richard pierce

richard pierce

5 December 2015

Decisions, decisions - integrity

As you may imagine, having been traditionally published and then dropped by your publisher because you're not "commercially viable" can be a bitter pill to swallow. However, there are some bonuses to this. And by that I don't just mean the Schadenfreude at discovering that your ex-publisher turned down The One-Hundred-year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared. It's to discover that you're confident enough not to be guided by sales or by the volume of response to a book, confident enough to say I am a hybrid author, and I'll publish my own words and see if they evoke any reaction at all.

In the beginning, though, I thought it was important to offer readers an incentive, felt like it was my duty to offer my books to my readers for free, despite all the hours I have spent writing them, living them, thinking them, to offer them for free just for those few seconds of perceived exhilaration when they're near the top of the charts with nothing much more done than make them free.

But that phase is over now. I am a writer, serious about my craft, serious about the craft others exercise and get even less recognition for than I do. There will be no freebies, no promotions that give my words away for less than what they have cost me, not just financially, but physically and mentally, too. There is too much dross that's accumulated in that free book category, there's too much of a price to pay, and no writer should have to give away his words and his life for free (and I include authors of all genders in those male pronouns because giving alternatives makes the prose even more difficult to read, and stretches the flow of words into a stutter rather than a melody).

And that's why I won't put my newest book, Tettig's Jewels, up for free. That's why I won't put its paperback version up for the same price as previous, shorter books. I can't afford to. Because, at the end of the day, writers are striving to make a living. We can't afford to make a loss. We can't assume that our day jobs will last forever. We can't even assume that our writing days will last until we drop down dead, although the thoughts in our heads that spout all these words probably will. And we'll make a pittance out of what we've written, even if we charge more than mass trade paperbacks, and we'll not earn a living purely on the words that come out of our mouths and minds and drip onto the paper that was empty before we caught it.

Most of us hybrid authors are not those minority of authors who throw words onto a page and reckon they're good enough to be read without being edited, without even a glimpse of a second read-through. Most of us put entirely unrecognised and unappreciated efforts into what we write, because we know we owe our readers perfection, because we don't want to put our readers through one typo after the other, because we don't want our pages to look scruffy and, basically, unreadable. We are professionals. Writing is not a hobby; it's a job. Fine, it's mostly guided by inspiration than the whip of a regular monthly salary, but it's a job, nevertheless, even if it only makes us a couple of quid a month.

Be kind to us, and with that I don't mean leave a good review even if you hated the book you just read. Be kind to us, and give us any kind of reaction. Be kind to us and don't rip off our books, don't copy them and put them up on dodgy web sites for free. Be kind to us by being honest. We're sitting round the virtual camp fire and holding our hands out for the food that will keep us alive and let us make up new stories for you to listen to and read, for you to escape from whatever the world is doing to you. Because we're writers, and that's what we do, and we want to stay alive.

11 comments:

  1. Greta article. did them really turn down "the Man w ho..."

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  2. Thought-provoking, as always, Richard. Having made the decision to go hybrid in June (book came out in October after extensive self - editing / professional editing / formatting / cover design etc - a lengthy process that I was determined to get right) I took another step in September and bought back the rights to my first (mainstream published) book. So I'm now Indie - and yes I don't expect to be off to the Bahamas on holiday anytime soon (if ever!)

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  3. Oops, meant to add that the really thought-provoking bit for me was the decision not to put books on sale. I totally agree re the no freebies part, but am considering a 2-day sale of the ebook at a discounted price - now you've made me swither... (not sure why it's saying anonymous... - it's still me - Margaret Skea)

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    1. I think we all have to decide what's best for us. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with offering something more cheaply for a few days, but there is something wrong with readers expecting something for nothing or very cheapy continuously. So, don't swither on my account :-) R

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    2. Writing is a job, even if it only makes us a couple of quid a month - I am printing this out and putting on my office door. Too right!

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    3. Thanks, Jenny. Send us a photo of the post on your office door :-) R

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  4. Hi Richard, just been re-reading your post - a month or so on it still resonates with me. I have now been fully 'Indie' for 3 months and still have a way to go to pay off the productions costs of the second book, but I am loving the sense of freedom AND responsibility that being in control of everything about the writing process gives me. And still resolute about the no freebies angle - thank you for articulating that so well. I hope Tettig's Jewels is / will do well - which for me means giving enjoyment to readers, wherever and whoever they are.

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    1. Thanks, and thanks, and good luck. I'm planning to raise my prices for ebooks, too, but more of that in a blog post before the end of the month. R

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