The Pricing of Axtara – Banking and Finance … in 1994

Here’s a fun one, folks! About two years ago I wrote a post called The Price We Pay – Are Book Prices Too Much? which investigated a (still) common complain that books were needlessly expensive—yes, even indie books—and that the prices needed to return to what many online remembered them being when they were younger, circa 1994.

This post took that declaration to task, examining it, breaking it down, looking at how the industry operated, then using math the readers could verify themselves to show that memory and nostalgia don’t always line up, and then from there showing that a wide range of books—Indie titles especially—are cheaper than ever thanks to advancements in technology.

The post also noted that where that isn’t true, IE where prices are higher it tends to be the big Trad Pubs who have deliberately eschewed modern advances and then as a cherry on top have sent their prices even higher just because they want more money.

To this day, this post remains one of the most popular on the site, collecting a regular daily stream of readers usually arriving from a Google search like “Why are books so expensive?” or the like.

But there was another factor in that post that made it, at least to me, quite memorable. It was when I went and adjusted the (then—tail prices have since taken effect with a few) prices of my own books back to 1994 cash to see what they were worth. And we got these two nifty little charts:

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OP-ED: Has Trad-Pub Just Become a Vanity Press?

So this question was posed and tossed around the other day in a writing chat after I came out with this week’s Being a Better Writer post (Working with Trad-Pub). Initially launched because someone had asked me if I was going to discuss Vanity Presses in conjunction with Trad-Pub, it later came back up because while the two are still different and separate, that barrier between the two has, from my perspective, shrunk quite a bit.

But before we get into this observation and musing, I do have one bit of news to share. The first draft of Starforge is now at 300,000 words, and about 66-70% of the way done. Step by step, day by day, the finale to the UNSEC Space Trilogy moves forward!

That’s all. Not saying anymore. So let’s talk about this odd question: Has Trad-Pub basically just become a form of Vanity Press? Well … yes? And also no. Vanity Press itself is on the way out, thankfully, due to the changing conditions of the publishing industry (independent authors helped, but print-on-demand is the real heavy hitter), but I’m getting ahead of myself. What is a Vanity Press, for those of you that don’t know?

Basically, back in the day, someone realized that of all those people submitting to the slush pile, there were a percentage of them with lots of money who didn’t have the inside connections that could have gotten them around the slush pile (this was in the days before agents or independent authors). So if they got their hands on a printing press, they could charge these people a large amount of money for their dream. They would provide no editing, no advertising, no marketing, nothing. And there wouldn’t be an advance. But they would deliver completed, printed copies of that “customer’s” book! And then that customer could tell people “Look, I’ve published a book!” which for many of them, was all they wanted to do.

And sure, they might promote the chance of fame and fortune, with a constant reminder that “Hey, that end is on you.” Might be just a little predatory, especially if they’re convincing people to take out loans to meet their printing costs, but that’s the cost of “business,” right?

Yeah, you can see where this is going, as well as why Vanity Press has such a negative stigma. People with a printing press taking folks money in exchange for printing copies of a book 100% as it was from the creator. Vanity Press didn’t provide editing, marketing, promotion, aid for the author (such as flying them to signings, or even setting those up) … none of it. Oh, and the person wanting the book published paid the publisher, not the other way around.

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Being a Better Writer: Working with Trad-Pub

Hello readers! Welcome to another Monday, to Being a Better Writer, and one of the last reader-requested topics of Topic List #16!

Yeah, we’ve come that far once again. There are only a few topics left, and before long—definitely before the month is out—we’ll be putting out a call for new BaBW topic suggestions once again! So, you know, be thinking about what you’d like to hear about!

In the meantime, though, we’ve still got a few posts to go, so it isn’t quite that time yet. But keep it in mind!

So, before we dive into today’s topic, as usual, let’s talk some quick news! Work on Starforge continues, but things have moved into a mad dash now. Literally or on my end, I won’t say, but the story and work on it is moving at a good clip. Might have the draft finished in another few months.

How about Axtara? How’s it been performing? Well, it did have a bit of a boost this weekend when the cover and a little blurb ended up on a Facebook group. The power of word-of-mouth! Those of you that have read it and loved it and want to see more, be sure to tell people you know about it! Or sands, if you’re the kind of person that hangs out on Booktube or frequents some book review sites, let them know about it! That’s how they find out about stuff!

Oh, and the invitation is still open for pictures of Axtara copies spotted in the wild! I’ve started seeing listings for it pop up in various bookstores (a number of them in … Germany?), so I know she’s out there!

And that’s it for the news! There isn’t much to talk about during the slump between books, I know. So, without further ado, let’s talk about the subject of today’s Being a Better Writer post! Let’s talk about working with Traditional Publishing.

