Indie Writer Code Words: Sequencing and Rain Check

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Continuing my series of posts here, I’m talking about top secret code words used by me as a writer. Some may be used by other writers, too, in which case I picked them up from elsewhere. Some are the terms I am using for my own creative process. And I figured, if they’re worth me churning in my brain, they might be worth sharing online with other indie writers as well.

Today’s top secret word is for a concept I’ve gotten elsewhere, but I don’t think they call it what I call it: SEQUENCING.

The idea is that you have better luck selling a series than a standalone book, and even better if that whole series—or at least a trilogy worth or two or three at a time—come out all at once. Or at least in short order, say, each a month apart.

Much like your favorite Netflix or on-demand series, readers these days are impatient. They want to get the whole thing NOW. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) So the idea is, if you have 3, 4, 5, 6, or more books all ready and out there RIGHT NOW, you could have a runaway hit on your hands! If they read the first and say, “Yup, I’m in,” you might have just sold a whole series all in one blow. Something like that builds speed quickly, too, spreading by algorithms and by word of mouth.

However, posting just one book and promising it’s the first of a long series, and then not getting that next book out for a few years (like I just did—or am doing, I guess, since Deus Ex Machina isn’t out quite yet) is generally not helpful to gaining a readership.

Therefore, SEQUENCING is a good idea. That is, launching books in a sequence, right?

The trouble with this is, if you’re a working stiff like me, who has to have at least one (if not two or more) day jobs in order to support the family, it’s hard to do that! Writing just one book takes time, much more time than we would like. So finishing that arduous journey and then just sitting on it until you can do it all again (which takes a long time again) requires a mighty portion of patience and will power.

And that leads to my next codeword: RAIN CHECK. The relativity of this word seems obvious, but it is also derived from the codewords STORMWATCH and WEATHERSTATION. These both refer to my scheduling and tracking spreadsheets. “Stormwatch” was an older version, “Weatherstation” is the newer one.

RAIN CHECK is scheduling a sequence of books or stories for the future. It has two parts:

(1) Having the will to schedule things in a sequence and fighting to urge to publish as soon as a book or story is ready to go.

(2) Staying focused enough on one series or universe to make that happen.

The word RAIN CHECK is a reminder to me to stay focused and follow through with the plan to SEQUENCE.

And these concepts have been proven by many an indie author more successful than myself. Writing and waiting is well worth it.

After all, if your first book gets everyone all excited, but there’s no more for those excited readers to move on to… They move on to someone else. And by the time your next book does come out, they may have forgotten all about you.

And that sucks.

For me, in my most immediate future , the plan for sequencing is to finish up everything on Deus Ex Machina (Identity Crisis series: Book 2, thus the sequel to Hungry Gods) and to pair it up with The Golden Age (Secret Origins series: Book 3). (Working title, still needs to be written!) Both of these series take place in my Identity Crisis Universe, a genre-bending realm of superheroes, sci-fi, humor, and gritty mystery.

As I posted recently, I have finished the first draft of Deus Ex Machina. So, step one complete!

Now I have to write The Golden Age—planning to keep that one to about 30,000 words or so, what I consider a short novel. Then go over both works again to make their 2nd drafts. Then send them to my copy editor for a once over to get my 3rd (final) drafts. Then I just need to cover them (both in progress now), format them, and get them out there!

Right now I’m shooting for November-ish as a publishing date, give or take. Still working out the details, and it depends on how long everything takes to get done. I want to allow some time to promote and offer deals on previous books in both series, thus building some awareness and excitement again for both series.

And then…

We’ll see what happens after that. Do these superhero books take off into the stratosphere? Or do they trip over their capes and fall flat on their faces? Those results would help determine my next sequence of books: more of the same, or hop to another genre.

Those considerations will also involve more codewords, like RAIN CHECK and DONUT HOLE. (Stay tuned for those posts in the near future…)

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Indie Writer Code Words: Fear

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In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about top secret code words used by me as a writer. Some may be used by other writers, too, in which case I picked them up from elsewhere. Some are the terms I am using for my own creative process. And I figured, if they’re worth me churning in my brain, they might be worth sharing online with other indie writers as well. (It’s also good therapy for me, and it’s free.)

