Apparently writers are now having to work twice as hard to stay in the same place. The New York Times reported last weekend that best-selling genre authors are now expected to produce two full-length books a year, rather than the traditional one.
When people want an author, they really want that author. They are unwilling to wait 11 months or whatever it would be for the next installment. Fans of whomever apparently gobble up whoever’s backlist immediately – and cheaply too; old books are so satisfyingly inexpensive.
It is also considered useful if the author produces an additional 40,000-word novella for e-book publication. This will presumably fill the void between the two books a year. All that popularity is very nice, of course, and lots of writers would love to be cursed by it, but jeez. About 140,000 to 200,000 words per year? Plus a plot? That’ll be interesting.
It used to be a commonplace that a writer who wrote too fast would create an error-filled, cliche-jammed manuscript. That still may be true, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Writers are now commodities, like corn or pig bellies. They’re measured in bulk. The more words Lee Child writes, the better he is.
Writers also need to commodify themselves on Facebook and Twitter. They need to drop mordant observations into the data stream, gathering followers and fans so they can announce the pub date of their next novel, “Honor the Blood” or “Chain Saw” or whatever it happens to be, in with their lively descriptions of their fascinating lives and thoughts.
Honestly, I could write at that pace if writing was my full-time job. But with the amount of time I spend on revisions right now, plus needing to format and design my books and cover, blog, and market everything, I’d end up pulling down more than 40 hours a week. The hope is, however, that as I grew more of a following, I could market and blog a bit less. Also, with some cash, I could hire people to do my covers and formatting for me. The goal would be to shrink my work week to 35-40 hours a week… unless I felt the overwhelming desire to write more.
Two other points to make about this article. One, it’s confirming what I’ve already said: authors need to sell themselves as much as their work. Authors need to become celebrities because, as books go digital, pirating will ensue. Unlike the recoding and movie industries, I don’t think digital is a bad thing (and I don’t lock my books up with DRM), but I accept the fact that pirating will happen. That’s where your celebrity comes in. Just as bookstores sell a lot of things other than books, so too will authors have to sell a lot of things which aren’t books (just wait; I’m already working on my CafePress products, to be released along with my first book). That’s just where things are heading for all artists.
The other striking point about the article is what’s between the lines. The link to this article was originally posted in the Amazon authors’ forums (a place where independent authors gather). People there pointed out that traditional publishers are apparently pushing social media marketing (which is, lets face it, the bulk of today’s marketing) onto their authors.
For e-books over $2.99, Amazon gives writers 70% royalty. The industry standard is no where near that amount. According to Fiction Factor, the average royalties on paperbacks is 7.5% and hardbacks is 15%. They don’t mention e-books, but I believe that authors are only making about 8%-10% on their e-books when a publisher has control of it.
70% versus 8% is a big difference.
If I understand print-on-demand books correctly, I will get to name my price above and beyond the publishing cost; I assume Amazon then takes a percentage of that. But it looks like I could make $1.00 or more per book–which is the same or more than if I went through a publisher.
As the indie authors on Amazon asked, if you have to do your own marketing anyways, why would you choose to make less money with a traditional publisher?
Even if you pay money for a book designer and an editor up front and out of your own pocket, you still stand to make more money doing it yourself because you only pay for those services once. When you contract your book with a major publisher, you will share your profits forever for the benefit of having them design your cover and do the edits.
Food for thought.