Greetings one and all. I have seen a number of posts over my time here regarding the tricky issue of pricing. I rather suspect that there is no formula to adopt and that it is very much a personal choice based on your own set of criteria.
Hopefully, it will be of use to some of you for me to set out the decisions that I made and the reasons behind them.
I am including personal sales information in this article, simply to help those who are starting the author journey to understand the financial decision-making tree a little better.
My motivation for writing was not to make money, but to tell the story that I had always wanted to tell. That governed my decision-making throughout. In any case, I never imagined that I would sell many books, so the experience and the end product were paramount in my view.
Once I had set myself on that path, the pricing strategy was easy to decide upon. Pricing to encourage people to read meant aiming relatively low.
At that time, I looked at e-book pricing and thought that, despite being new into the field, the download version was a tad overpriced, compared to the book you buy on the High Street.
The decision to pitch my e-book under High Street prices seemed reasonable enough, and many authors seemed to agree.
I spoke with friends, relatives, and acquaintances in the USA, and the general feeling from them was ‘something’ and 99 cents was appropriate. Against advice, I settled on $4.99 as my e-book price. Bear in mind at this point that my first book, Opening Moves, was 812 pages.
Quite clearly if I had been in it for the money, creating two books out of that lot would have been easy enough. However, that was where the book finished and that was that.
So Opening Moves was set at $4.99 for Kindle, and equivalent across the other kindle selling platforms from Japan to Germany. For some reason, I also decided to have a common pricing policy and, having openly stated that in RG forums and on the website, I was committed to it.
The royalties from e-sales are shown in the charts attached, so I won’t repeat them here.
It was when I went to Createspace that the ‘size V amount of work V royalty’ issue raised its ugly head.
Createspace is an on-demand publisher, which simply means that when you click to buy, they print the book and send it to you. This means that their costs are higher than those of a traditional publisher. Naively, I hoped to pitch the book at around High Street price, or maybe just a little more, considering its size. I was in for a shock. Createspace, so I thought, set a minimum price at which they can make a profit and give you a small royalty. I was horrified to find that the minimum price I could place the book on sale for was £14.67….. and that gave me precisely £00-00 royalties.
All of a sudden I was thrust into the world of stepping a book up to a higher cost simply to try and earn a little from my endeavours. I should say at this point that I was constantly receiving input from friends and relatives, and my heart was torn between my initial pricing thoughts and the reality of writing for nothing.
I decided to price ‘Opening Moves’ at $19.99 / £16.99, which offered me royalties of $1.42 and £1.39 per hard copy. When you consider what the reader is paying out, that represents a lot less in %age terms than a traditionally published author, according to my research, whereas the e-books certainly seem to be more.
My books tended to terminate in natural breaks, with two notable exceptions. Book#2 ‘Breakthrough’ topped 330,000 words, and I was told that it was too much. I split it into #2 and #3 and published them shortly after one another.
Book#7 ‘Endgame’ proved to be otherwise and spawned a final book. It had been my intent to finish on #7 but I simply could not get the story in satisfactorily. In the end, Book#8 ‘Caïssa’ was born and became the smallest book I produced [except for the bio sets that accompany each book]. It is also the only book for which I have received complaints regarding size, suggesting that it was too small. I suspect I am a victim of my own standards in that regard.
With my profit making head on, it is for certain sure that I could have done the same amount of writing, produced nearer twelve books of acceptable size, and gained probably 25% or so more royalties.
In the attached charts, you can see the values involved and I hope that they make the situation just a little clearer for you.
As I said earlier, making money was not my prime concern. However, it is now a serious concern, having been shown how much money can be made if you get lucky and with the sirens of early retirement singing soft music in my ears 🙂
None the less, I stick to my pricing policy . . . even after looking at the figures on the charts I prepared for your gaze!
As an aside, I do wonder how often readers check on book details before they buy.
In a bookshop, it is a simple task. You can see pretty much all you need to know. But e-sales pose a different scenario, and I am certainly sure that some unscrupulous writers take advantage of the hidden nature of size/pages/content. If you look at Amazon, it won’t take you too long to find a book of less than a hundred pages for sale at prices that would bring a tear to your eye.
You have no input over ‘pages read’ royalties, except to decide if you wish to enter the programme or not.
I am a member of KDP and KU, and believe I make some nice extra royalties from it, as well as enjoy the daily climb in pages read from Brazil to Australia.
