Pricing E-Books to Read vs. Buy

Came across this article from Chuck Wendig today. Steve Weddle talks about e-book pricing from a reader’s perspective and compares it to pricing in stores. The article eBooks Bought, Never Read is definitely worth a read — especially if you’re an author unfamiliar with retail from the business side of things.

When you offer folks a bargain price for your ebook, you’ll get folks who are looking for bargains. Not all of these folks care about a good book. — QUOTE: eBooks Bought, Never Read

Powerful statement and very true. Here we get back to the value of an e-book. Does the price reflect the potential for readability? Weddle argues “Yes.” I say: “Let’s find out for sure.”

There should be a technical way to track digital files read and/or opened on an e-reader. I’m not aware if this big brother-ish tactic exists, but I’m thinking more along the lines of iTunes and personalization at its finest.

I feel a lot of these pricing initiatives boils down to how much authors want to become a merchant in addition to a publisher, too. e-Commerce is a different skill set that adds on top of crafting a compelling tale and publishing it in a specific format. Not to mention, what works for one author doesn’t work for every author, either, and with online marketing there’s a high learning curve.

If you’re interested in hearing about my own experience with pricing, read The Queen Of Crows, a One Year Retrospective.

Deep Thoughts (Not Deep Old Ones)

Cthulhu Wacky WobblerBeen in a very contemplative mood lately, in part because I’ve been focusing on background work for a novel, some re-organization (although my office is currently a disaster zone) and my fascination with the Occupy movement. It’s hard to talk about Occupy without getting political, but the reason why I’m interested in what’s happening is due to my love of futurism.

When I wrote Tailfeather, which appeared in Apexology: Science Fiction & Fantasy, I used a dystopian world I had been creating for some time. Overpopulation (and population control) is a huge part of that setting. What Occupy has reminded me, however, is that even though some things may change, others stay the same. Initially, I had counted on people remaining apathetic because the “horror” of the world happens gradually, over a long period of time. Regardless of whether or not you agree with them, the Occupy movement shows that people aren’t as apathetic and listless as others might believe.

There’s been some parallels made to what’s happening now versus what happened in the 50s and 60s. Meaning: after 9/11, instead of a Red Scare steeped in Communism we had (and still have) a fear about people who are Muslim. The Civil Rights Movement has been replaced with a Gay Rights Movement. We now have a growing Women’s Rights Movement 3.0 to piggyback on the bra-burning one and the Women’s Suffrage Movement. (Looks like we’ll always have a Women’s Rights Movement. What does that say about our culture?) And, in place of war protests, we have economic or “class war” demonstrations. (Both were told to get a job…) All of which I find incredibly fascinating because history is repeating itself right before my eyes. No, I wasn’t alive in the 20s or 60s, but we have lots of documentation in the form of books, movies, etc. that we didn’t have before. Can we, as a society, learn from the past? Or do we negate what has come before and assume we’ll do it better because we’re that much smarter?

What’s compelling to me is how we deal with our fear. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” seems to be the strategy. In other words, we’re creating policies based on what people could do wrong versus what people are doing wrong. I also feel this is why we’re seeing more outspoken folks profess their religious beliefs, too. Innocent until proven guilty? Now it seems you’re guilt-free if you fit a certain profile.

I’m just an observer, but I wonder what the combined long-term consequences of profiling, economic downturns, and attacking education are. You don’t just give a man an injection and he’s instantly educated. The Matrix does not exist. (Or does it…) I’m of the belief that literacy is crucial for the foundation and maintenance of a healthy society — including giving people and their families the right tools to make the right decisions for their financial and medical health.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there; sometimes I think it’s hard for people to get facts nowadays which is why they turn to trusted sources. Trust is a weird concept, though, because it’s based on a feeling. So a source can be rife with inaccuracies provided it speaks on some subconscious level to either a) what people want to hear (bias) or b) told by someone the listeners respond to (another form of bias).

The challenge for me is — right now I don’t have any trusted sources. I want “the facts” but often that’s clouded under opinorting which has escalated in the past twenty years. (My word for editorial reporting.) So it takes me longer to have an opinion on something unless I am knee-jerk reacting to photos or violence. (Which is, sadly, what some outlets want to get eyeballs on the page.) Sure, the internet helps because I get international news outlets to give me a different perspective, but it’s very frustrating that our American reporters have lost their core ethics in favor of advertising dollars. For a long time, I wanted to be a reporter because they were “the seekers of truth.” It seems like our modern-day “seekers of truth” has to be a comedian like Jon Stewart to simply say with laughter what we cannot say with a straight face.

