Bet that statement got your attention, didn’t it? Now, before you run to the tool shed for your pitchfork, I’ll hasten to explain myself. See, this isn’t a “you buncha ingrates” thing. It’s more of a “food for thought” thing. So, as with any good meal, we’ll start out with an appetizer. My personal favorite is stuffed mushroom caps. So:
Mushroom #1 – The books I’m talking about are good books. Good story, nicely laid out, colorful characters, and it moves along. Well edited, too. You know, a quality read.
Mushroom #2 - I’m a reader right in there with ya. I’m a writer, and my debut novel “The Clearing” comes out March 1st (shameless plug, wasn’t it?), but I’ve read hundreds of books. So, I’m a much more prolific reader than writer, and always will be.
So, onto the salad (ranch dressing for me):
I’m the project manager for a small civil engineering firm, but I got my start in this field as a land surveyor. A few years into stomping through water to my knees, dodging water moccasins and copperheads, and being bitten by every bug known to man, I got a little disenchanted, and decided to try something else. That side path ended up being sales. (As an aside, if you’re a salesperson, my hat is off to you – incredibly hard profession). I’ll not go into what I sold, but what I will say is part of my training included motivational seminars. See, unlike normal nine to fiver’s, sales people have no schedule. You have calls to make, appointments to keep, and there usually ain’t no check unless you’ve created one. Period. So, in order to give your existence some order, you have to decide what you want to make – or need to make – to survive. If it’s 50 grand, then you figure out how many self-propelled roller skates you have to sell to hit that mark. Simple, right?
Now, the meat and potatoes (hey, I’m a country boy from Pennsylvania – what did you expect?:
Say a writer – a part-time writer – makes $50,000 a year during his day job. That translates to a couple pennies over $24 an hour. Okay.
Now, I’m going to use my path to writing my book as a template, onaccountabecause I don’t know anyone else’s. I wrote “The Clearing” in about four months, part time. Say, three hours a day, four days a week. So that comes out to around 150 hours. Then I edited the stink out of it, before sending it to any prospective publishers. I did that over about a month, so using the same hours, we can add on another 48 hours for that. Total so far is basically 200 hours.
So, my work gets accepted by Tim Taylor at Greyhart (and I thank the man every time I mention his name – thanks boss!). I won’t go into all the details, but Tim assigns Ms. Terry Jackman to assist me in editing it formally. (I thank her every time, too – thank you, ma’am ). Over the next few months filled with multiple (read endless) emails, we craft a real book out of a lump of what I see now was a very rough-edged story line. I mean, months. And endless. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it took me almost as long to edit it as it did write it. Seriously, it’s much much harder re-writing a scene, because the scene is already set in your head, and it’s rough to get out. Ask anyone.
So, we’ll say another 150 hours to edit. Add in the original 150, plus the original editing, and we’re up to 350 hours. You see where this is going?
Now, the marketing. I might be a little over the top from some others in this regard, because I’d never even stepped foot in Facebook or Twitter, and didn’t even know what a blog was. And it’s at this point that I’ll interject another shameless plug and tell anyone who hasn’t fled by now that yesterday I enjoyed the 10,000th view on my blog, and enlisted my 2,500th follower. Go me! Anyway, I digress. It takes awhile to do that – to get other writers’ friendship and support, to recognize what needs to be done from a selling, hobknobbing, blogging, twittering, reviewing, re-blogging, commenting, and liking standpoint. Trust me, I left 350 hours in the dust, months ago. So, for the sake of argument (that’s my argument, ’cause I’m the one writing), we’ll go with 650 hours. And I’m estimating light, believe me.
One thousand hours. And I haven’t made a dime. Heck, my book hasn’t hit the stands. That’s still almost two months away.
Now, let’s say when my creation blows into town, it rocks the world a little (I’ve been purchasing candles since day one, and my house is going to look like some kind of Peruvian monastery March 1). It gets a good reception, gets some great reviews, and manages to hit 5,000 sells by March 1, 2013. (I might point out at this juncture that I know quite a few authors that would sell any one of several relatively major body parts to sell 5,000 books.) I’m not going to tell you what I make a book – but when an e-book sells on amazon for $3.99, I think you can figure out it ain’t much. Let’s theorize I get a dollar of that.
That means 5,000 books gets me 5,000 bucks – or 5 dollars an hour. Before taxes. And that doesn’t include a lot of things that go on after publishing. Going to book signings, for instance. Or being featured in a book group. A blog tour, say. One could argue doubling the original thousand hours, easy.
So, see, there aren’t any writers (with apologies to guys ‘n gals named Koontz and Steele) who are working towards retirement here.
We do it because we love to do it. Because we want our work to be out there on someone’s nightstand, on a library shelf, or in the book bag of a child. It’s not about money – it’s about creation. And if, for the sake of a few pennies, a whole slew of people didn’t hunker down over their desks, laptops, and writing pads and pound out page after page just in the hope that one day someone somewhere might enjoy a few hours away from life on this ball of mud – well, the world would be a much, much darker place, indeed.
Kindly remember that, the next time you throw open the door to a book store or dial up Amazon, won’t you?