Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Autumn's Death (WoE #43)

Write at the Merge gives us the word pine and the following picture for inspiration.

Photo courtesy unsplash by way of Write On Edge

I have a renaissance faire to attend this weekend, in Escondido, California. With the recent weather and my thoughts colliding with another century, I wanted to return to my Anastasia and Arik, the Count of Monteschell. We last learned what a true beast Anastasia's brother is. The stakes of the game of power and royal favor are about to get more risky. This week's post, more than the seasons change.

I offer the following in response: The Death of Autumn's Reign

Trees pined for winter and dropped their scarlet and golden tears on the weathered gazebo deck, in requiem for its forgotten ash grove. Children played nearby under the scrutiny of the waning sun, oblivious to the end of autumn as if seduced by a piper clad in a pied cloak. Anastasia knew the moment autumn died; she felt the seasons shift in her bones. She drew her shawl closed and tasted snow on the eastern breeze.

A bad omen, withal. The season turned too early.

“M’Lady,” her footman said, leading her steed to her. “We should return.”

“We are waiting.”

He shook his head, “Twilight is approaching. His Grace will not come at this hour.”

Anastasia shivered. The footman was right, of course, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave. Something felt off. “We are waiting.”

“M’Lady, your teeth are chattering.”

Her breath rose in smoke-like tendrils. “We are still waiting.”

The children abandoned their games in a slow exodus from the field, the heartiest soul among them the last to leave. The footman bounced in his place. “M’Lady, this cold isn’t good for the horses. Will you not think of them?”

Ground-born thunder rolled through the meadow before the royal standards appeared through the tree line. “Damn,” she whispered as the King’s horsemen rose into view. One soon broke from the train, leading the others in formation and panic squeezed her heart as she realized the men had been sent for her. And her Arik rode among them. “Please, don’t leave me, Cullen.”

The footman was a beacon of fear. “Yes, m’lady.”

A nobleman dismounted and joined her count as he crossed the empty space between Anastasia and the circled soldiers. She dropped into a low curtsy, at their approach, uneasy at the display of force. Why was Arik riding with the King’s men and why were there so many of them?”

“My Lady Dumarche,” Arik extended a hand to help her rise. “I apologize for the show of force. I bring you grim news.”

Blood pumped in her ears. “I am your servant, Your Grace.”

“I am on King’s Business,” he continued. “His majesty has taken ill and your father has been arrested. Your brother is acting on behalf of your lands and requests that you return to your home at once.”

If her brother controlled her fortune, she could very well end up the next morning dead of poison, or worse, discarded in the old oubliette. She sucked in a stiff breath and stared against Arik’s hard gaze, seeking silent his guidance. “Your Grace, I beseech you,” she said, choosing her words carefully. There were too many witnesses to be informal. “As it is a long journey back to my father’s palace, and as the cold is unbearable, might I impose upon your custody and weather the night at Monteschell?”

Arik’s face relaxed, a spark of hope danced in his eyes. “That is a reasonable request. Come. Mount your horse. We will to my father’s stead.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Precipice 2013 is HERE!

Announcing Precipice 2013!

"You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from."  
Cormac McCarthy, "No Country for Old Men" 

 In the second volume of Precipice, twenty-four authors from the Write on Edge community explore the concept of luck in twenty-six works of poetry, short fiction, and memoir.

I am proud to be a part of such a wonderful, supportive community and I am equally proud that my work has been selected for this publication. My sincerest thanks goes to the dedicated editorial staff at Write on Edge, whose encouragement and advice help me improve as a writer. 

Check out Precipice 2013, available from these fine retailers:

The ebook will become available on iTunes, Kobo, B&N over the next few weeks, and at some point in the next week, the two editions on Amazon will be merged. Watch the FB and Twitter feeds for updates.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cost and Value: Print Books

Aspects of independent publishing Part Five: Pricing, continued.

Dead-Tree Overhead!

So far we’ve discussed the power of 99, and the fluid pricing for ebooks. For those of you, like me, who want to see their novel in actual print, on actual dead-tree paper in perfect-bound glory, this next segment is for us.

Let’s face the facts folks: It can literally cost nothing to produce an ebook except the time required to sit before a computer screen and type. That's why there are so many of us jumping into the DIY ocean. For a physical book, there’s more to consider than public reaction to the price point. The publisher (that’s you) now has overhead.

