Regardless of being an author, which invariably, since I have written madly since my youth and published a few good books, makes me a party to the countless writers out there, I wonder how many of you are actually being hit by cost levelling?
What I mean by that is, authors are constantly aware of ePub methods, and the rising costs of services incurred during the inception of their books. If an author wishes to approach traditional publishers, it can get very expensive – roughly £2,000 per manuscript, plus you still have to do the hard work yourself – you will end up with a bill whatever you do! Even if you are Hugh Howie or Adam Croft, you know you will have overheads and promotional expenses up-front to gain access to all the wonderful tools out there to express yourself through the printed word. As with any business, you have to speculate to accumulate, it’s that simple.
So, I get really cheesed off – I’m a Green Bay Packer fan, too – when I see people in writing mags and blogs saying how easy it is to make a fast buck! They are really glossing over the hard work and expense of the publishing industry. Yes, it cost nothing to actually place you on the world wide web. But everyone knows that to actually understand the minefield of information out there, you end up costing for books and courses, that are definitely not cheap – quite rightly so, otherwise it would not be lucrative enough to put food on the top authors’ tables – and then there is the cost of advertising in the right place at the right time, and no-one is going to tell you all this info for free! All this money has gone into the coffers of the ones that have dredged the internet before you and also done the hard work, and shelled out a few bob in the process.
Add this hard cheese to the fact that readers demand more for less, and you have a glut of writers to the lower ratio of readers available. Loads of choice, and there should be, but the price of a book in print becomes less than the cost of producing it. And that is what I mean by asking readers, do you actually think about the artistic quality of books nowadays? Would you, for instance, go to a gallery, see a painting that has a price tag of £250 and begin your negotiations on the basis that you only wish to pay under £1 for it? You would be laughed out of the art foundation, and be left scurrying for cover from the incredulous stares from artists all over the world. And yet a great majority of people insist on judging a work of printed art, and valuing it as nothing worth a nicker!
There are over 281300 authors, writers and editors out there today! That is a lot of artistic bent!
Let’s look at the stats for other artists. There are over 320,000 on Artnet, which is only one of the tons of art sites that allow artists to display their modern and contemporary arts in a visual arcade. An alternative site, over 351,86 gather together in an artistic flower to present their creativity to the world. In just one space, they can earn upwards of £3,000 per day!
Now, I’ve said this before, tongue firmly in cheek, that I am definitely in the wrong business! I am in the artistic writer’s camp who, driven to manipulate the written word, rather than myriad colours on canvas, I know I will suffer the most, and go without supper on most occasions, because most buyers of books think it disillusioned of me to believe to value my work at more than 99p per ‘mistress-piece’. I am not saying here that you should consider paying me £2,000 per copy, but the ratio between one canvas and 230 average pages of a masterpiece is vastly different, and writers as artists are grossly underrated. Both arts tell a story, both have been cogitated, pored, studied over, and both have taken hours of careful preparation beforehand. So why should the vast majority of written material, which is another art, simply go either perfunctorily bargained-for at best, or at worst, summarily dismissed if it is not at the pre-requisite quid?
I, too, have subjected my books to scrutiny, and submitted them for all to see, at the very same price I have a bee in my bonnet about. I have produced works of art, to expose them to your judgement and detailed analysis, too, for the ingratiating price of less than a cup of coffee! We do this because we know to be heard amongst the statistical 281,300 of us who are producing books at the rate of knots a cutter would be proud of, we have to be cost-effective, and right now the subject of price per book is an eye-watering lump in a writer’s throat.
I urge readers to contemplate, cogitate and conclude that although it is a massive deal for you, it is a hard pill to swallow for writers.
I leave you with this thought – Not even prisoners are expected to live off bread and water all their lives, and on today’s market a loaf of bread costs more than a writer’s hard work in book form.
Copyright 2017 Linda Bates
Footnote: My apologies to struggling artists everywhere, of whom I am privileged to be.