Being an Indie Author: The Rundown

A while back, I posted to Facebook a bit of truth telling about being an indie author. What I said is valid, and deserves to be repeated.

Here's what I wrote on Facebook. I've updated it a bit from the original post.

I'm going to drop some truth for y'all right now, because the last three days have been super-frustrating and I've seen a lot of "Why are indie books so expensive?" BS out there. I want to try to help people understand.

Ready? OK.

I have put in 21 hours of work over the last three days, and wanna know how much I got paid to do it? Zip. Nothing. No cents, no dinero, not a shekel, nothing. This is what I do, and this is how it works. I only get paid for the work I do all year round if people buy my books. It's not unusual for me to work 40-60 hours a week, just like most people do, FOR NOTHING.

When I priced my novel The Cottage, a lot of thought went into the price, same as with all my other books. And I want to break that process down for you. The Cottage is 379 print pages when all is said and done. That costs $5.40 per copy to print, and that cost comes right off the top of the price customers pay. I see none of that. There are other costs that go along with printing a book that make my lowest possible price point $9.99. If I price my book at $9.99, I will make nothing when someone buys it. So, if I want to make money for what I do, I must price the book over $9.99. I make a percentage of whatever I price it over the minimum, so at the price point I set of $11.99 I will get $1.80 per sale. That's it. Not even enough to buy me a latte.

I do not currently do expanded distribution, which would get my books into more marketplaces like libraries, brick and mortar stores, etc. The reason for that is I would have to jack up the price to at least $13.50, and that would bring my royalty up to $2.70 per copy ordered through Amazon, but nothing for copies obtained through EP. I'm all for getting my books out there where people can buy them, but I can't afford to give my work away.

To show you a contrast, my eBooks are always priced at $2.99 (STILL less than that cup of coffee I mentioned), and I make $2.03 from each sale of those, which is why I promote eBooks much harder than I do paperbacks. They cost less for the consumer, and because there isn't a physical copy that needs to be made, I make more.

Now, logic dictates that if I raise the prices of my books, I'll make more money. But the sad truth is this: I have raised my prices in the past and watched my sales plummet to nothing immediately afterward. I'm already not making a killing here, so the last thing I'm going to do is make it worse. Part of the mentality I'm trying to tackle with this post: the idea that indie authors' books aren't as good as, or worth as much as, traditionally published authors' and that readers will not pay the same amount of money for an indie author's book. eBooks priced at $9.99 and higher regularly become bestsellers, so my set price of $2.99 can't be a problem.

Another assumption I'd like to tackle today is that indie authors don't work very hard or deserve to charge as much as writers who have representation by a publishing company.

To give you an idea of how much work I do, I decided to start this series of posts so you can take a peek inside my process. Mine is different from other indie authors', but these posts should give you an idea of all the work I, and other indie authors, do, and maybe some of the other stuff we have to deal with in our unique situation.

To give you an example of the work I put into my own books, and the things I pay for, here's an incomplete list: I design my own covers, write my own synopses, format my own eBooks and paperbacks, maintain my website and blog, and pay for every boosted post and ad on social media. I also pay for all the costs I incur from using a computer on a daily basis, internet bills, research materials, memberships and subscription fees, free copies given to reviewers, books donated to libraries, awards contest entry fees, materials given away in swag bags at conventions/signings/etc., postage, office supplies, tax preparation, and all the other related costs related to writing as a form of work.

I do all those things myself, which brings my overhead down as low as possible seeing as I don't have to pay anyone else to do them. Other indie authors hire people to perform some or all of these services, and the money those people guessed it, comes out of what they make from sales. And even if they have help, there's still a lot of work that only the author can do, and it occupies a lot of our time.

Most indie authors make less than $10,000 a year, and work just as hard as people with any other job. When you see an indie author charging $15 for a paperback copy of their book, you can bet they busted their ass just as much as any other author you're checking out. If the book sounds good, buy it, and know that you're helping support a person who might be working 80 hours a week, a cup of lukewarm coffee in one hand, fingers of the other poised over computer keys, asking themselves why they thought they could write. This is me, a lot of the time. A single sale can feel like victory, and tells that nearsighted, caffeine-addled author that maybe, just maybe, they chose the right career.

Want to support indie authors like me? Obviously, the first step is to buy our books. Want to support authors in other ways? Share links on social media, tell your friends what you thought of that book you bought, look for links to buy merch or send money through Paypal, join their Patreon crew, or send a few bucks through sites like Ko-Fi which let you send a creator enough money for a cup of coffee, fee- and ad-free. Follow the author on Goodreads or other social networking sites, and like and comment on their posts. Read their blogs, and drop them a comment once in a while so they know you're there. 

The next best, and possibly the most important, way to show your love to an author, indie or otherwise, is to leave reviews once you've read their books. Every review informs other readers about whether or not to buy a book, and in some cases the more reviews a book gets, the more promo it will qualify for. You don't need to write a novel yourself, just a couple sentences and a star rating. Plus, authors like me love hearing what readers think of our work.

Every sale helps us recoup costs, and pays us for all our time and hard work. I know $11.99 sounds like a lot for a book, but from an indie author like me, it's our livelihood, and helps us not only keep writing books for you, but take care of our families.

I appreciate every single one of you that has bought one of my books, and love you for helping me do what I love to do. I also appreciate every one of you who actually takes the time to read this and understand a little of what it takes to be an indie author.

Stay tuned, there will be more posts about being an indie author in the future!


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