And the publisher has to know their market.

Print on Demand printers like CreateSpace and Lightning Source are cost effective because you don’t have to worry about storing thousands of copies of your book in your basement while trying to establish a sales channel through your favorite Independent Bookseller. But some decisions can negate this effectiveness.

Like what font you’re using.

Oh, we know that Shel.
That’s why we went to FontSquirrel and searched through
the free of cost and use fonts for the perfect font.
We’ve got that covered,
so let’s get on with it.

Not so fast. Yes, it is extremely important to have a font that is easy to read and almost as important to have one that doesn’t look like the standard font from your word processor. However, the choice of font could mean the difference between profit and loss. The size of your font, not just the interior layout, affects how many pages are in your book. The number of pages in your book affects the bottom line of printing your book.

If you can cut out a hundred pages simply by adopting a new, mass-paperback-friendly font, you’ll be in a different pricing block, and will have more room to turn a profit.

If you’re going the DIY route, or if you're struggling with layout, there are lots of helpful sites that will give you free advice and examples, and even quality, low priced templates to use for your project. Will it look as professional? Maybe not, but it will look pretty damn close. Take a minute, do some research, decide what you’re comfortable doing and what you want to hire a professional for.

Research the professionals you hire, too. I can't stress enough the need to take your time with this. Your research will help you locate a trustworthy person who will deliver you a quality product. Establishing a budget early and sticking with it will keep you from getting taken by someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Shameless plug: I have navigated the layout waters, and I am in a position to help you for dirt cheap, depending on your project. While my advice or lunatic ravings are free, my labor no longer can be. My fees, however, are extremely flexible and negotiable.

Okay, we get it Shel. Can we discuss pricing now?


Okay, so let’s pretend we’re all set to go. We’ve got the layout, exterior and interior, all ready for print. If you don’t know anything about paper stock, again, I urge you to do some research. There are some confusing terms regarding paper, like point and weight. Like with all things, the higher the quality, the more it costs. This is where you learn the true meaning of compromise. CreateSpace has a pretty decent calculator to help you establish the “per each” cost of your print book.

We’ll use my books Hagatha Kittridge Must Die and The Trouble with Henry as examples. The assumption is that we’re printing with 10pt color stock and laminated cover, and 60# cream interior. Our final trim size is 5.5 by 8.5 inches or 13.97 x 21.86 cm.

Hagatha is 164 pages, including front and back matter. CreateSpace says the cost for 1 is $2.81 + $3.59 for standard shipping and handling.

So to get a “proof” copy, it will cost me $6.40.

Trouble is 346 pages, including front and back matter. CreateSpace says the cost for 1 is $5.00 + $3.59 for standard shipping and handling.

So to get a “proof” copy, it will cost me $8.59.

See what I mean about font affecting your page count? If you can cut even 50 pages extra out, it's worth it in the long run.

So that’s it Shel? That and sales tax for the bookstore?

No. You want to earn a royalty and the bookstore you’re courting wants to turn a profit. You want a EAN/UPC on your cover. Bookstores won’t carry your book without it. The UPC barcode will need to have the suggested retail price.

And just so you're aware, once you set the Retail Price, it costs time and money to change it.

You really want to give some thought about your suggested retail price. Not only do you want the price to compare to other books in the same genre, but you want to make sure that bulk prices and retail/distribution don’t cut into your royalties.

And here is where we begin to understand how a traditionally-pubbed author may only see $0.80 royalty on his book priced at $15.99. Not that I’m defending the archaic business practices of a Big-6 5 publisher, but they do have a lot of people working under their roof that have families to support. They are interested in profit, as they have every right to be in a capitalist society.

Okay Shel, we’re on the same page.
How do we determine our Sales Price?

We'll use Hagatha Kittridge Must Die as an example. 

Assuming we're printing on demand one book at a time, $6.40 in the above scenario is our break even point. If I'm selling the print book through my own site, I could, say, price the book at $8.00 and be done. I sell a book, I make $1.60 profit. It's slim maybe, but it's still a profit.

But, if I want to sell through a bookstore, I need to allow for things like Standard Trade Discount, and I want to be competitive here, not stingy. Keep in mind, self-publishing, indie-publishing, author-publishing, no matter what name you give it is still experiencing some prejudice and bookstores are not going to be willing to risk shelf space for something that won't give them a profit.

