C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

We are not gambling writers. We are working writers.

I saw it again, today. Too often, people take the extreme end of an argument and generalize back to the middle to suit their worldview. It’s not logical. It’s bubble poppin’ time!

Example 1: Amazon’s trying to tell Hachette that it should sell the next Stephen King ebook for $9.99 or less. 

There are a couple of problems with this statement.

First, Amazon has categorically stated that some ebooks should be priced higher. Though Amazon’s statement on contract negotiations was short, lots of people missed that crucial detail:

“Is it Amazon’s position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.”

If an author has lots of fans who won’t wait for a price drop, the exemption for authors at that level of success makes sense. The math will reveal which way to go. For most of us, lower prices are the way to go. Amazon speaks unusually clearly on this point:

“The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. And that 74% increase in copies sold makes it much more likely that the title will make it onto the national bestseller lists. (Any author who’s trying to get on one of the national bestseller lists should insist to their publisher that their e-book be priced at $9.99 or lower.)”

Amazon beat Hachette’s argument to death with math. Everybody makes more money by charging less than the inflated ebook prices Hachette wants to set. By “everybody”, it’s obvious we mean everybody but Stephen King and a handful of the 1% authors who are doing really well because that’s where the analysis of sales points us.

The default author we should be concerned with is not anyone at the extreme end of success. It’s you and me. There’s hope for us, but probably not the fictional Mansions in Tahiti Level of Hope. Which brings me to the other argument I see far too often…

Example 2: People say, “Hugh Howey is an outlier and most self-published authors will not equal his success.”

Hugh says himself that he’s a lucky outlier. (Talented, smart, likeable and writing solid books helps immensely, too.) Most self-published authors know they won’t become millionaires. That’s an aspiration that non-self-publishers often put on us as they sneer. We’re not stupid. We know the odds. We’re look at our sales stats seven times a day. We know! 

What some of self-publishing’s critics don’t seem to get, though, is that there are many author/publishers who are making a living by selling at lower prices for a 70% return. They aren’t millionaires, but they are meeting their financial obligations, paying mortgages and getting by. Some are doing even better than simply getting by. They are not rich. Few writers of any ilk ever make it to rich. However, writing is their job. They’re frequently doing better financially than traditionally published authors. (I’m not saying this to make anyone feel bad. I am saying I’m tired of all or nothing thinking among the mathphobic and terminally cranky fact-allergic.)

Still, there are those who refuse to acknowledge that, since the creation of the ebook market, the authorpreneur is a growing possibility for those with middle class aspirations. Not a probability, but a possibility. If you doubt that’s possible, I have evidence from The Passive Voice.

The role of writer has rarely paid well, but it’s a better deal for more of us now than it has ever been. We are not hoping to be lottery winners. We’re hoping to sell the next book at reasonable prices for a growing audience of enthusiastic fans. (There’s also never been a better time to be a reader, by the way.)

If I make it to middle class, that’s awesome. But it’s not about the money, Lebowski. It’s about the writing. It’s always been about the writing. I wrote books for years and never submitted them anywhere. I just wrote for me. Writing is an obsession. Obsessions don’t change whether I make seven figures or a single, dirty dime.

I write. So do you. Let’s keep it real out there. We don’t do it for the money. We do it for love.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, Books, self-publishing, Writers, , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing and the Day Job: When dreams don’t come true on schedule

Let’s get a myth out of the way immediately.

Some writers say it’s a rule that a day job keeps writers in touch with the real world and, to be good, writers need real world interactions to draw upon for their fiction. Maybe that’s true for them and their process. I had enough drama to draw from before I left home as a teenager. I deal in fiction. Imagination and Google are more useful to me than interactions with actual humans in Meat Space.

Meat Space humans are difficult for me to deal with. I see the world differently and they don’t all get my sense of humor. I’m a little weird and sometimes I have to make myself shut up so all the weirdness doesn’t escape at once and scare people away. In books, it’s easier. I’m supposed to be strange when I write. If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you relate to that. When we go corporate, no one’s supposed to suspect our minds are active.

Even when I’m lying, I try to tell the truth.

I lie to myself about a few things, but I’m honest for readers, sometimes painfully so. That’s why I’m unveiling some vulnerability and complexity here. I wrote a post last night about going back to a day job. Fourteen years ago, I was in the same office, doing sort of the same thing. (Long story.) The point is, in the post I wrote to readers, I was emphasizing the positive. It wasn’t a lie when I wrote it. It’s not a lie as I type this.

However, sometimes my enthusiasm for my return to the real world is a lie. Starting up yet another business is creative and exciting and stressful. When my enthusiasm is down and my pride is butt-hurt, there’s a reason for that. It’s called Entitlement. As in “False sense of”. I have that affliction sometimes. I’m not proud of it. In down moments, I do feel bad about needing to return to work.

But I feel worse about the sacrifices my family has had to make to support my dream. There’s tension when the bills come in. We don’t talk about it, but we know. We don’t take vacations like all the kids’ friends do. Every purchase feels like a commitment to a serious investment. How long will this coat last? Is the van’s muffler a ghost yet? The living room rug absolutely must be burned and replaced. As mentioned in my previous post, poverty sucks.

The Revealing Question

I ran into a friend and former client who got the news I was returning to my old workplace. “Are you okay with that?” he asked.

The question was gentle and well-meaning. He knows that, for me, the last two years dedicated to writing have been the best two years of my life. When I’m at the keyboard, I’m home and having fun creating chaos. I’ve used those two years (mostly) wisely. Ah, but the question. “Are you okay with that?” Depending on my mood, it’s loaded with should haves and what ifs and worries about dealing with an unknown public.

If This Plague of Days wasn’t taking off, I’d have a huge problem with my return. It would feel like capitulation and a backwards step. I’d feel like a loser if not for the seeds of success very slowly budding. I’ve also published ten books in two years. My readership is growing. The timing would have been ideal if the growth I see now happened a year or so ago. But having a hit isn’t like that and hits don’t last, either. There are too many variables and they aren’t all under my control. To pay the bills, I have to do what I did two years ago. I’m risking starting another business.

I’m not quitting writing.

To take things to the next level, I need to have more money coming in to support my family and my imprint, Ex Parte Press. The schools seem to request more cash for projects, school trips and class support almost weekly. Bookbub promotions are not cheap. And yeah, that living room rug is a bio-hazard that no carpet cleaner can cure. Back to work I go.

The Good News

The day job isn’t so demanding in the number of hours it takes.

I can write between clients and still be very productive. In many ways, my day job will be an ideal complement. I can control my time and I still work for myself. I’ll have two businesses. That will undoubtedly diminish some book productivity, but I’ll still have more time than most writers so I should not, must not, whine.

It must also be said that in my other, newer business, I’m really good at it. There are much worse things to be doing with my time. It’s noble work that helps people and yes, I am expert. If not for that expertise and writing, I’d be looking on Monster.com for “Hired assassin”. I’ve considered dog-walking, but only if it was 1980 when nobody had to pick up after their dogs.

We do what we must. We move forward. We make what fun we can from whatever we do. That sense of entitlement with which I am sometimes afflicted? It doesn’t serve me. It doesn’t help any of us. I’m earning my readers, one at a time. Though it is deep and dark, we are finding each other in the forest. It’s going to be fine.

~ These are my books. This is the new business. Tonight, as I write this, I feel no chagrin.

Filed under: author platform, authors and money, book marketing, getting it done, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

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