I do a number of personal appearances and a common question is, ‘why are the books so expensive?’ This is often combined with someone trying to dicker down the price. So to answer this complaint I am going to take you into the finical world of one small-time, Indy writer, namely me.
To start writing a book will take three months to six months. That is research, rough draft, edit, finished rough draft, edit, polish edit, writers group, edit, editor, edit then did I mention edit. This is a lot of time and effort but not the main thrust of this article.
Next comes marketing where you might send out to twenty or more potential publishers before you get taken on. Each one represents an investment in time and possibly money, in the form of stamps envelops and the like, depending on the submission requirements of the various publishers. But that is still not the main thrust here.
Now your book has been published and you want to buy copies to sell at your table. With most contracts you will receive 40 to 50 percent off the list retail price. But wait, to get that discount you have to give up your commission on the sale. Thus you don’t get the 15% that is typically paid to the author with a sale. By the way, if the books are sold to a book store the author will get fifteen percent of the wholesale price. It’s only direct retail sales from the publisher that will yield fifteen percent of the retail price.
But you order your books. Let’s say you buy five hundred dollars worth. So with a retail price of fifteen dollars we’ll give it a whole sale price of seven fifty that should be sixty six books right. Wrong! Off the top of your 500 comes a 3% fee from PayPal leaving $485.00. Next there is postage, this ranges but the last shipment I got in it was $70.00 so now we’re down to $415.00 to actually buy books. Now, lo I hear the distant rumble of government. Free trade only applies to big corporations; they clobber the little guy with customs’ fees. These normally are paid at time of delivery. The last shipment I received was $57.00, so that our mighty governments can guard us from ideas that might be contained in books. For sake of convenience I’ll take the $57.00 off the 500 though it normally is paid in addition. So that leaves a grand total of $358.00. So now we finally buy some books, but no. Now we have the exchange. I’ll be generous and set the Canadian at 75 cents US. That leaves 250.60 for a grand total of 34 books. This means the real wholesale cost of a book it 14.70.
Now this is before I start calculating in the cost of a booth or fly space, which often runs into the hundreds, and my standing costs for a fly, if it is an outside event, and a table not to mention table clothes and the price of getting to the event and parking. Some of the events do give a space to author guests for free. I must thank Fan Expo: http://fanexpocanada.com for their aid in helping up and coming Canadian literary talent, but simply put, most conventions can’t afford to let a single space go for free because they are barely scraping by themselves.
All this expense means that I can stand at a table for hours on end and sell something I have already dedicated months of my life to creating. Please note, crafts people often have a very similar dilemma and I’m not whining. I’m letting people have a glimpse at the reality behind the Canadian price in my industry. The big book stores deal with some of these issues as well.
I will quickly add that if I take my books to sell at a show in the USA there is an additional government charge and paperwork. Even though ‘Printed in the USA’ is stamped on each book. They get you both ways.
So please, before commenting on the price of the book on that author’s table consider this. Often that author is spending a day behind a table at a con or fair working in a way they really would rather not be and actually coming out at a loss. This is epically bad right now with the week Canadian dollar. So please, you don’t have to buy, I know money is tight for all of us, but at least don’t try to haggle because frankly; there is no fat on those bones to cut away.