I hear from people who ask me why they should pay .99 for a short story because that's highway robbery. Well, besides the fact that a short story can tell you if you would like to buy more of this author's work in longer form or even more short stories, let's go to Math 101.First we'll take the case of a self-published author.
You walk into a fast food place and think about the employees who would like to enjoy a livable wage. Some say $15 an hour is fair. Okay, let's take the case of an author who sells a short story of 3,000 words for .99. Whoah, you say. That is really short. Yes, it is. But is it worth at least what a small order of French fries would cost you?
I say without a doubt.
3,000 words equates to around twelve pages. The author has to pay for cover art for the ebook. Let's say $50 for that, if you're lucky. Formatting is $1 a page. Editing at least that. Maybe double. So without the author's time, we're at $74 already. If the author is a super whizz-bang and can write the tale in three hours, should she/he not be paid at least as much as the burger employee? Of course. Add another $45. We're up to $119 now. And this does not include marketing so someone knows the author's book is out there to buy. Add another $50 at least between the author's time and a paid professional's time.$169 now.
These are rock-bottom prices that you'll be lucky to get.
So how many books on Amazon does the author need to sell? You will get around .35 royalty per book. Thus, the author needs to sell roughly 483 books to cover the $169. How many authors do this with the typical ebook? Not many. 11 hours at $15/hour comes to $165, so we're close here.
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Now lets take the case of an author going with a small Press. There will be only two expense factors here: the author's time, which will be the same $45, and doing their share of the marketing. Add in $25. Total time at $15/hour comes to $70.
At 4.7 hours, the author needs to sell 400 books to reach minimum wage if the Press and the author each share the royalties evenly. Not every Press is as generous as this. The Press needs to sell roughly 550 books to cover expenses, while the author has to sell 83 less books to stay at minimum wage. The Press needs to sell 150 more because of the added expense. Of course, once the 550 books are sold, the Press is making money because it is now in the black for this book. Again, the chance is this might not occur. So in this model, the author comes out ahead going with a Press, at least until the book sells a lot of copies. Even disregarding the minimum wage factor for a second, we see that at 400 books sold, the author has $70 and the Press has $70, but the Press is in the red by $29.
At any rate, no matter how you look at it, the author deserves minimum wage.
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So, the next time someone asks you why they should pay .99 for a great story, spout the facts.
It is about time authors started getting fair compensation for their work.