The Price of Creativity

With the recent kerfuffle over Pomplamoose being straight forward and honest about their expenditures for a tour,  I am among those who are stepping up to speak out about the price of creativity.

I have always been pretty up front about the costs of my creativity and the lengths I will go to ensure my dream job–writing novels–remains a reality. Every author is different. Some choose to do their editorial all on their own, create covers on their own, and handle every aspect of their publishing process on their own.

I can't do that. I work with Chris Howard for my cover art. (I also reserve covers sometimes up to six months in advance. I've had the cover for City of Clocks for over a year, waiting for the book to be ready.) I work with Rachel Desilets for the first round of my editorial process. My proofing editorial staff is currently up in the air, although I think I've managed to select my main proofing editor. (I sometimes hire two–I prefer having two, as editors are human and so am I.)

I also work with Brooke Johnson for cover layout and interior design for the print editions of my novels.

I do not expect these individuals to work for free. We negotiated prices we both felt were fair and conducive for a long-term relationship. It's the same way I handled my editorial work. I could have made more money, but when I started, I really enjoyed working with other authors. I worked in editorial to pay my novel-writing expenses. It was a way for me to balance my books.

But at the end of the day, it was–and still is–an unsound financial decision for me. I chose to martyr my finances for editorial because I wanted people to have access to something I offered. I never worked for free (nor would I) but I definitely didn't value my work at what I should have.

As an author, I am presented with a lot of choices. How much do I charge for a book? Can I profit from this story? How much do I need to invest to make this novel happen?

How can I get the funds needed to make my career a financially sound one. My writing is a business. I'm not interested in martyring my novels for exposure. I am a philanthropist, though. I love giving to people. That's why, instead of going for an actual sale, I gave away most of my books for free for Black Friday. While I did want exposure, I wanted to give people who couldn't afford books a chance to get them legitimately. I wanted fans as well.

It was a conscious decision and risk to give up any hope of actual sales.

This is also why I refuse to give my novels away perma free on Amazon: I value myself and my work. My novels are my lifeline, my career, and the foundation of my hopes and dreams.

This is important to me, and my creativity, my dreams, and my hopes should not be valueless.

Let me break down the reality of this situation for you. I'm an author. My job is to write books for the enjoyment of readers. Movie actors expect to get paid for entertaining you. I expect to get paid for entertaining you.

I don't have the hopes of a movie actor. I want a living wage.

The actual living wage where I live is $24,900. (This number was gotten by speaking to low-wage friends and finding out when they considered they had a decent quality of life.)

This is approximately $12.00 per hour. Minimum wage in Quebec is $10.35.

Considering my friends and the nature of their lifestyles, it's entirely possible someone could survive with a good quality life at minimum wage.

So, for the sake of this discussion, I will value my work at $10.35 an hour before taxes.

In the past, I have released two novels a year. However, before I divide the wage per hour against the number of novels written, there are a few considerations I need to make:

First and foremost, I need to make $10.35 an hour after my expenses for creating the novel. This needs to be money earned for the purpose of having a good quality of life.

And to anyone who thinks authors, musicians, entertainers, and anyone who works to make you happy shouldn't enjoy a basic and good quality of life… fuck off. I deserve to have a good living wage just like every other hard working individual out there.

Rude, yes, but I am not a martyr for your entertainment. I'm not someone to be sacrificed because you don't want to pay for moments of happiness. Authors, musicians, and entertainers shouldn't starve because too many people want everything for cheap.

We work hard so readers can enjoy themselves. We work very hard for that.

I work full time as an author. Next year, I'm on track to release four novels. (Most of these books are partially completed.)

This is a rough estimate, but I am expecting to spend roughly $1,500 to $2,000 per novel next year. I'll roll with $1,500 in a best-hope situation. That's $6,000 in general expenses for next year.

If I make $10.35 an hour at full time hours (I actually work more than full time) I would earn $24,960. In total, to make the minimum wage, I would need to bring in $31,060.

I made, approximately, a third of that before expenses.

I'm hoping with four new books in the works, I can start seeing a snowball effect and start making a minimum living wage.

No, I should not have to go ‘get a real job.' Writing is a real job. I sit down and I work hard for more hours in a week than full-time work dictates.

It's about time people started accepting that the entertainment industry is real work.

After all, there are men and women who will pay hookers $300 an hour. Is it really so much to ask for an author to get paid $10.35 an hour? It takes most people a lot longer than an hour to read a novel.

I think the amount of time it takes to read a novel is well worth the $3.99 to $5.99 I charge for my ebooks, don't you?

I think this nonsense about entertainers, including authors, being valued at near-to-nothing needs to stop. I don't write for exposure.

I write to eat.

I write to live comfortably.

I write because I like it–but that doesn't mean I should be forced to work for nothing.

No one should have to work for nothing in the hope of someday making money.

Leave a Comment:

Michael Gladu says December 10, 2014

Amen to that girl. I love the books of yours I have read and eagerly await their companions.

    RJBlain says December 10, 2014

    Thank you very much!! 🙂

Sue R Griffin says December 10, 2014

Chick! your work could easily sell at the rate of $7.99 – $9.95 a novel (US cash)…you are that good… and I have paid that much for a much desired piece of work. I enjoy your work and look forward to many hours of more enjoyment. I love that you sell them on the cheap, but really, I keep waiting for your prices to go up to meet your needs….I don’t think it would be selfish of you! It would be FAIR.

    RJBlain says December 10, 2014

    I picked $5.99 as my price point for my novels after a lot of considerations. While I agree, my novels could sell for 7.99 to 9.99, I’m actually keep on keeping my rates as what they are. What I _may_ do in future, however, is create special edition versions of some books with a far higher price for the book, including things like sketches, fun facts about the book in the back, things I wish I could have done with the novel and couldn’t and so on. That’d let me get my fingers in both pies, in my opinion.

averytingle says December 11, 2014

I just wanted to say I greatly enjoyed this read and plan to use it as a foundation of sorts as I continue through my career.

Sue R Griffin says December 11, 2014

OH!! Special Editions! /drooling

Add Your Reply