A Shout-Out and Thoughts on a New Trend

John Clark congratulating Brian Katcher on his new book Deacon Locke Went To Prom. This is his fifth book and combines funny with emotional. In addition to writing, Brian is a school librarian in Missouri. Here’s a brief description” “Promposals are taking over Deacon Locke’s high school and there is no place left to hide. But even with graduation looming, shy and unusually tall Deacon doesn’t think he can get up the nerve to ask anyone to the dance. Especially given all the theatrics.
It isn’t until Deacon confides in his witty and outgoing best friend Jean that he realizes she could be a great person to take. Only problem is Jean isn’t your typical prom date. She’s older. A lot older. And she’s Deacon’s grandmother.
But when Deacon meets Soraya—a girl unlike any other he’s ever met—he fears he has totally squandered his chances of having a prom he’ll never forget. Deacon couldn’t be more wrong. About everything.“

By now regular readers of the MCW blog know I’m a voracious reader and book reviewer (125 thus far in 2017). Part of that world involves getting newsletters from a lot of authors, spanning the young adult, mystery, paranormal, romance and new adult genres. Earlier this year, something happened and I’m still not sure how it will affect the world of literature/publishing. Authors started banding together and offering three things to readers: Contests to win books, Kindles and Amazon gift cards, free ebooks and dirt cheap ebooks.

My take thus far is twofold. First, it’s a bonanza for readers and second, it’s a glorious failure for the authors. Why it’s a bonanza for readers should be obvious. Free is really good, a full length book for $.99 is good, but some authors and groups of authors have gone a step further, they’re putting together box sets of up to twenty ebooks for that same 99 cent price.

There some fairly big gotchas in this new movement, however. #1-when you sign up for most of these giveaways, you’re agreeing to be put on multiple author newsletters (sometimes in excess of thirty) and some of them pump out at least a couple per week. Granted, you usually get a free ebook out of the deal, but one can only read so many books, even when retired. Most expect you to post a review which is fair, but when you get hit with twenty new books a week and you already have a TBR stash, it’s not easy staying abreast of the bounty.

Another red flag I’m seeing more frequently as I read these newsletters is how casually authors talk about churning out multiple books in a year (sometimes in a month). That can’t equate to quality and seems like another monster in this literary cavern. Some of the books being offered or sold at bargain prices are horrible and, coupled with the glut, makes it easy for readers to throw up their mental hands and go back to the way they used to select books.

It’s also difficult keeping track of who wrote what when you’re hit with so many newsletters. I will say I’m thrilled to discover the Kindle app for my PC because I prefer reading an ebook on a big screen. I’m also really happy with many of the books I got free or bought for $.99.

However, pricing books so low creates a risk that buyers will have reservations when other books are going for more. I’m not just talking about best sellers priced a few bucks below the print edition, I’m talking about hesitating when faced with buying a 99 cent book versus one that costs $3.99. Pricing an ebook within three bucks of the print edition backfires for me. Here’s why. When I buy a hardcover YA title, I read, review and then donate it to another library or swap it online. In other words, I have something to show for my money beyond reading it. Maybe that can be done with an ebook, too, but I’m either too old, lazy or curmudgeonly to bother to figure that out.

These observations may not relate to most of my fellow authors here, but I needed to share them. I’m interested in your thoughts.

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7 Responses to A Shout-Out and Thoughts on a New Trend

  1. Lea Wait says:

    Comments appreciated, John! Later this year I’ll have a novella published in one of those 99 cent sets. I don’t think anyone will be giving up their email address, and I do hope the bargain will introduce some new readers to my Mainely Needlepoint series. But — you’re definitely right about churning out books. I sure don’t write 1 a month — but even 3-4 a year is very challenging. For me, it means doing nothing else. In the long run, that can’t be good — for me or my books. Appreciate your feedback!

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  2. MCWriTers says:

    I’m lucky if I can “churn” one out every couple years…and nonfiction takes forever.

    But I think you’re right about the onslaught. I recently signed up for one of those giveaways, and now I am inundated with author newsletters. I don’t have time to read all that and still read books. So for me, at least, it is not working.

    I wonder if it is working for some of them?

    Kate

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  3. Barb Ross says:

    Hi John-

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. I recently agreed to give away a copy of one of my books in a contest where the prize was a Kindle Fire plus 32 books. The catch was if you entered your name is given to all the authors. I’d never done anything like this before, and when I agreed to participate, I don’t think I actually really understood it. The contest just ended yesterday, so I don’t know how many names I got.

    I’ve always thought the real value of author newsletters was in communicating with fans and keeping them up on new books, contracts, etc. I think there’s considerably less value for author discoverability. Therefore, the most valuable names you have on your list are the people who actually sought out your webpage or fanpage and signed up. They are looking for news from you.

    I’ll be interested to see how this goes.

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  4. Sandy Rowland says:

    I know a number of authors playing this game and hoping for great returns. I hope it doesn’t hurt authors in the long run. It has the potential of teaching readers that books should be free or come in a set for cheap. There are all ready readers who see no reason to pay for books–ever. Concerning to me. With the news of Harlequin shutting down a number of their lines, it makes me wonder if this new turn is at least part of the reason.

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  5. David Plimpton says:

    Sounds like a suckers game for me. Sounds like the old joke from an Economics class in college when someone said they wanted to make and sell widgets, but the production costs exceeded the likely achievable sales price per market research. When asked how the entrepreneur planned to overcome the problem, the person said: “Volume.”

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  6. Beth Clark says:

    When I was in high school, I used to work in a library and one of my jobs was to repair old books in the children’s room – mostly because no one else wanted to do it. They had been enjoyed by many children and deserved to be read by more. I still love my hardcover books and I keep books I enjoy to be read again. I have some that were my grandmother’s and they have been passed down to my daughters and later my granddaughter. Perhaps the computer age has caused us to lose the sense of writing as a fine art. There are Nancy Drew books for a quick read and sense of adventure, which I enjoyed, or Heidi that was passed down to me from my grandmother and I treasure.

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