Bet that 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” came 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 (peppercorn ranch 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. So, in order to give your existence some order, you have to decide what you want to earn – or need to earn – 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 Mr. Tim Taylor at Greyhart Press (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 gooey swamp muck. 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 it’s firmly set in your head, and really, really 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 last week I enjoyed the 30,000th view on my blog, and enlisted my 3,600th 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 1,000 hours in the dust. So, for the sake of argument (that’s my argument, ’cause I’m the one writing), we’ll go with 1,350 hours spent by launch day. And I’m estimating light, believe me.
One-thousand-three-hundred-and-fifty hours. And I hadn’t made a dime. Heck, my book had’t hit the stands.
Now, let’s say when my creation blew into town, it rocked the world a little (In anticipation of said event, I’d been purchasing candles since day one, and my house was looking like a Peruvian monastery). Let’s say it got a good reception, got some great reviews, and manages to hit 5,000 sells by March 1, 2014. (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 $2.99, I think you can figure out it ain’t much. Let’s theorize I get a dollar of that.
Anywho, for the year between March 1st’s, I continue to blog and market, market and blog. By the way, I’m now on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Librarything, LinkedIn, Google+, Digg, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Tumbler, and hell, probably a dozen more sites. Not to mention my blog, of course. Among all those I easily eat up 2000 hours in a year. More. But we’ll say 2,000, added to the original 1,350 to give us 3,350 hours spent on selling my book. That means (drum roll please) 5,000 books gets me (do I here the sound of blaring trumpets?) 5,000 bucks – or $1.49 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 two thousand hours, easy.
So, see, there aren’t many 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?