Let’s Talk About Healthcare

Before you run away screaming cause I’m posting something political (and I don’t think it’ll be the last time), this particular piece of our ongoing crisis in America is especially relevant to me at the moment, though it should be especially relevant to everyone who is currently alive. Fair warning, this is mostly a downer topic and I will be mentioning suicide and rape.

In September, I had a tooth removed after it cracked in half. The dentist informed me the one next to it would need to come out as well and that I would need a bridge. It’s now May and the gum is starting to erode. If it stays unchecked, the other tooth will likely continue on until it cracks as well, and all my teeth start drifting. I really can’t afford to pay any of that right now. And I have no one to help me.

My partner has needed their tonsils out for a literal decade. And their wisdom teeth are finally coming in. I’ve seen those tonsils and let me tell you, they look like a fucking Bloodborne boss. They look like Amygdala heads (or the tonsil stone, alternately, which just looks like a tiny head).

Connect this to the events this week, where the House voted on their Trumpcare bill and the threat it presents to millions of people, and we are clearly in need of real healthcare reform. The US is the only fully industrialized nation without universal healthcare. Yes, we have Medicaid and Medicare but those require age and specific economic hoops, they are not universal. On top of the severely private healthcare system, vision, dental, and mental health tend to be disconnected or (prior to the ACA) way more expensive to use. That presents a wealth of issues all its own.

I wear glasses. I cannot function well without them. Before my tooth cracked, I hadn’t been to a dentist since 2008. Not that it really mattered. I haven’t had insurance since I aged out of parental coverage at 26. I haven’t been able to afford it and if I’d bought a plan from the Marketplace, I’d have been paying for something I couldn’t afford to use either, without vision or dental included to boot. Which, sure, is a major flaw in the system. That’s one reason people have decried the ACA and one reason Republicans have championed getting rid of it: rising costs and unaffordable plans. Except that’s a little disingenuous on their parts, isn’t it? Especially given the provision in the Trumpcare bill to exempt Congress from the provisions.

Straight up, I lean way farther left than the Democratic party, so I’ve never really been in support of the party (or a two party system for that matter), but it’s been well documented that the ACA was basically the plan Mitt Romney implemented in Massachusetts and the Republican party fought Obama every step of the way on any of it. And look where this shit has gotten us. GoFundMe (and crowdfunding in general) is basically the defacto way to fund major medical expenses now. I see at least one fundraiser daily between Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, and I just started one to fund my previously mentioned issues AND help me repair or replace my failing car (And I am, quite frankly, pretty damn desperate).

The US has dozens of examples for how to implement socialized healthcare on a national level, with Canada and the UK being the closest. And, surprise, given that insurance works by keeping a pool of money, it’s cheaper and more efficient to spread that pool out as far as you can. Of course, this would also require we close a lot of tax loopholes and fix how we do taxes (which is a whole other conversation in itself, especially when you look at small business owners like myself). Oh and also not give ridiculous tax breaks to people who absolutely do not need them.

Universal, comprehensive healthcare would solve so many problems for so many people it’s kind of fucking ridiculous. Being an author, I know a crap ton of authors, and you know what we all have in common? Barely being able to afford anything and/or several mental health issues. It is straight up exhausting worrying about health and finances all the time and it is immensely disruptive to the creative process. Regardless of that process though, there are millions of people worrying about whether or not they just should just kill themselves before they bankrupt their families. There are millions of sexual assault survivors worrying they’re going to lose healthcare for reporting their assault. And sure, Trumpcare doesn’t outright list sexual assault as a Pre-Existing Condition™, but it does allow insurers to give patients a big blast of “Fuck you” and that’s not any better.

And I’ll be real here, too, with the health stuff and my car dying like this, and having the financial situation I have right now, suicide has been floating around my mind. It’s really fucking hard for it not to. I’m mentally ill, with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. That is the perfect cocktail for this line of thinking. Chances are, if you haven’t had these thoughts a little, you know someone who has.

