richard pierce

richard pierce

30 January 2016

On ebook prices and quality

As I announced on BBC Radio on 29th January, I will be raising the prices for my ebooks from 1st February. I've been thinking about this for a long time.

Some months ago I read a very interesting article on how readers perceive the value and quality of the books they read. There is apparently an Atlantic divide, with US readers preceiving the price of a book to represent its quality while most UK readers think of price first and quality second (in other words they seem to want something for nothing). That's puzzling in itself. I have come to the conclusion that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, or, to put it more crassly but more appropriately, if you pay shit you get shit.

My train of thought has already been partically mapped out in my blog post of 5th December 2015, Decision, Decisions - Integrity, in which I explained why I wouldn't be offering any of my books for free any more, why I wouldn't make my paperbacks so cheap that I'd be making a loss on them, why I think it's not right for writers to be expected not to make a living from their writing. This planned price increase for my ebooks is the maturing of that train of thought. If the big publishers, for all their economies of scale, can sell ebooks for more than £2.50, then why can't hybrid writers do the same? Is there a significant difference in the quality of the writing? Well, if I have to be honest, there is. My writing is better than a lot of mainstream published writing. And if I have to be more honst, for which I think the time has come, many of the ebooks out there which are self-published and sold for something between nothing and 99 pence, are unfortunately not very good at all.

"The vanity of the man," I can hear you say. Well, if not me, who else? I have realised, possibly 25 years too late, that I have to push myself, that I have to put myself forward, that no-one else will do this for me, and that I am actually a good writer. The publishing industry has changed beyond recognition in that time, and most of that change has happened in the last seven or so years. Writing is product, content PLUS packaging is king, even very successful writers have to do the bulk of their marketing themselves, publishers more than ever consolidate their offerings to maximise profit, literary agents more than ever consolidate their rosters to appeal to the publishers consolidating etc etc.

I am lucky, very lucky. I have had one novel traditionally published, a novel which received critical acclaim, was nominated for a literary award, and which has changed people's lives, including mine. Yes, I would like to have another novel published in that way, but I am not prepared to go through the meatgrinder of sending off submission after submission to representatives of a homogenised market place. I'll be me for a change, and be in control of myself rather than allowing others to control me.

25 January 2016

The Ice - addictive, dangerous, and deadly

Only last night I was talking for an hour with a friend of mine who'd just finished reading Dead Men, telling him how, in my short time on the Antarctic, I was nothing more than a glorified tourist, how it was an environment that was beautiful and yet incredibly dangerous, and that anyone who ventured down to the southern tip of the world was a hero, then and now. It's something too many people in their armchairs or on their cruiseships forget.

And this morning, after telling my friend that I had held Frank Worsley's James Caird log book in my hands, I woke up to the news that Henry Worsley, similar to me only in age, but much tougher than me, much more determined, much fitter, had died after missing out by only 30 miles on his goal of crossing the Antarctic, something Shackleton failed to do in his Transantarctic Expedition of 1914-1916. I have spent this evening talking about the awfulness of Henry's death to a Kiwi friend of mine who was on the Ice with me in 2008, and it's an event that's reverberating physically in both of us, even though we'd only met Henry a couple of times.

The thing is this. The Antarctic is the most beautiful place on earth; landscape and soundscape. It is an incomparable place, and the vastness of it is incomprehensible. Those of us who have been lucky enough to set foot there, to live in its beauty, to feel surrounded by its legends and ghosts and ethereal light, have been changed forever by that experience. We have become addicted to it, as simple as that, and even we forget sometimes that it is possibly the most dangerous place on earth, that beneath its beauty hide the the cold, harsh enough to make teeth explode spontaneously, severe enough to turn your fingers into a frostbitten mess in five minutes, the driest place on this small planet, crevasses beneath the harmless-looking snow and ice, death at every turn. And time has not changed this. It's as dangerous now as it was a hundred years ago.

I can't, in all honesty, put together something terribly articulate about this, because I don't feel very articulate at the moment. When someone's killed by something they love, it is a tragedy, no matter how overused that word might be in our modern world.