So I was looking around the house at stuff thinking about this whole 99 cent e-book kerfuffle. Here’s what I came up with. Back in 1979, I bought something. Little chunk of fossilized carbon. Thing’s like the size of a pea. Little pea. Tiny shriveled up pea. Cost me the better part of a grand, and that was only because I had an uncle in the trade and I got it wholesale. Not even wholesale – my uncle was a buyer for a major watchmaker so I got it for whatever comes before wholesale. Nowadays, that sucker’s worth, I dunno, maybe fifteen grand, maybe more. Fucking diamond. Just a shiny piece of gravel. Can’t eat it, can’t play MP3s on it. I mean what good is it really?
So books. Yeah, I got books, too. Didn’t really need to look around the house much for those. We got books in the family room. We got books in my office. We got books in the rec room. We got books in my bedroom. Kids got books in their rooms. Hell, there are maybe six, seven old milk crates full of books in the store room. We got books in the freakin’ john. Haven’t done an inventory, but I figure three or four thousand books maybe, thereabouts.
‘Course those are all now used books, so you could buy the lot of them with that chunk of gravel and probably have half a chunk of gravel left over. Why? Hell, I dunno. I mean you give me a chance to trade a shiny chunk of gravel for a few thousand books, all of which I like? I’m all over that, and I wouldn’t even ask for change. But, free market, right? Nobody says it has to make sense. If people want to pay fifteen grand for gravel and 99 cents for e-books – and if people are willing to sell those items at those prices – then that’s the deal.
Now, would I sell one of my books for 99 cents? Well, if you’ve been paying attention, then you know you can read the rough draft of one of them right now for free, so what the hell do I know? But that wasn’t a sale. That was, what? A publicity stunt? Exhibitionist narcissism? But it wasn’t a sale. If somebody wanted to buy a novel, I’d want more. How much more? I dunno. That’s why I have an agent. Whatever she can get, I guess. The way I look at the novel business, if I want to make anything like what you ought to from a novel, then selling it the traditional way is my best bet. Yeah, I’ve heard about that Konrath guy, and Amanda Hocking, but from what I can glean, they outliers the way Pluto is an outlier. Way the hell outliers. And I’d have to spend a hell of a lot of time marketing, and marketing effectively. Which, frankly, I’m not sure I know how to do. On top of the time I spend writing. On top of my day job. On top of family stuff. On top of drinking and tweeting and then drunk tweeting. I’m getting up in years, and that’s a lot of on-top-ofs. I don’t think I’m up to the climb. Of course, everything is changing. The whole publishing paradigm is in the middle of some kind of evolutionary paroxysm. Maybe when the whole thing shakes out, then self-publishing will be the way to go and there will be some way I understand to go about it. Maybe I’m just a dumbass Luddite who isn’t hip to the new direction. Maybe a lot of shit.
Now, my short fiction? I mean there’s not that much of it, but eventually I suppose I’ll have enough to pull a collection together, and there isn’t much of a traditional market for short fiction. So maybe I’ll do the collection thing, the online thing, and who knows? Maybe it will be priced at 99 cents.
Bottom line? Don’t expect the free market to make sense. And if it doesn’t make sense to you, then don’t play.