After dicussing the SAG-AFTRA issue previously, I wanted to take the time to discuss the myths around income and earnings when it comes to authors and service providers such as cover designers and editors.
Let's start with authors. It is very easy to think that anyone who has books up for sale is making a lot of money. There are many famous writers out there such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, she who I refuse to name after her abhorrent behaviour and others who have made a name for themselves and had their books made into movies and TV shows. Unfortunately, that kind of fame is not easy to come by. Most indie authors are not making enough money to pay their bills. That is a simple truth. Those that are, would probably make more working a coventional job, or they need to keep their job in order to survive. Writing is not an easy job, there are no guarantees and you are self employed. On top of that, you have to pay for editors, cover designers, advertising, which leaves a lot of authors in the red when they start out and it can take years to climb out of that hole. Are there indie authors out there making six figures a year? Absolutely. But again, most authors don't see a penny of profit for a very long time. We write because we love it.
Even traditional writers who get deals with top publishers are not making all that much. I believe the average amount a typical traditionally published author can hope to make during their book's run is around $5000. That's it. Hardly fame and fortune. Yes, they might get lucky and it could get optioned for a movie, but again, this is rare.
When an author releases a book, they depend on sales to pay for future books and covers. That means that if they release book 1 in a series and a reader decides to wait until the full series is out to read it, then there is a possibility it will never be released in full because the sales aren't there. We live in a society where we get everything instantly now. You can download a book in seconds, you can stream an entire season of a TV show in one day, but they are relatively new things. We did once live in a world where you had to wait a year or more for the next book, or week to week for a TV show. Is there anything wrong with waiting? It builds tension, excitement and it is something to look forward to. Perhaps you disagree, I was one of those people who had no trouble waiting until Christmas Day to open presents, purely because that's when it was the most special.
So if you like an author or think a book sounds interesting but it is the beginning of a series, please buy the book. It will be just as enjoyable to read even if you have to wait a little while for it.
Cover designers have been suffering too lately, especially with the introduction of AI. It is now easy for people to create images using AI that they go on to add to their books. The problem is they are using stolen, copyrighted art and if and when the law changes, they could get in a lot of trouble for using them, possibly even sued by the original creators.
Cover designers spend years perfecting their craft and many hours on creating designs to sell. You may think they are expensive and yes, it can be difficult to source a few hundred dollars for a cover with everything going on right now, but you are paying for the skill, the training and the time spent on it. The image you choose could increase your sales and work toward improving your author brand.
Many cover designers rely solely on the income from selling covers. If you consider how many hours goes into making a cover and then how many sell, you will soon see that they are barely making a living. If for example they sell premade covers at $200 and they are able to make three covers a week given the time that goes into it. That's twelve covers for the month. If they sold them all, that is $2400. According to Google the average monthly salary in the US is over $6000. Still think they are making a lot of money? Of course that is only if they sell every cover, which rarely happens. They are relying on customers needing that particular type of cover at that time. They might sell half of the covers for the month. A mere $1200. Add to that the number of people who are turning to AI and you can see why they are scared of losing their livelihood.
Likewise with editors. They spend hours and hours going through every line of a book and they are dependent on authors needing an editor at that time. An good editor is invaluable. They can't be replaced by programs that make frequent mistakes because they don't understand things like slang or dialogue.
We are all struggling with the cost of living crisis, but it is important to remember that small business owners are not our enemies. Greedy corporations are. They would happily replace as many people on the planet with AI as possible, if it meant paying less money. Hoarding that wealth. For what? If there are no jobs, there's no money, no one is buying anything, the entire system collapses and they are sitting on a pile of worthless cash. At least that's how I look at it.
So please consider using small businesses, local vendors and buying books from authors that you think you would enjoy when you can. We should all be supporting each other. At the very least, we should not be tearing each other down and making assumptions about income that can be damaging to those businesses.
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”