I’m not sure exactly how I got to this moment. In fact, if I think about it, it was probably the result of three key moments, and as I sit here thinking…. ‘damn Shegs you’re really going to do this,’ the answer of course, is a blistering YES!
I’m coming to the end of a book project, The White & Gold People. I started writing this book in Feb 2015, I finished the first draft in March 2018, and the second draft in August 2018, a hard 5 months which took it out of me to say the least. I enjoy writing 10 times more than I enjoy editing, maybe because it’s my first full blown novel, but it was a long and humbling process. I’ve been matched with an editor from a friend who she sings praises about, so I trust my manuscript is in good hands and look forward to receiving the first structural edit, which I then have to edit, and give to a proofreader for a final check, after this the book should be finally complete.
All this work, for a measly £12? Nearly four years graft for the cost of a cocktail. Please stop and think about this for a moment.
While we’re on the subject of time, I feel like I’m in good company with other novelists such as Anna Blum, Andre Dubus III, Wally Lamb, and Richard Russo who spend between four and ten years writing a book. Others like Jane Green or Toby Neal spend 6 months. Writing a novel, according to Holly Robinson ‘takes as long you want or need it to take.’
I like to dip my toes into other areas, I’m an IT contractor, have a publishing and fitness company so I admit I do get side-tracked but I know I finish ALL projects that I start eventually, and after this, my fourth book I know it’s part of the process to lose some of that excitement you have in the early stages, like the first 6 months of a relationship when the levels of endorphins and feel good chemicals are sky high, so sometimes I’m not too hard on myself especially if I’m satisfied with the final result.
In my work as a fitness Instructor, I teach group exercise classes like Boxercise, Insanity, etc. I get paid £30 a class, £12 for sports-based classes like Dodgeball. Some days I might have Insanity and Boxfit back to back so that’s £60 for two hours work. I would need to sell 5 books to make that amount, just food for thought. Given the length of time, effort and damn near pain to finish a book, (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever written one yourself) I dare to raise the question, is it me or are books heavily undervalued?
My first book Black Egyptians: The African Origins of Ancient Egypt also took me 3 years to write and I sell it for £15.99. It’s 268 pages of gold, containing Ancient Egyptian history, religious comparison, African history, anthropology, archaeogenetics, language comparison etc. I’m proud of it, my company was launched specifically for it and I decided that would be my price. My best friend and I went back and forth after he thought I should sell the book for £7.99. I’ll just leave that one there!
I like to think of myself as something special, lol (you don’t know the things that cross my mind). I call myself a trailblazer, a lightworker, and Indigo child and all sorts of crazy stuff. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. My numerology forecast says I was born to do it my way and my life will be very unconventional, that I shouldn’t even bother trying to fit in with the crowd because Ill just be wasting my time. I’m a 1 path if you’re interested in that sort of thing. If you know me personally you will probably agree, but after those 3 key moments I decided this was what I was going to do. What were those 3 key moments you may ask?
1) I read a tweet on Malorie Blackmans page last week saying that authors like doctors, teachers and lawyers deserve to be paid for their work, this was a retweet from Michelle Harrison exposing the disgusting email from someone called the Disgruntled Book Thief that calls writers elitist just for wanting to be paid for their work.
2) I reflected on all the time and effort I’d spent writing and thought it’d be good if I could get paid accordingly, after all the time sacrificed, money lost from pursing other things such as prestigious I.T contracts and how much of a shame it’ll be to make little or no money from my book.
3) I remember an email from someone that your book could give you financial freedom, and began to think of all the ways that I could do this.
I’m not here to give you a sob story, I’ve happily chosen to write and do all the other things in my life but upon reflection, thought, and seeds planted by the likes of Michelle Harrison and Malorie Blackman I cannot help to think how writers and their books are heavily undervalued.
I’m a writer who would very much love to do this full time. I have a list of 10 plus books that I would like to write. I have a publishing company, I help to publish other writers’ books and I’m working on achieving this dream of becoming a full time writer/entrepreneur.
