There are a lot of things to be annoyed about with the state of the publishing world, however there are even more things to be excited about though.
With so many new voices finding their way into the market either through small presses, independent presses or just self-publishing their novels…we are quite literally spoiled for options when trying to decide what to read next.
What invariably follows is a cat and mouse game of what my friends are reading and whether or not it’s something that will appeal to you. This is actually both a blessing and a curse. Ebooks have only exasperated the situation as one can read thousands of books for pennies on the dollar…or absolutely free in some cases.
Now, enter my annoyance.
As both a reader and a writer, I find it frustrating being subjected to gimmicks. I don’t mind a series of novellas perse, I just like to know what I’m getting myself into. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s what’s been going on for a couple of years now. This is primarily an ebook issue, however at a recent signing and workshop event I attended I found some print versions as well.
What happens is a new book releases; the first in a series. Typically the ebook is priced at $2.99 so that it takes advantage of Kindle’s higher payout structure. A few weeks later, another book comes out…and then another a few weeks later. Eventually, what was originally one novel has released in 10-20k increments. Now, this being a short-attention span time in our society, this is perfect. A longer novel releases in bits, making it easier to quickly read and move on…until the next part drops. This builds a buzz and it creates the appearance of a prolific writer.
There are groups, podcasts and forums dedicated to this type of sales gimmick, and it’s not the worst gimmick I’ve ever seen. It’s actually quite brilliant and it takes advantage of our need to quickly ingest something in easy to handle portions. It’s akin to pricing something at $39.99 and people glance at it and call it $30…instead of $40. It’s not a lie, but it also isn’t the truth.
Still, far be it from me to point out to my own readers that I’ll sell a whole book for $3.99 – $4.99 as opposed to six parts of a book for $2.99 each (that’s $17.94 for those mathletes out there).
Now, what amuses me to no end is that traditional publishers are seeing this trend and can do nothing about it. Their whole business model is setup to function on a per-book basis and releasing novellas are typically reserved for early education level readers. My daughter reads novellas…Princess Ponies to be specific. There is definitely a market for it, however the big publishers only target the beginning reader.
I suppose the point of this whole post is that I’m stuck in a quandary. I’ve said numerous times that I want writing to be more than a part-time job for me. In order to do that, I need to adapt to the changing marketplace. Yet…there’s still this old fart part of me that scoffs at the idea of this sales gimmick as a bona-fide tried and true method to appeal to the market as it exists.
It can be pretty hard to switch gears sometimes when you’ve been doing something one way for so long.