So a professional, not-stingy Standard Trade Discount according to some non-stingy industry professionals would be set at one of the following:
  • 15-20% to Libraries and College Bookstores
  • 40% to Independent Bookstores
  • 50-55% for Large Chain and Distributors
  • and a bulk discount for anyone from your website who may want to buy more than one of your books at a time, a courtesy that your readers will appreciate, especially around Christmas.
Now, I don't know how the rest of you feel about your local library, but I personally think libraries may be getting the short end of the stick. And I don't see why Independent Bookstores should be shafted because they're not a big name store. And with that in mind, I'm more inclined to give a 55% trade discount across the board here. Why not? It's my book, right?

And since my readers are buying direct from my website, I can give all kinds of discounts or bundles or extra bits that help me stay connected with them. 

But if I was to sell Hagatha to distributors with $8.00 retail in mind at the 55% discount, they would be purchasing Hagatha at $4.40. That's a Net Loss of $2.00.

So my break even point is off. By at least two dollars. I want to sell Hagatha for as inexpensive as I can and still make a profit, and still have the price point be competitive in the market with all the other books on the shelves, I have to look at bumping up the retail price to make this work.

Changing your EAN barcode price gets expensive because you have to change the information on the cover of your book. You can always sell for less than your suggested retail price, but you can't sell for more. The chances of you getting tarred and feathered if you do rise substantially. Just saying.

So let's look at a different formula.

How about two and a half times that break even amount?

$6.40 x 2.5 = $16.00 new retail price
$16 x 45% = $7.20 the unit price for the Standard Trade Discount
$7.20 - $6.40 = $0.80 net profit.

Not much, right? $16.00 (or because we know the power of 99, $15.99) will net me $0.80 in royalty. Looks a lot like what I'd get from a traditional publisher if I was going that route. 

Now, before you go delving too deeply into my math formulas, I should probably let you know that I barely passed maths in school. And this is the price per each, based on one book ordered at a time. Theoretically, the more you purchase at a time, the less expensive the cost per each becomes, and you can adjust the numbers with that in mind, if you desire.

My advice to you?
  • RESEARCH THE DEVIL out of your cardstock choices, your printer choices, etc. Decide what you can afford to do, and what is necessary to do, with your final product.
  • RESEARCH THE DEVIL out of fee-per-sale website plugins to set up your own store. Sites like Gumroad and Wordpress have these things down to a science. Look at the fine print and make sure your comfortable with the arrangements.
  • Did I mention RESEARCH? Just checking.
  • Run the numbers. Look at your genre, your competition. Run the numbers again before you set your suggested retail price. If you don't, you could be shelling out more money than you have or want, and can and probably will be extremely disappointed with the outcome of your dead-tree exploration.
  • and last but not least: DO NOT LET ANYONE DISCOURAGE YOU.

I said it before and I'll say it again here: No one will believe in your book if you don't, and no one will believe in it more than you. If you want your book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, or at Waterstones, these are the sorts of things you need to be prepared for.

If you have other questions of a non-legal nature about publishing independently, or if you would like a cheer squad to help you walk through the process, feel free to ask me. I’m willing to help where I can. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not a community to publish a book?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Anticipation of Autumn (WoE week 42)

Write at the Merge gives us two words this week: Anticipation and Leap.

I'm going with Anticipation, and I'm going to give you something a bit different this week.

I offer the following in response: Autumn Means Pumpkins!

I have been sitting on edge for the last few weeks. Autumn is a season of preparation. We anticipate winter’s approach like loyal subjects for their queen, festooning trees with brightly hued leaves of gold and rust. The world seems to me like a child that cannot sit still at the midnight hour in wait for Saint Nick, watching the starry skies through frost covered windows, afraid to sleep because it might miss something.

For me, the wait begins with the planting of the pumpkin vine. I’m a bit obsessed with pumpkins, mostly because they each have their own personality, with warts and scars and farmer tans from sitting on the ground too long during their development. When no one is watching, I hug them.
Who am I kidding? I hug them even when people are watching. Don’t judge me. I never said I was normal.

Anyway, I thought I’d share the reason why I’m hovering over my pumpkin vines in wait for their perfect orange fruit. The following is my absolute favorite pumpkin recipe. 

