I thought long and hard about whether to speak up about this. I’m doing so, not so much for me, but for my fellow struggling authors. So here goes: Generally, I’m not a fan of complainers, and that includes authors who complain about people not buying their books. No One is guaranteed a sale. We bravely go where not everyone has thrived before us, in order to bring you stories we love, and that we hope you’ll love as well. In the end, you want to believe it’s the talented among us who’ll keep readers coming back. But sometimes, bad guys do win, and lately, the winners have been the stuffers (thankfully, Amazon is now going after them), who’ll throw a poorly written and edited book up for .99 cents. And, of course, they end up getting much more than that because they’ve learned to game the KU system by double-spacing books (making it look like you have more pages to read than you do) and stuffing a download with 10-plus books, thereby earning themselves considerably more than the .99 cents price, as well as KU bonuses that used to be awarded to hardworking authors. These days, the bonuses seem to be going to “the fox who’s learned to raid the hen house without getting caught.” For real authors with integrity, this is a HUGE ouch—and not only where the money is concerned. It’s demoralizing for those who work hard and play by the rules. It’s no wonder some authors are furious.
That said, I hope what I say next doesn’t come across as angry or incensed; I’m not in the least. I hope, instead, it will come across as a teaching moment. I recently had a reader write and complain (though nicely) about the prices of my books. I get that some readers are so voracious they devour books, and this can be an owie on the budget. I love these readers, because they are often the most well-rounded people on this planet, so knowledgeable, witty and savvy.
One of the things I adore about being an indie author is that I get to help feed your reading addiction by offering free and discounted books now and again. I’m truly thrilled to be able to do this and I will continue to do it so long as I can, because I love to give things away. But I should also point out that just because it’s free to you does not mean it’s free to me. And this is where I have to raise my hand and point out that sometimes you get lucky and get something great for nothing, but more often, you get what you pay for. Books were never meant to be .99-cent bargain-basement deals. Particularly outside of KU, it is literally impossible to sustain a career on free and 99-cent books. Not only is the overall earning on a 99-cent book very low (obviously), but the royalty percentage is cut in half, making it impossible for your favorite authors to support themselves. And they don’t even get to take home even that reduced rate. In general, we authors get a still smaller percentage on that halved royalty, after publishing fees.
Quite honestly, it always tweaks me a bit to hear that people have no problem paying $5 for a consumable, like beer, or a $10 martini that won’t last 20 minutes, or $3.50 for a cup of coffee, when the actual contents are worth pennies and the production takes minutes; or possibly more relevant, but equally as head-scratching, we’re okay with paying $5.99 or $8.50 (x2 or more if it’s in a theatre) for a movie we’ve been dying to see, but we can’t bring ourselves to embrace a $4.99 price-tag for an author we adore, when often, these books have taken the author six months and more to create and produce.
Yes, I know, we can buy books for cheap, but should we wish to do this as a general rule, if we stand to lose the brightest stars in our industry? If we’re finding that books suck right now, maybe, just maybe, it’s because we’re supporting the wrong authors? If I, myself, love an author, I will go out of my way to buy their books, because I want them to stick around. As huge as my TBR pile is, I also often buy from friends, knowing I might not be able to get to them for a long time, simply because I wish to support them. And no, you don’t have to do this. Again, you don’t OWE any author a sale on their books.
So, while scammers have, indeed, found a way to create a sort of gold rush, and they are doing so often by illegal and unethical means, in contrast, I know well-deserving, honest, hardworking authors who are having to quit writing because they can’t afford to do it anymore. That is just a sad fact, and the only thing we can do about it is what we can do; meaning that, once again, none of us can afford to buy books simply to keep an author writing. Said more plainly, merely because I write something doesn’t mean you owe me a debt to buy it; you must buy it because you love what I write’ and you think it’s worth it, period. I, in turn, must put myself out there, taking risks, in hopes that you will embrace me, and I’m so thankful when you do.
There are titles of mine that have never been on sale, ever once, never, and, at this point, that will continue to be the case. I can’t tell you up front if a book will ever go on sale, but this is generally the case: If a title is the first in series, it might be discounted eventually. Waiting on any other book is pretty much a crap shoot.
But, if you don’t feel comfortable paying $2.99 for a 30k word novella (which takes months to write BTW), or $4.99 for a full priced book, then you should wait to see if it goes on sale, rather than write and complain about it. There are plenty of 99-cent authors out there; I don’t foresee that I will ever be one of those. But I hope you enjoy my books enough to see their worth, and for those who stick around, I will continue to reward you with the fruits of my labors when I can. But you have to remember I don’t exist on thin air, and in order to stick around and write for you over the long term, I have to earn a living, too, and when you consider that you probably don’t, and won’t, work for less than minimum wage (and I would never ask you to), and that merely 1 hour of your time is worth at least $7.25, and in contrast, I generally put in 8 hours a day, for months on end to produce a single book — yes, even a 30k novella — then basically I’m not even asking for half of minimum wage for a single hour, when the hours involved are in reality somewhere around 720 hours for a 30k novella.
Again, even knowing that, you DO NOT owe me a book sale, and I support you in your decision — whether to buy, or not to buy — and I’m pleased to say that libraries still exist and are an amazing place to feed your reading habit. But, please, rather than complain to the author about the price of a book, maybe reach out and ask your library and your favorite author about how to get their books into your community library.
I have been in this industry for nearly 30 years now (whoa, yeah, I know, that’s a long time), and I am fortunate enough to have earned myself a loyal readership. I appreciate you immensely. I give you thanks for allowing me to continue doing what I adore, but there are fledgling authors out there who are also talented, and you will only know them for a minute, because they can’t compete in this bargain-basement culture. If you truly want to know how you can help, it’s this: Embrace your favorite writers at full price, knowing they are worth every penny for the read. Certainly, take chances sometimes to see if they will put a book on sale, but understand when it isn’t discounted, and then, either embrace review opportunities in exchange for ARCs, or contact your favorite library (and the author) to start the ball rolling to get their books into your library. Also, sometimes, your favorite author will put books in KU – grab them while they are available. And, then, when your favorite author is generous enough to make a book free, download it while it’s available, and thank them with a review or an email (I love, love hearing from readers, because this, more than anything, fortifies my decision to continue writing—knowing that I have given you joy). Ultimately, ours is the greatest symbiotic relationship. What we do, we do for you, and your love of reading keeps us in shoes.
That’s all. Thanks for sticking around.
P.S. Here are books I offer for FREE
- The MacKinnon’s Bride
- Page (Sweet Version of The MacKinnon’s Bride)
- The Things We Left Behind
- Leave No Trace
And here are more books I offer for FREE through KU (as borrows). But please note: Some Kindle Unlimited offerings will be discontinued as of July 24th. Please check first to be sure it’s still in the program.
- Angel of Fire
- Once Upon a Kiss
- Viking’s Prize
- McKenzie’s Bride
- Kissed by a Rogue
- Happily Ever After
- Perfect In My Sight
- Mischief & Mistletoe
- Lady’s Man
- Once Upon a Highland Legend
- Highland Fire
- Highland Steel
- Highland Storm
- Maiden fro the Mist
Sweet Versions FREE through KU (as borrows) and also $1.99 for this week only (July 15- July 22)