Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Author Pays the Price

During this morning's long, snow-bound commute, I read this article in the New York Times, the latest on the rising cost of e-books.  The topic's been in the news lately, feed by the brouhaha between Amazon and McMillan.  Some vocal readers are making their disgruntled feelings known, by going online to leave one-star ratings and negative reviews if the price is too high or the digital version is delayed.  For authors who've developed a loyal following, the loss of a few potential customers aren't going to put a dent, if any, in their sales.  But I've still gotta ask, why blame the author at all?  I understand angry readers' sentiments, being an avid book buyer myself, and the owner of a few e-book titles - I say a few because I only got into them last summer, while still being very attached to the traditional printing formats.  Sorry, but there something about the smell  and feel of a newly printed book...ok, back to topic.

This backlash on e-book prices and delays can only harm the author, who is often blameless. Despite the talk about Stephen King's Under The Dome last fall, in a traditional publishing model, you won't find many authors who have any say in the prices or release versions.  For books produced in any format, the author's time, the editor's energy and the publisher's money all play a part in the final product and its pricing.  Regardless of opinions about the quality of the writing, editing and promotion, there's still a bunch of hard-working people to be paid for their involvement in each aspect of publishing.  Besides, how is a publisher releasing the digital format of a book after several months, any less forgivable or unfair than a mass market paperback that comes out a year after the hardcover release? 

Leaving negative comments for authors because of their pricing or delays in digital delivery format, is unfair and harmful because it damages the author brand.  If you don't buy a book because it's overpriced, then the author has just lost a potential sale.  But if you buy the book, and trash the author over the pricing, maybe the book performs poorly and now that author is associated with poor sales and slammed by readers who may swear off buying or recommending his or her other books. For a newbie author, that's death, and almost assures that the next contract, advance or potential royalties are that much harder to get.          

Readers can get the best pricing by comparison shopping.  We all have choices in when and where we part with our hard-earned cash. If I think something is ridiculously priced, I don't buy it.  But, I also take it one step further and shop around, and you can bet if Amazon, or Borders or B&, or a brick and mortar store has something cheaper, then that's where I'll go to buy it.   

By all means, readers, vote with your wallet. I do the same. But please, don't hate the authors for issues beyond their control. And yes, I'd still say that even if I wasn't trying to join their ranks.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Time to Go Back To School?

Shocked at the suggestion? Well, so am I, especially since I'd once sworn to never consider formal education again.  I survived three and a half years of law school, and that was enough to leave me convinced that the next time I'd ever return to any school would be for my kids, on parent-teacher night.

I've heard people in the publishing industry suddenly sit up and take notice of queries which casually mention, "By the way, I have an MFA." But, that's hardly any motivation for me to spend thousands of hard-earned dollars on yet another degree.  And, I'm not pursuing this because I'm bored and have nothing better to do.  My personal, professional and writing lives ensure that I'm always busy.  I'm also not dying to take the GRE just to see how well I'd do on it.  I've taken enough nerve-wracking tests to last me a lifetime.

So, why am I considering an MFA in creative writing? Because, it's what I should have always done. When I was eight years old, I decided to be a lawyer.  No second thoughts or hesitation. Practically every step in life that followed was in pursuit of that goal. Then, in my last year of law school, I realized how much I hated it.  An expensive lesson, but still a lesson learned.  Somehow, along the way, I'd forgotten my love for creative writing, which started in junior high school with short stories written for mine and my friends' amusement.  Even won a top prize in a collaborative writing contest.  Now, I can't imagine anything life I'd rather be doing than writing.  So what, if it took me thirteen years of wandering to figure this out? I may be late in reaching my destination, but at least, I'm on the right path.  One which will hopefully lead to grad school.  Wish me luck.    

Time flies when you're having fun, or writing novels.

It's been a tremendous twelve months. A new job and health issues have impacted my writing time, but I'm still at it, trying to wrap...