Like most things in my life, annoyingly, this involves booze.
I sell booze for a day job, I only recently started drinking again because I hit 5 years sober and my new partner said she'd like to have wine with me on occasion. So I do that, but I'm still not that much of a drinker, which is pretty weird considering I'm around alcohol all the time.
What I see, as someone who sells booze, is the patterns that people go through when they're making their purchases. I never thought this would be useful to me in my actual career as a writer, but then the best lessons in life always sneak up on you.
We'll take two different beers, Hollandia and 150 Lashes. Hollandia is a cheap shitty Lager that sells for $30 a carton and never goes on sale, while 150 Lashes is a popular Pale Ale that hovers around $50-$60 depending on the sales. Now, without a doubt, 150 Lashes is better than Hollandia, some might even go so far as to say it's twice as good. A shitty beer for $30 or one that's twice as good for $60, it seems like they should be selling at roughly the same rate when quality and price are taken into account.
But the thing is, Hollandia is outselling 150 Lashes like crazy... because most people, even those who can afford it, just aren't willing to pay $60 for a carton of beer. It doesn't matter how much time and effort when into its development and manufacturing, how much it costs to produce it - people just don't want to pay that much money.
Especially when you take into account the fact that you can get two cartons of Hollandia for the same price as a single carton of 150 Lashes.
Hollandia is "good enough," and there-in lies the issue. You drink beer to get drunk, you can try to make it fancy with your craft beers and what not but at the end of the day it was developed to keep the peasants in line and it's always going to taste like shit compared to what else is out there. 150 Lashes may taste marginally better than Hollandia, but it's the same percentage of alcohol so it's not going to get you any more drunk.
It was something of a shock, as I was standing at work watching the regulars walk in to buy their 3rd carton of Hollandia for the week, when I realized that this applies to eBooks as well.
It doesn't matter how much time and effort you've put into a project, people just want something that's going to distract them for a few hours. This is especially true in the indie-market, where the bar is so low. Low quality isn't just what people are expecting when they purchase an indie author's ebook, they expect to pay low quality prices.
Now, obviously everyone thinks their own work is great, but you can look at a project and gauge how much time and effort has gone into it. That's never going to be a perfectly fool proof method of sorting the good from then bad, but generally speaking, the more time a creator has spent polishing and perfecting something then the higher quality it's going to be.
But just like with the booze, the customers don't care how much time, effort and money you pumped into a project, they just want a distraction. And a distraction that costs $10 may be great, but there's a $2.99 distraction over there that's just good enough and that's a whole lot cheaper.
I've spoken to a few other indie authors over Twitter and some of them are hard working and talented, they put their heart and souls into their work and it really shows. I love talking to these people who are really passionate about the craft of writing, I always learn something when I have a conversation with one of these people.
But then there are others, they talk of writing a single draft, editing it and then publishing. That just sounds fucking horrific to me. I may be coming at this from an artistic standing rather than a money making one, but putting out a product that quickly just sounds lazy and cheap and I honestly don't know how anyone could publish such a rushed creation and comfortably put their name on it.
But that's what we're dealing with, you can put all the time and effort into a project but if people aren't buying it then nobody is ever going to read it. Of course, everyone would prefer the 150 Lashes to the Hollandia, it's just that they're not willing to pay for it. If they cost the same then they'd no doubt chose 150 Lashes, but they don't so they go for the cheaper option. As much as I'd like to say that I'm solely doing this for the art, I would also like to live off this art as a full time job some day so I do have to learn to play the game.
Nobody cares how much it cost me to pay for the editing and the artwork of Days Too Dark, nobody cares that I literally spent years of my life writing and re-writing this story. The truth is that the vast majority of my friends and family can't even be fucked buying a copy, let alone going online afterwards to give it a review. The amount of people, so called friends, that have asked me for a free copy of my book is absolutely sickening. If I can't even get people I know to pay for the book at full price, what hope do I have of getting the wider world to give enough of a shit to dip into their pockets?
I'm never going to be the type of indie author who pumps out trash in the hopes of making a quick buck. I'll keep taking the hard road and putting in the effort, I'll take the time to work my plots and make sure everything is water tight and if I find errors then I'll go back and fix them, even after release. Because that's what I need to do to be able to look at myself in the mirror and call myself, not just a writer, an artist. The only difference is that I'll be lowering all my prices to the bare minimum, to compete with those that don't put in the time... or the effort.
It's my fault for assuming that people would be willing to pay more for my work, definitely a sobering lesson in humility that I won't forget. From what I can see, even those who have been in the game for a long time still mostly sell their content for pennies. It seems that that's just the way it is these days, indie-stories are the new pulp fiction. Cheaply bought and quickly forgotten. It seems like a hard industry to adjust to, but it's what I've been aiming towards, because I appreciate the creative freedom it affords me.
It's a tough pill to swallow, but I've got to take the good with the bad. The good thing is though; I can afford to play this game because I currently have a day job, where people buy the inferior of two products simply because it's cheaper... because one distraction is just as good as another.
If you want to check out Days Too Dark then head on over to the Amazon page, it's now a whole lot cheaper that it initially was.