Secret (and not so secret) words coming up are Sequencing and Donut Hole, and maybe even BFF.

But today’s not-so-secret code word is: FEAR.

FEAR is the primary reason I’m sitting here typing this instead of the next scene or chapter in my novel. Because, like most of you (if not all of you) fellow writers, I’m afraid of it.

I’m afraid to sit down and write it, because it might suck. Or I’m not sure where to go with it, not sure what happens next. Or I do know what happens next and it’s challenging or I’m not confident I can handle what has to be done, so I am avoiding it.

Or I’m afraid of failure: What if I write it and publish it and either no one reads/buys it? Or they do, and I get only bad feedback and negative reviews? And everyone tells me it sucks? And I suck?

Or maybe even I’m actually afraid of success: What if I finish this novel and somehow, suddenly, this big tsunami of sales happens and I’m thrust unprepared into the possible realization of my dreams—that I can actually quit working and write fulltime? Holy shit, wouldn’t that be horrible? Then what the hell do I do??!!

Or a hundred other reasons, all of which boil down to one thing: Fear.

The last couple chapters I wrote, I had exactly that problem. One of them was a scene I’ve known was coming for years! I have been looking forward to it, both because it meant I was nearing the end of the book and because it was just going to be a damn fun scene.

And yet, when I finally got there, I paused. I groped for my confidence and came up empty handed.

So, what did I do?

I sat down and wrote the damn scene.

And it was fun. Some of you may eventually find it fun, too.  🙂

Actually, it wasn’t quite that easy. I knew what would happen in the action part, the middle part, but wasn’t sure how to get that started. How to broach the chapter in order to reach the meaty part of the scene?

Sitting and thinking about it didn’t get me there. So I just started writing. I rambled a little bit, wandered more than expected, but I eventually wandered right into the place I needed to be. Perfect!

The next chapter was similar. Right after that chapter, I knew the book was breaking into the next act. (I generally support the three-act structure in my longer work.) I did a page break, typed in PART THREE: SHIVA THE DESTROYER, and then… Paused again. Now what?

Well, I knew it was going to be dialogue heavy, so I just let the characters get me through it. I let them go into the natural discussion that was coming and they hashed it out for me. Easy peasy.

As I’ll get into with the next code word entries, I’m also deathly afraid of deciding, What comes next? Which of the 30+ books in my head to start once I finish this one? There are arguments for several of them. And even though I know what the best answer is, I’m still afraid of it. Because I don’t know what’ll happen. (I usually don’t, until I write it!) I don’t know if continuing the superhero course is for the best when I have these other, easier, probably more accessible sci-fi series I could get moving onto.

But all that is a discussion for another time. (Or, in my case, about three times a day in my own head, or when I’m on a walk outside.)

Fear is ever-present. No way around it. One or all of these scenarios will continue to pop up. And all you can do is trust in the process and proceed as normal. I imagine having a routine helps. Like you get up every day at this time and churn out this many words. Sounds solid. (Too bad my schedule constantly changes—in ten years, I’ve never been able to get a routine like that!) But if you have a good routine, I bet it’s easier to just say, “Fuck the fear, this is my writing time and now I’m wasting it. Time to get to work.”

Ooohh, that sounds nice!

I’m very likely about to be job hunting again, so I still won’t be able to get a routine down. (Long story, mostly still involving the Navy and expectations for me and the Reserves. I don’t want to think about it right now. Because I’m afraid of that whole mess, too!) But damn if having that kind of daily, set-aside ritual doesn’t sound wonderful!

And there we go. Almost 900 words in like 20 minutes. If only I could focus those powers toward a book. It’s no harder to write. It’s still just pounding keys with my fingers! And once I get going, it flows just as fast as a raging river. Sometimes I even have to skip ahead to get the good part down, then come back to fill in how to get there. My brain goes that fast on the good stuff. And yet…! Here I sit, afraid to switch over and do just that.

