May 4, 2012

Does this tinhat make me look fat? Got it on sale. Two for the price of one!

Posted in publishing, thoughts, writing at 9:36 am by z. l. sasnett

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. – Thomas Mann

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Not usually. Disregard that tinfoil hat on the sideboard, please. That’s reserved for politics, which will wisely stay off this blog if I can help it.

I should clarify that I’m not a conspiracy theorist in regards to publishing. It’s a huge, big, convoluted thing, this whole publishing business. And it is a business. The more I read about the inside stuff, the more my eyes get all swirly. It’s complicated, you guys! A bit fascinating, too.

I believe if more readers educated themselves about what actually goes in to publishing those books they love, they’d be less inclined to bitch about prices. Certainly, they’d stay their hand the next time they want to fire off a hateful email to the author complaining about how much it costs and how they’ll never read another one of their books ever again! Something that trade published authors have no control over. Not to mention really tacky that you’ve just told the author you don’t value their writing. It’s not about liking their writing, but that you don’t value the time and energy and creativity that went into creating something for your entertainment.

Readers claim to want quality stories but don’t seem to be willing to pay for them. On the other side of that, there are authors who write but seem to value their writing so little that they charge merely a pittance of what it would be worth (on the self-publishing front at any rate). That is, in my humble opinion, creating this downward spiral of perceived vs. actual worth for a book. They toss their hair/smoke their cigarettes and snap their fingers, talking about their art and how they just want to be read and getting paid doesn’t matter, as long as their words are out there and enjoyed. Something tells me they don’t worry about paying the rent.

Most writers want their words read. They’d also like to eat. Hard to eat a book.

It’s great for those writers if they don’t have the confidence to see (and fight) that they are fairly compensated for their work, but it makes it hella hard for the rest of us who are looking to get paid doing what we love because of these perceived expectations, especially by the reading public. It devalues our work, too. Maybe not in the rational light of examination but we aren’t talking rational. We are talking about the perception of the Average Joe Reader.

I fall under Average Joe Reader from time to time. I do balk at paying the same price for an ebook as for a paperback. In doing more reading and research into the cost of doing business as a publisher, it’s not so easy as an ‘all you gotta do is’ approach to creating and selling ebooks. I know this intellectually and still have a very hard time turning loose $9.99 for an ebook when the paperback is selling for $7.99. It’s easier for me when I do bear in mind the whole part of ‘publishers do need to meet their bills’, which includes paying authors for their words.

Sadly, educating Average Joe Reader means inundating them with a lot of tricky trade terms and complicated predictions and projections, and math. Lots of math. They get more swirly-eyed than I do and I feel I’m half-bright. I’d love to see a post that breaks it all down using words of three syllables and less. As I stated above, publishing is complicated so I’m not sure if that’s even possible.

I’ve gotten off track. I was talking about conspiracies, wasn’t I?

Right. I don’t think I can really shed any light on this issue more than simply linking to the blog that discusses it. I don’t know if it’s true or not. I don’t have any reason to believe KRR is lying. What she says is compelling and a little chilling.

Okay, a lot chilling.

It comes right back around to the writer getting paid what their words are worth. No trade published author would deny that the accounting is tricky. I’m not sure I buy into publishers being so threatened by her words that they’d have someone hack her account. Can’t deny that the timing of it all isn’t more than a little suspect, though.

I don’t know what I think, in the end, except my faith in trade publishing is still strong. I have every intention of following through on my intellectual experiment (whew! so busy right now!). Along with this driving curiosity will be the careful notes-taking and tracking costs and income from each, which will include learning about the careful wording of contracts and how to read royalty statements.

Conspiracy or not, paranoid or not, it bears keeping an eye out for myself and my own interests. And education. Everyone should be a little more educated.

Steep learning curve, indeed.

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