Friday, March 30, 2007

Should you write a book?

April 2007 - I'm thinking of writing a book. If you're my wife and reading this posting please settle down as I don't plan on quitting my day job. In all seriousness I'd like to someday take all the thoughts bouncing around in my head and put them to paper. Would anyone read it? I'd like to think so, but honestly it's more of a hobby than anything.

But let's say someone did like the book and wanted to buy it. How much would it sell for? And more importantly how much would I make from that sale? I'd like to think that if the book sold for $24.99, I'd get at least 75% of that. If you're a publisher you're starting to laugh off your chair. After a bit of research I can understand why. The writers of fine literature are paid for their work, but certainly not at the insane rate I'd like to see. So how much do writers make?

From what I can gather authors are paid in a number of ways, but all income is centered are around royalties. For a break down of retail, per book, and wholesale royalties see Stephen Nelson's posting ( For the purpose of this discussion, let's just assume my prestigious publishing house is using retail royalty payments. Retail royalty rates can range from low single digit percentages (e.g. with my luck 5% or lower) to lower double digits for well known authors (e.g. maybe 15-20% for Stephen King).

Using 5% and a book price of $24.99, each book sold earns me $1.25 in profit. Alright! Didn’t Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code sell over 20 million copies? I'm guessing he quit his day job. Realistically though, I'm guessing my first book won't be nearly as popular so let's say I'm able to sell 1000 copies to threatened friends and family members. While $1,250 is nothing to write home about, it's a start. How much is this an hour though?

If you don't count my long "deep thought" walks, I estimate writing a book would take me 1000 hours. This might be high or low, but since I've never written a book before I don't have anything to base it on. Dividing my estimated income by the total number of hours, I make $1.25 an hour. That is slightly less than I made pumping gas as a 15-year-old.

So it looks like I'm not going to be rich. Back to my question; Should you write a book? Yes and No. If you're planning on quitting your day job to start writing, make sure you're ready to move in with your parents. I talked it over with my wife and this is not an option. If you're planning on writing the book for nothing more than a hobby, then write away. If you make $1.25 and hour then great for you. At least you're published!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Should I upgrade my health club membership?

March 2007 - In November of 1998 a good friend and I drug ourselves into Life Time Fitness for a membership sales pitch. It was an easy sale for the testosterone filled bulky back sales rep we talked with. In addition to looking forward to a good game of racket ball, my friend and I were young college grads who weren’t afraid to surround ourselves with pleasant looking gales. The salesman knew this and proceeded to tour us through the aerobics room (twice) and sealed the deal. Once members, we found that although there were plenty of well shaped females, there was plenty of competition from better trained and wealthier men.

The first month’s membership bill showed up on my credit card bill for $33.50. I remember thinking that $402 a year ($33.50 * 12 months) for weights and a Stairmaster is ridicules. That was until I watched the repairman open up an out-of-service stepper and found out how difficult it is to fix one of those buggers. There were chains, gears, and wires that could confuse Einstein. The assurance that I never had to fix an electronic bike, treadmill, or wax a basketball floor made the $402 worth every penny.

Much to the dismay of my bill paying wife, over the course of the next nine years I’ve watched the $33.50 monthly fee turn into $53.00. That’s a 58% increase in just over nine years. According to my finance professor, 58% in nine years is slightly more than inflation (at 3% inflation, $33.50 is $43.71). Is the $53.00 we pay today still worth a membership?

I typically get to the club eight times a month which means each trip costs me (actually my wife) almost $7. Typically I use the elliptical machine, racket ball courts, treadmill, some weights (light ones I might add), lockers, and occasionally the cheesy stationary bike. In addition, I watch their TV, weigh myself once a week, and shower periodically. For the most part, I’m willing to pay $7 a trip for these services.

Just down the road from us, Life Time Fitness is building a new 150,000 square foot club that dwarfs the modest establishment I typically patronize. Always one interested in new retail, I inquired about the new club and found my $53.00 was a mere drop in the bucket for what an upgraded sports membership at the new club costs. Apparently the Fitness Membership I carry isn’t sufficient. In reality a sports membership is only $10 more ($63.00), but for a guy who brags about saving 10 cents at the coffee shop for getting the trivia question correct, $10 is a big deal.

Among a new construction scent and automatic paper towel dispensers, the new club includes an outdoor water park, complete spa and salon, and poolside bistro. I hear they also have tennis courts, but didn’t see that posted on their website. So back to our original question, should I upgrade my membership so I can attend the new club?

Although I’m sure some will find the added amenities worth an extra $10 monthly, I’m sticking with my Fitness Membership. The current stopping grounds provide the necessary resources to keep me just within the boundaries of average fitness. This all being said; since I had to park in a different zip code recently, I’m hopeful a majority of people disagree with my opinion and flock to Lakeville and enjoy the zero depth entry pool. That way the economical folks can enjoy less traffic at our current club. Good luck with your own assessment!