Some books on Waterstones are priced as little as £5.99. Most authors receive only 6-10% of royalties from each book, the rest goes into print costs, the agent and/or publisher, and a wholesale price with the retailer/distributor depending on the income stream. So a writer may get as little as 0.50p per book, certainly less than a pound in most cases. Please stop and think about this for a moment.
A book priced slightly higher at £10-12 is the same price as an average meal. What you scoff down in twenty to thirty minutes is the same price as a product which has taken years and tumultuous amounts of effort. I’ve already mentioned that I get £30 for a one-hour exercise class, the cost fo two books and couple of pounds left over (£6 to be exact). Driving Instructors get around £25 an hour and my jobs in IT averages around £25 an hour. I know from business, that people pay for the value of something. A homeowner doesn’t mind spending a couple of hundred pounds for a plumber to come and fix a broken pipe out of hours that can potentially flood the house. The potential damage, repairs and general disturbance that could arise from not getting it fixed quickly are far worth the value of paying a premium price.
From a reader’s point of view, let’s say it takes anything from a week to a month to read a book. That is people with lives, jobs, families, children, etc. A typical English reader goes through 200–250 words a minute. At 200 words a minute, that is 450–502 minutes, for a 300-page book at 90-105000 words so between 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 hours. The quickest it’ll take me to finish a boo is a about two weeks if I set my mind to it and ignore other things. But generally, I’d finish a book in a few months after starting and stopping.
I like to think that I’m a good writer, that I have some skill and some talent, that I’m able to tell a story and create dialogue, action and images in your head that inspire and move you, if not enthral and captivate you. Of course, that is for you the reader to decide. I like to think that since putting pen to paper or (button to MS Word) since 2009 I’ve improved my writing skills and on the way to mastering my craft. I won several awards at school for writing stories in English class but had no idea this would be a career for me. A writer and a book is a double coincidence of wants. Writing is as much a joy for the reader as it is for the writer, it allows the writer a chance to express themselves, to explore and is a journey of self-discovery. I don’t think there are many ways to truly understand a person than to read their book or watch their film. It shows the depths of their mind, the things that are important to them, how they process things and the decisions they would make in certain circumstances.
I do not write for money, I write for love first and for money second. To do something for years with no pay, and no guarantee of pay, I can’t do anything more to convince you. But after all is said and done, as a businessman when you do have that finished product sitting in front of you, it’s my job to sell and maximise it.
I’d like you to stop and think about some of your favourite books. Books that you couldn’t put down, books that connected with you on a spiritual level, that changed your life, that took you into magical words and taught you about life and yourself. Wasn’t that worth more than 7.99. How do you feel that you, the person who loved the book so much only contributed between 5p0 to £1 to the author. That doesn’t fit well with me.
If we compare a book to other products in the entertainment industry, the price of a movie in a cinema or movie theatre for the Americans is £9 for an adult, new computer games sell on average at £49.99 and can go up to £85 for premium editions. A good seat at a concert of your favourite musician will cost £50 to £75, sometimes more if they’re an A list musician.
In the writing world the book is our stage, and very few authors even tap into appearances, book signings, radio e.t.c like they’re supposed to. So in reality the sale of each book should be heavily prioritised, ensuring the maximum price that covers both the author for their talent and dedication and the reader for the length of time and joy that is gained from reading it.
I’m not here to charge people unfairly, or moan about the hard lives of authors, I’m not here to start a revolution or have everyone agree with me. What I am here to do is raise a point, paint a picture, give you something to think about, share information, make a stand and stand by it. It is evident that most authors make little or next to no money for their books and for the length of time it takes us to write and the value we bring to the world, I for one value my writing skills and what I have to bring to the table. Its a pretty steep price for an unknown writer such as myself but I literally can’t think of doing it any other way.
The White and Gold people will be published on or around the 15th October and will be selling at £50 via Akasha Publishing Ltd.