So to summarise, my advice would be to decide upon your whole purpose behind writing and make your decisions accordingly. I certainly believe that you can price yourself out of contention, and equally give away your work. I have seen statements such as ‘if you don’t value it, how will others value it?’ A fair point. In the end, you must be comfortable with your decision and remember: It is NOT set in stone and you can alter it whenever you choose.
I hope this has helped you to organise the issue in your mind.
The very best of luck with your work 🙂
Our guest columnist today is children’s book illustrator and animator Joshua Mitchell-Taylor who is offering a guide for writers to understand the process of hiring an artist. His suggestions on what you need to know as a writer and how the creative process unfolds are invaluable for writers of any when searching for an illustrator.
Hiring an Illustrator
By: Joshua Mitchell-Taylor
(Illustration by Joshua Mitchell-Taylor)
I am a freelance children’s book illustrator and animator. During this past year collaborating with clients in various specialties of illustration, I have noticed that many potential clients struggle with finding the right illustrator for the job. Is it the amount of experience someone has, or their portfolio that speaks for them during the hiring process?
I have promoted my services as a children’s book illustrator for over a year now, and there are many questions that I receive from potential clients. Can you illustrate this style for me? How much do you charge for your services? Do you have a portfolio I can look at? How do I get in touch with you? Any illustrator would be able to answer all these questions. However, all these must be asked before a project can begin. That is where the negotiations take place and laying down the foundation to a successful working relationship.
The fields of specialty I can cover are character designs, graphics design, children’s picture books, comic books and many others. Every project is unique in content and style. I remember my illustration tutor telling the class about developing your own style, and to an extent, I agree with this. What I also believe is that as an illustrator, you have to be ready to adapt to any style that comes to you. Allow an illustrator the chance to draw a character in the style you aim towards your project, as it will help you know if they are the right fit.
There can be arrangements made for how to tackle each task as the writer and illustrator. Communication is essential to any successful project. I talk with my clients via email about the projects we work on. Social media is another place that has grown more popular over the years to talk through, and I have recently discovered the potential of promoting my services there as well.
My recommendation to writers is thorough research into these aspects for your children’s books. Do you want an existing style of an artist that is already published? Do you prefer the artists’ personal style to tell your story? Is there a deadline needed for the book to be finished by the illustrator? How is payment going to be sent to the various specialists to bring your book to life? You won’t just have to think about hiring an illustrator, but also a publisher.
Once you have answered those questions, find out the process that the illustrator creates his/her work. Do they draw on paper and then use watercolours to give a more natural feel to the page? Is there a specific piece of software the illustrator works on? During my years studying Digital Animation with Illustration at Futureworks, Manchester, I began to piece together that the digital world was impacting more every day into the illustration and animation industries. Artists are exploring software such as Adobe Photoshop or Autodesk’s Maya for animation.
I utilise Adobe Photoshop to illustrate my ideas. However, before that I hand- draw my thoughts onto paper and scan the sketches in. It is very important to maintain regular communication between the illustrator/writer, during the developmental process. We collaborate and generate the best possible way to illustrate their idea, with a little constructive feedback. This will ensure achieving a successful outcome within the writer’s deadline.
There is something I read recently about the life of an artist “Who Pays Illustrators (And How Much), by Marianne Litman (25.10.2017) It opened my eyes to what art should be valued at for producing children’s books. I understand that for a writer, the fees can get expensive. As an illustrator, calculating the man-hours for completing the client’s work, and settling on a final price, is done during the negotiations. The illustrator has to be able to change their prices but values their work to what they feel it is worth as well. On average I can achieve two pages of a children’s book, from sketch to digital, in one week. The fees will also depend on the style the illustrator needs to work in. I can spend around 15 to 20 hours illustrating, sketching and any changes made on one page. Depending on the number of pages needed, it can take around 1 to 3 months per book to complete. It is always best to be realistic and work with the illustrator, in terms of the amount of work needed, to complete your project.
I love to illustrate and bring ideas to life. There is a feeling an artist gets when they see their work go from a simple idea on paper to the finished project. Teamwork is important, to make a successful story come to life. Without the writers, children’s books wouldn’t be possible, so the duties are equally as challenging as an illustrator.
Here are a few quick things to consider before you hire the illustrator:
Can they work with the style you want?
- How long will it take to complete each page?
- How can I reach you if I need to get in touch?
- Have a price in mind for your project, but be ready to negotiate a price as well.
- Let the illustrator know if they will be credited in your book.
- After looking through their portfolio, give them a chance to illustrate something for you. The artist could adapt to your chosen style.
- Do you charge per project, or per page?