Pumpion Pye
AKA: Baked Whole Pumpkin

Variations of this dish has been around at least since the colonies were established in the Americas, and was a known favorite of our founding fathers. George Washington himself was especially partial to Pumpkin Pie and requested it often from his own kitchen. Of course, the concept of pie has evolved over the centuries, from the waste not/want not use of yesteryear leftovers to the flaky crust and sweet fillings that we all know pie to be today.

For a very special holiday pumpkin dessert, give this flashback a shot:

WARNING: This is not for anyone on any form of diet for any reason. If you or someone you serve develops heart disease, diabetes, or other dietary malfunction, DO NOT BLAME ME. It is solely your responsibility to ascertain if you or those you serve are healthy enough to partake of this dish.

Now that the public service announcement has been issued, let’s begin.

Preheat the oven to 350*

Gather the ingredients:
·         A small pumpkin, 3 or 4 pounds, guts removed
·         3 whole eggs
·         1 cup heavy whipping cream
·         ¼ cup brown sugar
·         ½ Tbsp molasses
·         ¼ tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
·         ½ tsp cinnamon
·         ¼ tsp ginger
·         Fresh Vanilla bean, scraped, or a few drops of extract, to taste
·         1 Tbsp butter (real butter please, no skimping)

After guts have been removed from the pumpkin, mix all remaining ingredients except the butter and fill the pumpkin with the mixture. Top the mixture with the butter. Place the top back on the pumpkin and place in an oven-safe dish (this is to keep leakages from spilling out into the oven) and bake for 1-1 ½ hrs or until the mixture as set like a custard.

If you can wait for the pumpkin to cool before serving, you win bragging rights for self-control. While amazing at cool, this pumpkin is positively sinful while hot. Serve from the pumpkin directly at the table, scraping the pumpkin meat off with each scoop of the custard. Family style suggestion: hand everyone a spoon and announce “dig in”. 

For those of you who are trying to do the vegan thing, some friends have suggested that cream of coconut works for the whipping cream, but I have no idea what to do about the eggs. You guys are on your own, but I wish you the best of luck. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cost and Value: eBooks

Aspects of Independent Publishing Part Five: Pricing

How Much is that eBook in the Window?

Today we’re going to discuss the root of all evil. Let’s face it, we haven’t gone this far and argued this much over and about our books without having some sort of financial goal in mind. And, in today’s economy, Money isn’t something many of us have an excess of. We have to have money in order to make money.

Does that mean we have to sell our souls to get our book noticed?

Eh, maybe. It depends on what your end goal is. And if your soul carries a bit more equity than mine does, you may even come out ahead. I’m not equipped to help you with soul-negotiation though, so you may want to seek professional help first.

But, I’m digressing.

The topic I want to discuss over the next two installments is Price-Fixing. And not in the Apple/Amazon/Big 6 5 publisher way. What is the magic number, the magic price tag that will cause a reader to buy my book?

There are a few muddled websites out there advertising convoluted formulas that make sense when the stars are aligned with Jupiter. It’s even kinda cool in a bean-countery sort of way to sit down and chart the what-ifs in relationship to the what-thens. Before we break down these magic components though, I want you to read the following and take it to heart.

  1. My book has value.
  2. My reader owes me nothing.

Wait, Shel. Aren’t these statements contradictory?

No. These statements are the Ying-Yang of your self-esteem and the drive behind your end goal. No one is going to believe in your book if you don’t, and no one is going to believe in it more than you do. Let Kismet or the Magic 8 Ball worry about the proper star alignment around Jupiter. A reader interested in your book will buy your book when and only when they feel like it, based on their own need to make ends meet and not on your needs to make ends meet. 

But... but... but…

Fine. You’re right. I don’t have all the answers, any more than you do. I’m definitely not a marketing expert. I’m not an accountant (although I majored in accounting for a whole semester in college) and I’m certainly not a Magic 8 Ball in league with Kismet.


Let me walk you through what I’ve done, why I’ve done it, and where to go next. Today, we’re starting with the magic number 99.

Have you ever wondered why things are priced at $0.99 and not simply $1? $9.99 instead of $10? $99.99 instead of $100?

Consumers have a really bad habit that has been proven by every psychological experiment dealing with economics and statistics. Most consumers do not typically round up when looking at a price tag. Gas stations tap into this at a deeper level, pricing things at 9/10 a penny. The 9/10 never changes even though the cost of crude does. 


