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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Writing…for Money or Love?

Writing...for Money or Love?
Anyone who writes because they must write will pour time, love, guts, and a lot of tears into it. We crawl right into our plots and wring life out of our characters, wrestling them to the ground, fighting to the death. And, there is nothing we adore more than our readers.

We LOVE writing, we breathe it, and for many authors, me included, writing full-time is the dream for which we strive. If only it were that easy…

Writing is hard. Publishing is harder.
The industry is changing at a record pace. As more and more writers flood the market, it gives readers a lot more choices of lower priced books. This should be a good thing; a great thing! But, it also makes it more difficult for career authors to make it. Competition has become more fierce and readers harder to attract. The market is much more fragmented.

Books are like diamonds...
Diamonds are precious. To the ferocious reader, lover of literature, new writer and career author, books are even more valuable!

Let’s compare editing to polish, page count to carat weight, plot to brilliance, and grammar/punctuation errors to inclusions. It would be crazy to expect to buy a flawless one-carat diamond with excellent cut, and the brilliance of a millions stars for the same price as a half-carat diamond that is cloudy with inclusions, has asymmetrical cut and low sparkle. Right? In books, it’s not so clear. Is a longer, professionally edited book with a gripping plot, worth more to readers than a short, more lack-luster story, littered with distracting errors?

Value is not the same thing as price.
The value of a dollar in the virtual book world doesn’t seem to have equal weight when compared to other, more tangible things in our physical world. Take a cup of coffee, a pedicure, or a movie, for example.

Plotting and crafting a good story takes time, love, dedication, and commitment to both your characters and your readers… It’s a relationship; it takes trust. You trust writers to give you their best, and they trust you to invest your time and money in their words. Publishing a quality book isn’t just about the writer and the reader. It involves professional editing; cover artists, cover-models, photographers, formatters, and booksellers. After publishing, it takes advertising, social-media, publicists, and travel to book signings, giveaways, postage and swag.

I don’t like writing this article. I don’t want my readers thinking about any of this because I want to drag them into my pages and leave them there. At least, that’s what I try to do to. But… it’s important to understand why underpricing the final product could be detrimental to the long-term health of publishing and yes, the experience of reading.

I’ve posted this topic on my Facebook page and found that while many readers are willing to pay a fair price for a good book of appropriate length; there are those who refuse to pay more than $0.99 for eBooks (no matter the length). At that price authors only make $0.33. No, that isn’t a typo. We might be lucky to see $0.12 - $0.15 a copy, net. Staggering, isn’t it? Even if an author does incredibly well and sells, say 100,000 copies, (which is NYT Bestseller “good”), that equals only $33,000 before expenses and taxes.

Does that mean authors expect readers to go broke buying books?
Not at all. The economy is in trouble and practically everyone is struggling, but according to Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords.com, the majority of Indie books are priced no more than $3.99. Yet, deep discounts are more and more common and some authors come out of the gate on release day at $0.99. This might be great for ranking or gaining a few new readers, but it probably won’t build a career. It’s inevitable that many of the professional services we use to make our books the best they can be; get sacrificed.

The traditional Big Five publishers are also beginning to dive into the price war arena as they acknowledge the impact indie publishing has made. In most cases, traditionally published authors make even less per copy than those who publish themselves. Advances have decreased.

Not all one-clicks are created equal.
Remember those things I mentioned authors invest in to make their books shine? Not everyone does it, and so they can afford to price their book at Free or $0.99 more easily. Also, some books are full-length novels and some novellas or the new craze, the serials where one or two chapters are published at a time. Impulse one clicks may translate into a hundreds, even thousands, of books sold but are they being read? Readers compile hundreds of books on their Kindles and Nooks and they don’t get read for months, or more—maybe never. That’s heartbreaking; I don’t know any author who started writing so their book could be downloaded, but never read.

Case in point, when I released my second book in August of 2012, I put the first book in the series on Amazon’s KDP Select program, which allowed me to offer it for free for 5 days. Downloads began and at the time, I saw stars! 35,000 copies later… I grounded my expectation, telling myself that #2 would sell less; probably only about 25-30% of that number. It did, but it took a year.

What if the discount trend continues?
Readers will still have a ton of books to choose from, but it’s likely quality will suffer. Authors will put out fewer books because they have to work other jobs to make ends meet… some may stop writing all together.

So, readers, please be discerning. $3.99 is less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, yet it represents months, maybe years of the writer’s life, and as well as supportive editors, formatters, publicists, cover artists, etc.

