Friday, May 22, 2009

Mugging the writer

Take a good look. That's me. I'm an ordinary everyday kind of woman. No glamour. No high living. My office is in the living room squashed in with all the other odds and ends. The sole advantage I have over most other writers is that I'm retired with no children at home. It could be that you won't see me again. Why?

Google my name.

In the first page, you'll likely find that my books are listed on multiple piracy sites. Just like everyone else in the world, I work for money. Oh, you thought I wrote for love of the word? Well... not!

Writing is a difficult, thankless calling. In order to write well enough to be published, I must have a workable idea, write a story a publisher will contract and a reader will be willing to buy. For every story of say... fifty thousand words there is an initial time investment of approximately six hundred hours. Hmmm.

Current minimum wage in my state is $6.55. So my initial time investment is worth $3,930. That does not cover my taxes, supplies, or Social Security. In order to recoup my investment I must find a publisher willing to offer me a contract (for most e-pubs there is no advance!) Then I will spend additional hours on edits, final line edits, and promotion--again all without receiving a dime. So let's add in that additional time... That's another $786.

Eventually, approximately eight months after the initial contract, my book is released. Now I'll tell you a secret. The most that I've ever made on a book is $3, 260. That was for sales over a year. That's the only book I made that much money on. My average sales over a year for an individual book are about $1200.

For my best selling book I'm in the hole to the tune of $1456. For my average sales, I'm behind (in time invested) $3520--per book!

As the proliferation of piracy sites and theft have increased, my sales have steadily decreased. In the last six months alone my sales have dropped over 50%. A glance at the download numbers on the piracy sites make it clear where those sales are going.

In effect, I'm mugged by my readers every time I contract a book. I don't know a single person who would continue to work at a profession if they were robbed every time they were paid--if they knew that more than fifty percent of their wages would be stolen by thieves. Why should I?

Quite frankly, the local McDonald's is hiring and I doubt that I would face the same kind of theft there. If I worked the same number of hours--at minimum wage--I would net at least $11,921. That's $2,500 more than I made last year from writing.

So...what would you do?



  1. Get an application for counter work at the Golden Arches? Change your name so Demonoid and Astalatalk won't be able to find you? Buy a BIG gun and stop publishing with E-publishers? Oh, Anny! That's most likely why Sherrilyn Kenyon and Stephenie Meyer only sell paperbacks.

  2. What do you do? You gird your loins and move on. None of us can let pricks like this dictate what we do. Fuck 'em

  3. You're so right. Being an author isn't easy, but you can't let them rule you. You have a passion and talent. It shouldn't be wasted. :-)

  4. Anny, if you can stop writing, I'll eat my bed with a spoon. I know the piracy sites are frustrating. But I don't actually believe you write for the money. Any published author--print or electronic--would tell someone thinking of making a living by writing books that it's a pipedream. It just doesn't happen, unless you're one of the 10-15 blockbuster authors out there.

    Yes, it's difficult. Yes, it's thankless. But 'fess up: you love those stories you craft out of the air, your blue people and your fairies and your kinky princes and the people who love them.

    Stop publishing if you want, but keep writing.

    And look into a company called Scribd (yes, that's how it's spelled), if you still want to get your books out there but go a different route.

  5. Sucks. Don't stop writing Anny, unless you burn which case, take a break then come back. I've made less than $150 on three books since I the first came out nearly a year ago. That's why I keep my day job.

  6. Demonoid will always find you. Vector will always link people to you. What pirates don't realize is they make it impossible to write for them. They love the work enough to steal it and stealing it makes writing it prohibitive. The idiots go for the immediate satisfaction whilst forgetting that in the long term, they've taken their author out of business.

  7. I wonder about that a lot. It's a sad world sometimes, isn't it.

  8. I never fully understood the 'no sharing' rule until my 2nd book was pubbed last year. It's POD, so I get paid when a new book is printed, or I sell one myself. I sold one copy to a teacher at W's school, and she passed it around to about 5 other people. That amounts to either $75 for me or an additional 7.50 in my royalty check.

    So I get it now!

    WV: blerc. Any uses for that?

  9. Thieves have been with us since the beginning of time. Sucks to have such difficulties making a living in something you love to do.

  10. As one of your readers who buys your books legally, I want to thank you for writing them and getting them out there. They allow me that small moment in time when I can forget the crap of the world that is going on around me.

  11. Well said Anny. I had the opportunity to have a say on a local radio station on this subject. The host saw nothing wrong with a guy who was going in each day with his Starbucks and reading through books at the B&N. They banned him.

    I had the opportunity to call in and explain that it's no different than going into a restaurant, eating off the buffet and then leaving without paying.

    I"m not popular enough for this to be an issue, I've only found myself on one piracy site.