Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wherein Kristina Doesn't Understand Modern Publishing

I’ve been writing seriously less than three years, but in that time, I’ve seen e-publishing and self-publishing boom. Along with that, I’ve seen the number of people who give away their writing—both literally and figurative—increase.

I’ve seen many tweet and such about people selling their short stories for 99 cents on Amazon, or they post free stories on their blogs. I can see where this is an effective marketing strategy: give the reader a small taste, get them hooked, and make them buy more. (Incidentally, I think this is how drug dealers work.) What I don’t understand, though, is when people do this repeatedly. They sell multiple stories for low prices, or they give away whole books.

One could argue that this is no different from the times I submitted stories to publications that offered either no payment or toke payment. My only argument is that mostly did that when I was starting out so I could get some publishing credits under my belt. (I’ve done it a few times recently, but I usually really wanted to be a part of the publication.) My goal now is to make at least some money off my writing. Shouldn’t I be paid a decent wage?

I guess my main concern is that writers are selling themselves short. I think that $3.00 for a novel is too low, even for an eBook. Novel writing is hard; that’s why I haven’t finished one yet. I know there’s a lot of competition out there, and authors have to do a lot to get their work read, but is it worth lowering our standards? If writers keep selling their stories for less than they’re worth, will the readers start to expect less. For example, say I finish a novel and decide to self-publish. I decide to set the eBook price a little higher, maybe $5.00, because I put a lot of work into my book. Will John Q. Public pass on my (hopefully) awesome book just because the price is too high compared to everyone else?

I’m not trying to condemn anyone’s actions, because Lord knows I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m sure other writers spend more time looking into their markets than I have. I just don’t understand modern publishing, I guess.


  1. there's a trend where serious readers are gravitating toward higher priced ebooks because they've come to expect quality from books priced above $5, and when it comes to $0.99 or free books, they've come to expect really shitty writing. the only reason i would ever reduce the price of my book below $5 is for promotional reasons.

    i believe with all my heart that my book is worth at least $5. if i thought people would buy it, i would increase the price to $6 or even $7.

    modern publishing is weird. it fluctuates like nobody's business, and no one really knows what the hell is going on.

  2. Thanks for the info. I don't know much the e-publishing world.

    I think it's good that readers want quality. I think it would encourage writers to be better. "If you want to make money, write better." I want all writing out there to be good writing.

  3. (Hi, Brooke's friend. I don't think I've ever met you. So...hi.)

    There's a lot to consider regarding pricing. In a way, our culture is developing a larger and larger sense of entitlement. "This costs what? I'll just pirate it," is a phrase I've heard all too often. There have been a ton of software developers that have gone under because they gave everything away and tried to subsist on donations simply to go under by people not willing to donate their money. And this is oddly the age of the dollar. $1 songs in iTunes, $1 apps on smartphones, $1 collections of short stories. This price vs. quality and what is something really worth debate extends beyond books into movies, video games, programs, etc.

    With all of that said, I don't think people will pass over your book price of $5.00. I think people are willing to spend more on quality if your book catches its audience. I mean, there are a lot of people shelling out $20 for J.K. Rowling's new e-book, and the autobiography of Mark Twain's e-book was around $40, I believe.

    Also, with the rise of Kickstarter, it looks like people might be becoming more and more generous anyway. I'm not sure, I haven't looked into Kickstarter too much, but people seem to be most interested in taking their entertainment back from the industries. If you look up the show "JourneyQuest," you'll notice that the tagline is "no studios, no cancellations, 100% fan funded." Maybe people are just looking to have a little more investment in their entertainment?


    1. I see your point, but J.K. Rowling and Mark Twain are household names, though. *shrug*

      I can see how Kickstarter is useful. I've seen where people use it to fund literary journals. That stuff can be expensive. I also saw a thing once, though that was basically, "Send money to our Kickstarter if you want x book to have sequels." Maybe I totally misunderstood things, but I was under the impression that the writer wasn't going to write the sequels unless they met the goal. I never write with the guarantee I'm going to get paid for it.

  4. I see on Smashwords where people sell very large books for $.99 or even give them away. Very large as in 100,000-150,000 words. And they've done this more than once.

    Maybe by putting it at that price over and over they are hoping to attract people trying to save. At $1 a book and you sell 50,000 thats $50,000 you made. Now if you priced it at $7 and sell only 1,000 you make far less.

    But I also know that a fair few people who price their works so low or free do so because writing is just a hobby. And they have no thoughts of making a living off of it and just want to share their stories.

    Or something like that.

    1. I can understand people not charging much if they're just writing for the fun of it.

      The other, well...I guess writers should do what feels best for them.