Money meet mouth

One thing I’ve noticed since publishing a book that I think all aspiring writers should know and come to terms with is that many will congratulate you, but fewer will buy.

Don’t misread me; I’m not saying this bitterly. There are many legitimate reasons someone might not take the step to purchase your book even though when they hear you have one coming out, they say, “I can’t wait to check it out when it comes out” or when you bring out an eBook “I’ll get it when you bring it out in paperback” (and then when the paperback comes out, don’t purchase one.

  1. They’re trying to be polite: Maybe they genuinely feel happy for you that you’re publishing, maybe they don’t really care (in the way someone asks “how are you?” just as an automatic social convention — we all do this), but they say these things because those are the things to say. Like when someone runs into an old friend they haven’t talked to in ages and say, “We should get together for lunch sometime. I’ll call you,” and never call.
  2. They don’t read, or don’t like to read your genre: Maybe they used to but feel they don’t have the time anymore. Maybe they never liked reading, equating it with all the boring crap they were forced to read as a kid in school. Or maybe they only read autobiographies, or sports memoirs, or magazines. People’s reluctance to genre surprised me a little more with The Trident of Merrow, since it seems just about everyone loves pirate adventures. You can be sure I will not be so surprised when I come out with a YA paranormal with splashes of romance and don’t have all the 40 year old men at work clamoring to buy it.
  3. They don’t have the money or think your book is too expensive: The paperback of The Trident of Merrow is $15. I would have liked to make it about ten dollars less than that, but my hands were tied by the publishing solution Kris and I chose: Createspace is a print-on-demand, and due to the printing costs and other costs associated with the distribution channels we chose, the base price we were not allowed do drop beneath increased. $15 is actually not much higher than the base price of the most expensive channel (general market, where it will be available to everyone from Barnes and Noble to the Mom and Pop bookstore on Main Street to order for their shop). Our profit on a single book through that channel is less than a dollar. Any lower and we’d be owing them money, and I don’t want to find out how that works. I try to explain this to people when they boggle at the price, but this leads to the next point…
  4. If you’re really doing it “for the love” and not “for the money” like you say, they think you should be giving it away for free: I did, not with The Trident of Merrow but other stories. I had them posted online, free to read for anyone who stumbled across them. For years. Sure I got readers, but only a very specific kind: those who browse the internet looking for free fiction someone just posted up. There’s an assumption people make about stuff that’s free, too: that it’s worthless. If it was any good, you could charge for it. You must be giving it away because no one would pay for it. I want this to spread, because of the love and not the money, but it’s also true that people will snap something up if they perceive that it’s valuable. One author who published her eBooks on Kindle Direct Publishing said that when she charged 99 cents for her eBook, her sales were pretty low. When she raised the price to $2.99, people started buying it up. If people think something free is no good, they also at times assume that something higher priced must be good. It’s the confidence thing, I think.
  5. They would rather have it in another format: This I can understand. Though a lot of people are discovering the Kindle and other eReaders like it (and find themselves reading a lot more than before), many people are still resistant. No matter how cool and neat it is to have a tablet with eInk that is as easy on the eyes as print and gives the instant gratification of purchasing a book and having it right away, people love books for the tactile experience. I’m no exception, though with my sagging bookshelves I know it’s soon going to be a matter of space. But eReaders are still pricey, and the alternatives (on your PC, tablet, laptop, smartphone, etc) are no better than reading off a computer screen, which many of us do all day for our jobs. I figured once we came out with the paperback, we’d get many more takers, and it was true in terms of our close family, many of whom are older and not as into computers as we are in general. Then a friend of mine asked why don’t we do an audiobook? No need to hire an actor, we could stutter it out ourselves and put it on a site. For free download.
    I have to admit this was frustrating to me. I finally came out with a paperback and they still weren’t satisfied. And it hearkened back to item #4: give it away for free. I’m very sorry, but if I’m going to spend the time going hoarse putting out podcasts, I’d like a little compensation for my time. The fact that people can make donations doesn’t reassure me; we’ve all seen people still pirate things that are “pay what you want but pay something” because even a penny is apparently too much for them. Of course no one would buy an audiobook from me if I narrated it in my own halting, untrained voice.


The reassuring thing is that your real, true friends will buy copies, and those who can’t afford them will find a way to read it at least (I donated a copy to the local library so there’s always that). Those who are reluctant may eventually come around, or at least spread the word to their friends who might be interested. The bottom line is not to take it personally. Don’t feud with someone because they won’t buy your book. It’s difficult to think of it as business, since writing and publishing a novel is so personal, and their rejection feels like a rejection of you and all your hard work, but with some people it all comes down to where they want to put their money.


~ by Amber on September 25, 2011.

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