Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Indie or Traditional?


For non-writers who have wondered about the profitability of writing fiction I will attempt provide some answers, according to my knowledge and experience.    For e-books the indie author receives between 60% and 70% of the book price per book sold, as long as the price is between $2.99 and $9.99.   So for a title costing $4.99 the author receives $3.46 in most markets.  Some foreign markets like India, Japan and Brazil only result in a 35% royalty.   I assume it is something to do with the cost to transmit the e-book to those locations.   If an author sells 5000 copies of one book priced at $4.99 they have earned a little more than $17,300 gross at a 70% royalty.   From this must be deducted any costs associated with producing the book such as editors and covers.   Of course, taxes will be paid on your profits less your reasonable expenses.  

The profit on paperback books is less because there are costs associated with the production of the book that must be factored in.   The indie author sets the price for the book according to what they think is a reasonable profit.  I aim for $3 - $4 per book.   Bookstores do not typically carry indie books.  It's easier to deal with a few larger publishers than a host of indie writers.

Traditional or legacy publishing focusses on mass market or trade paperbacks.  E-books are an afterthought, at least at the present.  Traditionally published authors receive what is called an 'advance', usually paid out in 3 portions:   when the contract is signed, when the book is delivered and finally when it is published.   This is, in effect, an advance payment on assumed royalties.   These days $5,000. is a typical advance for new authors.  If the author has an agent, 15% is taken off the top of that $5,000.  The agent will have found a publisher for the author and helped negotiate the contract.  The publisher has taken care of formatting and covers as well as distribution to book stores.

Once the advance has been 'earned out', that is, the sales have equalled the royalty amount received, the author will receive additional royalties usually paid semi-annually.  If the author is receiving a typical 8% royalty on the sale price of a $6.99 book this amounts to 55 cents for each book. E-book royalty can be as high as 18 percent.   So you can see it would take a while for the $5,000. to be earned out.   I'll save you the calculation: it's 9090 books sold.  Actual royalties are a closely guarded secret and authors are prevented by their contract from disclosing their payments.  

There's lots to read out in cyberspace on this topic. Try this post by a U.K. writer who has tried both approaches.   Read and decide for yourself!

Friday, February 21, 2014

I'm not happy to be proven right.

For quite a while I've been of the opinion that reading, as a leisure activity, is on the decline.   But it was not a happy vindication to read that the number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978. So postulates this post in the Atlantic and I doubt that it only applies to Americans.  A full one quarter of the population had not opened one book, whether paper or e-book, in the previous year. 


I've read that reading is more difficult than watching television, for example.    Vegging out on the sofa and letting the colour images wash over you doesn't take much energy or interaction.   I have a suspicion it has as much to do with reading ability as energy.   If I get lost in the pages of a book, I'm not conscious of any energy expenditure.   But if you've ever watched a child who is a poor reader struggle through text that is too difficult it is almost painful to watch.   A couple of short words like 'and' and 'the' and 'a' are raced through while every multi-syllabic word is hesitatingly sounded out.  

B . . . u . . . B . . . Bu . . . t . . . But . . . e .  e . . r . . (long pause)  butter . . . f . . f . . l . . e . . butterflee . . . butterfle . . . . butterfly.   

I'd have lost interest in the rest of the story by now, too.

So a small suggestion to those who buy books, especially for that impressionable age group of about five to nine years of age, when they are deciding if reading is something they can and will do . . . or don't and won't.   Pay attention to what is called readability.  Some books, meant for children, are far too difficult for the age group that would be interested in the topic, plot and characters. Think of seven or eight year olds trying to get through the first Harry Potter book.  It's not going to happen in the vast majority of cases.    Ask advice from a teacher or librarian or small bookstore owner.   

It is relatively simple to find 'easy readers' that suit the primary crowd but once children are pre-teens, books that interest them at an easier reading level are more difficult to identify. And this is the age where the reading turn-off occurs, in my opinion.   If children aren't interested in reading by the end of elementary school, in most cases the pattern is set.   Typing 'easy pre-teen books' into Amazon's mighty search engine and brings up Thomas the Tank books and Amelia Bedelia and other book titles that a pre-teen would probably find insulting:  My First Reader.   

