Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Much $ is Enough?

How much money should you make? The question came up on Steve Laube’s blog Goodbye to Traditional Publishing?. Apparently, Ann Voss Peterson (no, I don’t know who she is either), is upset because she only made $20,000 on 170,000 copies of a book. That is roughly 12¢ per copy. The cover price is $4.50. So allowing for the store to get 40%, the publisher gets $2.70, so Ann Voss Peterson receive only 4.3% of what the publisher received, or 2.4% of the cover price (by her figures). Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

Okay, backup. I think you missed something. Ann Voss Peterson made $20,000 from a book she wrote. Given that an author writing full-time can crank out four books a year, that is the equivalent of $80,000 per year. You won’t get rich on that, but I know a lot of people who think that is a good salary.

We usually measure what we consider to be a good salary by what other people are making. If someone is making $50,000 a year but he sees a co-worker making $60,000 a year, he feels like he is underpaid. On the other hand, if everyone else in the office is making $45,000 and less, he feels good about himself. The same is true for books. The reason $20,000 isn’t good is because there are other authors who are making more than that. Why, some authors pull in $100,000 per book. On the other hand, there are many books that never make the author more than a few hundred dollars.

Instead of worrying about what other people are making, we ought to look at the who compensation package. No, I don’t mean the publishing contract; I mean the whole compensation package. It is God who provides for our needs. Are those needs provided for? Then consider over and above that. Has he also provided for that? If God is providing everything we need and more, then our main concern should be to do what he would have us to do, no matter how much money we might be able to make from it.


Deb said...

I think you missed the point. If you bought something in a store, and it cost $4, would you really expect the store to give it to you for $2? Yet this is what happened to Ms. Peterson. Her story is not that she doesn't think God supplied her needs, she believes she was shortchanged by the publisher, who puts clauses in their contract designed to shortchange the author if they earn out the advance.

You need to know the context before you equate one person's story with "they make less than another so therefore they're complaining."

Timothy Fish said...


When I go to the store, I don't ask how much it cost to make the product. I very much doubt any store owner would be able to tell me if I did. What I ask is whether I want the product badly enough to pay what the store is asking for it. If I'm only willing to pay $2 for a product that costs $4 to make, then I doubt they will be willing to sell me the product.

But that's not really this situation. The same amount of effort went into writing the book, no matter how many books were sold. I still think that $20,000 for writing one book is nothing to complain about.