Month: May 2012

My Novel Is Worth More Than John Locke’s Comb and a helluva lot more than the price of a downloaded iTunes song

Aside Posted on Updated on

This is a reprint of Rob Guthrie’s blog which is so right on! For all you new career author’s- the Kindle explosion is over.

“Fuck John Locke and Amanda Hocking for giving their crappy eBooks away for the price of that kind of toothbrush they offer you at a shitty hotel when you forget yours. You know the kind I’m talking about, where the plastic is so cheap and brittle if you actually try and scrub with it you might be killed when it bursts into a million little blood-red pieces of cheap shrapnel. All this so Locke and Hocking could make themselves a few million and leave the rest of us holding the money bags with the strips of cut-up newspaper in them.” ~Rob Guthrie

I have given up trying to tell this to new career authors who won;t listen to my advice anyway. Like college grads- they think they know it all. At least Rob Guthrie and I are on the same page on this. Never! Sell your books for less than the price of a song download on iTUnes. George RR Martin became so popular …with (Game Of Thrones) he had to up his ebook price on his new release to $14.00 Kindle ebook. Most new authors should start their pricing at $7.99 -$9.99 ebook. Since Apple doesn;t give authors a choice anyway but sets their own ebook pricing at $9.99 what does that tell you? Who’s gonna pay $9.99 for your ebook at Apple when you can buy it on Kindle for .99-cents? But, I give up trying to convince new authors. It’s like talking to a wall.

Thanks Rob Guthrie!

So here’s the blog. Maybe it’ll make sense to you new author’s that actually have a business background and not just pipe dreams.

Okay, this is it. The rant to end all rants. I’m warning you here. I’m done being nice. I’ve talked to too many Indie authors who feel the same way I do. I’m saying it. I have to say it. I hope all of you who feel the same as I do will rise up and have my back here. It’s gonna get bloody before it’s all through. It may be like my divorce—I may lose some comrades. I hope not. I am sick to death of this ride—I feel like we Indie authors have been led into a “funhouse” (which are no fucking fun at all: you fall down, look fat and distorted in the mirrors, and they put sticky stuff on the door handles) but we’ve been told how damn lucky we are to be where we are.

I’ve thought about it a lot, but yes, I am certain of it. I recently took a walk through the Dollar Store and saw a fairly standard, crappy hair pick priced at 99 cents. It’s been years since I had a perm (or hair) so I didn’t want the comb but I thought a lot at that moment about my novels. I thought about the durability of the piece of plastic before me.  I thought about the number of hours I put into writing the (almost) three books I have finished. That comb was pure junk. I thought about the person working on the assembly line in China making ten cents a day that may have assembled it, or at least put it in a package, and I felt for them, too.

Then I went home and read about a new book by A.J. Jacobs (Drop Dead Healthy, Simon & Schuster). The suggested retail price for the new hardcover is $26.99. No one is selling it at that price, of course. Amazon has the hardcover for $15.91 (which is pretty amazing because the KINDLE version is $12.99). I have to admit I did wonder a bit about how cool it would be to have Simon & Schuster after my book title. {Pathetic sigh}

Then I thought about that crappy little comb again, and besides being pretty pissed off by that point, I was also still pretty sure my books are each worth more than that chunk of crap. (The comb, not Jacobs’ book.) I did, however, look at Jacobs’ new book again. I like A.J. He writes a lot of stuff for Esquire and he is funny as hell. But he’s not exactly a household author name, like Stephen “I can type the letter ‘Z’ ten million times in a row and as long as they form paragraphs, my publisher will print it and charge you $20, no questions asked” King.

Yet still I wondered. Is A.J. Jacobs sixteen times the writer I am? (Okay, in Kindle math, thirteen times the writer?)

Value. Worth. It’s gotten all screwed up in the book market somehow. Well, not “somehow”—we’ll look at that in a moment. But first I want you to look at the McDonald’s Dollar Menu. I am pretty certain my books are each a far better experience (and last a helluva lot longer) than one hash brown, a SMALL McCoffee, a McChicken sandwich, or a side salad.

One. Side. Salad.

At McDonald’s.

I ordered from Pizza Hut the other night. I don’t even like Pizza Hut all that much and neither does my wife, but they are the only place that delivers where we live. We got a medium pizza that would arrive as soggy as if it’d been steeped in milk by the time it reached us. We received a side of mozzarella sticks that had congealed into mini nunchucks and some chicken wings I prayed repeatedly actually came off a bird resembling a chicken.

Before tip? $24.00. (No, I didn’t use a coupon.)

