An interesting example of inflation – or something

Looked at a book project listing. Write genre novels to our structure sorta thing. Crank out 80,000 words a month. Entirely achievable if that’s your sorta thing.

Payment, penny a word.

Which is about what people got for pulp novels back in the 1950s.

$800 a month was good money back then, not so much now. Today you’d only do it as training to do your own genre novels. But then, if you could crank them out like that already then you wouldn’t need the training.

41 comments on “An interesting example of inflation – or something

  1. The great thing about Amazon is that it has empowered people who do this sort of thing. If you put a book up on Amazon, I mean how few do you need to sell before you make $800? Like, 800?

    That is what has given us the genre of Dinosaur Romance novels. Which are just what they sound like. Except a bit more rape-y than I make out. People will buy a novel(ish thing) about a dinosaur who has his wicked way with the heroine. Using that last term very loosely there.

    A lot of early SF was written at these sort of rates. Much of it was worth about that much too. But not all of it. Not by a long shot.

  2. Kind of an interesting counter-example to the idea you espouse a few posts down about service inflation being structurally higher than general inflation.

    Sure, writing is not like being part of the string quartet that’s often used to illustrate the idea, but I’m not sure that demand for string quartet performances has kept so far ahead of demand for pulp novels…

  3. Look at advertising concepts. Want a name for your new company? 10k to an agency in the UK, or create an online competition and get equally good results for maybe $200. Ever lower barriers to entry destroys pricing.

  4. Obviously there is an urgent need for new laws to prevent this kind of thing and to protect the creators of real, artistic novels; no possible good can come of allowing ordinary people to publish their screeds – some may have voted for Brexit!

  5. I wonder how much quicker it is now to write a book than it was with a type writer in the 1950s.
    Anyone know?
    I very much doubt so much that you would earn the same in real terms as in the 1950s.

  6. This gives me great hope for my surprisingly erotic alternate history novel, THE SQUIRREL LIES HEAVY.

  7. I’m thinking of banging out a couple of genre-novels in double-quick time, real whodunnit by the numbers things, just to build up a portfolio and a bit of a brand. Then write, and try to flog, what I hope to be the one that makes me rich and famous.

    If you put a book up on Amazon, I mean how few do you need to sell before you make $800? Like, 800?

    Not as easy as it seems, as I’m finding out.

  8. Tim, if you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing to promote your book(s)?

  9. Tim, if you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing to promote your book(s)?

    Mainly trying to flog it through my blog. Turns out only around 10% of my readers are interested in my novel, despite it containing a classic line from none other than yourself.

    Secondly I’m trying to promote it on Twitter, either by getting involved in threads related to the book’s topics or by getting people to visit my profile, where the book appears as a pinned tweet.

    Thirdly, I’m running Facebook ads on a page dedicated to the book, directing people to the book’s site.

    Fourthly, I’m running the book in parts as a serial and trying to direct people to each installment by participating in forums discussing topics covered in the book.

    It’s turning out to be harder than I thought, especially as getting people to write Amazon reviews is like pulling teeth (assuming anyone’s actually read it). That said, it’s early days yet and I need to keep plugging away. I’m not put off though: I wrote it because I wanted to, commercial success or recognition would be a nice bonus but anyone who writes for those reasons might as well chuck themselves off a cliff now.

  10. I am sure it will change, saying that I would put it on the other stores as well.

    Thanks! Yes, it’s on Smashwords albeit not in the proper format: I had to upload it in a hurry. I tried putting it on iBooks but, like everything Apple, the system was absolute shite and I couldn’t get it to work properly so gave up.

  11. Why do reviews help, Tim?

    I never pay any attention to them when I’m buying, I just download a sample if a book looks at all interesting because all the reviews you see are five star so meaningless.

  12. In the 1980s for magazine articles I got £30 per page. Half of it was computer code, so making an conversion estimate that was about 4p per word.

  13. Reasonable freelance rates for today (from CapX through Computer Weekly to The Times) are 15 to 70 p a word.

  14. Why do reviews help, Tim?

    They form part of the algorithm that Amazon uses to promote books in the “similar to” suggestions. Also, people want to see the book has been read and is interesting enough to comment on.

    I never pay any attention to them when I’m buying, I just download a sample if a book looks at all interesting because all the reviews you see are five star so meaningless.

    Yeah, I’d not trust five-star review either – particularly if it were attached to my own book!

  15. Talking of books, excuse the OT but my mate’s book ONCE A PILGRIM (thriller, and actually very good) is published today by HarperCollins. I mentioned it a while back and a few people were interested so just a reminder.

  16. Talking of books, excuse the OT but my mate’s book ONCE A PILGRIM (thriller, and actually very good) is published today by HarperCollins.

    I remember that! Good for him!

  17. OK, I was being thick. I see now. A book has to be highly rated to get into a customer’s recommended bar, and that’s why all those books have glowing reviews.

  18. A book has to be highly rated to get into a customer’s recommended bar, and that’s why all those books have glowing reviews.

    It’s not just high-ratings, it’s also number of positive reviews (not necessarily 5-stars) and written reviews. A book with 1,134 reviews giving it an average rating of 3.4 stars will look better than a book with six 5-star reviews.

  19. Tim Newman – “Not as easy as it seems, as I’m finding out.”

    This probably not the most useful advice you have had today, but perhaps it needs more Dinosaur rape?

  20. This probably not the most useful advice you have had today, but perhaps it needs more Dinosaur rape?

    Clearly you’ve not read it: the final third is non-stop dinosaur rape, pausing only for the diplodocus to deliver a monologue on carrier bags.

  21. Tim Newman – “Clearly you’ve not read it: the final third is non-stop dinosaur rape, pausing only for the diplodocus to deliver a monologue on carrier bags.”