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Being a Better Writer: The Expectation of Instant Success

I’ll lead with a fun fact: This post was originally going to be an OP-ED last week, until I was barely into writing it and already switching into “and here’s how this comes up in writing,” at which point I realized that this was becoming a Being a Better Writer post despite what I had originally presumed about it. So it shifted over to the Topic List, and today … Well, you can clear see.

All right, so we’re diving in without a preamble: What on Earth—or whatever world you happen to be reading this on—is this all about? Most of you reading the title are probably going to guess that it’s going to be addressing the creator, and be about “tempering expectations.” And it’s not. We’ll address that briefly, but instead this post is going to be coming from a slightly different direction: that of the public.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Let’s start at the beginning. Or rather, what the public often sees as the beginning: The publishing of the first book.

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News, Updates, and Musings

Hey readers! Been sort of a quiet week from me, hasn’t it?

Well, I’ll have you know that’s because I’ve been hard at work on both Axtara – Banking and Finance and Starforge. Even better, work on both is coming along nicely.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any other news worth reporting, or that you’re about to have Axtara in your claws (or hands, whichever). Right now Alpha 1 is about 76% complete, and I think after it’s finished up, I’m going to do a second Alpha, just to make sure some of the changes and alterations fly true under new eyes. This will delay any release a little bit, but shouldn’t by too much. You’ll still get the book fairly soon.

Plus, I still need to sit down and spend some time finding a cover artist since the one I’d really hoped for wasn’t interested. Which is tricky, as finding artists that can do spectacular portraits of dragons while still giving them very recognizable expression is … tricky.

Still, there’s good news coming out of the Alpha: Axtara is awesome. The readers have enjoyed it quite a bit, and I think it’s going to make quite a splash when it arrives.

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The Publishing Treetops Shake

So the last few weeks have been full of interesting news for the book industry. In fact, I was planning on posting on this last week, since it was more topical then (and I would have found easy access to the relevant links, now I’m just going to talk about it) but had that run-in with a falling teen from the sky and ended up a little out of it.

So we’ll discuss it right now instead, between bits of pre-work on Starforge. So then, what’s to talk about?

Well, when I say “book industry” I really mean one area: Traditional publishing. To be more specific, the big five. The last few weeks have seen a number of shakeups across the big five, from Simon & Schuster switching CEOs (even as they’re up for sale) to other publishers replacing high-up corporate positions, funneling their long-held higher officials out and bringing in new ones with the hope that they’ll bring change.

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Being a Better Writer: Pricing and Publishing Options for Ebooks

Hello readers! First, apologies for the lateness of this post, first of all. I got my day started a bit later than I expected to. Second, thank you new readers for all the new reviews I’ve picked up in recent weeks! They’ve been wonderful to see popping up, and with impressive regularity as well! As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts on my work, as there exists a whole spectrum of people out there who find new works to read based on reviews and ratings. The more there are, the easier it is for those people to make their decision.

Granted, my reviews being massively positive certainly doesn’t hurt. Colony is absolutely spreading as a must-read Sci-Fi in a lot of circles, from the sound of it!

So, a big thank you to everyone leaving reviews and telling their friends about Colony and my other works. Their popularity continues to grow!

All right, back-slapping part of this post ever. Let’s talk writing. Or in today’s case, publishing. Because today we’re talking about the final topic on Topic List #14, and it’s a contentious one.

Yes, you read that properly: Book Pricing can be contentious, and no, I just don’t mean with readers (thought that’s certainly true). It’s a dicey topic among authors as well. Just this last LTUE I ended up participating in a somewhat heated debate over book pricing and what would or “would not” work. It never moved past the stage of debate, but heated it was, with one author declaring to another that they had effectively destroyed their own career over their prices … even though the numbers didn’t support that.

What I’m getting at here is that no matter what I write, even trying to show the various
“styles” of publication pricing that are out there right now, someone is likely going to show up, read it, and think “Well that’s all wrong!” And perhaps even comment with their own opinions and thoughts on the matter about why one is right or wrong.

Why? Because publishing is basically a straight-up stormy sea right now, with everyone clinging to their own raft or boat to ride out the waves as the entire industry undergoes a lot of change. Sands, Simon and Schuster is up for sale, and could cease to exist, being the first of the big publishers to collapse (they’re up for sale as their parent company, Viacom, doesn’t see print as an area they wish to be involved in, and S&S has been delivering steady losses now for three decades).

So yes, there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there about book pricing and availability because the market right now has never been in such upheaval. So today, we’re going to talk about a couple of the different approaches there are to pricing your book and figuring out a cost.

