Pages Navigation Menu

Why do you want lower ebook prices?

Posted on 17 Aug, 2014 | 0 comments

As many of you know, I follow stories and read articles written about publishing (and writing). I pay special attention to the stories like, “James Patterson: If I were Amazon’s Jeff Bezos,” (which you can find at http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/07/opinion/patterson-if-i-were-jeff-bezos/index.html?iref=allsearch). After reading the article (any article) I find the comments are often more insightful about how people feel regarding the issue than the article.

So far I’ve discovered a reality about ebook readers who comment that seems sadly (at least to me) universal. They don’t value story. They don’t value quality. They don’t care about anything but price. Very few have bothered to educate themselves about the costs that go into producing a book, ebook or audiobook.

The arguments that I see over and over again in the comments are that, ‘data is nearly free’ and that, ‘…it costs less then $0.01 to make an ebook…’ or that, ‘all costs in book production have to do with printing, shipping and storage.’

According to the majority of ebook readers commenting it appears that they see no value in the author’s time, having a work curated (quality/writing level established), editing (any form of), layout & design, cover art, nor even in the storage of files. The only thing they appear to value is the cost to them. Basically an ebook is barely given the value of the weight it possesses in the physical world.

It’s actually taken me some time to accept this about the majority of ebook readers/writers commenting. I don’t believe they all feel this way. I don’t believe that book readers feel this way. But I am now accepting that the majority of people commenting do feel this way.

When I bring up the cost of editing, I’m called elitist. If I try to talk about curation (quality/level of writing coupled with suitability of subject) I’m called a snob and much worse. Just try and talk about punctuation, wow! The fact that all these factors are about the ability of the author to communicate effectively to their desired audience means nothing.

The fear that Amazon’s approach to books would devalue story has come to pass. After all, anyone can run a marathon and anyone can write a book (thanks to writing programs you can write several books a week). Anyone can upload anything and anyone can pay for 5 Star Reviews (I’ve got an offer in my inbox when I started writing this article). The writer of today doesn’t need to know grammar and punctuation, forget editing or even how to spell. And if you want to be a successful ebook author all you need are deep pockets…

Actually this is nothing new. Lets be honest, vanity presses have existed and do exist, but no one takes a vanity author seriously. Why? Quality. I’m not saying that all vanity published authors do not produce quality work, only the majority don’t. But currently the argument appears to be that when it comes to ebooks the reader should curate, edit and pay for the privilege of doing so.

Oh, and the biggest argument and the one that has me flummoxed is being made by people who have the most to gain by not having more competition, especially from people with edited, curated and polished works. If, over all, an author produces a superior product (sorry, the ability to communicate effectively counts as higher quality) why would you want such next to your (developing—I’m making the assumption that the majority who have read this far are working on improving their craft) work? If you’re priced lower, then according to your own arguments, you’ll get more sales. That is, unless the consumer can get a better product for the same amount.

The content creator (that’s the person writing) gets a benefit from higher prices from the curated works. Only the content provider gets a benefit from having better work available. So having lower ebook prices of higher quality work is not in the writers best interest but certainly is in the case of the distributor (and that isn’t just Amazon).

If people are reading your work and you’re working to improve your quality or you started with a high quality product, then you win again with having your product priced lower. So I’m confused, but I’m confused about a lot of things.

If I thought that way that most of the commenters appear to think and I were (and I am) one of the majority of ebook authors who don’t make enough on my ebook sales to buy a cup of coffee (tea in my case) then I definitely would want less competent competition (As far as I’m concerned, as long as people are reading in the genres I write, I gain market because people read more than one book a year and more people reading means a larger market, but that’s me).

Hey, keep writing, keep working on craft because a lot of readers really do care!

 

Re-Value(ing) Words

Posted on 28 May, 2014 | 0 comments

I’ve been following the demise of the written word for some time now. It’s taking place primarily through one of it’s main forms, story. The ‘story’ can be housed in either a physical or electronic form.

The first step was to remove the value of story by converting story to a widget. Of course, those of you with like minds who have been watching the drama might say that it already happened, but I will argue that no, it hasn’t, not truly. I do admit we’re on the cusp. The quality of story has definitely overall plummeted—but it is not yet gone. I will also argue that unlike other things (like butterflies) that once gone we can not bring back, story will always be with us so long as we are human.

The changing of the form from a physical to electronic medium allowed value to be moved from story (content) to the medium. Altering medium also made the switch to something of intrinsic value with a long life and small environmental footprint to a product that is a short life consumable with a very large environmental footprint and for the first time the medium would require constant input, further increasing it’s already outsized environmental costs.

Since the value is now the medium, content has become a secondary factor, hence it plummeting quality. Content has also become a huge income stream for the main players in the drama.

What one party will view as a strength, others view as weakness. This truth is never more realized than with the two mediums that now deliver story.

For the physical, it’s physicality gives it permanence which is seen as a strength by many. From the tree farms to the environmentally biodegradable inks, glues and local printing it takes physical space. Story in this form delivers jobs, green space primarily used by wildlife between cutting and planting and is itself a carbon sink, but that very physicality requires space. Space to grow the trees, to grow the plants that produce the inks, to process it in environmentally regulated production facilities.

