The Price Of Being Creative

Whattup party peoples and superstars? Flobo here and of course I want to talk to you about something relating to the writing craft.  Wait, don’t leave! Awwww.

 

There’s been a raging debate with independent authors such as your truly about the price we should charge for an eBook. Charge too much and no one will take a chance on you, charge too little and you sell your creative efforts short. The general public is more willing to roll with a higher price for a traditional book (from an unknown author) than they are an eBook, plain and simple. When my first book, By The Ounce was available for ten dollars the general consensus was “Hmm, not bad”. When “High Desert Run” was released for 1.99 a good portion of people I knew balked at the price. Were they stupidhead cheapskates? Yes, but it wasn’t their fault.

“Hmm, I don’t know. How about I give you a $1.75 and a old Bruce Lee T-shirt?”

 

Barring fame, I made a pact with myself to release my ebooks for no more than 3 dollars (but more than $1). Why? Well, even though I’ve been writing for years, I am just starting out in the public’s eyes. I remember two months ago I bought an eBook for six dollars, and I had that sense of self doubt I get only when I’m gambling money away (or dropping my car off at the mechanic — I swear those guys make up stuff sometimes). Business wise this makes sense. People associate eBooks with apps, and they won’t usually pay more than an “app price” for a book.

Now the creative side of me has to deal with this, however. The months spent writing and editing  is a lot of hard work, though this should go without saying. “High Desert Run” took me a year, and seeing it on sale for two dollars is a little disheartening. It’s a pride issue for that side of my brain. This is the reason why I refuse to sell my books for .99 cents. It’s like making sure you’re not the worst dressed at a party and settling for being the second worst.

Or you don’t want to be seen as poor for buying the cheapest wine, so you end up buying the second cheapest.

But what about other creative endeavors? My heart goes out to photographers and (since I live in the Los Angeles area these days) videographers. It takes a lot to run those types of businesses, and they have a lot of overhead. Whether it is equipment, delivery expendables, payment to employees (if necessary), it is not a walk in the park.

Which is good for this guy because he was born without eyes.

 

Much like how the digital revolution has caused every Joe and Schmoe to call themselves “photographers”, putting them on a sole mission to undercut the prices of everyone else, indie authors are pretty much in the same boat. Now, I don’t claim to be the best writer out there (in fact a purpose of this blog is to display my “skillz” in hopes that you do actually buy one of my books one day) but there are loads of authors with a shaky grasp of the English language crowding the marketplace with eBooks of their own. I’m all about the free market and competition, but a lot of these self-proclaimed “authors” sour the experience for everybody.

Graphic designers, animators, and music composers know exactly what I’m talking about. How are you supposed to do what you love (or make enough to eat) when someone is out there with claims of comparable quality is willing to do it for much less?

1) Don’t undercut yourself. Offer prices that you think are a good value, but not to the point where your business isn’t sustainable. If you’re good, people may come around even though it may take some time.

2) Marketing Because you aren’t the cheapest, you are going to have to find other ways to stick out. There’s somethings I buy that I don’t care about brand quality and I just want the cheapest (like buying a mouse for my PC laptop for example) and there’s other things I buy for the brand regardless of the price (like Tide detergent. Again, another personal example)

3) Offer something you can’t get anywhere else. When I was in college, the radio station I worked for (10,000 Watts, 500K reach) couldn’t compete with the commercial radio stations in the area. What we did was offer album cuts of the artists that was playing on the competition. The artists  were getting the same amount of love at their station, but folks listened to us because that rare B-side that was only available in Japan was blasting throughout the airwaves.

 

Nobody ever said that working in the creative arts was easy, and it’s trials and tribulations make perfect memoir fuel. It is a necessary evil, that’s for sure.

 

–Flobo

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