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It is becoming increasingly difficult for most writers to earn money from writing – and I think it's our own fault.
Back when I started this journey my books earned me a few thousand dollars a year. Not a fortune, but better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick. The rate of return has been declining steadily ever since, even though the number of titles has increased. Last year, with twenty titles, I made a thousand bucks. That's one thousand gross, folks, leaving out costs for covers, editing, and a little bit of marketing.
There are so many authors out there, so many new titles being published on Amazon and Smashwords every single day. You've all seen the figures. As a result, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of authors jumping up and down shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!"
Granted quite a few of the books in the pile are not well written and not edited. But this post isn't about those issues. The only real judge of readability is a reader. I know myself that I've read and re-read a fan fiction desperately in need of editing. The grammar and punctuation was incorrect, typos such as 'hanger' which should have been 'hangar' were common. But I liked the story, so I forced myself to ignore the mistakes. For this purpose, though, let's assume the author has done all the right things. The book has been edited, it has a professional cover. The author might even have a few titles already out there. Even that doesn't seem to be enough. You have to market. I'm not the only author with not much in my budget for marketing. So what's the answer? It seems to be freebies.
I have one title, first of a series of six full-length books, which is perma-free in the hope that buyers will like that one and purchase the next books. It works pretty well. I put that book (The IronAdmiral: Conspiracy) up at eNews Reader Today a few weeks ago, and readers have picked up some of the following titles. I've done the same thing myself – read a free book and picked up the rest. And ENT is affordable.
It's interesting that the Holy Grail for book marketing is Bookbub. The most 'cost effective' form of getting on Bookbub's mailing list is to make your book free – but even then, you're up for several hundred dollars. List a science fiction book for free at US$315. List at $0.99 and you'll pay US$630. Here's the website. That means if you sell through Amazon, which pays 35% for a sale at $0.99 you'll need to sell 1,800 books to break even. If you put your book up for free, you'd better have other titles to make the money back. I know Bookbub works – but I suspect it works best if you don't really need it. Management is fussy about which books it lists, favouring those with many reviews, and/or awards.
Then there's the latest band wagon, Instafreebie. You give away a book in exchange for a new email address on your mailing list. I don't have a mailing list, don't want one. But if you sign up with Instafreebie, you're sure to get access to dozens of free books every week. You might be doing a lot of unsubscribing, though – as my husband has found.
Other ways to give away your books are regular free or $0.99 specials in particular genres. And then there's anthologies. The latest one I've seen offers 22 complete, full novels for $0.99. Again, the idea is the sacrifice leads to future sales. I've done it myself, included my perma-free book with ten others in one anthology. I didn't notice much in the way of further sales.
Which leads me to the point. If you're a reader taking advantage of these offers, you'd never have to pay for a book for the rest of your life.
What's my prediction for the future?
- More writers will cut corners to reduce costs.
- Writing books is hard work. It takes time, and commitment – and money. How many people can afford to work at something and not make enough to cover the costs?
- Many, many writers will give away their books because they can't sell them.
- Many, many writers will give up.
What's the answer? You tell me…