Another post from the archives of Paul Andruss here on Smorgasbord… and this week he leaves us with some questions… about the financial aspects of our writing, professional and peer group opinions of our writing, and where our efforts place us in terms of writer vs. author status.
Something to think about………
Three Minutes Forty-nine by Paul Andruss
I am Spartacus!
No, I am Spartacus!
No, I’m Spartacus!
(The entirely fictional finale to the 1960 Universal film Spartacus)
While watching something on YouTube, probably a pop video if the title is anything to go by, I was struck by a comment that said…
‘Thank you for the upload. Your reward is I have given you three minutes and forty nine seconds of my life.’
You can imagine my reaction. I cannot abide arrogance in anyone, except me.
Then I got thinking. They had a point. One, as authors, we should bear in mind. Everything we read costs time. And time is irreplaceable.
In case you think I refer to time in some nebulous way as in ‘I gave you the best years of my life you bastard!’ Let me say, it is quite easy to put a cash value on time. The Government did. They called it the minimum living wage.
In the UK in 2018 this is £7.50. Although it varies state by state, the United States federal rate is $7.25. Bear in mind $7.25 at current exchange rates is £5.35. Citizens of the richest country in the world you are being robbed!
Hand on heart how many of you are worth the national minimum wage?
Or are your worth more?
Given most of you are authors, are you worth as much as what Dan Brown or JK Rowling clear in an hour?
Obviously, at least twice that much; that goes without saying. But to get a realistic figure, let’s look at the price of a proofreading service.
Proofreading costs £5.00 per 1,000 words.
The average person reads 200 words a minute.
That neatly works out at £1.00 or $1.35 a minute, or £60.00 or $80 per hour.
As authors, if you could set your own hourly rate would you consider that reasonable recompense for your labours?
If so what the about compensation for your readers’ time?
What price would you put on that?
I timed it. This article has cost you 6 minutes 30 seconds of your life, or in cash terms £6.50 or $8.78.
The $64,000 question is…
Do we, as writers, give value for money?
I have read on numerous blogs we need to write every day to exercise our writing muscle. And with a proviso I agree. In theory practice makes for better writing.
O, the proviso?
Glad you asked.
It only works if you extend and explore your craft. Writing out a hundred times a day ‘I must become a better writer’ does not make a better writer.
A muscle develops by increasing the demands put on it. If after a few weeks you are doing exactly the same exercise routine, your muscles cease to improve. Why should the writing muscle be different?
People doing physically demanding work do not have the bodies of Greek gods or goddesses. Their muscles are small and dense. They are restricted, even dwarfed by repetition. And in the end they are crippled by it.
Even if writing the same piece every day did make you a better writer, one must wonder would it make the product worth reading?
Every time we write we cannot wait to publish, and hear our adoring fans go ga-ga. Do we never stop to think that as writers we are judged solely on our writing quality? Is it not better to leave it a couple of days and review before publishing? During those days our subconscious quietly beavers away, streamlining arguments and developing new insights.
Rest and review might turn something so-so into a right little gem. Finally before hitting the publish-button we need to ask: Are we saying something that need not be said at all?
Writing is our product: our brand. Experts say the best way to expand a brand is word-of-mouth marketing. If we write well, people like our product. When they recommend us to friends, our brand grows. Conversely if we fail engage due to overkill, or poor, dull work, they stop reading us. Success is entirely in our hands. There is no second chance to make a first impression.
Self-publishing and blogging has blurred the difference between a writer and an author so both appear synonymous. They are not.
Author is a profession. Authors were paid writers. Writers simply wrote. It was irrelevant whether it was poems, stories, or a diary. Even famous diarists like Samuel Pepys and Ann Frank never meant for their words to be read publically. You wrote for yourself until published.
In the days of traditional publishing the difference between author and writer was clear cut.
The publishing process defined it. The writer became an author in stages when…
The manuscript was accepted by an agent based on their professional opinion of its quality and commercial appeal.
The agent approached publishers; one of whom accepted the work based the same criteria.
The manuscript underwent proofreading and editorial development before the author received back the final proofs for checking prior to publication.
Books were sold.
Money exchanged hands.
And voila, you were an author.
It was a long and often fraught journey for both sides. In an over-crowded and competitive marketplace, agents and publishers relentlessly pushed the writer to produce professional standard work.
Agents and publishers might love literature, but primarily they are in business to make money. There were consequences should standards drop. Publishers went bankrupt. If agents could not provide commercial writers they lost their reputation and publishers’ good will.
The problem with self-publishing and blogging is the lack of such external quality controls.
A proof reader will pick up typos, spelling and grammar. But how many can afford to pay a professional proof-reader £400 for 80,000 words. To keep the maths simple 80,000 words is roughly a 300 page novel.
Quality substantive editing costs about £45 or $60 an hour with the editor working at 1 to 6 pages per hour: a 300 page book (at 6 pages per hour) costs £2,200 or $3,000. Intensive developmental editing at £60 or $80 for 2 to 5 pages per hour equals £3,500 or $4,800.
These prices are for experienced professionals. Exceptional editors are like gold dust.
They should probably share writing credits with the author. Yet authors’ relationships with editors are often problematic. Gore Vidal complained his editor removed 4 chapters of his best-selling historical novel Creation. Vidal put back the 4 offending chapters once the rights reverted to him and he negotiated a new deal for the reprint.
As independent authors can we entirely trust any editor we pay, to work in our interest; not their own? Would an editor forfeit a lucrative fee by telling the unvarnished truth? Or would they diplomatically pocket the cash and salvage what they were able in the time allowed; pretty certain the book will never be traditionally published. They know you are not in a position to critique their work unless you pay for another editor.
We writers often rely on peer review. What is peer review but the opinion of a number of people in exactly the same boat as us? There is something to be said for a dozen beta readers highlighting the same problem. But what if they see different problems and suggest conflicting changes?
In the end, it is for you, the writer, to develop critical faculties so as to be able to ruthlessly and dispassionately assess your own work. Examine everything you read, emulate the good and learn from the bad. Listen to people you trust, based on nothing but on your opinion of them as writers. Always ask yourself:
Does the new piece enhance your brand as an aspiring author?
Would you pay £5 or $6.75 per 1,000 words to read it if someone else wrote it?
I have never been paid for writing.
I hold my hands up. I am a writer: not an author.
I am Spartacus
What about you?
Are you Spartacus too?
©Paul Andruss 2018
About Paul Andruss.
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.
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You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/
Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.