Because $3.75 9/10 per gallon looks more attractive than $3.76 per gallon. 

Same thing goes with books. An ebook priced at $0.99 is going to sell more copies than if it was priced at $1. Psychologically, we think we’re getting a bargain.

I know this to be true, because every time I shop with my BFF, she drops off the cent side of the price tag. “It’s only 13 dollars,” she says. I look at the price tag. It reads $13.85. It’s closer to $14 than it is $13. “What’s the big deal?” you might think. “It’s just $0.85.” Well, if I buy 10 items, the cost is $138.50. My BFF’s $8.50 short in her estimate and I’m $1.50 over with mine. Who’s more prepared for the checkout total? My BFF looks at the receipt each time like she’s been overcharged, when really, all she’s done is underestimated.

But most buyers pay even less attention than that, and retailers know this.

So what you’re saying is I should price my books at $0.99 instead of $1?

No. Wait, yes, if you’re planning on selling your book at $1 and you want volume of sales. But no, that’s not specifically what I’m saying here. What I’m saying is set your price officially with the $0.99 in mind. If you want to sell your book for $5, mark it at $4.99 or $5.99.

Since the publishing outlet everyone is familiar with happens to be Amazon's KDP, I will use their module as an example.

My short story Hagatha Kittridge Must Die is 32k in length, 303kb.  I set this story at $2.99. Why?
Amazon takes 65% of all titles listed at $0.99 or less.  At $0.99, I would make only $0.34  (rounding down). If priced at $1 even, Amazon takes 30%, and I make $0.70. 

I have to sell twice as many books at $0.99 than I would at $1 to net the same amount.

Except, unless you’re enrolled in the KDP select program, there’s a little delivery fee Amazon tacks on depending on the size of the download. At 303kb, that’s a charge of $0.04. So really, I’m making $0.66 at the straight dollar price.

But, I’m less likely to get noticed at $1 than I am at $0.99. So what’s a girl to do?

First, I’m not a big fan of the $0.99 price-point anyway, especially as a reader. One reason may have to do with how much Amazon believes they’re entitled to and that knowledge has jaded me. Mostly though, it’s got to do with quality.

I’m not saying that you can’t find quality books at $0.99. But take a look at other things that are priced that low. Like what you might find at the nearest Dollar Store or $0.97 Heaven. Shampoo for example, priced that cheap, is made of mostly water. I end up using more of it to gain any use of the bottle. Stack five bottles of the stuff against say, one bottle of Suave from Target…How much money are you truly saving?

Shel, that’s a bogus comparison and you know it.

Okay, so maybe it pushes the boundary of believability. But it’s what I had to work with at the time. And there’s still a ring of truth to it. As a consumer, these are the sorts of things I make decisions on every day. So do you. Can we afford to buy the bulk? Will the veggies go to waste before we can use them all? How many hot dogs to hot dog buns?

And the quality of random books isn’t really what I want to discuss here. Why did I price Hagatha Kittridge Must Die at $2.99? Because readers definitely won’t pay me $20/hr for the book. My talents are worth at least that. (See me ooze with confidence?) Seriously though, I feel it’s a good price for a 30k story from a reputable author. It’s a price tag that I as a reader would feel comfortable in paying. As I want to be considered as a reputable author, that’s the price I went for.

The stigma of self-publishing is eroding, but there are still many pockets of deeply-rooted prejudice in readers and even other authors. What works for me, what I'm comfortable with, may not work for you. And that's okay.

My best advice on ebook pricing? Don’t undermine your talent. Be aware of what books/short stories/novellas/flash fiction in your genre is going for. Price the book to fit your conscience. But most of all: be consistent.

Like if you price all your flash-fiction or shorts that are less than 8k words at $0.99, don't write a 4k word piece and publish it at $30.99. Make sense?

Since the ebook publishing world is fluid, it might also be a good idea to experiment until you find a mix you’re comfortable with. Don't just jump on the "it's-got-to-be-$0.99-or-no-one-will-buy-it" bandwagon. Again, this is where I'm going to urge you to do some research, and adjust your plan as you see fit.

Stay tuned. Next week we discuss pricing dead-tree books. 

If you have other questions of a non-legal nature about publishing independently, or if you would like a cheer squad to help you walk through the process, feel free to ask me. I’m willing to help where I can. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not a community to publish a book?