You know, I have so many other things I should be doing too. Still have boxes to unpack, books to filter through to get rid of, go to the post office, get some exercise… Maybe I’ll save the writing thing for now. It’s just too scary…

Indie Writer Code Words: Maslow

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In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about top secret code words used by me as a writer. Some may be used by other writers, too, in which case I picked them up from elsewhere. Some are the terms I am using for my own creative process. And I figured, if they’re worth me churning in my brain, they might be worth sharing online with other indie writers as well.

Today’s relevant code word is: MASLOW.

Does that sound familiar? Like from your high school psychology class or from a medical or educational college track?

I am doing both of those right now. My day job (at the moment) is teaching at a nursing college. I teach my students about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And when I do, I remember its relevance to my own life. Especially when it comes to my writing life.

I actually remember this from my own high school psych class, back in, say, 1993? It made that much sense to me that it’s stuck for that long.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs basically means this: If you don’t have your basic needs met, it’s really damn hard to concentrate on higher ambitions.

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For example, if you don’t have food on your plate or a roof to sleep under, completing your PhD isn’t going to get a lot of attention in your life.

For my students, many of whom are coming from low-income, high-crime areas, completing their nursing degree is made more difficult by trying to find daycare for their kids, working one or two other jobs to feed those kids, and living in less-than-ideal (sometimes dangerous) situations.

As you can see from the diagram (borrowed from here), the bottom level of the pyramid is your physiologic (bodily) needs. The top is “self-actualization.” This is like transcendence, reaching Nirvana, etc. Writing, in my case, would probably count as this top tier.

But if you’re lacking in the lower tiers, it’s hard to reach the top. A pyramid without a base falls apart. Climbing a ladder with no lower rungs to step on means you’re probably not going to reach the upper rungs.

For me, I have a lot going on in my life right now. I’m six months into my Navy-to-civilian life transition, having moved my family from Japan to Ohio, and I’m still struggling. There are tasks not yet done. We are far from settled into a routine for our new life. We’ve only been in our new home a month. Had our worldly possessions for less than that. (And why do we own so much crap, anyway?!) And now I’m looking at possibly changing jobs already. As the primary breadwinner (read as only breadwinner), that’s a big deal.

And yet, every day, I’m thinking about which books I should write next. How long it’s going to take me to finish the one I started years ago and am still fighting with. Which series should I wrap up and get out there? Which genre should I be striving in: sci-fi, fantasy, mystery? What’s going to get me the response/audience I need to ultimately sustain myself as a writer: superheroes, space pirates, space marines, dungeon questing?

Oh yeah, and how am I going to feed my family in the meantime? When can I spend time reading with my son to get him up to where he should be? Is there a morning coming that I can catch up on my lost sleep? When am I going to hit the gym to lose weight so I don’t get kicked out of the Navy Reserves?

Yikes.

Fucking-A, yikes.

The lesson here is (at least for me, maybe even for you): It’s okay not to beat yourself up over this. There are more important things going on than writing about space pirates.

No, I’m not getting as much writing done as I’d like. Few indies ever do. We all want to have a ten-book series on the best seller list yesterday.

Yes, I can optimize my day, muster a little more dedication, and carve out more writing time than I am now. I may not be making the absolute maximum effort toward these goals. I could squeeze out a little more blood-like conviction for my cause.

But I have to balance that against everything else. I need to give myself some breathing room.

I do have a lot of important life shit happening. And it’s important to acknowledge that, too. Don’t beat myself up too terribly bad, because the fact is that I am a father, husband, teacher, breadwinner, naval officer, nurse, etc.  I have other things in life that require my time, too. Even though the dream is to be writing full-time, I am awake right now. This is the waking world, and I have a lot of other shit to do in it. I am far from having a normalized life and schedule right now. Accept it, adapt, and move forward. Don’t feel too guilty about it. Don’t belittle yourself.

