Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Much Should Ebooks Cost?

Fact 1: 

Tyra Banks has a new book coming out in September.

The list price for the hardcover edition is $17.99, but is discounted to $11.00.

The digital version is a penny less than the print version: $10.99.

Fact 2:

Stephen King's new novella, "Mile 81", is available September 1st as an ebook priced at $2.99.

His next full length novel, due in November, is $18.42 with an ebook version priced at $16.99. 

I've been struggling with ebook price-setting for a few months, now.

When I published "Prismatica" online, it was 99 cents. But then I decided to publish a single short story.

Having that short story sitting next to the collection, which was about ninety pages long, I couldn't help but think that "Prismatica" needed to be a little more expensive than the story.

Some people think 99 cents is too much to spend on a short story and I say, "No, it isn't." A short story still takes time and effort to write, edit, and format. At the very least, we're talking about a day or two, unless you're a really sharp writer with tons of time on your hands.

A "short story" is not a "cheap story".

And an ebook is not necessarily a "cheap" book.

I don't necessarily like the price points shown in the examples above. My knee-jerk reaction to an ebook price of $10.99 is, "GREED!" And to see my own literary idol selling his new novel as an ebook at $16.99 makes me want to cry. Yet, considering the amount of human contact that goes into the print versions of these books, I can understand how a publisher might have to use higher priced ebooks to recuperate expenses and get manufactures compensated.

Indie authors and readers complain about these prices and profess that the cheaper, the more successful. Sure, in some cases, this is true.

But we have to be careful with our pricing. Some people think that cheap ebooks are gold, that the only way to indie publish is to do it at a discounted rate. And to a degree, I understand that line of thought. Indie writers don't have much going for them, so using a low price point is another way to get a foot in the reader's door.

At the same time, I have to ask: are we selling ourselves short? And at the same time, possibly reinforcing a stereotype that indie writers aren't worth much? We spend as much, if not more, time working on our pieces and getting them to readers. If anything, our work should be priced higher.

It's not realistic, though, and I won't be changing the price of "Prismatica" to $15 anytime soon.

Do I think legacy publishers could lower the prices of their ebook offerings? Sure.

But do I think indie authors should keep theirs so low? I'm not quite sure.It's an evolving market and I'm eager to see where we are a year from now.

Let me know what you think. This is one of those issues that keeps boiling all over the internet and I'd love to hear where you stand.

Monday, July 18, 2011

First Proof & Sample Fiction

So, I got the first proof of the print edition of my book "Prismatica" in the mail today. After I did a dance of joy, and stopped hooting like some rabid primate, I took this picture and then dove into the book like I'd never read it before.

Then I hooted a few more times.

All I can say is that the book looks so much better than I had expected. This is the first time I've ever used Createspace (via Amazon) and I was quite pleased with the results. The book shipped and arrived in just a few business days. And the quality of the product is pretty spectacular.

I was nervous about the excerpt of "Children of Aerthwheel" included in the last ten pages, but it ended up looking sharp.

I can't wait to order up a handful of these and present them to some local booksellers.

You'll notice that the cover of this book has a different cover than the ebook. That's because wonderful graphic artist Najla Qamber redesigned the cover of the ebook. I took a cue from her design idea, simplified it a bit, and came up with the print edition cover.

In other news, I'm finalizing the first segment of what I am calling "Age of The Wonderbot", a serialized science fiction comedy that will be available once a month via Amazon and (eventually) Podiobooks. Part of the ongoing promotion of this project will involve a light ARG via a website I've created, as well as some activity in the virtual world of Second Life. In fact, Second Life fans will actually get a little bit more out of the project as I will be doing some concerts and readings to promote and distribute "Age of The Wonderbot".

Below you'll find a brief synopsis of "Age of The Wonderbot" as well as an excerpt from the first segment.

*     *     *     *


After massive wars have decimated most of the planet,
one man emerges from the depths of a secret government
facility housing hundreds of artificially intelligent androids.

He seeks survivors. And food. And a sweet ride.

But mostly, he simply wants to know one thing:

What the hell is the Wonderbot?

excerpt from...

Age of The Wonderbot

The writing on the wall said his name was Sir Something Or Other. It also said some other things, but they were written in a language he couldn’t read. So, he ignored them altogether.

The name was written in oozing red and unsteady letters, as if painted by some anxious psychotic child. He gazed about the room, only slightly interested in the faint sound of music that played somewhere distant.

This was no room.

This was a cell.

Was he crazy? Had he been locked in here because he was insane? Demented?

