What an Author Earns…#rant

Warning: If you are a sensitive person and easily offended by things that are not what you want to know, do NOT read this. 

On Tuesday, my latest release, Carolyn’s Quilt dropped on Amazon. Now, let it be known that I LOVE Amazon. I LIVE by Amazon…I order almost everything from Amazon, except food. Amazon has changed my life and is 99% good.

But, sadly, no one is perfect.

I have no idea what happened but some readers received Annie’s Quilt instead of Carolyn’s Quilt, others received a blank page, and still more received the correct book: Carolyn’s Quilt.  Let’s just say that from Tuesday until…oh…next week, have not been fun. I’m doing damage control and helping my readers who contact me. Some readers, rightfully upset by this issue, did not contact Amazon or ME…instead, they posted PERMANENT ONE-STAR REVIEWS which, basically, trash me…the author.

While trying to fight this raging fire and provide customer service to my readers since Amazon was being as helpful as they could (or, in some cases, couldn’t), someone posted a request for a FREE COPY of the eBook. Among the bazillion fire-fighting (i.e. IMPORTANT messages), I must have overlooked her request and she took offense to this and posted about it in my private group on Facebook.

Let’s examine that situation.

  1. Author releases a .99 cent book.
  2. Technical glitch goes awry and Author struggles to support those who bought the book for .99 cents
  3. One reader decides to ask for a FREE review copy of the .99 cent book by posting in the very thread about the technical glitch.
  4. Author doesn’t see it.
  5. Said reader (er, “reviewer”) gets angry and publicly states that Author just blatantly ignored her request.

Look Folks, I’m normally a really nice person. In life, I try to fix problems, help people, give what I can to others to the point that I neglect myself…my health, my sanity, and my financial situation. And, typically, I get burned in the process–by family, friends, and strangers. And I usually just take it because, well, you can’t change someone’s moral fiber.

This situation, however, caught me at the end of my rope and set me over the edge. I’m sure I lost a reader because I pointed out the flaw in her request (especially at that particular moment) and Lord knows she wouldn’t apologize to me. But, I couldn’t hold it in. Bad me.

Let’s be honest. I’ve been blessed in my career as an author. I thank God every day for that. Over the last decade, I’ve done quite well and have a wonderful reader-base, many of whom I consider personal friends and some are even family. I love that many readers truly want more books from their favorite authors. Diehard readers will reward their favorite author with nice reviews, recommendations, and even paying more than .99 cents for the novel. I try to reward my readers, too. It’s give and take, you know?

Unfortunately, over the last few years, a whole slew of “not real authors” have popped up, using my (and other authors) titles, names, etc. to trick readers and to drive down the price of a novel so that, in order to survive, .99 cents for an eBook is basically expected. I’ve ranted about this before and, btw, many of those 5 star reviews that you see posted on those books with horrible covers and fake Amish names? Well, verified or not, they aren’t real (see links if you are curious about this).




Forgetting the fake review problem with those horribly written and non-Amish Amish fiction books, let’s examine the request from the person outlined above from a financial (not moral or ethical) purpose.

When a book is published at .99 cents, the author earns .30 cents per eBook. On the surface, that might not sound bad. However, I personally spend well over 450 hours writing shorter novels…sometimes closer to 1000 hours. Because I stink with math, let’s just round it to 500 hours.  Presuming minimum wage is $8.00 (it’s a little more but, again, I stink at math), that’s $4,000.  Now, let’s consider how many eBooks an author would need to sell in order to earn minimum wage?

That’s right. Over 13,000 copies.

But wait! There’s more. You see, good cover design costs money.  You have to buy the copyrights to the images, pay a designer, and spend time dealing with that. OH! And let’s not forget editing and proofreading. Yes, ALL books have typos. My traditionally published books go through NINE ROUNDS OF EDITING with various professionals and I can still find typos. So you can imagine that my self-published books will have typos.  Sorry.  It’s part of the unspoken .99 deal–you’ll get typos. And yet, I still have three editors, paid for out of MY pocket, review, proof, edit, re-review again. Price for all of this?

Another $2,000 in money paid and time spent. That changes the equation a bit.

In 2006, Publisher’s Weekly claimed that the average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime (Publishers Weekly, 2006). The average traditionally published book which sells 3,000 in its entire lifetime in print only sells about 250-300 copies its first year. Of course, that was over ten years ago and only for traditionally published books. More research was warranted and I found different numbers ranging from 50 copies to 250 copies for self-published authors over the lifetime of their novels. Of course, that’s an average. That means some authors sell far less than that in order to make up for people selling far more. In other words, no one is buying their books and they are not even making .01 cent an hour for their time. 

Now, I’m not going to dive into my personal numbers. I  know for a fact that my Plain Fame series sold well above the minimum wage numbers. I can also assure you that several self-published Amish fiction authors claim they sold over a million books (complete hogwash). After ten years of writing and publishing, I DID reach the million book mark about two years or so ago. And I can assure you that it is, indeed, a rarity that, based on a confidential source, no other Amish fiction author who is self-published has come close to doing. NOT. ONE.

But, I digress.

In today’s market, hitting 20,000 copies of a .99 cent eBook is near impossible for a self-published author. Once you raise that price to $1.99 or, EGADS!, $2.99 like I did for Mending Fences–a novel for which I spent over six months and 1200+ hours writing, crickets chirp.

I’ve explained all of this for several reasons. First, when you buy those weird named authors who use Amish names and sell bundles of books for .99 cents (which are usually repackaged books with a short story thrown in to make it new, btw), you will get  poorly developed storylines, horrible grammar and little to no Amish culture/religion Why? Because they are  scammers who are NOT going to work for less than minimum wage to give you a good story. They don’t even care about the Amish as people…just as a way to take YOUR MONEY.

Second, please realize how hard the legitimate authors are working and reward them. Reward them by supporting them, giving them reviews, and buying their books. Tell other people about them. And when things go wrong, reach out to the author first. If things don’t get corrected, do what you have to do.

Finally, let me be frank…I keep my self-published books low-priced to compete with the unscrupulous authors out there (and hopefully run THEM out of business) and also to put food on the table. So please, think twice before you request something for free from an author. Put another way, would YOU work for free?


3 thoughts on “What an Author Earns…#rant

  1. This sounds like a relatively “small” accidental incident that blew out of proportion. I’m sorry you had to go this; unfortunately we learn more from our ‘lows.’ Than when we’re at the mountain-tops. I don’t know why Customer couldn’t return eBook to Amazon- yes, it can be done- and couldn’t then just get a copy of the correct eBook. But- I digress-your explanation was thorough, and if someone doesn’t accept that- well, oh well. In the scheme of things, it’s 99 cents- can’t evrn buy an ice cream cone for that! As far as working for free: shouldn’t be expected, asked for, or, working for free is volunteering, which is great, but it doesn’t put food on your table.

  2. HI Sarah, Is there a fix for the tech. glitch yet? I got Annie’s Quilt in the ebook for Carolyn’ s Quilt. Thanks for info.

  3. I love Amish novels and am new to discovering Sarah Price. I just have one question that frustrates me no end. Respectfully speaking of course, I don’t understand why Amish language words are inserted into the text. A lot of authors do it, most with English translations following, but I fine it makes for terribly choppy reading. Maybe if I understood it I would feel better about it? Thanks for helping me understand.

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