Monday, October 7, 2013

DRM Bandwagon

Aspects of Independent Publishing: Part Four - DRM

DRM Bandwagon

Spoiler Alert: I'm about to get on my soapbox.

Uh-oh, Shel. You’re moving into a political debate. You feeling okay?

I’m fine, thanks for asking. And just so we’re clear, I’m not looking to start a fight here. I’m not asking anyone to do what I say nor am I even trying to say that I’m right and everyone else is wrong. DRM is a controversial topic that at some point in your writing career, you will need to make a decision on how you want DRM to effect you. I just happen to have an opinion. I personally don’t support DRM, but my readers understand by now that I don’t generally support anything that restricts freedom and makes criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

Wait, we thought you were talking about DRM?
Why are you discussing freedom infringement?

Because, don’t let Big Brother fool you. DRM isn't about protecting rights, especially not the rights of the individual. It's about money: who has it, who wants it, and who’s making it. It’s about restricting consumers’ rights for monetary gain.

This is a good place to discuss what DRM actually is. Digital Rights Management – or in some circles Digital Restrictions Management - is a policy, technology, software, app, or other digital doohickey designed to deter or circumvent copyright violations. 

That sounds relatively harmless, right? 

Part of the problem is that for each digital platform available, DRM takes on a different set of rules and operates under a different set of restrictions. You can do a Google Search and see for yourself. There is no universal guideline, no blanket “DRM means this and that”, and any policy left open to that much interpretation is bound to see abuse.

The companies benefit. The governments benefit. The determined criminal still breaks the law. In each frustrating scenario, no matter how you look at it, the consumer - the one spending actual money - loses.

We saw it happen to the music industry. MP3s were downloaded faster than anyone could say MP3 on file sharing sites. Then the government stepped in as an outcry was raised in the producers' homes. What were the producers so angry about? Exposure? No. Publicity. Nope, not that either. They were upset because they weren't getting any money from it. They saw a potential goldmine there and wanted their share. 

Don't get me wrong. As a business, as an author, I can certainly understand the desire to limit exposure to potential wrongdoers and turn a profit off of those who are looking to do things the honest way. This is, after all, America, and who doesn’t want to be rich and famous? I understand why we beg our readers Please, please, if you enjoy our work, please don’t download our stories willy-nilly and pass them out to your friends. Buy a new license for each article you pass along. Respect how we make our living.

As an end-user, this gets stuck in my teeth and becomes hard to chew. If I buy a stand-mixer, it’s mine. I own it. I can use it to make cupcakes and I can give those cupcakes to my friends. Or I can sell those cupcakes at a church social bazaar to help raise money for the local bobsled team. The Stand-Mixer company isn’t going to slap a cease and desist on me for using the product in a way that allowed other people to benefit from it without cost. As a matter of fact, the Stand-Mixer Company may prefer I invited my church over to my kitchen and allow each parishioner to use the mixer to make cupcakes to sell at the bazaar. The parishioners will all see how wonderful a product the Stand-Mixer Company makes and maybe go purchase one of their own.

That’s free publicity. That’s free marketing. That’s 20 sales the company didn’t have before the bobsled fundraiser happened. I’m happy I made cupcakes. The parishioners are happy they made cupcakes. The bobsled team is happy they got to eat cupcakes. The company is happy because they have more money and they can pay for health-care for their employees.

Aunt Edna will refuse to buy a brand new stand mixer and insist on purchasing one from the goodwill, one that the Stand-Mixer Company has already earned their $4k on. It’s okay. It’s Aunt Edna. Aunt Edna also refuses to turn her air conditioner on in the summertime because she’s cheap and doesn’t want to pay for a high electric bill. So she has a heart-attack because she’s dehydrated and…this parable is getting away from me, sorry.

But, Shel, you can hardly compare a kitchen small appliance to a book.

Can’t I?

If I buy a physical, dead-tree book, I have purchased the book. It’s mine. I own it. I read it. I enjoyed it. The royalties are dispersed by the publishing company and maybe the author gets his 20 cents. I loan the book to 20 parishioners, telling each of them Oh My Go-er-Heavens, you HAVE to read THIS book by THIS author. And out of those parishioners, 15 of them say eh, we’d rather have cupcakes, but the other 5. The other 5 parishioners say Oh My Go-er-Heavens, you’re absolutely right. I must read THIS book by this AUTHOR. Oh, and all the AUTHOR’s other books too. So each of the 5 goes out and buys the next three in the series. That’s 15 sales the author didn’t have before. It’s marketing. It’s advertisement. The publisher didn’t have to finance another campaign from the marketing department, but there’s enough money to buy health insurance for their employees now. And, it’s a whopping $3.00 the author gets after royalties are dispersed.