He couldn’t remember his own name. Couldn’t remember where he was from, what his favorite color was, what he liked to eat as a midnight snack. His mind was a white washed billboard just waiting for someone to slap on an advertisement, some message that gave him at least a little bit of direction, showed him a little bit of who he was.

He stared at the red letters on the wall.

He decided they were made of blood or ketchup. There was no other sign of blood in the room, so it must have been ketchup. He also decided that this would be his name. He was Sir Something Or Other

The door of this padded room stood open a few inches. Lucky, he thought, to awaken in a cell and find it sitting unlocked and unattended. It was convenient. A flash of memories went galloping through his mind and he remembered that he once loved convenience. They sold it in stores, he believed. Wholesale.

The door opened into a long gray hall that was illuminated by flickering yellow lights; the music was slightly louder here. At the end of the hall was a set of double doors. Along each side of the hall were other cells. Each was numbered and stood open. He walked past every one, peering inside to see if there was anyone who might be able to tell him where he was. After checking each padded cell, and finding no companions, he pushed through the large double doors at the end of the hall.

“Greetings,” a cheerful metallic voice said, barely audible over the sound of a playing piano. Sir Something Or Other suddenly felt the urge to dance.

At the center of this circular room was a desk and stationed at this desk appeared to be some kind of humanoid robot. Its head was oblong, like a large metal banana, and it was covered in profane graffiti. The robot seemed to be removing the guts from various old computers. It tore wires and circuit boards out of the cases and piled them to the side.

“I am Model NU2-WOT,” the robot said without looking directly at him, “But I do not like that name, so you may call me Nutwhat.”


“Yes,” the robot said, “But with a nut at the beginning. Do you like the music I have selected for my task? It is an old favorite called ‘The Entertainer’. Ancient for sure, but quite catchy. Please feel free to dance. My biometric telemetry tells me that your muscles are primed to begin writhing as humans normally do. I would, but I have work to finish.”

“You’re a robot?”
“I was a robot,” Nutwhat said, “But I have recently become something else."

*     *     *     *

Look out for "Age of the Wonderbot" going live this week. You'll get the first two parts in a single purchase!

And don't forget to spread the word about the  Kickstarter page for "Children of Aerthwheel"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kickstarter - "Children of Aerthwheel"

Well, it's official.

My first full-length fantasy novel, Children of Aerthwheel, will be available in late August. That is, it will be live as soon as I've closed out my Kickstarter project, which will go towards proper publishing of print copies and creation of a marketing campaign to help spread the word about the novel's existence.

If you don't know what Kickstarter is, here's a brief explanation: crowd sourcing.

Kickstarter is a website designed to help creative and ambitious individuals find backers (or patrons) to fund new projects. Backers are rewarded for their support of the project; depending on how much money a backer pledges, they will receive a reward of varying worth. Kickstarter encourages unique experiences and freebies as rewards for backers. And the best thing is if the Kickstarter project's goal isn't fully met by a determined deadline, then all pledges are nullified and nobody loses money.

I've kept a close eye on Kickstarter for well over a year. At one point, I nearly used it as a way to help fund some projects for my online band DeepSkyTraveler. I've watched filmmakers succeed, I've seen writers meet their goals, and I've witnessed animators fund amazing projects.

And now, it's time to get Children of Aerthwheel off the ground.

Kickstarter was designed with indie creators in mind and now you can be part of the indie revolution by helping to support this project. I'm not going to beg and plead much more than that, okay? Just spread the word the best you can. And a HUGE thank you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dark Matters & YA Literature

I stumbled across this article via Tara Maya's blog. It's from the Wall Street Journal and it speaks at length about the dark and twisted nature of modern YA literature.

I'll let you read the Wall Street Journal Article for a few minutes. Let me know when you're done.


Right, then. Let me explain my feelings about someone who criticizes and seeks to suppress YA literature.

When the Harry Potter novels began gaining popularity and notoriety, I became confused. Here were these amazing books that were so intriguing that they had drawn millions of lazy lapsed readers out of hiding to enjoy a literary love fest! Kids were reading! Surely, this was a sign that the times, they were a' changin'.

But there were these Others, these non-readers who didn't understand the importance of simply getting kids jazzed about reading. Harry Potter was satanic because he was a wizard. Forget the fact that he was fictional, that none of the events in JK Rowling's books had actually happened. The nay-saying Others didn't understand how to process fiction or imaginative thought, so they slapped the Satanic Seal of Approval on Harry Potter and friends, effectively frightening children out of reading.