Heft that extra load on top of the iron-shod pack of stones on your back—without killing yourself in the process—and then get back to the march. You can make it. Slow and steady, that’s the way.

And that goes for you, too. There are only 24 hours in the day. Acknowledge that. Realize you do need to sleep. (It’s at the bottom of the pyramid, see?) Your kids do need to see you. Writing is important, but it’s not the most important thing in your life.

And that’s okay.

Indie Writer Code Words: Platform

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In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about top secret code words used by me as a writer. Some may be used by other writers, too, in which case I picked them up from elsewhere. Some are the terms I am using for my own creative process. And I figured, if they’re worth me churning in my brain, they might be worth sharing online with other indie writers as well.

Which brings me to my first word: PLATFORM.

This isn’t really a secret code word. This concept is an industry standard.

A “platform” is kind of like… well, literally, visually, it’s having a platform on which to stand so you’re up where everyone can see and hear you. It’s having an established audience via channels like a blog, pod cast, TV or radio show, loyal book following, a million Twitter followers, etc. If you already have a platform, you are more likely to move books. Or at least, you’re more likely to land an agent or big publishing deal. (Which most wise indies don’t want anyway—those folks aren’t much help anymore.)

For example, if you’re Snookie and you write a book, the publisher figures people already know your name and watched you get drunk on TV, so, sure, we’ll publish your book. You may or may not have anything worthwhile to write 200 pages about, but it’ll sell, so who cares? You already have an in-built audience. If we take a chance on you, someone is going to buy that book.

If you don’t have much of a platform, then few people know your name. You’re not a guaranteed sales machine. And when you publish your own book, aside from your mom, very few people are automatically going to be aware of its existence.

Part of the reason an indie writer may have a blog is to have such a platform. To perhaps attract a regular readership who may then translate into book buyers. If they like reading your blog, they may take a chance on your books, too.

I’ve also heard some more successful indie writers say that they gave up on the blogging and social media because they saw no correlation to actual book sales. Trying to build such a platform from which to shout from the rooftops was a waste of time. That time, they decided, was better spent writing fiction than whispering nonsense into the ether, assuming anyone was going to follow that trail back to Amazon or Kobo.

And for me, I have to say, that makes more sense.

If I spend my very limited time blogging and hanging out on Instagram or “liking” cat pictures on Facebook, is that really going to draw the masses to reading my fiction? And the question that would then follow would be, “What fiction?” Because if I’m wasting time posting pictures of my dinner or saying how disappointing I was in the last season on Netflix, who’s writing my novels? Not me.

It takes years to build an effective platform, and “effective” is a relative term. And results are not guaranteed. You might decide to forego penning your beloved novel series and force yourself to blog about TV shows instead. Everyone loves bingeing those shows nowadays, right? What better way to build a following?

So you spend all your spare time between your job and family and trying to get 6 hours of sleep every night, watching TV and bombing the internet with your opinions on it. And your books don’t get written. And while you’re talking about Game of Thrones, so are 100,000 other blogger and facebookers, and no one really notices you anyway.

So how effective is that platform you’re building to sell your books (that aren’t getting written)?

I say, Screw it.

Of course the platform works for some people. It probably worked better a few years ago than it does now. The indie writing landscape changes constantly, after all. The bandwagon that worked last year now has so many people riding on it that the tires have gone bald and it doesn’t run anymore.

But unless your voice or expertise in your chosen field on your chosen platform is different and more attractive than most of the others, who’s going to know you’re there? You’ll blend into the crowd. Just like your fiction writing. If it doesn’t stand out amongst the millions, who’s going to know it’s there?

So, for me, I’d rather be putting that effort into the fiction than the pre-fiction. If I get a platform built, I’ll build it on a stack of my books, not my opinions on… whatever.

And yes, I’m aware of the irony of this situation: I’m metablogging. I’m saying blogging may be a waste of my time, while at the same time perhaps hoping my writing about that attracts people to my blog. It’s like putting a mirror up to a mirror. Weird, huh?

