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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A minimum wage analogy

I know I've talked before about .99 bundles, and how they devalue our work as writers, not just as artists, but as professionals.

Even more depressing was a recent discussion I saw on a loop where someone very snarkily asserted that if a story was under 10,000 words no one should charge for it. That anything but novella length wasn't worth paying for, and all authors and publishers were greedy assholes. (Nope. Not kidding)

I try hard not to be an author who bitches, with varying degrees of success. But when someone tells me that what I do for a living is worth nothing, even though they want more, please, I get a little grumpy pants.

Take this minimum wage analogy. The minimum wage in my state is $7.50. Not the lowest, but definitely low. Now, imagine, as it is for most writers, that you have taken a second, part time job. Something you love doing, but that only pays minimum wage.

You work this job say, five hours a day. (I use this number because a professional writer can bang out 2K an hour on a good day. Some get way less, some more. We'll go with it). That's $37.50 a day, before taxes. Now, imagine that your boss comes to you one day and says, "Hey, I appreciate what you do, I want more, but I'n not gonna pay you anymore because you like it here so much."

Ack eyes.

You'd quit, right?

Now, I know what you're thinking.

That's not a fair analogy. You work 5 hours and you get thousands of opportunities to sell that story. You can make a ton of money on that story.

Okay, let's assume I self publish this almost 10K story because everyone thinks I get a ton of money out of that. I price it at .99 on Amazon because that's the sweet spot right now. That means Amazon takes 70%. So I get .29 per copy. So I only have to sell 125 copies to make my minimum wage. What am I complaining about?!

Right. Except I'm a professional, so I paid someone to edit my book and do my cover. I'm not a web genius, so I also paid someone to format for me so during Amazon conversion I don't get an unreadable mess. At .29 I have to sell roughly 900 copies to recoup those costs, and then my 125 copies to make my minimum wage. Sure, a book can do that in no time, but most don't, especially a short story. And yes, the book can remain on sale indefinitely, continuing to earn money, but most books do their best sales in the first two weeks.

Using the minimum wage analogy, I would have to have to work over 45 hours to break even on costs and and get paid for the hours I put into writing the story. Now think of how may of you make more than minimum wage and and think of what you would tell me if I asked you to work a 40 hour week for free.

Maybe now you can see why I'm moved to make this analogy? No matter how you do the math, which I know some folks will argue with, someone is still asking me to give my work away for free. I would never ask y'all to do that!

Just my two cents. Y'all feel free to discuss as long as we can stay sane about it.




Katherine Halle said...

I think I missed the thing about the 99 cent bundles and would love to read your thoughts on it tbh.

Wow - that person obviously had never written anything let alone a complete and fully realized story in less then 10000 words - that is HARD.

That math is blowing my mind O__O as in how does a writer ever make ANY money at all /o\

I really like the analogy you made here, it definitely illustrates the (what should already be obvious) point that writer's words are WORTH SOMETHING.

Everyone should read this post.

Thank you!

Julia said...

LOL. Well, some folks never do make money, and some make a living. Trust me, I wish I knew what the formula was!