Here are a few things the illustrator needs to know:
- How many pages are needed?
- What style do you want to have the book illustrated in?
- Are there any deadlines?
- Do you have any contact details to get in touch?
- How will payment be sent to the illustrator?
My contact details
My portfolio: https://jmitchelltaylor.wixsite.com/mitchelltaylor
Hi again. I’m looking to kick off a discussion on the matter of the important people in our line of work, or calling, or whatever label suits your approach best.
They are the readers and fans.
When I first started writing I was unsure as to whether I should even aspire to having any.
Over the first few months, response to my first book was painfully slow, but I was content enough with simply having written.
Perhaps I should remind you at this point that I self-publish through Amazon Kindle and Createspace. I am no expert, so will solely talk about my feelings and end results.
I read a number of author’s forums, where I found a general wave of opinion that was against replying to reviews or in any way interacting with the readership at large, and one’s own readers in particular. It was almost as if there was some expectation of aloofness, and a general feeling of superiority amongst the authors posting their opinions on the matter.
To me, that was not only wholly strange, but also against the way I would normally approach matters so, typically, I went against the common feeling.
I decided to respond to each and every review, regardless of content or star rating, positive or negative.
Sometimes, increasingly so, my response consisted of a simple ‘Thank you for your comment’, but occasionally I entered into discussion with a reviewer. On a few occasions I rebutted wild and fanciful claims; on others I accepted criticism that was reasonably laid.
I confess, early on, I rose to a pair of trolls who were simply there to damage my ratings as much as possible.
Nowadays, I try to avoid spats.
Perhaps I was extremely fortunate that the vast majority of my reviews were good regarding the content and style, although my editing and grammar was always getting hammered.
I also decided never to get into discussion over another author’s work. Some ‘fans’ will want to compare and will seek to draw you into discussion. My simple view is that it is unhealthy to get into such matters, and I avoid them like the proverbial plague.
As part of the development of my series, I created a website and a number of Facebook groups, and slowly they started to see more and more traffic.
In the groups, more than the website, the exchanges were more conversational and relaxed, possibly because of the nature of FB itself, which encouraged more discussion on the books, as well as on peripheral matters.
It soon became apparent to me that, by engaging people already pre-disposed to enjoying my work, they would talk about their interaction and, to all intents and purposes, were spreading the word about my work.
As I said above, engaging with people is more natural to me than not, so I did not need to try and promote a good relationship between them and myself, or indeed, between each other. It is and was a natural progression.
I ran a few competitions, for books or promotional stuff, and the last an opportunity for the winner to become a character in one of the books.
Shortly afterwards I understood that was a fantastic way to further engage the fan base, and many of my readers are characters in the books, or have family members who appear, often in an historically accurate way.
By way of an example, I wrote a delicate piece on the moral turmoil that would be felt by a USAAF bomber crew on their way to drop an atomic device on an unsuspecting Japanese city.
I sought and received the names of their relatives who had served, and the whole of the fictitious crew comprised men who were once USAAF aircrew and who had served in WW2 or just after.
Whilst I undertook that enterprise for the right reasons, it undoubtedly boosted my popularity and broadened my fan base.
The basic point of this piece is to put over that, for me, interacting with my fans/readers/followers has been a wholly positive and beneficial experience. Indeed, quite a few are now considered friends. They have also occasionally been sounding boards for proposals or resolvers of some deep problems. Specifically, I had issues with a piece of American political writing, which was overcome in a group of my US readers, where we batted out the whys and wherefores. It meant I had to change a few things along the line, but was a wholly positive experience. They also subsequently saw their names in the credits, another way to get people on board.
You will and must do what you feel comfortable with. It’s your choice, and please don’t feel that you have to shy away from such contact, simply because some group or grandee has stated it is not the done thing. Similarly, don’t do it if you feel uncomfortable with the whole thing, simply because it worked for me.
As with all things for us authors, each writer has his or her own standards and needs, and each book has its own style and merits; advice and guidance is not one size fits all.
If you do decide to engage, clearly you will have to decide upon your own limits, and the checks and balances that you will apply, but I can only say that I have found the interaction with those who have read my books and taken the time to become members of my groups and website to be a thoroughly rewarding and positive experience.
I hope this has been of use to you and that it has started a thought process that will ultimately help you.
Chris Coling is a retired firefighter and currently works at the local hospital. A part-time writer, he is presently working on his eighth and last book in an alternate-history series, with other ideas waiting in the wings. He writes for himself in the first instance but also enjoys the fact that his books are now read widely. He resides in England.