We desperately need to implore our elected officials to full support universal, comprehensive healthcare. Vision, dental, mental and physical health as well as prescriptions. God, prescriptions alone would do wonders for people, myself included but we need all of it. And for anyone who wants to bemoan Canada and its mythical “wait times,” you don’t wait for emergency care and you just pay for parking. I’ve heard in-depth discussions about Canadian healthcare because I know Canadians. Krista Ball has talked very openly on twitter (and in private) about her health escapades over the past two years, which included a breast reduction surgery that was fucking covered.

We need a change. Everyone deserves healthcare, yes, even Paul Ryan’s poor-people hating ass. Even the eldritch abomination that is Steven Bannon (even if he probably is a demon in a very poor disguise). Everyone deserves healthcare. Fucking everyone, period, no exceptions. We need help. We need our health. We have to fight for them both cause the people who are supposed to be our representatives are doing a fucking piss poor job.

If you made it this far, and you’re not part of the choir, do some research, think hard on this issue. It’s not about handouts or welfare queens, it’s just basic compassion and respect for life. Making America “Great Again” is gonna require some heavy changes. This is one of them.

I sincerely wish you, to combine references, long days, pleasant nights, and a long, prosperous life. Stay weird, be kind.

Moving Sucks

That is the most apt way to start this post. Moving sucks. Full stop. Especially the farther the move. But it’s over. Nici and I finally got moved back to Tulsa this weekend. All it took was fourteen hours of driving. In a cramped truck. I had no idea that driving a moving truck would be such a full body experience but it was. It fucking was. Given that last week was spent finalizing packing and preparations and Friday and Saturday were spent loading and driving, I was utterly exhausted. I’m feeling closer to normal now but I still haven’t gotten back to the last third of Grimluk 3’s first draft yet. On top of all of that, I’m getting use to a new place, trying to get settled in, and acclimating to new people (Nici’s mom, sister, and her sister’s friend). I may just hold off until next week and do my best to write furiously. I know realistically I’m just fine for time. I imagine Grimluk 4 will draft a little faster since I’m not gonna have a move to contend with. I really hope my odd-numbered books don’t continue to have moves interrupting them. That would be a terrible tradition.

In the plus side though, April has been amazing for book sales. Since doing the Fools of Fantasy sale, I’ve seen really consistent sales. Like, only two days this month I haven’t sold at least one book. I really really hope that continues.

That’s all the news from me right now. I haven’t decided if there’s gonna be anything on Patreon this week yet so keep your eyes out for that.

The Self-Publishing Business: Print Costs vs Royalties

I recently got a review on Amazon for A Demon in the Desert that basically said, “It’s fun but in need of editing and the paperback cost too much for how short the book is.” That’s a fair point. A Demon in the Desert sits at somewhere over 53,000 words. And at this point, it’s no secret that it needed editing but I don’t want to take the time to rewrite it (because I would have to rewrite at least half of the book) and I don’t have the money to have it properly edited either. That book is done. I’m okay with that, I’m okay with the reviewer’s feelings on the book. But…I’ve seen the price comment elsewhere, too, and it’s something that I’ve learned more about since putting out Demon Haunted as well.

I want to discuss this because there are certain notions I’ve seen from other readers in various places (reddit and facebook in particular) that I feel could use some addressing. As such, I’ve asked some friends if they’d be willing to share their own numbers on the matter. So on top of me, I’ll have several other authors to help illustrate the point as well. To keep things simple, I’m going to be primarily dealing with the US market, so all costs and royalties will be listed in US dollars. First thing we need to do though is talk about formatting.