In the world of books (particularly digital ones) these concepts have become worse than distorted. The market has gone all the way to demented. Fuck John Locke and Amanda Hocking for giving their crappy eBooks away for the price of that kind of toothbrush they offer you at a shitty hotel when you forget yours. You know the kind I’m talking about, where the plastic is so cheap and brittle if you actually try and scrub with it you might be killed when it bursts into a million little blood-red pieces of cheap shrapnel. All this so Locke and Hocking could make themselves a few million and leave the rest of us holding the money bags with the strips of cut-up newspaper in them.

Have you written a book? I mean all the way to the end? Edited it, start to finish? Rewritten it? Published it? How much time did it take you? How hard was it? How much marketing does it take you to sell even one copy? Is your book any good? Even halfway decent?

Are you tired of the implication that your product is worth less than a dollar per unit? Well you can start your objections by not elevating John Locke and Amanda Hocking to the level of book market (and, perish the thought, author) deities. They didn’t do anything good for you. In fact, they are the King and Queen of 99-Centville, and it’s a pretty shitty place to live.

Oh, and another thing you can do? You can refuse to buy any more 99 cent books AND refuse to price your hard piece of work at that ridiculous amount just so you can see a few more sales.

A fellow writer said the other day “I want the kind of readers who are willing to pay $3.99 for a book.”

So do I.

Another writer told me her friend said “tell me when your book is either free or 99 cents and I’ll pick up a copy.”

It’s ludicrous, people. I mean stark raving mad running-through-the-streets-in-a-thong-with-a-blood-drenched-meat-cleaver nutzoid.

Let’s say you still aren’t convinced how badly the world of literature has been ruined by this new-age complete devaluation of your art. Here are a few comparisons to whet your intellectual disdain:

Look, if we are talking about the Sudan, I understand the dire worth of a gallon of milk (even a non-organic one). But this is America. Sorry, but it is. And I know guys who guzzle a gallon of milk after a workout. Here’s another one:

Of course, as I mentioned, we are in America, the kind of place where someone like me still owns a V-8 pickup truck, soooo:

Is it starting to sink in? I wish I could somehow substitute copies of YOUR book instead of mine. It’s painful. It SHOULD be painful. Such devaluation is almost unheard of. Honestly I cannot think of one other product that has been so completely devalued and the instigators of the devaluation lauded like heroes. It’s ridiculous. Amazon didn’t offer to publish your book free of charge because of either John Locke or Amanda Hocking. Those two simply decided to show that they could sell hoards of books at 99 cents apiece. Here’s the funny math they used:

When the Wall Street Marauders and Bankers figured out a way to make billions by falsifying loan applications and ultimately devalued our homes by, say, 30%, most of us would have been just fine with a return to pitch fork mob rule. String those greedy bastards up. We didn’t applaud them because they figured out a way to get rich quick. Sure, Locke, Hocking, and a few other Indie authors got filthy rich by lowering the value of a book to that of a plastic comb, proving they could sell millions of them at that price. WORSE, a whole other couple million Indies bought their “how-to” books (either of which should have been titled How I Devalued The Entire Book Industry And Got Filthy Fucking Rich In The Process—sequel to which is How I Forever Changed The Book Price Point So Books Remain Worthless).

Let me ask you a question: if I could come up with a car that didn’t handle as smoothly as your average sedan, didn’t have any luxuries—bare bones—but it could drive you to work and I didn’t need to make any money at all so I sold these cars for a crisp $20 bill, you think I could sell a million cars? Aha, you say, but the only ones who would get screwed in THAT deal would be the lousy auto manufacturers! Well guess what all the readers who work as executives for Ford and Dodge and GM are saying about this little snafu in the book industry?

Screw it, that only hurts those BOOK MANUFACTURERS, oh, I mean AUTHORS.

It’s our industry, folks. And no, I’m not laying 100% of the blame on John Locke or Amanda Hocking. But they deserve a lion’s share. What concerns me more is that we elevate them and emulate them and price our books at 99 cents.

It’s a tragedy. My books are far better than that. They are not 15, 16, or 17 times less valuable than any other author out there, I can guarantee you that. And yes, raising my book price to that of a latte has cost me sales. But I don’t want readers who only put a value of a book at 99 cents, and neither should you. I’ll wait it out. Keep writing great books. Keep them at fair “Indie” prices. No, I absolutely do not expect a reader who does not know me to pay the same for my book as one by Stephen King. But they can pay 33% the cost. I think a 66% markdown from Stephen King is fair.

So I’m sticking to my guns. I’ll wait it out. I’m building a brand here, and I don’t want my brand viewed as the Daihatsu of books.

If you brand it well, they will come.

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The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.

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