Come Fly with Me!

Today it is my pleasure to make the official announcement that the Kindle versions of my entire catalog are now, and will permanently remain on sale for 99¢ each.  This will include all future works, of which several are under consideration, and one is making good headway.  The Beyond the Rails trilogy (so far; more is planned!) is a series of steampunk novellas set in colonial Kenya in the 1880s.  One reviewer described it as “Jules Verne meets Firefly.”  The Stone Seekers is a cozy sword and sorcery story that hasn’t received much attention yet, but has been praised by those who have read it as being “epic fantasy without a hint of Tolkien.”  All are available now and forever on Amazon for 99¢ each.  I also have a short story in Den of Antiquity, a wonderful anthology of steampunk goodness that still sells for $2.99.  I recommend it as a primer for readers curious about steampunk, as it contains a dozen stories from the far-ranging pens of innovative writers in the genre.  My contribution, Brass & Coal, is offered as a free sample among the tabs above; the rest you’ll have to pay for, and I highly recommend it!

And what is the philosophy behind this price reduction?  It’s simple.  I don’t have many sales, and that’s a shame, because I’m good.  Immodest, you say?  Maybe, but it’s true, and so are most of my writing acquaintances.  I once harbored that nebulous dream of all writers, that I would become rich and famous while working in the middle of the night in my robe and slippers.  I gave that up years ago, decades!  We now live in a world where everything becomes more expensive by the day, and I want to say to you, “Here is a product where you can spend a dollar, and get many times that dollar’s worth of entertainment value.”  I’m not getting rich from writing books, and I’ve long-since come to terms with the notion that I never will.  Let me see if I can at least become widely-read.  Free samples of all my works are in the tabs above, so check out one or two, and see whether you think that dollar might buy you an enjoyable ride.

Allow me to continue this train of though by commenting on a trend I’ve observed.  This was first placed on my radar by fellow indie C.W. Hawes, who tends to be deep around the insights, and is very much worth adding to your reading list.  The subject is the creeping up of book prices on Kindle.  As C.W. points out, e-books used to range from 99¢ to $2.99, which is reasonable.  As a Kindle author, I know that $2.99 pays a reasonable royalty to the author, and 99¢, while the royalty is lower, will generally sell  more books.  I also know that there are no truckloads of paper to buy, no 55-gallon drums of ink.  There is no requirement for enough power to light up Chicago to run printing presses and binding machines.  There is no postage to be paid to deliver heavy books.  The “book” exists as an electronic file.  When a customer orders that book, a copy of that file is sent to a reading device that translates the ones and zeros into a human language on a screen.  That’s it.

So, what’s driving these price increases?  Well, let’s look at the process.  When a Kindle book is sold, Amazon.com keeps a portion of the price to pay workers, maintain infrastructure, and earn a profit, which is completely reasonable.  It’s how business works.  The remainder after those charges goes to the author as a royalty.  As a Kindle author, I post a formatted file which is, in essence, my book.  After I’ve set the cover art, the typeface, and all that, I am shown the pricing screen.  It shows a minimum price, usually 99¢, a recommended price, usually $2.99, and there is a blank where I fill in the price I want to charge.  C.W. pointed out that e-books are often selling for $3.99 or $4.99 these days.  I saw one the other day for $11.00.  There is no inflation in e-books, or if there is, it’s measured in fractions of pennies, so what is the mechanism that keeps these prices rising?

I have no idea.  I am a Kindle author, affected, I assume by the same market forces as all the others, and have observed nothing that warrants a continuum of ever-escalating prices.  What have the others seen that I haven’t?  I have no idea, nor any intention of telling them how to run their business; all I can do is run mine.  What I am going to do is to make two separate but related pledges:

First, as an author, I will never sell an e-book whose price I control for more than 99¢ (or the minimum price, should Kindle raise it).

Second, as a reader, I will never pay more than $3.00 for an e-book.

Furthermore, that’s $3.00 for a full-size book, as I must point out here that, given the nature of e-publishing, it is quite possible to publish a novella or even a short story as a stand-alone work, and put any price you want on it.  Bottom line, if you’re going to price your e-book at $3.99, $4.99, or $11.00, don’t look for me to read it.  I urge you to consider adopting my reader’s pledge in your own life, and to discuss it with your reading friends, because if we continue to reward this behavior, it’s only going to get worse.  ‘Nuff said!  On with the show…

Interesting Reads

SciFiGenres

Author B.K. Bass has begun a series on Sci-Fi Genres, their history and development into all the wonderful and varied styles and formats we enjoy today.  Definitely worth a look!

TalesFromForest

Tales from the Forest by Johanna Sarah Aldridge.  The Forest Realm is a magical world within our own.  You cannot see it, nor can you hear it, and only very few might be able to feel it.  The realm feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, and protects the hunted… so long as their hearts are pure.  Recently orphaned, two heartbroken brothers are at risk of separation by the government…  A black Labrador leads a colony of rabbits away from danger…  A destitute family of rats seek a new life away from the pollution of the big city…  All have been rescued by the realm of magic, and their lives are truly about to change.  Come and join us in The Forest where magic thrives, adventures are rife, and friendships last forever.  £5.99 on Amazon UK.