DIFFERENCES IN FORMATS

This seems obvious. There’s hardback, paperback, and digital, right? Well, kind of. You see, for actual print books, there’s several kinds of formats. The obvious is hardback. Hard cover, different kind of binding, usually higher quality paper, and a dust jacket or a specially designed cover with art on it (the Barnes & Noble leatherbacks, for instance). For traditional publishers, most major releases get a hardback release first. It generally feels fancier. It is also, obviously, more expensive. When I bought Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen, it was the hardback and it ran me around $25. You’ve probably experienced the same with other books. Hardbacks seem to lack an industry standard trim size (that is, the dimensions of the book). Wake of Vultures is listed as 5.9in by 8.5in. Other hardbacks might be 6×9 or maybe even standard letter size, 8.5×11

Now, paperbacks have the most variants for format. What most folks think of when you say paperback is mass market paperback (or A-format in the UK). The trim size for this is 4.2/4.3in by 7in. Small, easily transportable, sort of a pocket-sized book. They’re printed on lower quality paper. If you go into a used bookstore and look at the old paperbacks, they’re discolored, right? Sometimes the pages are brittle, and after a few decades on a shelf, mass market books will break down. Mass market paperbacks are able to be pulped and recycled. Conceivably, a 1970s copy of Fellowship of the Ring could be recycled and made into a new copy in 2017. Neat.

Next up we have trade paperback (basically b-format in the UK). Trades are bigger, starting at 5×8 and going up to 8.5×11. A lot of trade paperbacks come in 6×9. With traditional publishing, the trade version tends to be the same size as the hardback. The paper is higher quality, probably the same as the hardback as well and comes in cream or white. Trades are handy for large print editions of books.

Then there’s trade paperback comic books, which are printed on glossy pages. The pulp print practices of yesteryear fell out of style a long while ago now. If you’re buying an reprint collection volume of a comic, you’re looking at a $20 price tag at the least because printing full color is more expensive, period.

FORMATS AND AUTHORS

“Okay, Ashe, that was informative, but what does it mean exactly?”

The majority of us use Createspace for our paperbacks. That’s what I use. Some folks go through IngramSpark. Ingram allows for hardback editions but either way, mass market editions are unavailable. If you self-publish, you’re putting out a trade paperback. I’m sure someone’s done it, but self-pubbing a hardback is a losing affair. For a 6×9 case laminate hardcover with a glossy cover and 400 pages, it would cost $30 for an author to make $1.62 (according to Ingram’s compensation calculator). The cost of the book, just to print it, is almost $12. It doesn’t work for readers or authors. So then, we can’t print cheaper mass market paperbacks and hardcovers are prohibitive in production cost. You’re left with trade paperbacks. So let’s look at some numbers.

My books have a trim size 5×8. A Demon in the Desert clocks in at 222 pages with the previously mentioned 53,000 words. It costs $3.51 to print per copy. That is purely production cost. That’s the cost if I were to buy a copy. The minimum list price (the mandated lowest price you can list your book for and cover distribution costs and print costs) is $8.78. At that price, I would receive $1.75 per book through Amazon.com, $3.51 through Createspace Direct, and I would get nothing through Expanded Distribution (allows you to find my paperbacks at other online retailers). I list for $9.99. I get $2.48 through Amazon.com, $4.48 through Createspace Direct, and a whopping $0.48 through Expanded Distribution.

Demon Haunted clocks in at 334 pages and a little over 75,000 words. It costs $4.85 per copy with a minimum list price of $12.13 that would net me $2.42, $4.85, and $0.00 through the channels listed above. I list the book for $12.99, which earns me $2.94, $5.54, and $0.34 respectively. The list prices I chose seemed like the best compromise between royalties and affordability. But that’s me, let’s look at some other numbers.

Amalia Dillin was more than kind enough to provide me with a whole mess of numbers. Her Orc Saga books are not included due to the method with which she self-published them (through an agency), but the others more than make up for it. Her numbers are as follows:

Fate of the Gods Titles
Forged by Fate, 362 pages, $14.95 (E-book: 2.99), with a Createspace mandatory minimum price of $12.98.
Royalties per sale:
Amazon: $3.78
Expanded Distribution: $0.79

Fate Forgotten, 380 pages, $14.95 (E-book: 3.99), with a Createspace mandatory minimum price of $13.53.
Royalties per sale:
Amazon: $3.56
Expanded Distribution: $0.57

