New Releases List

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why 99 Cents? $2.99? $3.99?

Pricing is a strange thing in the digital world, whether you're talking traditionally published or indie books. The per-book costs are negligible, so you don't have to start with a baseline of printing + distribution for anything beyond the initial expenses. Thomas & Mercer, for example is talking about leaving the price for The Righteous at $2.99 or $3.99 and then pricing the subsequent books at $7.99. This is cheaper than a paperback, but significantly higher than what indies typically charge.

The two prices I see for the vast majority of indies are 99 cents and 2.99. I don't want to debate the 99 cent price because that has been rehashed a million times. The argument against 99 cents is that it is just a gamble to try to climb the rankings and that it undervalues all the work involved in writing a novel. There is some truth to both of these arguments, and yet I've used the 99 cent model myself on several occasions. Both The Devil's Deep and The Righteous have sold thousands of copies at this price.

But what about the subsequent books in a series? I don't see any reason why they should be $2.99. If someone likes the first book enough to seek out the second, will they balk at $3.99 or $4.99 or even $7.99? Maybe, but I'm guessing not. If a writer is hoping to make a living at writing, there is surely a point on the pricing spectrum that is the sweet spot between giving away one's work and getting greedy? My goal is to offer my work at a fair price, but not to undervalue it.

And so my current price point is $3.99. Of my thrillers I've got three books at that price right now, two books at $2.99 and three books at $.99. I'm planning to raise the price of Implant and State of Siege from $.99 and $2.99 to $3.99 as soon as I release the audio versions on That would leave all of my books either at an introductory price for a series of $.99 or at $3.99.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Respect Your Characters

I made a decision when I started writing The Righteous that I would take my religious characters seriously. That meant they weren't deluded fools or brainwashed or any of the other tropes that you frequently see in writing about religion (as opposed to religious writing, which has its own issues). That meant that even my evil characters must have clear justification, that they had to frame their actions in terms of their religious background. These people did not consider themselves mustache-twirling (beard-twisting?) villains, they were serving God's purpose. Never mind that other characters thought they were serving God's purpose or looked at these people as clear villains. In their own mind, they were the heroes of the story.

This last line bears repeating. Every person considers himself the hero of the story. There's a great line in Shakespeare in Love where Shakespeare has turned the nasty financial backer into a true patron by giving him a minor part in the play. Someone asks this guy what Romeo and Juliet is about and he says, "There's this apothecary..."

Remember, too, that no person is merely part of a group. She isn't Chinese, or a paraplegic, or a doctor, or, in my Righteous series, a polygamist. These things may shape her view of the world, but she is smart or stupid, kind or cruel, thoughtful or careless, or anything else largely independent of her surroundings. In fact, I sometimes find it interesting to write characters in direct opposition to what they should be. A thoughtful, but patriotic German living under the Nazi regime is much more interesting than yet another cruel Gestapo agent. Now pit him against a cruel Gestapo agent, but work like hell to justify that agent's behavior. What is the story our antagonist tells himself? How does he frame the narrative to make him the hero of the story? There are numerous ways, all of them more interesting than the guy who says "Ve have vays of making you talk..."

If you take every character seriously, you can write about all sorts of people without making them sound either like stereotypes or--almost as bad--politically correct reversals of stereotype. I love writing from the POV of people very different than myself. My four favorite characters are the aforementioned patriotic German (The Red Rooster), the favorite son of a cult leader and his bright, believing younger sister (The Righteous), and a guy whose only means of communicating with the outside world is a single, blinking eye (The Devil's Deep). Of these four, Jacob from The Righteous resembles me quite a bit, assuming I were smarter, better looking, and more charismatic, but the other three are very different from me.

I guess you could say that I ignore the advice to write what you know, but that's another post entirely.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Online Interview

Fellow author R.E. McDermott interviews me today about my path to success as an indie writer. I'm no marketing genius, but I discuss four elements that are often overlooked as an indie writer looks to build a successful career.