The Bitter Pill

Advanced Notice from Amazon re Merceds Lackey's new bookOne of the most confusing things about being an indie author is pricing your book. Quite honestly, if you price it too high–I probably won’t buy it unless you are my dear friend (don’t worry Tad Williams, I will sell my car to get your next book.)

For me, anything over $4.99 is too high, and $2.99 is the perfect spot. I love those $0.99 books too!

I am sorry, Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory–your publisher has priced you out of the ballpark for me–I read four to six books each week and will not be able to pre-order The House of Four Winds for my Kindle. In fact, at that price, I will have to wait until the paperback turns up at my local second-hand book store.

Don ValienteIn a recent post discussing Hugh Howey‘s report, Author Earnings: the Report, on her excellent blog, The Militant Writer, Mary Walters  boiled it down to manageable chunks and made a great many good points. One in particular is of great interest to those of us trying to choose a publishing path, and who may be wavering between going indie, or remaining on a traditional path. She writes:

  • Readers are not buying traditionally published e-books as frequently as they are indie published e-books, because indie-published books cost less. Therefore, traditionally published authors are getting read less often, and are making less money per book sold than indie authors are.

This is important news for traditionally published authors.

It is also important news for major publishers, who are going to lose their authors if they don’t smarten up.

We won’t go into the impact all this is having on good literature, but Howey believes that the data suggests that “even stellar manuscripts are better off self-published.”

Speaking as an author this is sad, because I am like everyone who writes a book, secretly hoping to get picked up by a big publisher. On so many levels that would be a great honor, to have my work recognized by an industry I have always respected. But when I look at this conundrum as a reasonable human being, no one wants to be tied the wheel and sold into eternal serfdom for the rest of their writing career. No one wants to be forced to write stale sequel after sequel, just because the first book rocked and now the series brand is a guaranteed sale for the publisher. Where is the joy of creativity in that?

wool by hugh howeyThis is where each author must make a key decision regarding what we will commit our energy to: Will we court the favor of an industry that has much to offer us, but expects to be paid in more than their pound of flesh? Or will we soldier on, trying to find that sweet-spot that Hugh Howey has found, and perhaps hit the big time through our own efforts?

I choose to follow in Mr. Howey’s footsteps. I haven’t been that successful yet, but what I earn is mine. I am the captain of my ship, and if I fail to navigate the shark-infested waters of publishing, at least I have given it my best effort. I will continue to price my books as reasonably as I can, and hope that with persistent efforts on my part, their sales will gain ground.

The harsh truth is that the big publishers are rushing to publish manuscripts by big name authors that are just as poorly edited and just as abysmally plotted as those in the $0.99 bin at How many paperbacks have you bought, gotten halfway through them, and said, “This is s**t!”… ?

I would rather pay less than $12.99 for that privilege, thank you.

George R.R.Martin formatting issue 3 via book blog page views, margaret ebyI find that traditionally published books are fraught with problems just as frequently as not, and it pisses me off, because the big publishers LOUDLY proclaim their quality is superior, when time has proven it is not necessarily so. This is why I go to the secondhand bookstore for the traditionally published books, and haunt the Kindle store, looking  for the indies.

There is gold out there in those inexpensive Kindle books, and I am vindicated every time I read a true gem.  This is why I blog about the books I love on my Best in Fantasy blog–an attempt to bring attention to the many amazing books that entertain me.


Filed under Books, Fantasy, Literature, Publishing, Uncategorized, Vegan, writer, writing

7 responses to “The Bitter Pill

  1. It’s all about distribution lines. In so far as I can see, that’s the real wealth of the big publishers. They have the distribution lines into the big chain bookstores, airports and grocers. But just like the Hollywood Movie, people get tired of the same old formula and look elsewhere.


  2. @Andrew Michael Schwarz – My thoughts exactly!


  3. A few years ago a friend of mine gained one of those coveted places with a big publisher (she writes women’s fiction), and her books were reasonably successful, at least enough that she was still with her publisher 6 books later. However, she ditched the publisher last year to go indie, because her creativity couldn’t stand the pressure of continually producing books to order.
    She’s far happier now, and although I’ve no idea how well she’s doing as an indie in terms of income, she certainly wouldn’t go back to her publisher.
    I continued querying after self-publishing my first, but I’ve stopped now, realising how much more freedom I have as an indie to write what I want, to whatever length I want, and as fast or slow as I deem suitable. I’m never going to be a mass producer, and even if offered a contract now, I would think very hard about whether to take it or not.


  4. @Deborah – I think in some ways I am a rebel at heart–as most indies are, and as you seem to be!


  5. I’m continually amazed at how many typos/errors I find in books by very well-known authors who are traditionally published! I work damn hard to ensure not only my books, but those authors who have entrusted me with theirs for editing, are as error-free as humanly possible. I think committed Indies are raising the bar for themselves and the big publishers are beginning to lag behind!
    I know you’re a rebel at heart, Connie. It’s part of your charm! 😉


    • @Carlie – we can only hope we, as indies, are collectively setting a good standard–certainly I am pleased with the work you have done for me! With Maria V. A. Johnson currently combing Tower of Bones, my own shelf will be as good as i can get it!