Just when you thought…

… that both sides of the Amazon-Hachette debate had been thoroughly debated, yet a few more arguments for and against surface, adding to, or perhaps muddling, the issue further.

I think some very good arguments have been made on both sides and from several different perspectives. To be honest, I am not quite sure who posits the stronger argument, Amazon, Hachette, or the various authors, both agented and indie. At first the issue was vague and riddled with speculation. Then folks like Hugh Howey offered some clarification. But now, it’s slipping back into the fog again. I reckon that is ok because, hey, my book is not quite ready yet for publishing on any platform.

Still, I believe a business or an author has the right to set whatever price it or he wants. But I also think that it is up to the author to decide how he or she wants to publish and should take the responsibility to negotiate a suitable contract. There is plenty of history and evidence to support a particular price point that makes the author and customer happy – I know it as the free market.

I read just this past weekend that the big publishers colluded to set ebook prices, however, I did not realize it may have been in response to how Amazon tried or wanted to dictate the ebook prices. I actually did anticipate that the price of an ebook would be less than a hard copy for obvious reasons. I was one of the first to receive the new iPad back in spring of ’09 and I thought it was the coolest thing. It meant I no longer had to make space for rows of books shelves in my home – I had a lot of books by the time the iPad launched. I was happy to donate my collection to the local library.

However, much to my annoyance, ebook prices were not lower, even though it seemed they should and could be. So maybe the collusion was forced, a defensive measure. In the grand scheme, I think there will be plenty of room for traditional publishers and multiple ebook platforms – enough to go around for everybody.

I do want to point out that not enough attention is being paid to the gatekeeper role agents play in the published book arena. One could argue that self publishing floods the market with less than quality reading material. Knowing this makes it harder for an avid reader of any genre to find a decent read. One could also argue that this same flood of lesser quality material will dumb down new readers in the long run. I have no proof of this, it’s merely speculation. The same could be said for calculators, GPS (and maps), and common core. I reckon it depends on what generation you hale from.

I will press forward with my plans to e-publish my first book with the various ebook platforms, most likely setting a price I was familiar with growing up in the ’80s.  I hope Amazon and Hachette sort out their differences soon.

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The flipside to ebooks and self-publising

Ok, so I met with some good friends last evening who are sorta, kinda, in the business, in one way or another. Of course, more discussion helps the conversation re Amazon-Hachette, as it’s become known, and ebook prices and author royalties. I should clarify my own position, or rather how plan to position myself and why. In my previous posts, I indicated I plan to self publish via an ebook platform for my first book, hopefully out this fall. Most likely, it will be with Amazon but that does not mean I won’t also choose other ebook platforms in addition to Amazon. However, my choice does not necessarily mean that I approve of Amazon’s position.

I do believe an author, or an artist, or a musician, or a singer, should be paid a majority percentage for his or her work. Why? Because the author has put in the time and effort, the creativity, the hard work, the hours on the keyboard, etc. to produce his book. He should not receive less than 51%. After all, if not for the author, not one publisher, agent, editor, and ebook peddler, would be in business.

I do believe, for the most part, in the free enterprise system. Which means the maker of a product or service should be allowed to set the price at whatever he, she, or they thing the market will bare. I think it is unfair for Amazon, who merely acts as a middle man, has any business dictating what prices a seller can or should set. Does the etail giant even make anything?

On the other hand, authors have more than one choice available to them so one does not need to sell a book via Amazon. I could argue that the proliferation of self published ebooks has added to the slush pile, saturating the Amazon platform with less than quality work. Let’s face it, some singers should not sing, some painters should not paint, and some authors should not write. This is where agents and editors act as sort of quality gate keepers in my opinion. Ensuring at least a decent minimum standard for readers. This is how it is for first time drivers, accountants, doctors, pilots, dentists, other technical positions and professions, and professionals. Our society needs minimum standards to achieve, to compete, and to excel. Why lower that standard?

I still plan to go the ebook route for my first book, however, I intend to pitch my second book to an agent and go both routes. For me, signing with an agent and hopefully a publisher, would be a sort of validation for my work, that and any resultant sales that follow. Besides, there is no reason I cannot do both.

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What price to set

Thanks to all the debate surrounding the Amazon-Hachette issues, and also thanks to the excellent and relevant analysis by Hugh Howey, I have decided to self publish my first book on Amazon. But now I have to determine the right price.

