Books and Economics

I like to read. At last count, I have finished over twenty books already this year. Many of the authors whose works I have consumed within the last year are independently (self) published, or started out that way within the last five years. These include: Larry Correia, Holly Chism, Marko Kloos, Peter Grant, JL Curtis, John D. Brown, and Chris Hernandez.

I would like to offer my perspective as a consumer. Before I get started, I would like to say that when I look back at my fiscal decisions, even I can’t always understand the logic. Also, I am not a literary critic. I am just a functionally literate neanderthal who likes good stories.

I have a pain point, particularly when it comes to ebooks. I don’t like to spend more than five dollars. If an eBook costs more than that, I will usually spend eight dollars for the dead tree (paperback) version. If a particular title is more expensive than $5, and is only available in digital format, or if the paperback/hardcover is more than $8, it is unlikely that I will buy it.

Larry Correia is the anomaly in the above list. He has become a huge success in a very short time, and currently sleeps on piles of money. I became aware of him shortly after he signed with Baen, and watched his rise in popularity. For my tastes, he is reliable. I have enjoyed everything of his that I have read, and I think I own everything that he has ever published. Well, everything except for some short stories that are part of collections with other authors with whom I am not familiar. He spoils his readers with much longer than average works that don’t feel long until you look at the clock and realize how long he has kept you entertained.

Even so, I won’t pay just any price for his stuff. His ebooks usually go for at least as much as his paperbacks. Some of his books are released in hardcover, at least at first. Because of this, I will pre-order every paperback that he releases, at least until he starts to suck, but I won’t be buying any of his ten dollar ebooks. As for hardbacks, it depends on my circumstances.

Marko Kloos is a recent rising star, at least of sorts. He blogged for years about Terms of Enlistment while writing it and trying to get a publishing deal for it. In a fit of rage and frustration one night, he released it himself. It sold like gangbusters, and shortly thereafter, he landed a contract. He has re-released ToE, and published a sequel as well as a short story and a 20K word novella in the same universe.

I am probably way off base, but I attribute much of Marko’s success to his chosen price point. He offered up a digital copy of ToE for $2.99. I don’t think that any of his blog readers even blinked before jumping at such a deal. We knew his writing from his blog and from some short pieces that he had put out there earlier. Plus, he had already promoted the hell out of it, whether he realized it or not, and many of us were wishing that he would hurry up and sign with someone so we could buy it already.

The prices have gone up since he got his contract, but at $3.99/$4.99 (eBook) for the full length titles, I feel that they are fairly priced. I haven’t bought the novella yet, though. I am having a hard time justifying in my mind spending two bucks for sixty pages that I will devour in an hour or less. Although I will probably spend that much at the vending machine in a few minutes. I warned you that my logic is flawed.

I firmly believe that Holly Chism is an undiscovered jewel. She has released two books in her Modern Gods series, and is close to releasing the second in her Legends series. I admit, it took me two times through Godshead (Modern Gods I) to fully appreciate it. I slept through high school lit class, so I knew very little of the mythology around which the story is written. As such, I was busy playing catch up the first time around. After catching up, I enjoyed it, as well as the next in the series.

The Last Pendragon was absolutely awesome. Holly’s novels are full length, but after being spoiled by the likes of Larry Correia and Dan Wells, they seem short to me. I was disappointed when I got to the end of Pendragon. It was a fun ride, tied up well enough to give a reasonable level of satisfaction, yet left me impatient to know what happened next. In other words, she did her job perfectly. I just wanted a little more.

She has also chosen to put a $2.99 price tag on the eBook versions of her novels. She could add a dollar, maybe even two to that and still qualify as a bargain. I take back my complaint about length. I expect very good things from her in the future.

Peter Grant is another blogger and aspiring author. He has four books out. One is autobiographical in nature, and I haven’t read it yet. The other three are part of what he calls The Maxwell Saga. I enjoyed all three. At $2.99 each for the first two, and $3.99 for the new one, you get more than you pay for.

Then there is JL Curtis. He just released The Grey Man. His asking price is $6.99 for kindle, and over twelve federal reserve notes for dead tree. I understand a higher cost for the paperback, but I am confused by the price for the eBook. Based on reading his blog and the opinions of folks who have met him, he seems neither greedy nor in particularly dire financial straits.

In a recent blog post, he commented on sales of the book, and didn’t seem very impressed. I think that the price is a big part of that. I bought it, but debated long and hard with myself before doing so. Having read the book, I can say that it is worth the asking price, but just barely. It is a good story, and well told. However, the writing is somewhat unpolished, as is to be expected from a first novel, and it was slightly beyond belief in a couple spots. I think that $4.99 would be a good price, and maybe bump the next one to $5.99. That being said, barring a change in my financial situation, I will probably pay another $6.99 for his next one, assuming that there is one.

I saved Chris Hernandez for last, and not for the usual reason. He has published two books that I am aware of. I bought Proof of our Resolve for $5.99. I was just starting on my eBook journey, and was even more hesitant to pay the extra dollar above my limit than I am now. But, I knew from his blog that he could write well. So, I took the plunge.

I was rewarded with a good (but not great) story. I enjoyed it, but when I finished it, I was disappointed. I knew I had overpaid. Unlike most books, there was no indication of length in the description on amazon. I know, it isn’t all about length. A book only needs to be as long as is necessary to tell the story. The story was fully told, and told well. There just wasn’t enough meat to justify the price. $3.99, yes. $4.99, doubtful. $5.99, no way.

Even so, when Line in the Valley came out, I read the free sample. It reeled me in, and I was separated from another $5.99 before I knew what happened. It was money well spent. It is truly novel length, well written, entertaining, and educational.

I don’t know how closely I resemble the average consumer, and I doubt that more than one author, aspiring or otherwise, will ever see this, but I wanted to put it out there anyway. It is worth at least as much as you paid for it.

Sorry for not including links. I wrote this on my phone, and it is being a PITA tonight. Use your google-fu.

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4 Responses to Books and Economics

  1. hollychism says:

    I think you sold another copy of Pendragon for me…thanks.

  2. JS says:

    J L Curtis apologized on his blog, Oldnfo.org, for the higher price of “Grey Man” on Kindle and said Amazon set that as the lowest price and he was unable to do anything about that, or words to the same effect.
    Decent book and a great guy though so I didn’t mind kicking in an extra buck or three. I specialize in reading books under two dollars myself. And of course free.

    • alaskan454 says:

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. My understanding of OldNFO’s (JL) comment was about the paperback version, but perhaps I misunderstood and he was referring to the digital version also. I don’t understand why both Marko and Holly were able to choose $2.99 on amazon and JL couldn’t, but what do I know?

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