Well, now I tell stories and explore truths in my plots. Without even realizing it, Redwing’s Gambit for Bulldogs touches on some deeper issues without bogging down the story. How would you react to a cyborg? A former slave? A girl who’ll do anything to find her own identity – even if it means lying through her teeth?

I don’t have any answers to the way the real world works. Some things, like hatred of other human beings simply because they’re different in some way, confound me terribly. I guess that’s why I enjoy writing so much. Because in my stories, my worlds and characters make sense.

The Juggling Writer’s Social Media Blackout

Inspired by my 100 Day social media black-out experiment, author Christopher Joglund took the plunge and lived to tell the tale in two articles. The first is his initial wrap-up titled: 101 Days Without Social Media. The second is: After the Social Media Break.

There are a few things that really stood out to me in these posts. I thought this was a very powerful statement when Christopher says: “I like aspects of social media, but inside a couple months, I realized I could never see it again and be absolutely fine with that.”

Imagine. Maybe these tools aren’t that crucial to our lives. Maybe we (and others) are assigning value to them and, as a result, putting more time and energy into them because we think they’re that important. Christopher brings up the need to post updates and status for SEO (search engine rankings) purposes. Being in that world, I can definitely say that there’s a fair amount of pressure to do this. In my experiences, constantly posting social media updates to rank for specific keywords is pretty meaningless if there’s hardly any demand for that term and you don’t have a) a reason why you want to rank and b) quality blog content to begin with. (I could go on and on about ranking simply for the sake of ranking, but I’ll spare you that rant.)

What Christopher also shares is that social media was so ingrained into his daily routine, getting off of it allowed him to re-focus. Social media is a lot like gambling. You have to play to get “paid” or “rewarded” in replies, shares, retweets, opportunities and even money. For me, it’s that community feel that comes from my ability to connect with other people over larger and longer distances. In my corner of the universe, since I’m a part of the hobby games industry, that’s something I can’t do offline unless I go to a convention. For Chris, though, he wasn’t sure what, if anything, social media will do for his writing.

I also found this statement to be honest and compelling: “I can’t produce the quality of writing that I’m producing, lately, without the focus that comes from truly disconnecting from it all. Maybe you can, and I think that’s cool.”

For my own work, I’ve discovered that social media and the act of writing don’t mix well at all. It’s either rile up the crowd or create something for the crowd to be excited about. Two different mindsets (and separate jobs). Usually, when you see me online it’s because a) I have two monitors or b) I’m on a scheduled break or c) I’m using social media for a specific reason. Sure, sometimes I get carried away with the silly and stupid conversations, but that’s few and far between these days. Honestly, it often depends what’s more important to you. Is it crucial for you to be constantly talked about? Are you generating enough revenue to justify the time you spend on social media (and not writing or producing content)?

In his second article, Christopher also writes about the return of his ability to focus and the lack of noise. Loved reading that experience because I feel (and still do) exactly the same way. Taking a break from social media was the best thing I’ve done for my writing (and my sanity) all year.

I encourage you to give Christopher’s articles a read. Maybe a social media break isn’t right for you, but I’d love to see and hear from more authors who will take the plunge.

[Photo] Haunted Reading

Last night, I attended a reading of HAUNTED: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror with four of our authors. Pictured (from left to right) the esteemed George Beaverson, yours truly, the fabulous Jason L Blair, the supreme Alex Bledsoe and the witty Bill Bodden.

Thanks to A Room of One’s Own for hosting the reading. Fun was had, books were signed, and stories were read!

Having a Saleable Novel Doesn’t Make You a Sell-Out

I was at a writer’s conference this past weekend called A Weekend With Your Novel. These are the same folks who put together Write By The Lake and other, similar programs. I had taken a class from Christine DeSmet way back in the day, when I was in college, and was familiar with the depth and breadth of her experience, so I gave it a shot. I received several techniques for the areas I need to focus on — many of which popped up in some of the trunk novels I wrote and Redwing’s Gambit during the revision process. The instructors know their craft. For that reason, I’d go again. The other authors I talked to, however, well… That was a different story. I did not feel that this was a good place to network on that front.

