Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
The real question is: How do you make people pay for something they have been taught is now free?
That’s writer/blogger Blaise Lucey thinking out loud vis-à-vis what has happened to the music industry over the past ten years or so. “Are Spotify & Pandora Killing Music?”
The same question can apply to publishing, obviously, in particular self-publishing, where the Amazonian model has made it nearly impossible for an unknown writer to ask for more than three bucks for a novel. In fact, with giveaways as the standard promotional tool, readers would be foolish to pay for a book they’re interested in when they can reasonably expect to get it for free if they wait a little while.
Lucey is of the mind that this trend isn’t anybody’s fault. The problem is that artists have to adapt to the new reality and find a way to exploit it. “Musicians,” he writes, “have been busy making music, without paying attention to how music is being consumed around them.” The same is true in publishing. We have to operate with a bicameral mind, as writers, first, but also as entrepreneurs, and it only stands to reason that most of us are a little weak on the latter.
I’m concerned about this more intensely these days because I’m about to publish a small collection of stories on Amazon (maybe Smashwords too) as a way of testing the waters for Yesterday Road. It’s nothing I expect to make any money on — just five little short-shorts amounting to all of 4700 words) — but I wanted to go through the entire process, from cover design to ebook formatting to pushing the “publish” button, so nothing will take me by surprise later. So far it’s coming along well, and I should be able to announce availability within a couple of weeks.
But the kink in all of this is the price. I have to charge a whopping 99 cents for the thing! Amazon won’t permit anything less, so potential readers will have to cough up .0002 cents per word. Ripoff! (And incidentally, Parts Unknown over there in the sidebar is a comparatively spectacular deal at .000049 cents per word, give or take. Betcha can’t eat just one!)
So here are some questions: Would you pay 99 cents for a short story? Shouldn’t a writer be able to convince readers to hit that Buy Now With 1-Click button at the risk of losing less than a buck if they’re not happy? If we can’t expect to make a dollar on something we’ve made from scratch (you can’t even buy a goddamn gourmet cookie for less than a dollar!), are we in this strictly for vanity’s sake?
Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or both, I’d love to hear your thoughts. And strategies.