StoriesLastSafePort

Stories from the Last Safe Port by John and Carine Freeman.  Can you tell much of a story in just 101 words?  Each of the stories in this collection does just that:  We find out why the Elves really left, follow the pranks of a little girl stranded on the last Moonbase, learn why magic mirrors should beware Snow White, and a lot more.  It’s fiction-as-tapas and, yes, there’s a slightly strange seafood dish (Cthulhu gets lonely don’t you know).  There are a hundred of these tiny tales inside, and if you don’t like one… well, hey, it’s cost you less than a minute of your time.  So why not take a look?  Between neurotic angels, giant slugs, drug dealing fairies, and all the rest we’re sure you’ll find something here to entertain you…  99¢ on Kindle.

CherylLawson

Like most authors, Tom Johnson maintains a blog, and his subject on this outing is a promotion of the work of one of his own favorite writers, Canadian Cheryl Lawson [left], author of We Are Mars, which looks to be a hard sci-fi work.  Whether you’re into that or not, be sure to check out his blog, Pulp Den, because he does a lot of this sort of promoting across genres, and there are some excellent reads waiting to be discovered there.

And that’s 30 for today.  I’ll see you Friday with a featured blog headlining another edition of Blimprider Times.  Until then, read well, and write better!

8 thoughts on “Come Fly with Me!

  1. Great post! Every now and then it’s good to get a reality check.

    I’ve reached the same conclusion as you: I’m probably not going to get rich off of my writing. The competition is fierce and I don’t have enough money to compete. After all, it takes money to make money. And unlike some writers, I don’t have $7500 or $15,000 to spend producing and promoting my first (or any) novel.

    From what I’ve read and observed, I think there are two reasons why indie book prices are inching their way up.

    First is the notion of price conveying value. If the big corporate publishers can charge $7.99 and up for ebooks, then indies can charge $4.99 and $5.99 and still be seen as a deal.

    Indies are trying to be seen as “respectable” instead of cheap. Unfortunately I see insecurity and/or greed.

    The second reason is crazy production costs. Indies, in an effort to make their books look like “real” books (the big corporate publisher look), are spending big bucks on covers, formatting, and advertising. Making the middleman, as usual, rich. To my mind that is stupid and only proves PT Barnum was right.

    Instead of following Patty Jansen’s organic approach (https://pattyjansen.com/2016/03/25/the-three-year-no-bestseller-plan-to-a-sustainable-income-from-self-publishing/), indies have bought into the “throw enough money at it and success will follow” approach. Not realizing publishing is just another form of gambling. And most gamblers don’t beat the odds.

    To recoup the thousands of dollars indies are spending producing their books, they’re charging more. Which, IMO, will result in them pricing themselves out of the market — just as the big corporate publishers have.

    As you noted, it literally costs nothing to produce an ebook. And Draft2Digital — for free — will even let you do some fancy formatting along the lines of Vellum. Which means ebook prices have nothing to do with the actual production of the mobi or epub file.

    What indies are forgetting, I think, is that the buyers and readers of indie books are not the same folks who buy and read the big corporate literary and genre novels.

    Big corporate book buyers and readers tend to buy fewer books. They tend to buy in stores. They buy “name” authors and NY Times bestsellers (for social reasons). They don’t take risks.

    Indie buyers are like used bookstore shoppers. They tend to be voracious readers and want cheaply priced books. They’re like the patron I had at the library who read 2 full shopping bags of romance novels every 2 weeks.

    I’ve taken a very similar pledge as you: I’m not paying more than $3.99 for an ebook. Although, if there is enough good talk, I might fork over $4.99. Might. Maybe.

    Part of my reason is that I can’t resell an ebook. I’m stuck with it for good or for ill. And just as I no longer go to the movie theater due to the ridiculous price of a ticket — I’m reluctant to spend even $3.99 for an experience I might not like. I’m not rich. Money is precious to me. And like a bad movie, I’m stuck with that bad ebook. And who wants bad?

    I’ve rambled on long enough. Thanks for the fab post! And may your books be read far and wide — they deserve it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are kinder than I was originally. There is a paragraph that ends “So what is the mechanism that keeps these prices rising?” The first word of the next paragraph in my original draft was “Greed!” I backed off from that after some thought, because I don’t actually know what another person is thinking. But it looks bad. I think it was you that originally raised the question, “Who got rich in every gold rush?” It was the guy selling shovels to the prospectors, and self-publishing is viewed by those who don’t realize how difficult it is to write a quality novel as an easy ticket out of the rat race; a modern-day gold rush, as it were. With their unedited first draft up on Amazon, it’s time to rake in the bucks! I’ll bet that brick wall of reality doesn’t sit well with most of them…

      And you are so right, it is a very different audience buying indies, a larger and more adventurous audience. The trick is to make yourself stand out in that sea of indies, many of whom have no idea what they’re doing, and drive readers away through their ineptitude. I’m taking the approach of “Here’s an inexpensive book. Try it, and when you realize what I have to offer, come back for more.” My guarantee to anyone who chooses to read me is that 1) I’ve put in all the necessary work to produce a quality read, and 2) I won’t stiff you on the price. I don’t have to; it costs me nothing to produce an e-book, why should I charge you like I’m selling an original Gutenburg Bible?