I do work-for-hire and I also understand marketing. So when the stat popped up that 90% of queries to agents get rejected because they aren’t saleable concepts, I nodded my head. Many authors (myself included) start out writing a story for their own vanity. This is often very personal and rationalized in the category of “very important to share.”

Yes, absolutely, that may be true. However? That does not necessarily mean that your story to teach the world about X is a saleable concept. Read other books in your preferred genre. Understand what people are reading. Then, tailor your novel to be a story people will want to read — not your personal soap box because you, out of nigh seven billion people on the planet, will change the world with your one story that someone else has probably already written.

I’m sorry to be so harsh, but honest-to-God I did this to myself when I was 19 because this was broached as one of the big no-no’s in my writing program. I wanted to understand why. So? I wrote an awful story about some stupid date and used Metaphor; I thought it was brilliant and witty and insightful and important. Everyone in my crit group laughed at me. It was embarrassing as hell, but it taught me something: what *I* think is crucial to my world view doesn’t necessarily make a good story other people will want to devour in one sitting. It was obvious I was writing about myself, which turned the story into a stain of insecurity, rather than something with a plot people want to spend money on.

When the subject of popular books or mass market came up in my talks, most people were confused. I mentioned Dan Brown, zombies, Twilight, Harry Potter. Some people laughed at popular books throughout the day and showed obvious disapproval when I mentioned I did work-for-hire. Man, I felt like I was back in college where writing is Art and only Real authors write their OWN STUFF and are BROKE until IT happens. (Again, I want to stress that this was not from the organizers…)

Then the speaker, Karen Doornebos who wrote Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, reinforcing many of the things about having a saleable concept, sacrificing, revising, how you never stop learning, etc. I listened, I nodded, and I understood. She’s successful (Go Karen!) and she had some great advice. I hope it did not fall on deaf ears. Hell, I have a lot to learn about writing a damn, good novel.

So let’s get back to that whole laughing at work-for-hire authors or trashing popular books or not understanding what a saleable novel is.

Fact #1: I don’t care how much you hate Twilight. Stephenie Meyer sold millions of books. She *had* to be doing something right. If you don’t agree, then you don’t understand why her popularity is important.

Fact #2: Turn your nose up at Dan Brown all you want. Besides selling a zillion copies, the man’s storytelling was so believable, other authors wrote NON-FICTION to DISPROVE his MADE UP STORY.

Fact #3: *coughs* There is nothing wrong with making money as an author. Let me repeat that: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH WRITERS MAKING MONEY.

Fact #4: While every author’s path is different, there are some conventions to storytelling and the publishing business. <-- Key word: business

Fact #5: I care about what books are popular because I want to write stories that people will want to read. Seriously. It’s not the dollars, because you can’t predict how many copies will sell. I know that I’m in this for the long haul. I’m looking at many novels as opposed to just the one.

And last but not least?

Fact #6: I’m not a hack because I write-for-hire, I’m a business woman. I learn all the time from whatever project I do (big or small) and apply that for the next one *and* get paid for the work I do. The work I’ve done professionally has helped me understand what sells, what doesn’t, what works, what won’t. Everything that I’m doing is to support my path and (not kidding) beyond my retirement. Writing will always be there for me, whether I have a job or not regardless of my age, and I love it to pieces. I am an artist, but one who wants to get paid for my efforts.

Fact #7: If you don’t have a saleable concept, then maybe getting an agent isn’t right for you. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH NOT GETTING AN AGENT OR WRITING LITERARY FICTION. There are thousands of small press publishers you don’t need an agent for. The reason why I’m saying this? Is because there’s the craft of writing and the business of writing. You can know one but not the other. The trick is being humble enough to know where your strengths and weaknesses are.

So, apologies for the rant, but this has been weighing on me like a ton of bricks. (To use the proverbial metaphor.) The good news, is that I feel I do have a saleable concept and know the business enough to explore my options. Right now, all I care about is writing a damn good story that people will want to read. I’m working on my versatility, in the mean time, by penning trunk stories and flash fiction. My path is my own, your path may be your own, but seriously…

Making money as a writer is not a bad thing. This is a business, like any other, even though writing is Art. Like any other form of creative expression, there’s commercial art and indie art and everything in between art. Doesn’t mean one’s better or worse than the other. All it means, is that one is more commercial and, ergo, will be more popular as a result.

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