Now, two words of caution before we begin: This is something you should could be considering even before your book is done. Why? Because some of these options will affect how your book is written. So you should at least have in the back of your mind a basic idea of “That’s what I’d like to go for” because deciding after the book is written, edited, etc, may make for a lot of changes. Changes to the level of “complete rewrite” in order to have a functioning product.

Second, this will not cover everything or every approach. Publishing right now is in such a flux that it’d be impossible for me to cover every approach, so don’t take what’s offered here as a the “only ways” to price and publish a book. For all I know there’s a young author out there who’s about to release a book in an entirely new way that’ll hit this list like a broadside wave out of the storm. But I can give you the methods of pricing and publication that I’m familiar with.

So, with that all in mind, let’s look at some various approaches to pricing and publishing your book.

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What’s the Next Big Shift in Publishing, and When Will it Hit?

Hey folks! Post-LTUE post here, based off of a couple of conversations I had at LTUE with other authors (be they at the green room, signings, panels, etc). It’s straightforward enough to jump right to the point, so I’ll ask it:

When will the next big shift in publishing hit?

Over the course of LTUE I ended up talking with several different authors on topics that all orbited around (or outright addressed) this idea: That publishing is seeing shifts. Ebooks and indie pubs, for example. And right now, tension is (according to a few authors) building for another. When it hits, what will it be?

This isn’t just from a publishing perspective, but also from an audience perspective. One author I spoke with pointed out that right now the real money for them was in selling short serials on Amazon, but admitted that they didn’t know if that would change soon or not. Would Kindle Unlimited suddenly be their big bank, or would it dry up entirely? There were a little hyperbole-ish about it, but at the same time I could see their point. Publishing right now is more tumultuous than it has ever been thanks to the rise of ebooks and indies, and no one really knows what’s going to happen next. Big publishers are fighting against the change, while authors are scrambling to embrace it, but ultimately where that will put things … well, no one knows, but there’s a lot of theory flying around.

For example, one conversation I was involved in basically boiled down to “Which of the big five trad pubs is going to fall first?” The question among the authors present wasn’t “Will one fall” but which one and when?

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The Uncertain Future of Amazon (and Indie) Advertising

So this one’s been on my list to write about ever since Jungle launched. Things have been … pretty busy, which is why it’s taken this long to get to it. But no matter where I’ve been, or what I’ve been doing, this topic has weighed on the back of my mind (even when sick, lol).

Why? Well, because I think it may have a lot of impact on the publishing future going ahead.

Look, let’s all be on the same page here: Indie publishing is the juggernaut change that the book industry is dealing with right now. Traditional publishers are fast falling out of favor, doubling down on archaic models and methods that haven’t made financial sense in two decades, while authors jump ship to newer, smaller indie pubs or just go completely independent on their own. And right at the middle of this swirling maelstrom is … Amazon. The world’s largest bookstore. Who basically looked at publishing and said “Oh, how cute and quaint. Well, you keep doing that, but we’re offering the future.”

Okay, what they really did was throw their doors wide open, say “Hey, anyone can sell a book here, and here’s your 70% royalty,” and let logic do the rest. Because few authors were going to stick with a traditional publisher model where they owned nothing and worked for a royalty so small they’d need to sell a hundred books just to make $10 when they could instead keep all the rights and sell two books to make $10.

Anyway, that’s ancient history by now, and the market is well on its way through the reactionary shift to this change, with traditional publishers struggling to stay relevant through all sorts of questionable actions like cutting author royalties even further or attacking libraries.

But this isn’t about that. Well, sort of. That’s all background to bring us up to speed so I can get to the real meat of today’s topic: Amazon’s Advertising system.

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Being a Better Writer: The Path to Publication

Welcome back readers! In lieu of news, let’s just dive right into things! Over the weekend I ran into quite a few people who had writing questions for me, but one that kept coming up from a wide range of people (after the usual “What have you written”) was “What’s the process of publication like?”

In a nutshell. The questions were pretty varied from “How do you get a book ready for publication?” to “What’s the best avenue for publishing right now?”

Later, as I was thinking ahead to this week’s topic for Being a Better Writer, it occurred to me that I’ve not really talked too much about the process of making that happen after we’ve written our draft. I’ve talked about it with my own work, but usually in the context of “Here’s the part of the process I’m at now.” And not with regards to other options for getting one’s book published. After all, I’m indie, but that’s hardly the only venue available out there to up-and-coming authors (though it is an extremely attractive one … if difficult).

So, you’ve reached the end of your draft. The story is done. Let’s talk getting that book ready for the public.

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