And Aunt Edna goes to the library and checks out all the books, books for which the royalties - $0.80 - have already been paid.

How is my dead-tree book-loaning any different from the library lending in this scenario? Everyone benefits. Everyone is happy.

Except maybe the author, because he only has $4.00 when the publisher made $4k. Honestly though, that’s between him and his Big 6 5 publisher.

Ah, but Shel, digital copies make it so much easier for criminals to criminate.
Something has to be in place to protect the author.

As far as I’m concerned, they already took care of that, those digital companies, in the most restrictive way possible. I buy a digital copy of a book. I read it, I enjoy it. I do not own it. It’s not mine. I can’t will it to my first-born non-existent son. I just paid a fee to rent it for my lifetime, or rather, for the lifetime of my terms and agreements with my digital reader company, subject to change without notice. If I decide I no longer want to use Banana’s reader and now I want to use Spark’s reader, I cannot just up and transfer my library. And unless I pay for rental space somewhere in the sky, if my reader/computer/digital device experiences the blue screen of death brought about by the four horsemen of the apocalypse, I’ve lost all the reading material I was saving up in case I wanted to on vacation when the apocalypse happened. My insurance company will replace my house and reader, but not my pumpkin patch, or my digital books.

It’s the end-user that suffers. The end-user that has to make the sacrifice. Because Banana, Sparks, and Bricks & Snowball are going to force the end-user to repurchase something he never actually owned to begin with, making more money off of the misery of the end-user just fighting to be whole again. And the New 3 keep dangling that 70% royalty check in front of the author’s nose to keep him complacent. Because hey, at least the author’s making way more with the New 3 than he ever did with the Big 6 5.

Come on, Shel, it’s way more complicated than that.
There are protocols and the like, and if you had ever been a victim of piracy, then you would understand the need to keep it from ever happening to anyone ever again.

You’re probably right. If I ever experience someone stealing my work and claiming ownership, or distributing said work illegally and making a profit on it, I would probably feel pretty stung. I might even pack up all of my cupcakes and refuse to sell them at the church bazaar for the bobsled team fundraiser. You may even find a public recanting linked to this very post where I scream I WAS SO DUMB!

Nevertheless, I would like for you to think about what's at the conception point of all this paranoia. The author is a business, a small one, but a business nonetheless. The publisher is a business, small or large, but a business nonetheless. DRM is the government and big business, small business way of maintaining their ability to make money, plain and simple. In order for businesses to have rights, consumers have to pay for the privilege of sacrificing their own. .

I am but one person. I can hardly write more than one novel a year. There are laws already in place for me to exact justice against those who abuse me. The end-consumer, my target audience, is anywhere from 2 (Thanks Mom and Dad!) to 2 gazillion (Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?). As an author, I do not fear my audience, I fear never being discovered. Why would I intentionally sabotage my potential for exposure?

So far, on all the platforms I have published to, all that have given me the choice if I want DRM, I check the box to opt out of the DRM. A determined pirate is going to violate me anyway, if he decides that’s what he wants to do. Criminals break laws. That’s why they’re criminals. I’d rather empower my law-abiding audience with the right to choose what to do with their purchase than tell them they can only read my stories on Wednesdays at the gym, or displayed on roasted banana flavored bricks because there are pirates in these here waters.

And as flippant as I’m sure this post sounds, I did not come to this opinion/decision without a hefty bit of research. I have come to the conclusion that I want to treat others the way I want to be treated. I choose to trust others the way I want to be trusted. Is it risky? Yeah, sure, but so is crossing the street.

I told you at the beginning that this foray into the independent publishing journey was going to be more soapbox than substance. I want to reiterate that I neither insist that you follow my lead, nor do I believe that everyone should feel the same way I do. 

Because I believe in the individual freedom of expression and the rights to both dish out and ignore advice. That’s just how I roll. 

If you have other questions of a non-legal nature about publishing independently, or if you would like a cheer squad to help you walk through the process, feel free to ask me. I’m willing to help where I can. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not a community to publish a book?