The bright spot.
Readers have more choices than ever before! Most bookseller websites offer up samples of books that can be read prior to purchase. There is absolutely no risk to the reader. If readers take a little more time in choosing, they won’t waste money and maybe will discover an amazing book or new author they will come to truly love. I encourage readers to immerse themselves in the author and blogger community on social media! We do countless giveaways and contests where you can still win free books and great merchandise. It’s a lot of fun; you can meet your favorite writers, join book clubs and make loads of friends.

Lastly, I’m not implying that bargain books can’t be incredible or higher priced books will always be pristine; that’s far from true. Nor, am I saying occasional sales are the devil. They aren’t!

If you’re an author, please do it right or don’t do it. It’s more than sitting down for a week, banging out a story and hitting publish. Readers deserve your best effort.

If you’re a reader, I beg you to be picky about your reading material. You spend hours of your life invested with a book… you deserve to be transported into something amazing.

Write for love; not money…. And read for the same reason.

- by Bestselling Author Kahlen Aymes

Author Kahlen Aymes
Kahlen Aymes fell into writing by accident but discovered a deep love for it. She is an award-winning author of sizzling hot, deeply moving contemporary romance. Her books have reached #1 on Smashwords Bestseller List, #2 on Amazon Top 100 and #26 on Barnes & Noble Bestseller List. Her stories draw readers in and allows them to experience all of the love, passion and emotion her characters do! She lives near Omaha, Nebraska with her daughter, Olivia and their three dogs, and is the youngest of three siblings. Creative by nature, she enjoys the arts, music and theater, and has a BSBA in Business and Marketing from an ivy league university... She adores her readers, most of all!

Connect with the Author via Facebook or Twitter: @Kahlen_Aymes.


John Hoggard said...

Nice article. I'm sharing with my writer's group as we're a good mix for Traditional, Small Indie and Self Published writers.

Lorraine Devon Wilke said...

Excellent piece and important for indie writers to consider. I see all sorts of promotions for giveaways, 99¢, etc., and have often wondered what that's done to perpetuate a growing (and heinous!) idea that writers and writing have little monetary value in the marketplace. There's a tipping point we have to be sensitive to.

Unknown said...

Very well said. This trend of discounting books has led to discounting the author. What we do is valuable. It takes time and dedication to craft an engaging story. Would other artists or businesses expect their products to be deeply discounted?

What we do has value and merit. Our work is worth more than the price of latte!

Kahlen Aymes said...

Thank you all for your comments! <3

Unknown said...

Very good article. I've tweeted it and reblogged it.

I have to admit, I've never understood why people will willingly pay more for a coffee that's gone in minutes, than they will for a book that will last them hours/days.
I went the freebie route when I first published, thinking it was a good way to build up a readership but I learned - eventually - that too many people download lots of freebies and never get round to reading them.
Now I've got a few books at 99c to get people interested and the rest are priced more reasonably at $2.99, where I actually stand a chance of earning some money.

Patricia Moosbrugger said...

I heard Mark Coker speak a couple of weeks ago and, per his analytics, authors make the same on a $2.99 ebook as they do on a $10.99 ebook. Readers are much more willing to take a chance on a new author at the lower price point. He didn't mention what happens with the second book once you've secured all of those reader.

GreenProfit said...

I joined the Indie author NEVER FREE movement. I took the pledge, "Never Free." Repeat three times and keep your word. 99-cents at times, $3.99 mostly. Mitchener told a friend of mine he was making 5-cents on his first novel. We should be so lucky. On'Ya readers & writers.

Anonymous said...

Most authors who list their book at 99 cents to gain a following, list the next book at $2.99 and above. This is perfectly acceptable to me. We all work hard on our books and wish we could charge more but readers are reluctant to spend a lot on an unknown writer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach.

I am insulted by the insinuation that a lower priced indie book is a "short, more lack-luster story, littered with distracting errors". I've paid 7.99 and above for books that were not half as good as many of the books less that $3. And if "career authors" such as yourself have a problem with indie publishing practices, you'll have to learn deal with it because it's not going away. I plan to make a career of this. And we are not in competition with each other. I've yet to meet a reader who only buys one book.

Kahlen Aymes said...

You are twisting my words. I said all books are not created equal and that readers should be aware of the differences in reference to price. I say in the article, "not all 99 cent books are bad and not all 9.99 cent books are good." The point is to discriminate where to place your money and not buy on price alone. Of course we are in competition. That's a good thing. It gives readers choices and it makes writers better. I'm an INDIE author... AND a career author. Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

If I wrote fiction for money, I'd have quit like ten years ago. The point of writing is to tell a story, practice your art, and share it. IMHO, making money is a matter of luck. I LOVE to write and I HATE to write, which assures me that it is passion, but never because of money. I'm not saying I am opposed to making money off my art or that I never dream of being financially independent solely on writing novels or whatnot, but if money is the core motivation, this is where art just becomes another commodity or product with no unique value -- it's just a thing. My two cents. Good discussion.

