A barista spends 3 minutes making you a $6 cup of coffee, you tip her. A writer spends a year writing a book, you complain $4.99 is too high
— Robert Swartwood (@RobertSwartwood) October 4, 2012
I saw this a while ago. It resurfaced in early April, and I've been thinking about it ever since. It impacts every aspect of my professional life. My new releases are $4.99. It used to be $5.99, but I ultimately settled on $4.99.
Robert Swartwood's tweet illustrates it perfectly. As a society, we're willing to pay a barista to make us a coffee for $6–and we'll drop change in her tip jar, all because we appreciate the work she put in for us.
Usually, this work is no more than 3 to 5 minutes.
It takes me at least a quarter of a year to write a novel. Sometimes I write one faster, if I'm pushing really hard at it. I work 9+ hours a day, churning out words in the hopes of making something out of my career.
Some days, that barista makes more in tips than I do in sales on my novels. That's what society has deemed as important, and I don't know how to bust through that wall.
I want people to look at my months of hard work and effort and believe it is worth more than that 3 minute cup of coffee.
My novels take longer than 3 minutes to read, too. It usually takes a reader longer than it times to drink that cup of coffee to finish one of my titles. Even if you speed read at 1,000 words per minute, you'll looking at an hour and twenty minutes to read my shortest novel.
Some of you may claim that it's possible to return that cup of coffee if it doesn't take good.
Trust me on this one–you can with books, too. It happens to me all of the time, almost always in the first two weeks of a novel's release. You know, when people want to read the book but don't want to pay the author for their hard work. It's pretty frustrating looking at the returns in the first two weeks of a release, knowing that a title is either in progress of being pirated or someone just doesn't feel like paying. Of course, there are those who genuinely bought by accident due to one click buying, but… after a while, you get used to the fact that people aren't in that later category.
It sucks–especially when you realize that a cup of coffee is worth more than the hard work and effort spent writing and editing a novel.
Is that a whine?
You can bet your bacon that it's a whine. (Or you can just give your bacon to me, because I like bacon a lot.)
Go ahead and judge me if that's up your alley. From where I'm sitting, it really sucks knowing that my novels can't compete with a cup of coffee. It's a real kick to the self-esteem. Many authors (myself included) have battered self-esteems. I'm okay admitting that. It's the truth.
Many authors have second jobs. I'm not one of them. I'm stupid, crazy, have probably made the worst financial decision of my life, and I refuse to give up my career choice, which makes me irresponsible, too.
If you can afford to buy a $6 cup of coffee, please don't tell your author friends you can't afford their book. Just be honest with us and tell us why you don't want to buy the book. Your honesty goes a lot further than empty promises and lies.
At least we learn something when you're honest about it. We learn what sells our books and what doesn't sell our books. That's almost as valuable as the golden egg of being paid for our gold work–almost.
And if that answer is that you enjoy your coffee more than you do literature, that's all right. Seriously, it is.
Not everyone is a crazy book hoarder.
If only cash were not a finite resource. If it weren't, I could have my $6 cup of coffee and all of the books I want.
And yes, I skip the coffee to buy the books… or I twist a friend's arm and have them buy me a coffee. And yes, I'm totally guilty of this.