The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Sixty-Nine
Is It Coming to an End?
The questions are dwindling and if that trend continues the Mailbag may be on life-support. That’s okay, though; it’s been a great run and all things must end eventually. We’ll see how it goes the next couple of weeks and if I have to pull the plug I’ll do so knowing we had one heck of a good time for over a year.
Let’s get started today with a question about research.
Research and Authenticity
From Linda: “But, as for the mailbag, you never disappoint. I don't know if you have travelled to all of the places you write about, but I sense that you DO take the time to do a lot of research before you gift us with your writing. Do you?”
Linda, I’ll tell you a secret: I’m a little bit lazy when it comes to researching about a place. That’s why I almost always write about places I have either lived in or visited. I’ve lived in five states and I have relatives in three others, so I have a pretty good bank of information already stored inside my head. I’ve travelled to thirty-three states, so that helps. What I do research is the local history of an area I write about, and I’ll also take a close look at an area map so I can get some local street names and points of interest right. I think that adds authenticity to any piece if I take the time to do that much.
In that same vein, I’ve never written a short story or novel that took place in Europe. Simple reason being I’ve never been there and, back to that lazy thing, it would take me far too long to do the research necessary to make my piece sound authentic.
From Gwen: “Are you as disgusted with HubPages as I am? Now they have all those bot figures on our Hubs and they are correcting grammar on comments. I don’t understand why they do that stuff. Truthfully it stresses me out and makes me not want to write for them.”
Gwen, I’ll let you in on another little secret: I don’t care what the staff at HubPages does….or is it do? Anyway, I don’t pay attention to their fine-tuning and new strategies. I joined HubPages so I could become a part of a writing community and because it gave me an online platform where I could practice my craft. The HP staff and I have a perfect understanding and agreement: I leave them alone and they leave me alone. I don’t lead a rebellion against them for their little interferences and they let me publish my articles with all of their flaws.
That arrangement works for me and it obviously works for them because they haven’t kicked me off yet.
Finding the right price is an adventure
From Erica: “Bill, do you know anything about optimum pricing for ebooks? I go to Amazon and I see books priced from $.99 to $9.99, and I don’t understand how one decides on a price. It seems to me that selling for less than a dollar is just giving my writing away for free, but who would want to spend almost ten bucks for an ebook? It’s confusing!”
Erica, yes it is!
Kindle will tell you that the best price range for sales and profit share is between $2.99 and $4.99. I don’t know why. I’m not an ebook expert even though I have three of them published. I do know that ebooks are priced lower than hard-cover or soft-cover books for a reason: they are cheaper to publish and the public expects them to be cheaper. This has nothing to do with the quality of writing and everything to do with the laws of supply and demand.
Profit-wise, with 70% royalties, a writer can sell an ebook for $2.99 and make $2.04 on it. That share of the profits is actually better than you would make if you were published by an established publisher and your book sold for $9.99 in a bookstore. Once the cost of publication and distribution were deducted, an author makes about $.64 on a $9.99 book when published the traditional way.
So, bottom line, the $2.99 price point ain’t bad at all, and it seems to be the “sweet spot” with regards to maximum sales.
I’ve had people ask about writing and publishing individual chapters and selling them at $.99 each and I think that’s a great idea. The royalties would be lower but you might make up for it in volume of sales.
A lot of this is guesswork, but one thing you have to rid yourself of is the idea that the pricing of an ebook should be comparable to the pricing of a hardcover book. They are two different animals.
Another Ebook Question
From Paul: “I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the quality of writing is suffering with the advent of ebooks. There seems to be a flood of ebooks being published by people who really are horrendous writers. Let’s face it, you don’t have to be good to self-publish. I guess my question is: do you agree that ebooks are dragging down the quality of writing today?”
Paul, I agree with the premise but not the conclusion.
There is no doubt that one can find a plethora of poorly-written books on Amazon. My goodness gracious, we all know this to be true. The ebook revolution has opened the doors for any Tom, Dick or Harry to publish a book…or any Moe, Larry or Curly for that matter….but…..
There are also some incredibly gifted authors publishing ebooks. They may be the diamonds in the rough but they are out there, and their brilliance counts much more, to me, than the dullness of those ebooks that would be best used as birdcage liner….if they were real paper that is. J
I don’t think the quality of great writing has diminished at all because of ebooks. I just think the amount of bad writing has increased. Those two conclusions are not mutually exclusive.
And I’ll say one more thing and then shut up: I have read a number of books lately, published in the traditional way by established publishing houses, that were garbage. I don’t know why the editors chose those books to publish and I don’t know why the editors didn’t correct glaring errors, but somehow the books made it to print and I was sucker enough to read them.
There is quality in every industry. There is crap in every industry.
Such is life!
Facing the Unknown
From Ann: “What do you think of using some more unknown words in your writing? Have you done so? I would find difficulty including them if the meaning weren't obvious but there is probably some way of explaining in any text. The richness of such vocabulary is outstanding so I want to use some.”
Honestly, Ann, you answered this one for me. My biggest fear when using rarely-used-or-barely-recognized words is that I’ll totally confuse my readers. Now I say that knowing that surely there are some who will understand the meaning of those words, so I don’t want to insult the intelligence of anyone out there…but the average reader has a limited vocabulary, and tossing in a strange new word will do one of two things: it will force the reader to go get a dictionary, or it will turn off the reader and possibly annoy the hell out of them.
So to answer your question yes, I have done so, but I do so rarely these days and always with some trepidation.
A few things I've learned about writing
That’s All We’ve Got for Today
Thanks to all who asked questions and thanks to all who stopped by to read my responses. Will I be back next week with another Mailbag? If there are questions then yes; if there are none then no.
Only time will tell, but it’s been one hell of a ride and I’ve enjoyed this series greatly.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”