (I daren’t ask for more), my royalty would be £1.35 per copy. As my sales are currently in the tens per month rather than the hundreds, my revenues barely cover the cost of maintaining a website. If I cut it to 99p, my royalty drops to 29p per copy and my experience to date is that this achieves little in the way of increased sales. So as far as that’s concerned, getting rich I ain’t.
But I didn’t start writing in order to get rich. If all I wanted was to earn a good income I would have stayed in Financial Services, an occupation that has provided me and my family with an acceptable standard of living for the last twenty years. I started writing because I was called by it, I am driven by it and I want to express myself in a way that Financial Services could never allow me to do. And in that respect, it’s far more important to me that my work should be enjoyed and if I’m lucky, understood. That means it has to read and read widely – and if that involves giving it away for the purpose, then so be it.
One day I may be in the exalted position of being able to charge sensible prices for my work. This will enable me to continue in a profession which both fascinates and frustrates me, but one to which I am bound. In the meanwhile I will go on making it available as cheaply as possible in the hopes of securing that established and loyal readership I strive for.
So, ‘The Weekly Read’ begins on Saturday where A BRASS FARTHING can be had for free. Please read it, enjoy it and the best of luck to you. If I were you, I’d make the most of it while stocks last.