A book is worth …

First, thank you for voicing your opinions by votes and comments.  But, once again, I failed to word my poll questions the best I could, so the voting results answer two questions and pose a couple of others.  Several of you said the price you’d pay for the debut novel depended on what you already knew about the book or the author. Fair enough.

The results for the print version poll surprised me most.  Ten of you said you’d pay up to $11.99 for a debut in trade paperback. I assume that would be for a novel you’d heard highly praised.  The next highest voted price was $5.99, with 5 votes. With four votes each, there was a four-way tie for $7.99, 9.99, or 10.99.

The votes for the ebook version were more scattered. In fact, they topped out at a three-way tie. With seven votes each, you said the most you would pay is $2.99, $4.99, or  $5.99. The next highest vote was four for $3.99. And yes, one person only voted for the ebook version, which, I presume, was their way of saying they wouldn’t buy the print at any price.

I suppose a good idea would have been to have a separate poll with the question:  Are you a writer? As a reader, I tend to look for a bargain. As a writer, I’m more sensitive to what I’m actually paying for—someone’s craft, someone’s hard work. Of course, the quality of the end product varies depending on the skill and effort put into it.  But do the prices set by indie authors reflect that? Probably not. Some authors with excellent work will undervalue it. Some with subpar work will overvalue it. I’m looking for my sweet spot.


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What is a book worth to you?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about book pricing. As an Indie Author, I will set my own prices for ebook and print. Price is an oft debated topic at Indie Publishing blogs. Some authors swear their books sell best when they raise their prices, others say their sales skyrocketed when they lowered the price.

The ability to offer a free sample, usually the first chapter or two, of your ebook is one of the advantages to selling your book in an online store like Amazon. By reading the sample, you can decide, before you buy, whether the book is something you’ll enjoy reading.

Most Indie Authors price their ebooks at $2.99-$4.99. How many of you regularly plop down that much for a venti at Starbucks? Isn’t a book worth at least that much to you?

Some authors price as low as $.99 for a limited time. A few regularly price their books that low.  I’m not sure I understand that. How much, fellow authors, do you value your work?

I will also offer my books for sale in trade paperback (soft cover) print format. Prices vary on those too. Usually, they run from $6.99-$14.99. Where’s the sweet spot?

I need your honest opinion, so today I offer you two polls. If you’re reading this in a reader, please take a minute to come here today and vote. And I’ll be extra thankful, if you Retweet this post or share it on Facebook.


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Why will printed books go the way of the dinosaur?

The answer is simple, but first let me ask another question. How many of you still have a car phone, cassette player, VCR, or even analog TV? Not many, I would guess. I’m happy to have my iPhone, CD and mp3 players, Blu-Ray disc player, and widescreen, high-definition TV. They are all improvements. Does the eReader improve on traditional books?

For those who travel, eReaders are a joy. And think of the convenience when you’ll be able to download all the research materials you need from your local library—for free! Do you hate to see your kids lugging backpacks that weigh as much as they do? No more will they risk permanent spinal damage when they can download all their textbooks to an eReader. There are more pros—and cons—but let’s move on.

Printed books have been around since the mid-15th century. Isn’t it time for a change? Oh sure, we have audio books, but if we can, most of us still prefer to read the words ourselves. Until now, publishers of printed books have reigned supreme. But now they’ve been challenged—by the electronics industry.

We’re consumers. We’re techno-junkies. Of course we all want eReaders. And manufacturers are reveling in orgasmic glee because they know we all want the latest, shiniest, fastest version available and we’ll line up 24-hrs before they go on sale at midnight to get one. The content of the books won’t change, but the devices to read them will. Again and again.

Marketing genius is the real reason printed books will become obsolete.

Now, tell me, have you ventured into the eReader frontier? (For the record, I don’t own an eReader—but I’d be happy to try one if anyone’s feeling generous.)

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But will they understand what I’ve written?

Recently, sweet Karen Schindler, sent me a link to a video of Jon Bonjovi singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and that reminded me that I’d heard the song covered by others. I would be surprised if you haven’t heard some version of the song. As I found out, it’s been covered over forty times. I’m not familiar with all those versions, but I’ve heard enough to know that some who sing it, judging by their emotionless rendering, apparently don’t really listen to the words. Yet, of course, lyrics are open to interpretation.