    Yeah but for or against? Can stand books that preach against carrier bags.

    Christie Sims, that is, she of the dinosaur romance novel business, is the author of such amazing titles as Taken By The T-Rex. Not sure what that “the” is doing there but it also appears in her ground breaking Mounted By The Gryphon. So my point is, would a Diplodocus cut it in the bedroom stakes. I suppose for the Size Queen readers, sure, but how does Old Diplo compared to a T-Rex is sheer killing power? Are girls that interested in a stable, plodding provider? I would recommend a Triceratops. For reasons that I do not feel I can spell out on a family-oriented blog such as this.

    https://kotaku.com/dinosaur-human-romance-novels-are-a-real-thing-huh-1431382328

    Say what you like about Ms Sims – she knows her audience.

  22. I’ve noticed that the most thoughtful reviews on Amazon are often to be found among the 1 and 2 star reviews.

  23. “The Three Squirrels of Palmer Eldritch” scans better, I reckon.

    15p to 70p per word – that’s a hell of a range.

    Anyway, considering this world of neoliberal globalisation, and the general interconnectedness of all things, whereabouts in the world would $800 a month currently buy you a standard of living equivalent to the USA of the 1950s?

  24. Tim – it should be number 1! Dunno if you’ve thought of putting it on KU, but might be worth a go.

  25. Tim – it should be number 1! Dunno if you’ve thought of putting it on KU, but might be worth a go.

    I have, but they want exclusivity on the ebook format. Given some people have asked for it in ePub rather than on Kindle, I’m not willing to do it yet, but I probably will in future.

  26. @Solid Steve 2: Squirrels of The Patriots

    This gives me great hope for my surprisingly erotic alternate history novel, THE SQUIRREL LIES HEAVY.

    Is it subtitled, 50 SHADES OF THE GREY ?

  27. So Much For Subtlety said:
    “I would recommend a Triceratops. For reasons that I do not feel I can spell out on a family-oriented blog such as this.”

    Good grief, apparently she’s already done that; “Ravished by the Triceratops”, “horrified and aroused by the horned giant, Beliria must find a way to control the situation, or she may find that this Tri-Horn is really too much for her to handle.”

    I would say the mind boggles, but actually mine has shut down and refused to even contemplate this as a literary genre.

  28. I don’t care about dinosaur rape as long as they don’t let any dimetrodons in on the action. It’s utterly shocking how cavalier people are with their taxonomy these days. I saw a “dinosaur play set” in Walmart the other day and not only did it have a dimetrodon but a pterodactyl and a fucking plesiosaur! I mean, if you’re going to let synapsids and pterosaurs in dinosaur play sets you might as well go the whole hog and bung some cynodonts in while you’re at it.

  29. I used to earn a reasonable amount of money writing about old Landrovers for a glossy magazine which specialized in them. £125 a printed page iirc, with me supplying text and photos – I’d usually do one feature a month, and it while earn me between £350 and £500 for less than a day’s work, which as a 20ish year old earning about £1200 a month at his day job felt like riches. Not sure now what my target length was, but it probably worked out around 8p/word.

    @TimNewman
    Regular blog reader of yours, but non-buyer of your book here so far. Not exactly sure why not to be honest – I’ve read the teaser and first installment and found it at least interesting. Some of it is Ebook reluctance – I’ve never bought one yet, and don’t particularly like reading books from a screen, but the paperback option is comparatively dear (and I’m currently living with friends while my house has major building work, so I’m trying not to increase the amount of possessions I’ve got in tow!)

  30. theProle

    I used to be extremely pro-paper, anti-iPad for books, but recent experiences of carrying a hundred or so books in the iPad, and buying more when I want, where I want has turned me into a very happy to read on a screen person.

    Got lots of paper books, too, but they stay home.

  31. I used to earn a reasonable amount of money writing about old Landrovers for a glossy magazine which specialized in them.

    LROI? I used to buy that every month, back when I owned an old Land Rover. Tried LRM, but preferred LROI.

    Regular blog reader of yours, but non-buyer of your book here so far. Not exactly sure why not to be honest

    Thanks for the feedback, and I quite understand. My book isn’t for everybody and not everyone has the time to read much or anything at all. I wasn’t moaning that nobody is buying it, just stating the facts and saying it’s actually quite hard. Then again, I don’t really know what I’m doing!

    Incidentally, the paperback is dear, but there’s not much I can do about it because Amazon sets a minimum price to cover their own costs. If I sell a book in Euros I make a whopping 4 cents on it. I’ll not give up the day job…

  32. I originally wrote a couple of features in LRW, then went for a sub-eds job at LRM. Got an interview, but not the job, but got offered the freelancing which rather filled a hole.
    As if often the way such these things, my pet sub-ed I’d built up with a decent relationship with eventually left, and I found his replacement didn’t really like my pitches and the work gradually dried up.

    I did look at diversifying and making a career out of writing for a range of hobby magazines (railways, real or model looked an interesting avenue), but never really had enough spare time to properly get into another subject area, and not enough spare cash to go for a “leap of faith” from a regular job.

    … and thus I now create value by doing specialized engineering, rather than by filling in column inches in tomorrow’s chip papers. Probably a better thing for society all round!

  33. Oblong,

    “Sure, writing is not like being part of the string quartet that’s often used to illustrate the idea, but I’m not sure that demand for string quartet performances has kept so far ahead of demand for pulp novels…”

    But at least the string quartet performance is ephemeral. Musicians turn up, play some Vivaldi, go home.

    The problem with novels (or string quartets) is that every year, the volume is rising. Jane Austen didn’t have much competition in romances, but today, you’ve got 200 years of people writing romances. Or, how many recordings of The Four Seasons are there? What are you going to do that the 752 existing recordings didn’t do?

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