Did you know that most authors earn their living NOT from book sales, but from the fees they earn from public appearances, readings, workshops and book-signings? I bring this up because many people are genuinely unaware of this fact. Authors typically make about 10% of the cover price of their book. If there is an illustrator involved in the project, that 10% royalty is shared between them, so each takes home 5%.
Here are a few other figures for you:
A trade paperback generally retails for between $8.95 and 14.95; a hardcover sells for around $19.95-$24.95.
In Canada, a book is considered a publishing success and a “best seller” if it sells five thousand copies. Most don’t.
Are you doing the math? Here's what it boils down to:
The average Canadian fiction writer earns maybe $500 per year in royalties...at least for the first couple of years while the book is still considered current.
It generally takes a year—or five—to write a book.
I am not telling you this to bemoan the plight of authors. Far from it. There is nothing I love better than being an author. It's the best job in the world. However, few of us make a living off of our book sales. Most of us make our living by touring, workshopping, presenting, speaking and reading (with full or part-time 'day jobs' on the side). There is no "Ivory Tower." For many, being a 'successful writer' involves grueling travel schedules, full days of school visits and classroom presentations, and evenings and weekends of workshop preparation. Oh yes, and writing.
It is wonderful, fantastic, terrific fun.
And it is my job.
I am a professional. I do this for a living. I take great pride in my craft and I work lots and lots of overtime. Over the years, I have studied and labored to acquire experience, knowledge, credibility and expertise in my field---and I am more than happy to share that expertise with you. As a professional exchange of services.
You don’t expect your lawyer or your fitness instructor or your child’s music teacher to share their expertise free of charge. (At least I hope you don't.) Yet every author I know can tell you a story of putting effort, time and expense into a presentation or event...and then not being paid for it. OR having their request for payment be met with incredulity or indignation.
People look askance when informed there is an appearance fee or a reading fee for an author visit. Why wouldn't we --the authors--be happy to read, present, workshop our books for free? Don't we have an obligation to share ourselves and our books with as many young minds as possible? Think of the CHILDREN!
I do think of the children. Every day. I think endlessly about how to find new ways to afford to keep doing what I do...which is to create stories and books which I sincerely hope will engage and welcome new, young and relunctant readers into the wonderful, mind-expanding and self-empowering world of the Written Word.
“But we don’t have the money to bring in an author!” is the universal moan.
If you (or your group, school, club, troupe, team) can find money for field trips, tournaments, music lessons, a dance, uniforms or a pizza party then you can find a way to sponsor an author visit. And if you can’t, well, there are grants for that. Inquire at your local school district, library, writer’s organization, government or municipal office for more information.
And hire an author today. They're some of the hardest working people I know.