Perhaps I should start a list.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Money from blogging (and your kicks for free)


I found  this thought-provoking post on Zen Habits, a blog I 

follow from time to time.  Leo Babauta writes about how he 

conducts his business, which is geared towards helping people 

improve their lives as well as advice on how to start and run on-

line businesses.  This quote gave me pause for consideration:

When you start doing affiliate marketing, even if you think it would help the reader, if it would make them question your motives (is he trying to help me or make some money here?), it erodes their trust, a little at a time. That’s not worth the money.

I agree.

You've probably noticed that some (many) blogs have advertisement on them.   How to reduce belly fat, save on fashion from various companies, change to a certain credit card or buy stocks from this investment firm.   The annoying ones flash or blink to get your attention.  The ads often have little or nothing to do with the blog topic and I'm suspicious that they have more to do with me.   After I made a purchase from L.L. Bean for the first time in years, it seemed I was hounded everywhere I went on the internet by L.L. Bean ads.   Creepy! 

Another option to make blogging pay, Leo Babauta describes, is affiliate marketing.  If you mention a product or even better review it anyone who clicks on the product you named in your article will be giving a portion of the company's profit to the blogger.   Many bloggers will state at some location  on their blog--some more visible than others--that they receive a percentage when you click through and purchase.   Often it is stated that they only recommend what they love.

I've read on some blogs that their advertising is to offset the cost of the blog.   Other than a modest cost ($1.00) for some of the pictures that accompany the text, I don't have any costs to write on this blog.  It may be that some people purchase domain names and there is a cost associated with that.  I put a picture of most of the books I have published at the top of my blog on a Shelfari but you'd have to go elsewhere to purchase a copy of one of them.

I've seen social media buttons on many sites and even buttons you can click on to make a donation that take you to Paypal so you can make a donation to the presumably impoverished blogger.

At the end of his blog post, Leo Babauta thinks it is best to 'do what feels right.'     That would be a version of one of my favourite sayings, "To thine own self be true."

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Outward Appearances

Google images

Browsing around the internet is one of my hobbies.   It gives me ideas for books, for characters, for plots . . . okay, that's my excuse.   But it does sometimes gives me pause for thought, and those thoughts can lead to a blog post.   Here's what I read today (here's the link, because I like to give credit)

"I think it's good to dress "respectably" when going to see other professionals; it (unfairly) helps get the staff's attention."

So, we don't just dress for ourselves, or for men or for other women?   It's also for those 'professionals' who we need, or at least would prefer to be on good terms with.   Will they give better service, better care if our clothes are fashionable and expensive?   What about tidy and moderately stylish with comfortable shoes?  Is that sufficient?   Clean and not smelly?   Doesn't being a 'professional' mean that you are not influenced by external factors?

Maybe the professional part means not showing your opinion and feelings outwardly but I believe everyone makes judgments.     Nowadays there is a lot of latitude in fashion and only a few jobs and professions seem to require suits.   But  customers entering a bank or parents coming into a school for the first time still look for the person with the suit--or suit-like attire--as the likely person in charge.

Bank customers or parents coming to parent teacher interviews in pyjama bottoms make a statement or impression before they say a word.   Does it affect the outcome of the meeting?   Is is a matter of showing respect to those whose eyeballs make contact with the image you project?   What do you think?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014



From a prompt from my Writers' Group:


"As fast as I could"
The childish voice spoke,
And looked up with a grin
As if we shared a good joke.

Send a child on an errand,
Don't be in a hurry.
They'll walk fast or slow
But lunch is not their worry.

Two blocks to the store
Nothing interesting to see,
Well, not for an adult,
For whom time is money.

There's a beetle to follow,
At least for a bit,
And the boy near the store 
Has a new baseball mitt.

A few fly throws later,
The money falls out
Of the pocket that held it,
"That's what the walk was about!"

"I ran all the way back,"
He panted to prove it true,
And held up the squashed loaf,
Like a trophy awarded to the few.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My fee schedule

I've planned a vacation away over Spring Break and I booked the flight prior to Christmas.   Yesterday I  received a telephone message from the airline that the flight times have changed.   I've heard about this happening to others, mostly, it seems, when points have been used to book the flights.   Somehow, points customers seem to be fair game for inconveniencing.   But that's another post.   I had booked this flight to a tropical destination with my credit card.  Despite travelling regularly, I never seem to have enough points for anything before they expire.

