For a period of years I’ve made a modest living as a freelance writer. Before that, I was in advertising where I wrote, did a great deal of client contact, pitched new business, and dealt with all the non-creative aspects of a boutique ad agency. Still, the tiny bits of income generated by my fiction are always something to celebrate. Even if I can measure the dollar figures in cups of coffee, it’s still a validation of my creative work.
I’m not complaining. I know that I’m fortunate in being able to spend time & energy on writing that is unlikely to produce real income. What I’d like to address today, is how readers respond to the “cost” of books.
Since I bought my first Kindle (it was either 2010 or 2011), I’ve read many indie ebooks. Motivated by low cost, curiosity, and the idea that ebooks don’t contribute to clutter, I’ve experimented and had some great reading adventures. I discovered new authors while exploring genres I might not have read at the full cost of hardback, conventionally published novels. I subscribe to three daily emails that offer FREE and discounted ebooks and to Amazon’s Kindle First program (one free book a month, new books, heavily promoted by publishers & Amazon).
Periodically, I treat myself to a book to an ebook with a price tag comparable to a trade paperback or hardcover—11, 12, 13, 14 15, 16… dollars. Usually, these purchases are motivated by an interview with the author on NPR or the recommendation of a friend. I’ve recently increased the number of these “higher priced” ebook purchases, while still buying & reading lots of indie ebooks.
A few recent conversations with non-writer readers has led me to wonder about how much non-writers value the work of writers. One, intelligent, successful, educated reader was a little too proud of never purchasing ebooks. Since I recommended a particular mystery author to her, she’s been happily borrowing that series from her public library. She was surprised that I actually “purchase” ebooks. I replied that I’m invested in writers getting paid for their work.
Yes, I know that libraries serve a critical role in distributing every kind of book, but they don’t distribute a great deal of validation to indie authors. Yes, there are minimal residuals and exposure offered by libraries to authors with conventional publishing contracts, but there’s not much there for the indie/self-published and small press authors.
The woman in question supports other kinds of artists—buying jewelry, ceramics, artisan-made clothing—but when it comes to writers she’s bargain hunting. Do you have any thoughts on the value of storytelling?