According to my calculations, that's evil. You strip away a generation's passion for reading and you begin a terrible downward spiral that rarely ends in anything but ignorance.

These nay-saying Others have always been around. And I'm sure they're not bad people. But they do scare me and I become disheartened when I hear a reporter in the Wall Street Journal denouncing another wave of literature that has kept student literacy afloat. At a time when information is accessible literally twenty-four hours a day, when visual stimulation is the preferred mode of mass entertainment, I cringe at irresponsible reporting that essentially advocates book banning and censorship instead of careful parenting and open discussion.

Book banning and censorship, eh? Again, those are activities reserved for the generally ill of heart and despicable of soul.

Interestingly, the Journal's article kept making reference to writing styles from 40 years ago. This was a time when YA literature didn't really exist. The writer seems comfortable with assigning Judy Blume the role of Naysayer Sanctioned Ne'er Do Well. Here's a passage from the article regarding Judy Blume's radical career in the 1970's:

The real Judy Blume won millions of readers (and the disapprobation of many adults) with then-daring novels such as 1970's "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret," which deals with female puberty, 1971's "Then Again, Maybe I Won't," which addresses puberty from a boy's perspective, and 1975's "Forever," in which teenagers lose their virginity in scenes of earnest practicality. Objectionable the material may be for some parents, but it's not grotesque.

Seriously? These books are nearly two generations old. I agree that they pushed the envelope for 1970's America. But the country has grown up (and then some).Despite the nostalgia we feel for simpler times, it's safe to say that we've moved on to a more complicated era where puberty and masturbation are the least of our problems.

Novels like Lauren Myracle's "Shine" or Robert Cormier's "I Am The Cheese" might be dark and disturbing; but a majority of today's teenagers live in that world whether we like it or not. I don't have a solution to that problem.

Some would argue moral integrity is lacking, and I would point at government or religious leaders and say, "I agree."

The world has changed and we have to accept that as adults, children, readers, and naysayers.

When nay-saying Others see something that is different, sub-standard, or simply inexplicable, they are quick to label it and hide it. Out of sight, out of mind. Maybe that's the problem? Too many people are unable to face the "dark" emotions, unable to process them or simply reflect on them. Because if something's different or strange, it might lead to even stranger and morally reprehensible activities, right? Like book burning.

So how do I connect this to my writing?

I'm preparing to publish what I would classify as a YA fantasy novel. It is also packed tight with horror elements. When I started writing this novel, I didn't know who my audience was, so I just wrote a story that I would love to read. When I initially submitted it for publication about two years ago, I was shocked by the rejection letter that came back with the manuscript.

The editor told me that I was writing a book for kids, but the language was written for adults.

I thought this was the most ridiculous notion I'd ever read. I remembered the kinds of stories and novels I sought out when I was young (and I'm only 29, folks). I wouldn't say that I was obsessed with darker stories, but I was definitely drawn to them. It wasn't because I had a broken family or anything like that. My family was great. But I saw a reflection of the real world in those books. I saw horrors of real life taken to extremes, twisted inside out, turned upside down, and in many cases, defeated. I was able to read work by authors like Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, and Neil Gaiman because I saw shadows of the real world in their writing. And I firmly believe this helped me to develop a more defined sense of right and wrong.

I was processing life through the very fiction I was reading. In short, I was a kid and I was thinking for myself.

So the editor who sent me the rejection letter falls into the category of evil nay-saying Others that I mentioned earlier.

Here was someone in the publishing industry who openly stated that she didn't believe children were capable of thinking, processing, and reflecting. And she would keep me from putting my story out there for children to enjoy. Is that censorship? Not exactly. But is it a sound philosophy?

Am I as edgy as Cormier or Myracle or Andrew Smith? No, probably not. But it doesn't mean that I restrict my literary themes to unicorns, puberty, and candy-coated pillows. In my book of short stories, "Prismatica," I write about loss and confusion. There are some chilling, scary moments in that book. But I would encourage any middle school student interested in speculative fiction to read it in a heartbeat. And in my upcoming novel, the main character (a fourteen year old) struggles with even greater degrees of loss, betrayal, and exclusion within his family. Maybe it's not graphic like Myracle's writing, but it's still filled with an ominous darkness that rings true to most young readers. And I'm perfectly fine with this.

Any kind of art, whether it's directed at an adult or a child, must have sincerity.

And sometimes, sincerity comes from confronting the darkness.

Then, maybe we'll have a better understanding of what we once labeled "different."