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m getting addicted to your insights. Time to start charging money for them soon…?

      Like

  2. It is wonderful that being indie allows you to choose the kind of statement that setting ALL your electronic works to .99 on Amazon makes. I respect that – and would never interfere with your right to do that. You’ve obviously thought a lot about it, and decided that it works for you.

    The thought, though, that everyone who is indie should do the same, because this is a ‘good thing,’ may be too radical for most indies, including me, who believe in different paradigms for setting our own prices.

    My own solution, for myself, is to make it as widely known as I can that if you want to read my debut novel, and find it too expensive for your tastes, all you have to do is ask me for a review copy – and the reviews are optional (though welcome). This also gets around the fact that I’m exclusive on Amazon in KDP, because I have review copies in the major electronic formats. The reviews would be nice.

    I only ask that you make a bit of an effort – including checking out the Look Inside chapters – so that I know you are serious as a reader of mainstream fiction, because I’m tired of Romance readers who then complain, in low-rated reviews, that I’m not writing Romance. I’m not, and I tell them so right up front in cover, description, and sample chapters.

    This is my way of separating my small tribe (the fans who can’t wait for the next book, and like my way of putting things) from the larger contingent of people who load their Kindles up with free and .99 books – and don’t read them, or if they do, leave scathing reviews. My life is too short and painful and difficult for that.

    As always, YMMV.

    I salute you for your plan. May it prosper – I look forward to hearing about the results.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nor would I interfere with yours, or anyone’s. I should point out that everything in this blog is my own opinion. Below this rant over pricing, I promoted an e-book that the author is charging £5.99 for, which off the top of my head is eight to nine dollars. Obviously, given what I wrote above, I’ll never read it, but you might want to, and if you do, I haven’t censored it.

      I would like to see consumers band together on something, anything, and say “we aren’t paying that!” If we could get this organized, cheap, fatty ground beef wouldn’t be $7.00 a pound. But I’m not the organizer, nor am I a crusader, and this post marks the only time I expect to talk about this unless I’m specifically asked.

      I am not a big fan of mainstream fiction, if that’s defined as fiction traditionally published by a major house. Just like movies, the Big Five have demonstrated a paralyzing fear of anything original, and are slavishly dedicated to reproducing the Last Big Thing. I have no interest in the last big thing, so I read indies. These are the writers who are out there past the edge of the map opening up new worlds for exploration and colonization. I know that when I read an edgy new work by a C.W. Hawes or a William J. Jackson, for example, it will be ten years before I see anything similar coming out of Putnam or Random House; at my age, I may not have ten years left to wait for them to catch up.

      What else? Oh, trolls. Trolls are everywhere, and they attack everybody. I haven’t been attacked yet, which proves nothing about what might happen in the next five minutes, but I guarantee you that for every troll who attacks me over my “cheap” books, there’ll be one to attack you for your “overpriced” ones. As to buying my book and not reading it, once a person lays his money down for a product, it’s his business what he does with it. I can’t worry about that; I’d never have time for anything else. Look, if I was making an extra $1,000 a month in book royalties, I probably wouldn’t be inclined to stop, but that isn’t what’s happening. I like to joke that one month my royalties paid for my internet service, but it really isn’t all that funny. My sole consideration is that if some reader somewhere likes my work and wants to read it, it is easily available to him with no parlor tricks nor hidden costs. The rest of that stuff is just background noise.

      I thank you for stopping by, and hope I have answered your concerns without being insulting. As I said, everything here is my opinion, and I have no desire to force it on anyone else. It’s just there for your consideration. I appreciate everyone who drops in the contribute to a meaningful conversation, and hope to see you back again soon! Have a great week…

      Like

      1. I wasn’t even arguing with you – just conversing. As I said, you have very good reasons for your choices.

        You did sound a bit frustrated with the indie world, and we both know how tricky getting discovered is.

        I’m hoping your strategy works, and will mention you to my other kids who ‘do’ steampunk. I sent the youngest one of your books – which I would happily have paid for, but didn’t charge me anything. Haven’t heard her response yet – when I get one, I’ll suggest reviews are nice.

        I like chatting, and echo chambers aren’t much fun, so call me on it if my disagreement isn’t respectful. Some of it comes down to the lack of ability to get all the nuances across in comments.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. No, Alicia, I don’t think you were arguing, and even if you were, an “argument” is an impassioned discussion; as long as it doesn’t drift into personal abuse, I’m all for it. You and your views are always welcome guests here, so please don’t be a stranger. I enjoyed our chat immensely!

    Like

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