At my Wednesday writer’s group last night, we got into a discussion about where we think the written word is heading, both with the publishing world and with the actual form and structure of writing. It was a really good discussion and it almost motivated me to quit my day job and start this really neat idea.
I’m hoping at this point that I can stick it out through my job and manage to make it to retirement, but that gets more and more complicated every day. My whole plan so far has been to continue with my current occupation and write on the side until I become a fully retired person, which is still many, many years in the future. I’m hoping to publish about a book a year for the next decade or so while I continue earning days and years towards my future retirement, and then I want to build myself my mountain cabin and be a full-time writer. If I wait until I retire, I will have a fairly solid financial base and I will have earned more adventures and experience than most people in my area.
But I got to thinking during our discussion about the future of the printed book how very sad I would be if all of the houses of books disappeared. It’s truly an awe-inspiring and amazing experience to be able to sit at a table or in a comfy armchair, surrounded by so many ideas and knowledge. It always helps to settle my mind whenever I go to the bookstore or the library. For my first several months in my most recent living area, I would spend almost the whole weekend at my library, doing research, listening to music, reading, writing, and doing other tasks to further my career.
Writing isn’t just about career progression for me, though. It’s something I have to do – I can’t not write. I may not always be writing things that are actual chapters in books, but every word I type or scribble down is a word that I could use somehow in my future. Every conversation is research for writing better dialogue. And I very much like how the pen feels in my hand and how my words look on the page when I’m writing things that are not parts of my many working drafts. I think without writing, it’s a lot easier for me to get lost in my occupation, and since my current bill-paying occupation is not one in which I should look forward to losing myself, this becomes somewhat problematic.
So maybe if I decide to leave my job before retirement, I’ll open a new kind of library. I think what would be a really interesting way to run a library is to have a large collection of books, just like you would find now, and one extra item that is not currently in libraries: a print on demand press. I’ve only recently heard about these in the last year or so and I would guess that they are incredibly expensive. Setting up a print on demand press in a library means that people could come in and work surrounded by the knowledge and imagination of thousands of works, and if they decide they really like the book or books they’re using, they can head over to the print on demand machine and make their own copy. All the proceeds would be split up appropriately between the library, the author, the cover art, and the agent or publisher, but it would be a set amount.
Now I’m going to talk about things I don’t know anything about, and also things which tend to cause me huge headaches in my life (also known as MATH). In my perfect world, the author or creator of a work gets 65% royalty off every sale. 10% would go to the agent and 10% would go to the editor. Why would I only split between the agent and the editor? Because I think a high-quality editor helps to create a high-quality end product, and I like books that are thoroughly proofread without spelling, grammar, or punctuation issues. I’m not quite sure how I would work in fees for the publisher, since the book would have to have been originally published by someone. So I’m sure there are clauses there somehow. Then 5% would go to the person who did the cover art, and the remaining 10% would go back to the library to help pay the costs of electricity, workers, etc. Again, I am not an economist, nor are math and I usually any sorts of friends at all.
My personally owned library and pseudo book store would also have a large library of eBooks for very reasonable prices, with the same division of sales, even though the cost would be considerably cheaper. For instance, if you were at my library (which I’m going to start calling Fortress from now on) and you wanted to buy a book but you wanted the eBook and not the printed one, the eBook might be $2.99 while the physical book would be $9.99. This means the author makes approximately $1.94 on a $2.99 and $6.49 on a $9.99 book.
It sounds like easy math, but it’ really not my strong suit. Still, you could make those numbers into a lot more if you were selling more than one book a day. And you would know that your money was going to actually fund the writer themselves. I think that writers deserve to be paid for their work, and that offering discounted items is crucial to maintaining the selling of quantity.
There you have my crazy idea. I suspect my idea will be borrowed by someone else, and if that’s the case, I wish you nothing but the best of luck. If you have the time and energy and finances to start this kind of business model right now, I hope you will drop me a line and let me know how it goes.