The person representing the airline was pleased to inform me when I called back, after telling me the flight time was changing, that since the change originated with the airline, they would not be charging me a fee for the change.    I was mildly flabbergasted at this remark.   I resisted the urge to state that perhaps I would charge the airline for making the change to my plans.   I doubt I would have been successful.   


But this made me think of other times when  consumers/customers are charged or threatened with charges for their actions or failures but when the reverse does not apply.   I know that if I had called the airline to make a change to the flight, there would have been a hefty charge  to me.   I've seen posted notice in my doctor and dentist's office that a fee will be levied for missed appointments unless 24 hours notice is given.   How about a charge from me, when I'm kept cooling my heels in the waiting room for an hour?   I'm paying for parking as well.   I've tried calling and asking if the doctor/dentist is on time but the answer I receive doesn't necessarily reflect reality.    Specialists are especially prone to this.   After waiting months for the appointment we're grateful the appointed day has finally arrived.  I understand that emergencies/baby arrivals throw schedules off but some practitioners are routinely more than an hour behind.

I'm often charged a shipping and handling fee when I purchase something online.   What about a handling/inconvenience fee payable to me when I need to return defective/incorrect orders?  My time is valuable, too.   Government offices are notorious for this.   I read another blogger's post a while ago wherein she stated that one way she earned money during a period of unemployment was standing in the 2 hour queue that was the norm at that time for passport application processing.    I don't recall if she had made arrangements in advance with a person with less time to waste or if someone always came along  before she reached the front of the line to pay $20 or $30 to take her place.    It seems after a year of this situation the passport office became wise to it.   They didn't improve the service, ie. waiting time, but they began giving out numbers indicating your position in line.

I don't hear 'the customer is always right' very often any more.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Embarrassing moments

I came across this cartoon by Dave Walker on and I think I'll be 

checking back to this site on a regular basis.   The truism, One picture is worth a thousand 

words  is applicable here.

embarrassing incidents

Why is it we replay embarrassing moments over and over and keep them close at hand, memory-wise?   Is it because, following in the tactics that helped us learn our multiplication tables, repetitive drilling will prevent us from committing the same faux pas?  Or is it part of the self-flagellation that many are prone to practise just to stay modest?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Extraction, editing, scaling . . .choose your least favourite


I'll go out on a limb and state that I don't think many writers enjoy editing.  I know I don't.   The writing process itself can be frustrating and exhilarating in turn but editing, especially line by line editing for spelling, grammar and typographical errors, is tedious.   Some writers, perhaps many writers, contract this work out at a by the word price.    I'll have to think about that.

With a couple of university degrees I like to think that I wouldn't leave many errors in the final product.  I probably don't make many, however that is defined but I definitely make some, despite my good intentions.  I think it is related to the finding that while we like the idea of making ourselves more efficient, the reality is that humans are not designed for multi-tasking.    This article explains why.   When I embark on one of several line edits--a word by word review for spelling and grammar--I start out with good intentions. I define that in this situation as ignoring the characters and plot.   What happens inevitably is that I get caught up in the story and before long I am multi-tasking, with all the inefficiencies that involves.    

Along with a dozen or more others, I recently volunteered to read and edit a second edition of a book designed for expats to a certain tropical country.   The author has a blog that I follow sporadically.   A modest incentive was the opportunity to read the book for free and get information on a potential destination for a future fantasy life.   As it was over the Christmas holidays, I have to confess that I proceeded at a brisk pace through the book.   Since I found almost a hundred typos and spelling mistakes and made a couple of suggestions about the organization of the text, I felt content with my contribution.     However, it seems that other editors found some, even many, errors that I had missed, according to a blog post by the writer.

But our brains do have a way to compensate.   Have a look at the passage below and see if you can decipher it's meaning.   Was it very difficult?    But . . . I wouldn't want to have to read an entire book like this.    

The paomnnehal pweor of the human mind.  Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what order the ltteers in a word are, the olny iprmoatnt thing is that the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it wouthit porbelm.  This is bcuseae the huamn mind deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe.