The High Cost of Writing

I recently read an ugly post on Twitter. A guy gloating about how he sure screwed Amazon by searching far and wide so he wouldn’t have to pay full price. Instead, he found the book he so fervently sought on another site, secondhand and cut-rate. I don’t know if they charged him for shipping, but I bet Amazon could care less about his self-proclaimed victory against them.

Amazon didn’t get screwed by this guy, but the author of the book he coveted most definitely did.

When it was pointed out to him that the author got nothing from his purchase, he doubled-down, ranting about how dare they charge $17.99 for a paperback anyway!

Newsflash: I don’t know how many pages his purchased paperback comprised, but these days the minimum rate one can price a newly printed book of 300 pages or more is $18.99. This is determined by the printing and distribution company.

Furthermore, as my publisher recently announced, the major US book distributor, IngramSpark, is raising its prices in November. And as we’ve seen recently discussed in the media and on social media, the US Post Office is jacking its rates—yet again.

These are things an author has little if no control over, and authors must pay for these services too.

Manufactured products cost money, and paperbacks don’t cost what they did in, say, 1975. Shipping also costs money, and like everything else, the price keeps escalating. Both production and transport require that people be compensated for their time. Technology must be paid for. That eBook didn’t just magically happen anymore than the paperback novel did.

Sadly, in that Twitter consumer’s estimation, the writer’s actual work had little value. And yet he sure wanted the contents of that paperback he wasn’t willing to pay more than a few dollars for. Plus, he thought himself so clever in making a big deal about his boon on social media.

It’s like Rowan Layne says in Feeling Alienated, first novel of the Other Worldly series, too many people’s idea of a free press under the First Amendment is not having to pay for the newspaper they want to read—and let someone else bear the cost of.

It’s as if folks think they’re buying a book with blank pages, which some are more than willing to shell out bucks for. Perhaps that stems from the everyone-thinks-they-can-be-a-writer syndrome. Apparently it appears quite easy and inexpensive to accomplish writing and producing a book.

Those lamenting having to pay the price of today’s paperbacks are devaluing skills it took to craft the very words that made them possible. Perhaps this is part and parcel of a lifelong battle with folks who only respect math or science ability, deriding those who deal in the written word and can craft a coherent story when so many clearly cannot.

I’ve just published four novels of my Other Worldly series in two years. It’s an accomplishment I shouldn’t let others steal from me.

How does one drown out inner voices of doubt about their passionate pursuit of writing when it comes down to those who will inevitably inquire as to why they have to pay so much for a paperback novel? And they might even have to pony up bucks for—gasp—shipping to receive their online purchase.

I’m now writing the fifth novel of my Other Worldly series, Alien Sensation, wherein Rowan Layne is initially grappling with maintaining a positive attitude towards the human species. It takes its toll, financially and emotionally, to be a writer.

Even for those who discount the effort and expense it entails to craft a 375-page novel, like that smug jerk on Twitter, there’s still the matter of its physical production. The pages of a novel may originally derive from trees, but a newly printed book with professional editing and cover design doesn’t magically grow on them.

A novel isn’t produced overnight by some literary fairy snapping its fingers, so that a consumer can complain to the author about having to shell out money for the magic we’ve expended time, energy, and angst for.

Most books are creative inspiration for which an independent author will receive mere pennies on the dollar, because companies like Amazon and others will autocratically slash book prices with no concern for the author’s craft or commitment. And the cost of marketing is not necessarily affordable, because it doesn’t come cheaply either, and it’s borne by the author.

But if someone finds something worth acquiring and reading, it should be worth paying the going rate for.



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