Beyond Fate, 418 pages, $15.95 (E-book: 4.99), with a Createspace mandatory minimum price of $14.65.
Royalties per sale:
Amazon: $3.71
Expanded Distribution: $0.52

Other Works
Postcards from Asgard, 184 pages, $8.95 (E-book: 2.99), with a Createspace mandatory minimum price of $7.63.
Royalties per sale:
Amazon: $2.32
Expanded Distribution: $0.53

Tamer of Horses, 376 pages, $14.95 (E-book: 4.99), with a Createspace mandatory minimum price of $13.40.
Royalties per sale:
Amazon: $3.61
Expanded Distribution: $0.62

Meanwhile, Darrel Drake’s debut, A Star-Reckoner’s Lot, has the following stats:
5.5″ x 8.25″ trim, 294 pages with a word count of 105,000.
Cost of print: $5.26
List Price: $14.99 with Amazon royalties of $2.98.

Rachel Sharp gave me the following numbers for her first two books:
The Big Book of Post-Collapse Fun: 5″ x 8″, 292 pages, list price: $11.99, Amazon royalty: $2.84 USD.
A Word and a Bullet: 5″ x 8″, 248 pages, list price: $11.99, Amazon royalty: $3.37.

And on a related note, when we run 99¢ ebook sales, we’re only making 35¢ per sale, which means we have to sell a lot to break even with a regular priced sale. Paperback sales tend to be harder to do and we can only do coupons through Createspace. Amazon itself only allows more control if you publish through Kindle Select, which reduces your distribution to Amazon only. Speaking personally (though I know a few who feel the same), while I make most of my sales through Amazon, I do occasionally get sales through other retailers, like Apple and Kobo.

As you can see, we work within some small margins. On top of these royalty numbers, a lot of us do our own formatting, and we definitely all do our own advertising. Realistically, we should probably be charging more because of that but publishing is an industry similar to video games, in that the expected prices tend to be lower than they probably should be. The Know posted a great video explaining this breakdown in a similar fashion.

So what exactly does this all mean for readers? Well, we’re definitely not gonna hike prices on you. Like most creators in other industries, we want you to enjoy our art. We are happy to do it but we’re hindered by the notions of “selling out” and “suffer for your art” (which tends to have implications regarding mental health, a whole other can of worms), and the idea that making money off of art is a moral failing. It’s not. If you think writing (or drawing or painting or web design or whatever) is easy, that it’s not real work, you are blatantly wrong. We are running small businesses here.

So what is the ultimate point here? Simply this: we’re doing our best to both earn a living and give you affordable entertainment. Prices aren’t picked arbitrarily and due to demands, most of us are pricing similarly to each other. Deviation of even a dollar tends to spell disaster. We understand and sympathize all too well that your time and money are precious, it’s the same with us, but just remember, we’re not trying to rip you off and we appreciate it immensely when you understand that.

I hope this was reasonably informative. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or questions, or say something elsewhere! I’d be more than happy to talk more about this or answer questions.

Happy reading!

Fools of Fantasy Mega Sale!

Check this shit out. For this week only, me and several other authors who frequent r/Fantasy over on Reddit are having a sale where one of our books is a whopping 99 cents on Amazon. This applies to Kindle only, and we are having an AMA over on r/books today as well! The sale will end on Friday and then it’s back to normal prices. I don’t know everyone very well but they’ve all shown themselves to be pretty decent folks and readers have had plenty of nice things to say about their books.

FOOLS OF FANTASY.COM

Click the link for an easy, all in one place to check out each book and author. Give ’em a look, give ’em a read, and join this jolly crew of fantasy fools as we attempt to claw our way out of obscurity with only the barest inkling of the very concept of dignity.

Patreon

Hey hey! Just wanted to let everyone know that I’m up on Patreon again. I’d tried it once before but it just wasn’t the right time yet and some other stuff came up so I put it away. Check out the link below and you’ll see I’m trying something I think is much easier to maintain this time around. Consider joining in, I’d really appreciate it.

patreonlogo2