I hope this doesn’t come out sounding too dismal or pessimistic. I’m just thinking through the reality of the situation. And for me, my choice, is to write the fiction, not the blogs. Or the Facebooks or Twitters or Goodreads or whatever.

That’s not to say I won’t interact with you. Contact me directly and I’m all in. I’d love to hear from you. But if you’re commenting on a Facebook post and hoping I’ll notice… You might be waiting a while.

In fact, I’d love to get rid of FB altogether. I say that a lot and I really mean it, but I’m also afraid that if I sever all ties to social media, then literally no one will know I’m here. But I do plan to downsize. Downsizing is good. Simplify. Consolidate web sites. Stop spending time and money and stuff that no one really sees, etc.

In the meantime, I apologize if my website and facebook seem to always be about what new story or novel I have coming out. It’s just that I have spent my constructive time writing those things instead of watching Netflix. And maybe someday I’ll build a following for my fiction instead of my unsolicited opinions about… whatever. 🙂

Warhammer 40K: 5th Edition

Guess what I found?!

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It’s been about two weeks now that we finally got all our stuff that was stored in California (coming from Japan) and Texas (left there in 2014). Holy poop do I have a lot of boxes! And books! And Warhammer guys! Finally see it all accumulated in one place honestly makes me feel a little ashamed of myself…

But I’ve learned that if you ever get rid of any of your Warhammer models, you later wish you hadn’t, and maybe even go so far as to buy more to replace the ones you sold! So I won’t get rid of any. But the books, I can do without some of those.

But back to the topic at hand: 5thEdition Warhammer 40K.

I miss this edition! This was the game I came back to in 2008 when I also came back to the Navy and, as a single ensign finally making a decent income, I could actually afford to buy the toys I always wanted. And, boy, did I! Way too many. I can now easily field forces of chaos marines, daemons, eldar, loyalist marines (mostly crimson fists), and space wolves, plus some allied orks, dark angels, whatever!

Flipping through this book makes me really want to go back to it. (No shit, I intend to find someone who wants to play. I probably still have all the codices too!) Some of the things I miss:

  • The Universal Special Rules only take up 3 pages of this mini-sized book, and one-half a page is a picture!
  • Vehicles don’t have hull points. Tanks and dreadnoughts take a beating like they should!
  • A power weapon cuts armor, period. No APs, just make your save or don’t.
  • Only three turns: Move, Shoot, Fight.
  • There’s offensive and defensive grenades, just general classifications. I like that. Offensive grenades allowed you to charge through cover without losing your Initiative (do they still have Initiative at all anymore?!). Defensive grenades denied assaulters the +1 attack for charging. (Okay, maybe the grenade rules weren’t the best ever… What fun are they if you can’t throw them at people and blow them up?)
  • I always liked that there were model types, like infantry, bikes, etc, that all functioned the same way for the most part. So you know the move rate, special rules, etc.
  • You can charge out of reserve and assault vehicles! 6thed, I believe, took away the main function of units like striking scorpions and genestealers by having them walk onto the board and then pause to be shot at. 5thed knew better!

Today we kind of praise 8thedition (which I still haven’t played, but would like to try it) for it being “simplified.” But 5thedition was much more simplified than anything after it. It was easy to play, uncomplicated, and a hell of a lot of fun!

Don’t get me wrong, I like some aspects of the further incarnations, but it sure seems like the adage of “If a little is good, a lot must be great!” was applied over and over again.

Now that I have my toys, I’ll (eventually) try to get me some 8thed games to try it out. But I’d go back to 5thedition in a heartbeat!

A few more of my unsolicited opinions:

FORCE ORG

I do like the new puzzle-piece 8thforce org system. You can basically take whatever you want, but there’s a logic to it, a way to fit pieces together that make it more legit. I always enjoyed that aspect of list-building: that there is some structure you must follow, minimums to meet that keep everyone on an even keel.

But those formations or whatever they were… Basically, the more money you spend the more special powers you get. That crap was unfair. Too much.

