Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Pricing Debate on eBooks Continues

My thoughts on the whole subject sparked some more debate on the topic on various boards.  One of the more interesting things I noticed was that some readers are liable to spend more on books written by independent authors over those published by the major publishing houses.  They seem to understand that the indie authors struggle more, and therefore are "voting with their dollars."  They also are willing to pay a little more for those books.  Again, understanding the finances involved in being an independent author.  Granted, there are those who think the eBooks should all be .99 cents or free, and they are quick to point out that there are authors who make quite a bit of money selling for .99 cents.  That is true, but it is not the norm.

The eBook marketed is flooded.  It is hard for authors who aren't well known to get their work out there to be seen.  Self-promotion only goes so far, but word of mouth can work wonders.  That word of mouth can also drive sales despite whatever the price.

Amazon and Smashwords have it right.  Letting authors set the price sets up a situation much like eBay.  It is what the market can handle, and it is fluid.  If an author has found she has priced to high, she can lower it, and vice versa.  A good book is going to sell regardless ... if people know about it.  That, over pricing, is the key to selling books.

The market is still new enough that pricing will work itself out and a happy medium will be found.  While that happens, authors have to find a way to make their work stick out over all the other eBooks out there.  The playing field has been somewhat leveled, with authors now being able to get their books out there without the aid of a publisher.  Getting the rest of the world to see your book is the real challenge, and it looks to be that way for quite some time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pricing eBooks

The topic of the pricing of eBooks came up on a board I regularly post on.  Chiefly, why are eBooks so expensive?  There is, of course, a lot of different factors that go into this sort of thing.  Who has the rights?  Who must get paid?  So on and so forth.  It's the same thing that dictates every purchase one makes (unless, of course, you're one of those filth who believes you should just be able to exploit artists because they are there). 

The pricing of my short stories and Nothing Men was something I put a lot of thought into.  I put a lot of research into the novel (most writers do).  I had delved into everything from old gas pumps to Native American tanning techniques and was privy to some of the grimest footage anyone can imagine.  (A refrigerator filled with body parts and a several bins filled with the pieces of one man are two that stick out.  For the icebox, I'm not talking like a few feet in Dahmer's apartment.  I'm talking "packed" with discoloring limbs.)  The amount of research I put into it, though, wasn't going to play into my pricing.  This was something I did to make the story the best I could. No.  One question came up time and time again as I pondered a price.

What is fair?

What would I pay for the work?  Taking myself out of the equation and looking at it honestly, what would I pay?  I'm not an unknown in the world of publishing, but nor am I Clive Barker.  With that in mind, what can I reasonably ask for without sounding like a total dick.  And that's how I arrived at my pricing.  (Ironically, I sold more copies of Nothing Men, which you can purchase to the right of the screen, when it was full price.  I had briefly put it on sale as a special to some board readers and sold not a single copy.  Pricing most likely has less to do with a buying decision than one thinks.)

I think my prices are reasonable.  The works don't sell as well as I'd like, but I think that has little to do with pricing and everything to do with word of mouth.  There are a lot of eBooks out there.  Making mine stand out in a crowd has been difficult to say the least.  I have it available for ever eReader now, but the competition is fierce.  Standing out amongst the Young Adult vampire tales is a tough thing, especially when I write about subject matter that is a bit more hostile than what the average reader is used to taking in.  There is a market for it, though, including a few I didn't know existed (Brits who have a fetish for starving women, for example). 

I do think some eBooks are vastly overpriced.  I also think some are underpriced, as well (a complaint you don't often hear).  If authors had a little more confidence in their work, that could change, but the key point must remain relevant:  What is fair?  If you stick to that, you can't go wrong.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Personality Goes a Long Way

Boy howdy does it!  The proof?  Florence Littauer's seminal Personality Plus (found on at my job for free, but a price sticker on its cover indicates someone got it for a mere .30 cents).  I tried to find an image of the edition I have online (with its lovely photo of the author), but it wasn't happening.  I then tried to take a picture of it with my phone.  If you don't see the photo here it is because my phone's personality is out of whack.

This book promises you "how to understand others by understanding yourself."  And to make sure you are getting your .30 cents worth, it includes a "Personality Profile Test!"  Now I know what you are thinking.  Why on Earth would anyone need this book?  I was thinking the same thing until I read the back cover.  Then it became perfectly and painfully clear.  Everyone needs this book!