The physical has weight, volume. It takes up space in your life. The physical is also fixed. Its form once created exists unchanging. I would argue it’s main value is not in its decomposable matter, but that it is unchanging. That it will be almost five hundred years before those reading the story in todays’s language would need help deciphering it. That if hidden away, the physical could be rediscovered and thus story remains.

Point of view is everything. The space needed to produce the physical can be turned to much more profitable intensive monocultures, be reutilized for resource extraction or consumed for some other uniquely human need. The factories are highly regulated, thus have limited profitability, moving them to less regulated areas where the damage can go unnoticed by the consumer is SOP found in any corporate manual.

The new medium by contrast is primarily created in such a way that the consumer can easily ignore it’s production costs. The medium is heavily wrapped in marketing to discourage scrutiny. To further draw attention from its constant cost to the consumer (through power use) catch phrases like dead tree are used to throw aspersions onto the physical form.

The biggest change is that the medium’s nature means that story suddenly is not permanent. Some argue that this is the best feature of the medium, the ability to change story with a stroke of a few keys. To alter meaning, shorten length, remove or adjust language within story, thus finally making story a true widget and completely adjustable to market pressures from the bottom up, top down or other financial motivation. There has been surprisingly little upset with this feature of the medium, even as it is employed by schools, religious groups and corporate governments. Consumers will adjust to almost anything if the changes are instituted in small enough increments. Now that the consumer is becoming conditioned to these aspects of the medium, continuing alterations to direct consumer behavior and expectations is and will give those in control of the medium tremendous influence.

There are also three connectivity areas to consider. The first is access to power, should it be limited or halted for any reason, the medium has only a short period of time before a power source must be located. The constant use of power is a revenue stream meaning that story is finally a true consumable. The second is that the medium must connect to a source of content. Managing content, owning content, supplying content are all highly valuable areas that allow access for media exploitation. Medium obsolescence is the third and though not considered as important as other areas, it will drive device value and consumption.

The medium’s main benefits are it’s ability to carry vast numbers of stories, it’s lack of physical space and weight and it’s ability to adjust font size. It’s environmental footprint aside, the medium allows many who struggle with the reality of the physical form to enjoy story.

For those of us who love words, that believe in an intrinsic value to story, who do not believe that story can be just another widget, we must act. We buy the world we and our children will live in. When we buy the physical story, we must spend wisely and only on those products that are produced in a biologically sustainable manner, created by environmentally regulated industries, supplying jobs in locally, not globally—where costs are so easy to hide—locations. When we use medium to consume story, we must buy quality over quantity, for we are investing in the value of the work that created story. Always be vigilant that medium doesn’t control story, that the story’s core is not compromised for the medium. When a particular story moves you so much that its physical presence is something you want, read deeply. Compare. If we love story, if words have value that is not tied to a dollar sign then we must guard against censorship in all its forms.

 

Posted on 12 Jun, 2013 | 0 comments

Gratuitous sex scenes (or violence, or action, or vampires, or zombies – sell )—especially kinky sex SELLS, right?

 

No, not really, or not as much as one would hope. Oh you’ll make a few sales, you’ll give away a lot of freebies and you’ll get a lot of snickers, but lets be serious, you’re not going to sell a lot of books.

Really? Fifty Shades, ha! Gotcha!

Yes, I’m thinking of 50 Shades, too. First let me say congratulations to anyone who writes and finishes not one, but three books. Edits them, submits, markets and works hard getting their product and name out there. The author E. L. James got people reading and did the near impossible, she sold enough books to retire.

But lets talk about the sex. In the first book, the only real character growth seemed to revolves around the sex scenes (I didn’t finish the first book, but I know many people who did). Friends keep trying to give me the copies they either were given as gifts or bought. Most of whom didn’t finish (or even start) the third book. I found that odd, if you’re invested in the characters, don’t you want to see how the story arc ends? So I asked, and the answer was almost always that the sex got in the way, or that the sex scenes were getting silly, or (the one that really surprised me), the sex was really turning the reader off.

Think about that last one: the sex was turning the reader off. So be careful. The last thing any writer wants to do is turn the reader off.

I believe that any gratuitous scene regardless if it’s sex between two hot lovers or sexy alien vampire zombies looking for love while only wearing latex—if it’s gratuitous, it needs to be cut, period (or put aside and published under a nom de plum).

When you write a sex scene you are showing your character exposed—emotionally, mentally and physically. Does the arrogant, assertive man become submissive, frightened because he’s afraid of rejection, lover? Does the caring man become almost violent? Does the passive, kind woman suddenly pull out a whip or ask to be spanked? Does the ‘wild’ tattooed girl want to cuddle, speaking sweat nothings, full of gentle caresses?

If you include a sex scene it must carry for many readers more weight than a fight scene, or even dialogue in an argument. We, the readers want more than just exposure to an intimate moment, we want to be in the moment, feel the contradictions, learn about the characters. We expect something to be revealed and at the same time to be emotionally drawn in. If the scene is supposed to be sexually stimulating, then we expect it to stimulate us (just like any emotionally charged scene), if it’s supposed to bring up fear, nervousness, danger, etc., then we expect to feel those emotions.