There are a few factors to consider. I’m a new author, brand new in fact. I’m still in the revision phase which I’m confident will make my manuscript better and ready to publish. But I’ve read that .99c is perhaps not the best price to set, except maybe initially. Neither is the high end of 19.99 or even 24.99 like many of the new hardbacks. Somewhere in between, then.

There is some merit in getting paid for your writing, just like a painter, a singer, or a musician, so setting it too low yields very little but setting it too high also yields very little. The right price should be adequate to reward my efforts as the author and some for the platform of delivery, in my case, Amazon. It is hard to fathom the behind the scenes extent to which Amazon has gone to allow and enable authors to peddle their work. The potential audience reach is almost unlimited, thanks to virtual global commerce and the rather cool invention of the iPad and other similar devices.

I remember back when I first got seriously into reading books – fourth grade I believe. Thanks to my teacher, Mrs. Karstens, I love to read and I believe it has made me a smarter person because of it. When I was finally out on my own, making my own purchasing and budgeting decisions, I recall that paperbacks cost on average less than five bucks. Yes, I realize that reveals something of my age, but so what. The point is I feel strongly about setting a price for my work that is as easy as possible for folks to buy and read but still do right by me the author and whatever entity provides the platforms.

I’m thinking between 2.99 and 4.99. It will depend on the final outcome after I complete my revision, which I plan/hope will be no later than fall.

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The usefulness of blogs and social media

The ongoing disagreement between Amazon and Hachette has led me to happily realize a good example of an actual usefulness for twitter and blogging. I’ve been able to follow this debate thru twitter to various blogs on the subject. I’ve enjoyed the extensive analysis by Hugh Howey, David Gaughran, and others. I was also glad to see that Amazon posted an explanation on their motives and decisions. Very interesting.

This particular usefulness covers a robust and interesting debate that has flushed out the details of how traditional publishers and e-book vendors compensate authors and the difference between the two. It boils down to more options for both consumers and authors, and that is always a good thing.

As a new writer, and hopeful soon-to-be published author, this debate has helped me make informed decisions regarding how and with whom I want to publish my books. As is the case with any type of business, I think there is room for both types of publishing and that a fair compensation for all parties involved is possible. And why not? What’s good for the consumer is ultimately good for everybody.

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To self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish

As the tussle between two giants, Hachette and Amazon, carries on, I am still undecided as a first time author as to which method I want to try first. Perhaps it should come down to how adept I am at self promotion on social media combined with how skilled I am at self editing. Self publishing by default requires skill and confidence in my own ability to edit to a level worthy of publishing. An agent/publisher has the resources to help with editing and promotion. Assuming a non-best seller right out of the gate, one method pays more than the other percentage wise.

I have recently taken up reading other author’s work, mostly in support of other new authors. Unfortunately, the self published side often has more editing errors than the traditionally published books. I reckon if a reader can look beyond the mistakes, he can still enjoy the story. But if the errors become distracting, then it is no longer enjoyable. One has to weigh the risks involved – a give and take, check and balance.

Of course, I eventually plan to leverage both methods and as many platforms as I can reach. The social media … thingy… will always be a challenge for me because my generational upbringing makes me think of it as just a little weird. However, for my first book, I have only to decide which one to start with first – agent or self pub.

With so many agents out there, and presuming the quality of my work is adequate, I’d think the odds are at least decent when connecting with a suitable agent. On the other hand, the self publishing outlets are numerous and are just a few clicks away. But even folks I ask have differing opinions and the argument for each is compelling.

So, what do you think, all of my vast cache of followers? I’m very interested.

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Snowpiercer – movie by director Bong Joon-ho

Watched Snowpiercer last evening. Rather entertaining in a bog of boring and unoriginal movies. This one has the potential to become a classic similar to that of Blade Runner. It leaves you wanting more with each stroke of the perpetual engine. It also speaks volumes against the perils of radical decisions regarding climate change and human meddling.

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A big thanks to my beta readers

A big thanks to the handful of beta readers who gave me their time and effort and expertise to read through my first draft manuscript and provide such excellent feedback. I plan to get deep  into my revision this weekend. Thanks to Jolene, Carman, Stan, Tom, Julie, Linda, Tina, and Suzie. You’ve helped make my first book a readable product.

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