For a hybrid version of 40K, maybe you start with the original FO chart, but can purchase extra slots for points. So you can have that 4thHeavy or 3rdHQ choice, but it costs a little extra. (Personally, I think there should be a 3rdHQ slot anyway—those guys are the superheroes of the war, after all!)

OVERWATCH

I don’t think there was Overwatch in 5thed. I both like it and don’t. I think in 8thyou can fire it at EVERY unit that charges you, can’t you? That’s way too much.

I’d almost like to make Overwatch kind of like this:

You get one use per turn of it. If you don’t think the first unit charging is going to make it, hold your fire, save it for that other, closer unit that you think it coming.

Also, you need to make an Initiative test in order to pull it off. If you’re not quick enough, you don’t get your weapons up in time. The trade-off to that could be that you get to fire at your regular BS rather than only hitting on 6s.

And I can already hear Tau players hating this idea! Especially since they generally have Inits of 2. Tau could then have an army special rule like “Disciplined Firing Line” or something to that effect, that gives them a +1 to Init for Overwatch checks.

PSYKERS:

I believe in 5thpsykers can only use one power per turn too. (I don’t have the rule book in front of me right now.) I’d say that can be expanded by the psyker’s level.

I did kind of like the Warhammer Fantasy “Winds of Magic” rules that came over to 40K (was that 6thed?). A random number of dice where you have to use some resource management.

But no, I’d say psyker tests are back to Leadership tests and that they can use a number of powers equal to their level: elite or unit-based models would be level 1, HQ psykers level 2, special characters level 3. They can use that many powers per turn, once each (no repeating powers in the same turn). And they would know that number of powers as well, unless otherwise stated in their special rules (like superhero characters who know all in their discipline.)

“Deny the Witch” I think was a newer development…  We could keep that, but maybe like this: Only a psyker can attempt a Deny the Witch. The “spell” would have to either originate or target a model within 18” of the Denier for them to be in range. They would make their own Leadership test. If it beats (is lower than) the caster’s roll, they deny it. A power that went off on double 1s can’t be denied.

Psychic Hoods extend that range to 24” and give them a +1 (well, -1 really) to their Deny roll.

Okay, that’s enough nostalgia and day dreaming for me for now. Just know that discovering that little lost rule book deep inside a box stored away for 4 years really brought me back.

And speaking of bringing back, BRING BACK 5THEDITION!

Or, as I tell my friend Josh all the time, you can play any damn version you want if you and your buds agree on doing so. So, who wants to play some 5th…?

Deadpool 2 and Why Do EBooks Cost So Much?

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Let me tell you up front, this isn’t going to go the way you think it is.

I’ve been meaning to rewrite a post like this for a long time. I wrote one on my old blog years ago and, in fact, am going to cannibalize some of it here, ‘cuz I wrote it in a better mood then. I’ve been meaning to redo it for this blog and finally, Memorial Day, today is the day. I guess I’m honoring a veteran blog post, as well as our real veterans today.

But first, I mentioned Deadpool 2. My wife and I went and saw it last night, having heard, “It’s everything the first movie was, but more so!”

My official review then: “Meh.”

Not as good as the first one. Still funny, unnecessarily violent, meta-fictional in that he talked about it being a movie while it was a movie. There was some deeper character stuff in the afterlife and emotional stuff, but for the most part… Kinda disappointing. The best part of the whole thing was the extra ending after the initial credits play.

I also went into the theatre last night thinking that I was going to write my ebook pricing rant today, so I was doing research. Keeping receipts. For my wife and I to have a night out at the movies cost 8 bucks per ticket (that’s with the military discount). Our medium popcorn and single large drink to share cost 12 bucks, for a total of $28 for a movie that was fun, entertaining, but did not meet my expectations. (Should have seen Solo…)  Luckily the babysitter (my mom) was free.

We also went out for Vietnamese pho for dinner, at about the same price. So $28 x 2 = $56 for a (let’s face it) rather forgettable evening out. Kinda stings the ole pocket book.