The simple truth is that writing a good sex scene is in many ways harder than writing a good fight scene. Sex scenes should be layered (don’t be too obvious). We should be getting to know the characters in an unshielded intimate way—so a very big WARNING to you new at this. The fastest way to lose readers is a bad sex scene.

I’ll repeat this because it bears repeating—the fastest way to lose your readership is with bad sex scenes. Most people will forgive a bad fight scene, poor spelling, even flat one-dimensional characters as back ups for your mains, but if you mess up a sex scene, so long.

Don’t believe me? Look at sales of books that include a lot of gratuitous sex scenes, poorly done sex scenes, flat, boring, tab A into slot B, scenes (or violence, or car chases, etc.). So master the finesse, the titillation—think impact. Work in layers. Use all your characters’ faults, charms, fears and wants, especially the driving force that keeps them in motion. Do that, and people won’t be turned off but turned on to your writing.

Mediterranean Fish Stew

Posted on 16 May, 2013 | 0 comments

Mediterranean Fish Stew

    • 4 fish fillets (no bones) cut into bite sized pieces

 

  • 30 ml (2 table spoons) olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion (can be a red onion)
  • 1 can tomatoes 796 ml  (28 fl oz)
  • 2.5 ml (½ tsp) hot pepper flakes
  • 125 ml (½ cup) chicken broth
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) thyme
  • Salt and Pepper

 

Heat oil in medium-high heat, toss in onions, hot pepper and garlic (you can leave the cloves whole if you want, I like them chopped with ¼ tsp salt).

Once onions soften, add tomatoes (500 ml or 2 cup home canned is good, if whole chop  (preferred) or crush).

Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, then add your chopped fish (I like haddock, basa or any white fleshed fish). Cook for another 1 to 4 minutes (until the fish chunks are cooked).

Serves 2 easily, can serve 3, should serve 4.

Substitutions: to make special, use white wine instead of broth, add 5 ml (1 tsp) of spicy basil or oregano.

Add Sizzle – Not Fizzle: Using Erotic Elements in Your Fiction

Posted on 29 Apr, 2013 | 0 comments

Add Sizzle—Not Fizzle: Using Erotic Elements in Your Fiction, is a writer’s free class I’m facilitating at the Selkirk library (Red River North Library) in Selkirk on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, from 6 pm till 8:30 pm.

Yes, you can come out, have a coffee, or tea and watch my face turn red as we explore the fact that sex sells. Good sex that is, even if it has to be bad, you still have to write it well!  This will be an interactive discussion, with lots of time for questions. You are welcome to bring a piece you’re working on.

Tyra’s Rant

Posted on 11 Feb, 2013 | 0 comments

What I’ve Learned so far…

The biggest strength of self-published authors, are self-published authors. The biggest weakness of self-published authors? You guess it, self-pulished authors. It’s far to tempting to hit ‘publish,’ when you should be developing your craft. Living in an instant world, it’s so easy to develop a sense of, even an expectation for, immediate success. Sadly, in the real world, success comes with work. Most of those overnight success we hear about? Well, they took an average of 10 years.

Why have I put off printing more books or creating ebooks of my current novels? Because I’m learning the ropes of e-marketing and trying to create the best products I can. By taking time and not rushing, my hope is to get known for quality. You know quality? Using the right word. Checking grammar. Reading my work out loud. Having others critique the work. Studying, reading, editing, reading, editing…learning the craft. Do I expect perfection? No, but it’s a good thing to try. Just to make it clear, for those of you who don’t know, taking the time isn’t just a sign of respect for the craft but also for your readers. If you care enough to give them characters they can care about, they just might care enough to give you their time.

For me, the other issue in delaying has been trying to understand the system that’s evolving, or least be comfortable stepping into the pool. So what have I learned so far:

 

  • Printed books boost online sales & generate more income
  • Cover is critical: it must grab attention from thumbnail to 6×9 size (on a white background)
  • Online sales boost print sales & generate more exposure
  • Bookmarks must be striking, are cheap even printed both sides & are better than business cards for promoting an author (if beautiful & quality, people keep them)
  • Have your covers on your bookmarks, go with larger bookmarks, make sure your website url is there
  • Local indie bookstores tend to be your best promoters
  • Small local papers, schools & libraries love authors
  • Radio interviews generate more sales than print ads
  • You should record positive feedback from readers & put it on your author site & your posters
  • Posters are cheap but print them with a lot of room so that you can write in dates, locations & put them up the week before you do a signing
  • Plan trips, weekends, etc., around promoting your book (you’d be amazed at the festivals, etc., within an hour or five from where you live)
  • Don’t expect to get rich (most overnight success stories involving authors took ten years to happen)
  • There’s a market for quality books & ebooks (grammar, spelling, consistency, etc., will do more for your career than speed or ideas) & there are a lot of refuse containers for the rest
  • If you’re not selling have an independent person take a serious look at your product

 

There’s an old saying, to have career as a writer you need two out of three things, skill, imagination and luck. I wish you what every two you need, keep writing & reading.