Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Cost of Writing

There have been several posts lately on Facebook from people either asking where they can find 'free' books (basically, looking for book piracy sites that steal authors' work) or people complaining that books are too expensive (most self-published books at between $1.99 and $3.99). I decided to educate those people in what it costs the self-published author to produce one book, including the time it takes to do the writing/rewriting/editing based just at Federal Minimum Wage.

Here's the breakdown:

Cost to produce a book compared to working the same hours for minimum wages.

Federal Minimum Wage:        7.25 per hour

Average writing times: * (this varies from author to author/book to book. Some require more intensive research time.)  

30 hours per week       =          $217.50
24 weeks (minimum) for first draft    =          $5,220.00
12 weeks (average) for second/third drafts   2,610.00
            Total in writing time:                          $7,830.00

Additional costs: (out of pocket for self-published authors)

Cover art (average)                                              150.00
Editing (based on 70k word book)                   1,680.00 *      
Copy editing (70k word book)                            840.00 *   
(Rates from Editorial Freelancers Association. Actual rates for editors may vary.)                                  

Total Estimated Average Production Cost:     $10,500.00 *

* (If the author uses marketing and promotional services that charge a fee, this amount goes up.)

Average royalty from based on book cost:

Royalty per book on books priced at $3.99 (the ‘upper’ end)            $2.76  (this is before taxes and if the author elected for distribution that allows 70% royalty.)

This means the author has to sell at least 5,400 books just to break even for time and costs to produce one book, after taxes.

5400 x $2.76 = $14.904 (less approximately 30% for taxes) = $10,432.80 after tax income.

That’s what it takes for an author to make minimum wage on one book.

Now, I've been writing for sixteen years and self-publishing for the past two years. I made even less money per book with books published by a publisher.

And don't get me started on refunds. Well, that was my previous blog post. Yes, there are people who purchase an ebook, read it and then return it for a refund. And I/we get paid NOTHING. This, to me, is stealing. If you've read the entire book and returned it, you've stolen my work. Well, you can go back and read my previous post about Amazon Return Policy.

So, why do we authors even bother? What's the reward? Love. We love to write. We love to create stories that entertain and make people think. We love our readers. Are we really asking too much that readers pay between $1.99 and $3.99 (on the average) to read our book? I'd bet some people pay more than that for a cup of coffee.

Know that I am extremely grateful to my readers who buy my books without complaint, read them, and often review them. I hope you feel you've gotten your money's worth. I hope you know I'm not paying the rent with royalties.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Addressing Amazon's eBook Return Policy

As authors, we want our readers to be happy with the books they purchase. We work hard to craft stories that will engage and satisfy the reader. We recognize that, occasionally, a reader purchases a book that does not meet their standards or hopes and they want a refund. Okay, that shouldn't be a big problem.

But it is a problem with the current return policy at with regard to ebooks. They basically treat an ebook like any other product and allow up to seven (7) days for return. Now let's be honest folks, most of us can read an ebook in seven days. And I have, to my horror, seen people openly post on Facebook that they repeatedly purchase ebooks, read them, and then return them for a refund. Surely anyone with an ounce of sense knows how wrong this is. I recently checked and found that a short story of mine that is 19 pages long and sells for 99 cents had two returns. Really? Now I can understand if you accidentally purchase the same story twice. But it doesn't take more than seven days to read 19 pages. If it does, you have a bigger problem.

I decided to take the bull by the horns (though it might end up being much like Don Quixote battle windmills) and address this with Amazon's Senior Counsel and Senior Manager of Customer Services. I'm posting the letter I sent (sans names) in hopes that it will encourage my fellow authors and possibly even some readers who see the impracticality of this return policy to likewise address this issue.

* * *

I am an author published through KDP and with CreateSpace on I am writing to you regarding the return policy Amazon currently has in place for Kindle ebooks. Your policy currently reads in part as follows: Books purchased from the Kindle Store can be returned within seven days of purchase.

I personally think that a seven day return on an ebook is much too long. You generally know within reading a small percentage of a book that you don’t like it. I recently reviewed my sales and found a short story that is 19 pages long and sells for $ .99 and had two returns. Let’s be realistic. It does not take seven days to read 19 pages. Authors are facing an uphill battle with this every day. I have personally observed people on Facebook proudly announcing that they purchase ebooks, read them, and then return them before the seven days have expired.

I am begging Amazon to please review and revise your return policy with regard to ebooks. I know Amazon has the capability to track the percentage of the book that’s read. There should be no reason for anyone to not know 10% into a book if they don’t like it or have already read it. By allowing such great flexibility with a return policy, you are allowing readers to essentially steal our property.

It seems to me that your return policy for ebooks is based on a general product return policy. But ebooks are not the same as other products such as purchasing a vacuum cleaner or a pet carrier. I feel that Amazon is showing disregard for the authors who list our books with you and are being driven by the desire to only please the customer. There has to be a balance in place.

Tell me this: If you worked for the past two weeks and, when it was time to be paid, Amazon said, “We’re not going to pay you. We changed our minds about the work you did,” would you be happy? Would you think that’s fair? This current ebook return policy is no different.

I am realistic enough to recognize that Amazon is the driving force behind self-publishing today. What I am asking for is that Amazon show a little more respect for the authors who use their service. We have enough to do to battle piracy sites out their trying to give our work away. We don’t need Amazon to be doing the same thing under the guise of a return policy that does not fit the product.

Please take this into consideration and find a fairer way of allowing people who purchased an ebook twice, got a defective file, or realized a few pages in they didn’t like the book to return it without giving them free reign to read the whole thing and get a refund, thus shorting the author out of their due. I’m sure Amazon has the ability, both intellectually and digitally, to come up with a reasonable solution to this issue.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Linda Rettstatt
Author, Writing for Women