Now we get to the meat of this rant: Ebook prices.

Most of you are probably thinking, Yeah, why do they cost so damn much? 

Well, that’s not exactly the angle I’m going with here.

Although, if you’re talking about the Big Five publishers and their best-selling mega-hit fiction from household name authors, Yes, I agree, they do cost probably more than they should. They charge the same for an ebook as they do a paperback, or sometimes even a hardback, even though there’s no material and no physical shipping costs or warehousing to speak of. Yeah, they probably could charge less for the electronic version, given actual costs on their part.

But guess what? Most of you guys are paying it. Over and over again. 

When I check the top five “Most Sold” ebooks right now on Amazon, four of them cost $14.99 and one costs $13.99.

Now, jump to the opposite side of the spectrum and the source of my angst.

The big trend of independent ebook authors right now (and since the dawn of ebooks and indie publishing several years ago) is to charge next to nothing for your books. Most indie novels are going for $2.99.

Does anyone see a problem with that? Most of you as readers are saying, Nope, no problem here!  You’re buying the cheap indie books at 3, 4 or 5 bucks, enjoying them almost as much, or as much, and sometimes even more than the $15 books. And then many are turning around and buying the $15 books too. Because the reading experience is actually worth that 15 bucks to you. Otherwise you wouldn’t pay it.

So why are those books worth $15 and these other ones worth a third or a fifth or even a fifteenth as much?

The truth is, many of those indie reading experiences are worth just as much as the pricy, household name, mega-corp books.

And some of them are not, let’s face it. But you don’t know until you read it. And some of those $15 super-author books aren’t worth $3. It’s all up to the reader to decide. I know I’ve read some “bestsellers” and wondered, Who keeps paying that guy or gal to do that job? 

The truth is, it’s mostly the indie authors’ faults. They have low expectations of their own work so they set low prices. And therefore set low expectations for their readers too. They’ve brought the market price too low, and dragged the readers down with them.

So the general price of indie (read low expectation) ebooks is generally $2.99 to $4.99. And some go as low as $0.99. For a novel. Hundreds of pages that will equate to a week or two or more of entertainment, depending on your reading habits.

Let’s a do quick comparison to other things we spend our money on…

  • I already mentioned going out to the movies. $8 to $12 per ticket, as much for 50 cents worth of popped corn and just as much for a large cup of diabetes-inducing sugar water. Lasts about 2 hours (longer if you actually develop the diabetes).
  • A movie rented at home via fancy digital services. Almost as much as going out! About 6 bucks for a 2 hour movie, which again, you may or may not enjoy. And once you start the damn thing, you only have 24 hours to watch the rest. You pay 6 bucks to sit on your couch and they slap a time limit on it. An ebook? Take your time. In fact, if you consume the whole thing in 24 hours, you probably didn’t chew well enough.
  • ATM fees. This one really burns my buns to think about. It costs $3, even $4, for the “convenience” of using an ATM machine that isn’t specifically for your bank. So people pay as much or more just to get money out than they want to pay for a week’s worth of entertainment in an ebook!
  • Fast food. Knowing I had a ways to go until dinner yesterday, I went through the drive through just for a snack to hold me over. One Wendy’s junior cheeseburger: $1.49. Add some crappy white lettuce and a slice of tomato: $1.99. A whole meal: about $6. Not too bad. But certainly not as satisfying or nourishing as a full-length novel.
  • Starbucks premium coffee. I’ll hold on this because I reblog it below, but for me, it’s sometimes the cost of renting table space for a couple hours so I can find a quiet escape to write the actual book that I will eventually turn around and sell. At this rate, the cost of renting table space is about the same for half a chapter as readers have been trained to pay for the whole damn book.
  • Pack of smokes. For those who just don’t believe yet that they cause a slow, painful, and expensive death. It depends on the state, but my research shows a minimum of $6 per pack to as much as $15 per pack in New York! (Chemotherapy, hospital stays, and funeral: hundreds of thousands, maybe millions.)