Cohen is quoted as saying he’s written “about eighty verses” of the song. He recorded only four of those for his album Various Positions in 1984, and then three different verses, plus one from the first set, on a live album in 1994. In other live performances, he may add another verse or switch the order—he interprets his own song. If you compare, you’ll notice that others who perform the song also pick and choose from these seven verses, often changing a word or two to fit their own interpretation.

Hallelujah is a “catchy” song. But it’s not a happy love song. Nor is it a religious song, despite the chorus with it’s repetition of the title word, a word with religious overtones. In my opinion, however, it is a spiritual song. It speaks to the human condition. It expresses the pain and bitterness of life and love, but underneath it lies understanding, acceptance, victory. Hallelujah, I’m alive! Hallelujah, I’ve survived.

For me, the singer who most does justice to the song, is k.d. lang, whose performance of it brings tears to my eyes. Cohen himself, seeing her performance of the song, said: “Well, I think we can lay that song to rest now! It’s really been done to its ultimate blissful state of perfection.” You can watch her performance at the 2005 Juno Awards by clicking at the end of this post. And if you’d like to read all seven verses of Cohen’s song, click here for the 1984 version and here for the 1994 version.

When thinking about these differing interpretations of one song, I can’t help applying that to my writing. In critique groups, I’ve experienced someone reading into my work something more than what I intended or failing to get the meaning I did intend—both instances frustrate and disappoint. But the game will really change once my work is published. I’ll still have control of copyright, but I can’t control how people interpret what I write. If strangers misinterpret my meaning, I can’t do much about that. If someone slams my novel at places like Amazon or Goodreads, I won’t like it, but they are entitled to their opinion.

I guess the best we can hope for is that the majority of readers out there will be “k. d. langs” who really get our writing.

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Since I loved it, I will tell you this

A month ago, I mentioned I was reading two story collections, one old, one new. I told you about the old one and promised to tell you about the second collection the next week. Then, I decided I should finish the book first, and life kept getting in my way, so I didn’t finish the last story until a few days ago. Technically, I don’t review books. I’m not schooled in dissecting and analyzing. I can only give you my opinion, tell you that I like a book or not, and maybe share a bit of why.

So, what’s my opinion of this book? Look at that photo of assorted truffles. Can’t you practically taste their rich, creamy, sweet, elegant, lusciousness? Well that, dear friends, is the chocolate equivalent of Robin Black’s debut If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This. The book consists of ten stories, each one a different flavor, each marvelous—like truffles.

I’ll share a quote from the inside jacket flap: “Brilliant, hopeful, and fearlessly honest, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This illuminates the truths of human relationships, truths we come to recognize in these characters and in ourselves.” That’s not hype; that’s truth. From the opening pages, I knew these stories were masterfully written. Robin Black not only starts us with a unique situation: a father taking his daughter to meet her first seeing-eye dog, but she complicates it with the unexpected: as he drives along trying to pay attention to his daughter’s chatter, his mind wanders to visualizing his mistress as she seduced him the night before.

Always, she delights with language:

“A streetlight comes on. Clara waits to see how long it will take another to join it. A minute passes, two minutes. Nothing. They must have different levels of sensitivity, she thinks. They must believe different things about what darkness is.”

And this:

“Her body, no longer thin, no longer seemed striving to be thin and had acquired a relaxed, logical quality, as though the wide hips and general sense of plenty were the obvious right choices.”

And this:

“The truth was, he wasn’t sure he would ever like anyone again. He seemed to have lost the thread of how affections worked.”

I read these stories as a reader, and they enthralled me. I read them as a writer, and they amazed and inspired me. I read them as an editor, and never picked up my red pencil—and, for me, that rarely happens.

Keeping with my truffle analogy, it’s probable best that it took me awhile to finish the book. As with all fine chocolate, it’s best savored slowly.

If you’d like to know more about the author, read Cynthia Newberry Martin’s blog post A Day in the Life of Robin Black. You might also like to read her review of the book and visit Robin Black’s website.

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