Tammy J. Palmer said...

My goal isn't to get downloads it's to have people read and enjoy my work. I say it's better to price it a bit higher so that the people who buy it do so because they actually want to read it, not just add it to their collection. That's the plan anyway.

Shelbie Knight said...

Wonderful blog post! Thank you! =)

Kahlen Aymes said...

I think 2.99 is fine. If he is using Amazon's % that might be how. Amazon author makes 70% on 2.99 and 30% on 10.99. Amazon has a "sweet spot" they want books priced at. That is between 2.99-9.99. (Authors earn 70% there) Below that and above it, they earn 30%. UNLESS they are exclusive to Amazon.

Kahlen Aymes said...

Yay! Me, too!!

Kahlen Aymes said...

I also write because I LOVE it. As I begin my article.... but to be able to do what you love full time, you have to make enough to live on. Not millions.... just enough to live on. :)

Kahlen Aymes said...

I'm on that train with you. I also want people to enjoy my books. My rating on Amazon means more to me than number of copies sold!!! And I'm of the mindset that my books are worth more than a candy bar or cup of coffee... and if people don't think so, if I can't earn the price of my book with the book, then fine. But.... if we don't place value on our work... why should the readers. I loved your post!! 99 cent one clicks go unread most of the time.

Kahlen Aymes said...

Thank you!!

Kahlen Aymes said...

Well said. I think 99 cents conditions readers to only buy 99 cent books. :(

Kahlen Aymes said...

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Never Free
Never Free
Never Free

That goes for my photography as well !

Say NO to bad deals !
Do not feel bad or feel guilty for charging a fair price for your skills, equipment and overhead.
I know it is easier said then done by most artists.
Never Free! Find out your costs of doing business to pay yourself and your business. Set goals. Short range, medium range and long term. Don't be afraid to raise your rates.

Unknown said...

"If you’re an author, please do it right or don’t do it. It’s more than sitting down for a week, banging out a story and hitting publish. Readers deserve your best effort."
Exactly! Been saying this for years and it is one of the problems - so much sub standard writing being available amongst the finely-honed stuff. Thanks - excellent piece.

Anonymous said...

Free or 99c, I think writers and readers need to see that as a marketing tool, not a price point. I think that will work itself out in time. Meanwhile, I write for love. The money will come, eventually.

Anonymous said...

The trend toward shorter and shorter books so that the author can reasonably charge $4 has really turned me off to reading many of my once favorite authors. Longer books with quality stories and interesting characters and plots SHOULD be priced higher, and the reader should be able to tell the difference between something they can read in two hours and a journey that will take them a week of dedicated reading to enjoy. Sadly, price seems to be a driver today, so 300 pages and out is going to become more and more the norm.

Unknown said...

Very good post. As an author about to publish his first book, you have me reconsidering starting at $0.99 with the goal of garnering attention and ratings. I might go the $2.99 route and save the $0.99 for Boxing Day sales and... Ukrainian Christmas! ;) Thanks

www.roughwighting.net said...

Thanks for the great article. I've always denied myself the 'easy' way out by not offering a 99 cent e-book. Cheapens the book, and the author. We write the very best we can - so the reader wants to spend his/her hard-earned money on a good, well-written novel.

Rick said...

I write for the love of it. My goal and my dream is to share my world, my characters and my stories with those that may be able to relate to some of them. I don't have false delusions about making bucket loads, but if that happens as well, and it allows me more time to write, then who am I to argue? :)

Unknown said...

Really nice article, thank you very much for it! :)

Kahlen Aymes said...

In my humble opinion, FREE is better than 99 cents, because it's not "buying rank." Free lets readers try your work, etc, and then if they like you they expect to buy the rest. Constantly putting your work on sale or releasing at 99 cents, trains readers to wait for you to sell at 99 cents. They will never buy your books for more than that, if the see you release multiple books at a low price point. I have a marketing degree and I try to look at the big picture. This is a business, and gaining readers who will never buy your work at full price or who one click every 99 cent book out there just to have it sit on a Kindle unread, won't make author a success story. Until WE value our own work, we can't expect them, too. And you are dead right. Pricing is a marketing tool... occasional sales, one perm-free book, etc... not a business model.

Kahlen Aymes said...

I agree. Serials just make readers angry in many instances. They feel its milking them... and the serial novels are a result of the boost that authors get if they can manage to publish every 90 days on Amazon. (Amazon will promote prolific authors more on other "similar book pages.) It's all cause and effect.

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