So that’s two unhealthy addictions (caffeine and nicotine) that you pay for daily without thought, but perhaps flinch at when you see a book priced at the same amount. (Hey, I’m also a nurse, it’s my job to talk to you like this!)

Yes, I’m ranting. It’s a pet peeve of mine, this pricing thing. I bounce around a lot, looking for that “sweet spot” that will encourage people to try my stuff. Low expectations drag the prices down for everyone (and set low expectations of what’s inside the book, too), while the big publishers go the other way and people follow them there.

The truth is, the prices should probably be somewhere in the middle. And if we expect more from ourselves and our work, and set the prices just a little bit higher, that confidence will probably equate to more sales and higher expectations from readers. But not everyone follows that logic. And we, as indies struggling to follow our dreams and do what we love while still being stuck in a day job to pay the bills, have to meander around trying to see what readers will tolerate from us.

Okay, I’ve exhausted myself now. I’ll stop.

Below this point are a few more examples, copied, pasted, and updated from my original blog post way back in 2014: http://brinkschaostheory.blogspot.com/2014/07/ebook-prices-comparative-shopping.html

Enjoy your Memorial Day. And thank you to my fellow veterans

* * *

Some people say that an ebook isn’t worth spending more than three or four dollars on.  So let’s expand our comparison beyond books.  What about other things we buy in our day-to-day lives?  How much do they cost, how much enjoyment do we get from them, and how long to they stick with us?

  • A gallon of gas.  Right now, about $3 per gallon.  Do I enjoy it?  Enjoy gasoline?  No.  Does it have staying power?  Does my experience with that gallon of gasoline stick with me in my memories or bring new ideas or horizons into my life?  Well, I guess if I’m traveling to new exotic places with it, then it might, but for the most part I don’t even notice that it’s been spent and is now gone.  Unless it was the last one in the tank; at that point, I’m definitely not enjoying the experience.
  • A cup of Starbucks premium coffee.  Shall we say about $4.00, give or take?  Did you enjoy it?  Sure.  By now, for many people, it’s a requirement to get their day started.  Takes you maybe twenty minutes to drink it if you take the time to savor it.  Caffeine buzz sticks with you for a while, depending on your tolerance.  But sooner or later, you pee it all back out and it’s gone.  (In fact, the caffeine tells your kidneys to open the flood gates.)
  • Cheap fast food meal.  Big mac, fries, and a coke: $5.69.  I might enjoy the first few bites, then start to feel guilty, then disgusted.  I don’t finish it but still feel sick for the next hour.  About a year later, I forget how crappy I felt and think, I haven’t had one of those for a while…  Repeat nauseating experience annually.
  • Inexpensive, decent meal out.  Ten to twelve bucks a person.  Tastes good, gets me and the family out of the house, relatively healthy, worth the price.  Does it stick with me?  Well, I remember I like to eat there, but the meal itself gets introduced to the Tidy Bowl Man sooner or later.  Flush and it’s gone, along with the money.  Took me an hour to eat it, if I really enjoyed it, and fifteen to twenty minutes to excrete it, if I took my time and enjoyed that too.
  • Moderately expensive meal out.  Let’s say at Olive Garden, where I was recently shocked to see what it really did cost for my wife and I to have a night out.  Just you by yourself, an entree, drink, and appetizer: about $25.00, probably more.  Was it good?  Sure, pretty tasty, but nothing to write home about.  Gets flushed eventually, but maybe I carry an extra inch around my waist for a while.  Not really the kind of lingering effect I’m looking for though.

How about a good book?  Costs you, say, five to eight bucks in electronic form.  (Or should, anyway.) Takes you a week or two to read, maybe more.  Sticks with you forever.  And even if it doesn’t, you can always go back and read it again.  For free this time.  As many times as you want.  What’s that you say?  It wasn’t as good as you expected?  Neither was that fancy meal you ate, and that cost more and gave you the runs for two days.

Maybe paying more than 3 bucks for an ebook is a pretty fair deal after all.