Have you seen this analogy between books sales and coffee sales?
I think the analogy is sound. I know some might not, but I think the analogy is more than fair. Let me explain.
If I buy a $15 bag of coffee beans from the Fair Trade store down the road, so I know my money is going directly to the workers, and that large bag lasts me two months on about an average of one cup a day... then my cup of coffee only costs me a approximately 26 cents.
Now Starbucks is charging roughly 23% more per cup (averaging $5.20 per cup) for basically the same thing with a dash of milk and sugar.
And Starbucks is selling way more than a cup a day. Let's guesstimate that on a good day a place in the city sells about 1K cups of coffee.
That means that a single Starbucks store is making upwards near 2 million a year on overpriced bean water, selling what I can get for 26 cents per day, for roughly 94 bucks a year. That's insane.
The thing is... they've convinced consumers that their brand is worth a 23% mark up on the cost of coffee.
So they can get away with selling you a $6 cup of coffee.
Now, I highly doubt most authors are charging enough for their books. If I were to charge 10 dollars (USD) per hour, and I write 8 hours a day, that's only a yearly income of $20,800.
Hardly enough to get by on.
But I know for a fact that writing a novel requires more technical skill and artistic integrity than it does to be a barista. That's not looking down on baristas, because in most cases their skill set is higher than a check out clerk or a typical waitress. I mean, work is work.
But the way I calculate it, a Starbucks employee makes roughly $15-20 per hour full time.
Now that's a steady living.
This past year, on my books I barely raked in 7K (USD). And after initial sales there is inevitably a dip, because as with most art, after people buy it once there is no longer any supply and demand.
So, technically, I would need to be charging about $230 per book to get fair pay. But really, who will pay that amount? Maybe for a nice print of a painting. But for a novel, which the same amount of time has gone into? Not so much. Which is a shame.
This is why many writers tend to feel the pressure of writing for a more commercial audience. They sacrifice their art for just producing that which sells. Because it's the only way they can get by and still be a writer.
Being a writer isn't easy. Writing isn't easy. And the people that do it do it because it's in their blood and it's their passion.
So I find the analogy fitting, because it shows that people will pay a 23% mark up on bean flavored water, but they won't pay even a bare minimum on what it costs to produce a good book. Sad, but true.
At any rate, it's something to think about the next time you see the price of a book and think that maybe it's too expensive. Chances are, it's not. It's probably just the right price to slap down a $10 dollar bill and have enough for some coffee afterward.
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.