Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Cost of Writing a Novel

We looked at what it costs for a publisher to publish a book, which turns out to be about $50,000, but what does it cost for the author to publish a book? Let’s not make this a comparison between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Let’s instead focus our attention on publishing via the traditional route. Going this route, the saying is that money should always flow toward the author and what I would like to look at is how much money should be flowing toward the author.

Let’s say it takes the author four weeks to write the book and the author makes a wage of 22.5 dollars an hour. I realize that many people take longer than that, but Agatha Christie said a month was plenty of time to write a book and we don’t want to get greedy. That puts the labor cost of writing the novel at $3,600. You’re going to need an agent and we are told that to get an agent you will need to attend some conferences. Let’s send you off to a conference like ACFW. By the time you account for conference fees, air fare and a hotel rooms, that will run you about $2,000. We’ll assume you get an agent the first time you attend, though that is unlikely. It may help if you have someone edit your manuscript for you. Let’s say that is $1,000. A blog is supposedly a good thing to have if you are trying to build a reader base. We’ll assume you spend 2.5 hours a week on your blog, so the labor for one year is $2,925. The publisher is going to expect you to spend some time marketing. We’ll commit ourselves to five hours per week for 15 weeks, bringing the cost to $1,688. And for those 15 weeks, we’ll say we’re spending $5 per week on fuel to run back and forth to book clubs, book signings, etc. That’s an additional $75. That brings the grand total to $11, 288. Let’s just round that up to $12,000.

That $12,000 is your number. It doesn’t seem so far out of reach when we look at some of the advances publishers hand out. But when we consider that each and every novel that is written needs to make that much money to keep us out of the hole it doesn’t seem so small. Forget the advance. If the publisher doesn’t pay you at least $12,000 in royalties over the life of the book, you are donating time.