Yesterday a commenter said something to the extent that while she loved to write but she didn’t know if anyone wanted to buy it.
This is, of course, where all of us start – pro, amateur, wanna be, and those who spend years writing novels and throwing them under the bed, never even telling their nearest and dearest that they’re writers.
In this way, I think (though correct me if I’m wrong ) writing is worse than music or art (though the reason my husband never pursued performance in music is that he freezes in front of an audience. Or he used to. Age cures a lot of that.) because it’s more interior and more part of who you are, in a way.
Don’t yell at me. I do art too (at a very beginner level) and I know all about how it changes how you see things – most of art is teaching you to see. Now I think about it, that’s also learning to write, only it’s learning to perceive the world in more ways than normal – but it’s still not the same thing.
If you’re the sort of person who will grow up to want to write, chances are you’ve been putting yourself to sleep, every night, with these little stories you told yourself.
If you’re like me, you were telling these stories to your little friends in elementary and possibly – with a stronger more “adult” edge to your teen friends. Further, you were writing them in exercise books and passing each completed chapter back, so the class could read it.
Okay, you might not have been doing any of those things. The fact that I was doing those things and they started so far back that I can’t remember how they started, probably helped make sure I wasn’t just putting books in the drawer for twenty years. I knew some people liked my stuff. I just didn’t know how many or if they would pay for it.
But I suspect more introverted people, or people who were introverted in a different way (I often used/use stories as a shield between me and the world) never showed these stories at all. So when they started writing them… They knew these were the stories they told themselves, the stories they liked to listen to, but not if anyone else would want to hear them, much less pay for them. And unlike telling a story, you don’t get a reaction. Plus, in blogs or Amazon even, if you dare put it up, you’re always going to get the Obligatory Jerk Commenter TM. It’s a fact of human nature that people are more likely to comment when they’re upset/irked than when they’re happy with what you did. So you might have 100 devoted readers and never know it. BUT the minute something goes up you’ll have the OJC.
Ric Locke was fond of saying that in this brave new world of publishing there are enough buyers with varied enough tastes that you can sell practically anything. It doesn’t matter if your story is “bad” in the opinion of North American readers, it might catch the fancy of the French and take off like a rocket. (The thing to understand is that there is no such thing as OBJECTIVELY bad. There’s “objectively incomprehensible” – i.e. what I call “written in Martian” – and those don’t do too well. But there’s very few of them. Other than that what I consider horrible and would hate to be forced to read can and often does make money hand over fist. To wit, Dan Brown. And I’m sure some of my odder tastes would make a lot of you run screaming into the night [mostly because I like ingrown and involuted “literary” when I’m in a certain type of mood.])
So, given a large enough market Ric is bound to be right – and the emarket is very large indeed. It sprawls all over the world and grows larger by the day, both in spread and in reach via cheaper and more ingenuous ereaders.
Because of that, if you’re sitting there, holding onto your “precious” and afraid no one will love it, chances are someone will love it. As long as it’s not written in Martian.
Now, it might not take off right away, and if it does it might not make you millions, but a steady income every month. Which is, of course, more than most of us ever got.
So if you put it out, don’t rush and take it back because “nobody loves it” – it takes time and opportunity for someone to find you. And they’re more likely to do so the more you have out. Dean Smith says you get a bump every thirty books (or shorts, or whatever) or so.
I know you’ve heard all this before, and I’m only repeating it as a sort of mea culpa. I’ve told you guys this, over and over…
And I haven’t taken my own medicine.
Oh, sure, I have books out, though not many of them, mind. “Books” in this case are short stories I’ve published before, and we all remember the charming moment when I was trying to figure out what to price them a few months ago and RES had to remind me they’re not sausage, you don’t sell them by the inch.
Which brings us to… Which brings us to the fact that when I put them out, I thought in stupid terms. Most of the stories I’m putting out have been published before. I’ve been paid for them once. (Often not much, as there was no pro market for space opera.) It was, too, a time when people were putting up entire novels for 99c to 2.99.
So I thought… “Well, I’m a pro, 99c for a short is justified.” And I put “shorts” up to about 7k up at 99c. Stories above that went at 2.99, as did collections of five stories.
They did okay, though they didn’t make much money. Hard to do at 33c a sale. And it sort of made me slack off on putting them up, so months went by with nothing new, even though I have tons of shorts sitting in the drawer.
And I busied myself with the other writing. Until recently the idea started filtering through the noise that the bottom of short stories was now 2.99. You could sell a short at 99c as a loss leader, but if you wanted to be taken seriously, it was 2.99.
I also have bought a bunch of indie stuff lately, and realized that I was paying 3.99 and 4.99 for novellas of maybe 10k to 15k words. And not grudging it.
I still thought you guys were all drinking your own ink and that no one would buy them at the new prices.
However, in a fit of daring, yesterday, I went over to Smashwords and changed all the prices, while at Office-ish. I didn’t have the time/opportunity to do that for Amazon and Barnes and Noble until late at night, so those have only been up a few hours, particularly Amazon which takes almost 12 hours to process.
However, this morning, out of curiosity, I checked sales and… you could knock me down with a feather.
Look, take in account that Smashwords SITE – not the affiliates – is all you can see easily till you get the reports once a quarter. It is also – for various reasons, including a sclerotic search engine – the worst selling of all the sites SW has access to. Normally I sell – off the site — about 10 books a month, give or take.
Well, I sold 3 overnight, and of the more expensive ones. And on Amazon I sold three copies of one of the short stories since it went up at a higher price, which was about an hour. (And while my sales are usually larger there, that’s still very good.)
So… what have we learned from this? It’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over again from more tangible things. Like, we buy used furniture, I refinish it, we use it for a while, and when time comes to sell it, I’ll go with say double what I paid for it when it was a mess. And we get no calls, or if we do people find all sorts of problems with it, and try to talk us down to what it was when we bought it, in bad shape. BUT leave it to husband or son, who price it at five to ten times what we paid, and it will be gone within the day, and people just fork over the money and leave all happy. Or look at the last house we sold. We were getting extreme low-ball offers, and people found all sorts of things to bitch about. For two years. Then we raised the price 50k and it sold in three months at very close to asking, in one of the worst real estate markets we’d seen at the time (now it’s worse, but that’s something else.)
What does this mean? I don’t know. That we tend to undervalue that which is ours/we have. That writers, in particular, are chronicle self doubters. That most people are… er… more loose with their money than I am. Or not, since I pay the inflated prices, too, provided it’s something I want to read and it gives me an hour of nice reading before bed.
It definitely tells me people value more that which they perceive as more expensive.
Of course, there is a ceiling to this, but where is it? I hear people talking of a bottom of 4.99 for short stories and I go “That’s just crazy talk” – but given the price of an ice-cream cone or a coffee… well… maybe it isn’t.
For now, I’ll leave them at 2.99 to 4.99 with the really short “lighter than air” stories at 1.99. But … well… we’ll see, right.
And for those of you who say “yeah, Sarah, but you have a name” – yes, but Sylvia Haute (my pen name for the juvenilia) doesn’t, and she too just sold a couple of shorts at Amazon.
I’ll keep you posted on how it does in a month or so, but for now it looks like a rousing success, and a lesson in not undervaluating yourself – in getting things out there and not being afraid to charge what the market will bear.
It shouldn’t be a hard lesson to learn, but it is, an one I must have beaten into my head very often, apparently.