"Are you the life of the party ... or do you refuse to be 'caught dead' at one?  Do you get along with everyone ... or wish that everyone would just move along?  Do you push people into doing what you want ... or do you need a big push to get moving?  If the answer to any of these is yes, then Personality Plus has the help you need to understand yourself and others better."  Well shit the bed!  Littauer has hit the nail on its pretty little introverted head.  This "lighthearted examination" is going to show readers how to get along with others, a skill not learned in school or in the home.  Thank goodness such a heady and decidedly dicey topic can be covered in a "lighthearted" way in a mere 188 pages.

Or should I thank God?

Littauer's book makes a lot of promises, but none is as ominous as this one.  "Florence Littauer shares amusing anecdotes and wise insights that will give you an appreciation of God-ordained personality differences."  I wonder which personality difference God ordained unto child-killer and cannibal Albert Fish.  Perhaps it is covered in the chapter "Let's Have Fun With the Sanguine."  Perhaps not.

Sprinkled throughout the chapters, personality deprived readers will encounter stories that seem to be plainly made up.  "One day as I was driving down the freeway with my Melancholy [sic] son, Fred, I noticed all the bankings were covered with bright, white daisies.  'Look at those beautiful flowers!' I exclaimed.  As Fred turned, his eyes fell on a large weed and he sighed, 'Yes, but look at that weed.'"
I don't think that really happened.

The end of the book, which assures us that we are all unique blends who don't like to be fenced in, has quotes from the Bible and an interesting chapter on Eugenics.  I'm kidding on that part.  I wanted to see if everyone was still reading.  Though, honestly, I could easily see this "lighthearted" romp through the many facets of personality (broke into just a few groups here) easily be turned into something more sinister.  I have found, through scientific study, that 188 pages is precisely what you need to cause a person to turn against another ethnic or religious group.

The bottom line is: If you have turned to this book in order to understand yourself or others better, you're already in a lot of trouble and this book won't help.  It's not nearly enough pages to get you out of the swamp you are in.  I'm sure church groups loved it and chuckled at the stories, true or not.  Reality is far harsher mistress, however.  And I don't think there's a Bible quote for that.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Assimilation In Four, Three, Two ...

Later this month AK Press is publishing Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform.  I'm getting it as part of the Friends of AK Press program, and it is a subject I've been interested in for a while.  Why would a group so generally despised and misunderstood want to conform to society's norms so badly?  It obviously goes well beyond equal rights (you can still have equal rights without having to adopt the values of society as a whole), and I want to know what drives that.  Is it that most people, no matter what their particular bent, have a desire to conform?  Is it a bit of self-loathing that manifests itself after years of being told you are inferior and an aberration?  Is it that 95% of the population is just idiotic?  It's a fascinating subject, and I'm glad AK Press is tackling it, though I'm sure it will cause a bit of a controversy.

I don't know what directions the book will take (and it is an anthology, so expect the usual variants in quality), but my guess is that the question of why many homosexuals feel the only safe route to take is one where you mimic heterosexual culture in every way you can -- marriage, children, voting Republican -- may be delved into and taken to task, and that is something that needs to be done.  In the span of history, the modern gay rights movement is fairly young, and it has come a long way, but there are factions within it that seem to have forgotten what was being fought for, and I think this may be the book that helps set the record straight -- no pun intended. 

Like many AK Press books, I probably won't be reading it as soon as it arrive in my PO box, but when I do, you can expect a review here.  In the meantime, I advise anyone with at least a passing interest in the subject to check it out ... as I predict this tome is going to get a lot of press in all the right places.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Culture of Idiocy

From the back of The Culture of Terrorism: "The exposure of the lies and corruption surrounding Iran/contra dealings in early 1988 finally revealed to the world the means by which US administrations have used the state apparatus to organise a clandestine network of global terrorism."  After picking up the book, which I was reading but had set aside, the person read the back and asked, "So you want to learn how to be a terrorist?"

Seriously.  That was the question?

How can one read the book description and think that Noam Chomsky's work is a handbook on how to be a terrorist?  Where does that even come from?  What words were in that paragraph that would lead anyone to believe such a thing?

My response was, "I already know how to do that.  I want to see how the pros do it."  What else could I say?  Anything I said would be unheard anyway.  If someone isn't going to pay attention to a description they just read, they sure as hell aren't going to listen to whatever answer I have to offer, so why bother trying to enter into a debate or even take the question seriously?  Exercises in futility are not sins, but they should be.  Frankly, even if the person hadn't read the book's description, the title in no way says that it is a how-to manual.

Lesson learned on that cloudy day?  If you read a book like this in public, be prepared for people to think you are a terrorist in training.  Don't try to explain any differently, either, as it is highly unlikely they will accept your answer.  How did this guy respond to me?  He just nodded his head and went on with his business.  Seems about right.
Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this book, and if you click the link to order it, I may earn a commission.