Front Page, Musings

Update

Greetings! It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on here. I’ve been dealing with health issues that have interfered with all aspects of my life, including my ability write or create anything. I’ve got most of those under control and working on fixing the others.

With time away from writing, it has given me a lot to think about. Over the past couple of years I have frequently mentioned my realization that blogs, articles, interviews, and a whole host of other resources available to writers, feels like noise to me. Loud, ear ringing noise which had made it difficult to concentrate and even sleep. It has also led to believing whatever I have written or wanted to write is inferior and will not be publishable. Doesn’t matter I’ve had quite a few stories published. Granted, this is a frequent and not uncommon feeling all people who pursue a dream encounter. Some are able to shake it off and move forward. Some, like me, become paralyzed with fear. Combined with my health issues, my productivity and inspiration crawled to a stop.

The time away also made me realize that when my creativity and inspiration come back, and I feel like they will and soon, I want to do things differently. It has taken me a while to figure out my approach before was not a comfortable fit for me.

First, I am going back to basics. Just me and the words and that’s it. No advice. No critique groups trying to shove me into a box I don’t fit into. No doing things a certain way because it is trendy or expected or makes other people happy. With the exception of one story, my published stories hadn’t been looked over by anyone other than me and my spouse. Somewhere along the way I stopped trusting my instincts.

Second,  I no longer care to read articles or blog posts about writing or the industry until I am ready for next steps. As I’ve mentioned before, it quickly became negative noise. I cannot be kind to myself nor be authentic in my work with too much information in my head. Also, why should I be crowding my brain with information irrelevant to where I am in my career?

Third, it is hypocritical of me to continue my own blog when I do not care for other people’s blogs. My initial reasons for starting a blog have changed drastically.  Because of that, this will be my last post. I reserve the right in the future to revive it and any future posts will have very different content and reflect more who I am.

So, for those of you reading this, thank you and thank you for reading my musings, book reviews, and other posts. I appreciate you allowing me to speak into the internet void.

I wish everyone out there a good and happy life. For you creative types, listen to yourself. Listen to your heart. Listen to your gut. Express yourself by staying true to your spirit.

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Front Page, Musings

And the Award Goes To…

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There are awards for every artistic endeavor. We have The Grammys for music. Oscars for movies. The Emmys for TV. Golden Globes for both TV and movies. The Tonys for Broadway.

Literature is no exception. There is the Hugo, Nebula, Man Booker, Pulitzer, Bram Stoker, Newbery, Pushcart, Edgar Allan Poe, along with many, many other well-known and no so well-known literary prizes. There’s a lot of awarding going around which isn’t a bad thing. People work countless hours and years on a project and it’s great to be recognized by your peers for your efforts.

But how much does the average person care about awards? I’m sure many of us have had discussions when nominations have come out about whether someone or something deserved it. Sure, some people are swayed by films, shows, books, and artists who have been nominated or won an award. Others shrug their shoulders in indifference. Financially, entities who have been nominated or win usually see some kind of bump in sales and interest.

When it comes to literature, do readers care about awards? I’m sure like artistic fields, it depends upon the person. Personally, when I see on a book cover wither the book or author has been nominated or won a famous award, I only marginally care. I’m happy for them as it is something to be proud of. However, when I read a book with an award splashed across the cover it doesn’t modify my expectations one way or the other. I’m just hoping the story and characters are interesting.

What I’ve discovered over the years is often books and authors with awards or nominations attached them are hit and miss. To be honest, I have found many of them to be misses. Often, I’ve been puzzled as to why the author or book was nominated or won. Nothing about the prose stood out as ground breaking or extra insightful. Nothing about the book itself from plot to character to setting was extraordinary or groundbreaking. Some are good books that I enjoyed reading. But some of them, many of them, were pretentious and overhyped. It made me wonder how they got nominated in the first place.

This got me thinking about if there is a correlation between awards and reader favorites. In looking at Goodreads.com’s Reader’s Choice of Best Book of 2017, I noticed many of the books on the list have not been nominated for major awards. Does this point to readers not caring about awards? Maybe. One website certainly doesn’t provide conclusive evidence in what is a subjective area. Other websites I poked around listing readers all time favorites resulted in a mixture of books which have won awards and books that have not.

If anything, being nominated or recipient of an award opens the author and work to more intense scrutiny. As much as I try to not have a bias when reading a book, if I’m reading a book or author who has won an award and the story simply isn’t doing it for me, I start to wonder. Why did this win and not something else? Sometimes I wonder if it is one of those situations where people knee deep in the industry see something I don’t. Maybe my literary palette isn’t sophisticated or knowledgeable enough.

In the end, do awards really matter to the average person? I don’t think so. For readers, what will always be most important is whether the story grabs them. Awards are great and as a writer, if I ever got nominated or won an award I would be thrilled. What would make me more thrilled, though, is to have readers enjoy my work and to be satisfied I had put out my best. I know that sounds cheesy and perhaps even trite, but honestly, on my list of dreams and goals for myself, an award isn’t on it. I think that’s why I wonder if awards even matter to readers.

Front Page, Musings

It Costs How Much?

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A recent conversation with my spouse inspired this post. I came home with a new book and I mentioned how much it cost. He was surprised to discover a simple paperback, a 90-page novella at that, cost $10. When I informed him that many of the paperbacks in my library cost on average $15 he was shocked. Over the course of my lifetime books have become rather expensive, and not just hardcovers which have always been pricey. Why is this?

Like everything else in life, books cost money to produce. There’s the time spent not only writing and editing the book, but the cost of physically printing the book. The cover designer needs to be paid. The author’s agent cuts a cut. If one is lucky, the publisher will help with marketing the book. Also, the bookstores want to make money which factors into the price. People need to be paid and people want to make money. Nothing wrong with that.

Note: For the sake of discussion I’ll be keeping this post about print books. Ebooks are a different beast altogether when it comes to pricing.

In looking through my own library, which is a combination of older books and new releases, it is quite clear the prices have risen dramatically. For example, a paperback version of Ken Follett’s Triple from 1980 has a list price of $4.50. A bit high for that time, especially for a paperback, but Follett is a well-known author. Another book I own, Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh, has a list price of $1.75 when published in 1978. Pretty reasonable for a known mystery writer.

Now, let’s fast forward to some newer releases. The paperback version of Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown costs $15. While the book is a good, Cho is not a household name, yet, and this book was her debut. Compare this was one of Ken Follett’s most recent books, Edge of Eternity, which is listed at $9.99 for an 1100-page paperback. Susan Crandall’s excellent Whistling Past the Graveyard is $16 for a 300-page book. Why such a disparity?

The answer is complex. There’s simple economics like supply and demand and inflation. Certainly, it costs more to print a book today. Pricing is also determined by how well-known the author is and their track record. I suspect awards won by the author factors in. There is also the delicate balance between pricing for physical copies of a book and ebooks. With more and more people with Kindles, Nooks, and reading on their phones and computers, pricing clearly has been affected.

With the cost of books so high, does this mean authors are rolling dough? Only if they are well-known and are prolific. From researching the matter, the best royalty rate an author can hope for is 15% of the list price. And that is a rate for well-known, best-selling author writing books with broad appeal. For example, a book has a list price of $10. If the author has a royalty rate of 15%, the most they could hope to make off that book is $1.50. That leaves the remaining $8.50 to cover costs and make a profit for both the publisher and the book seller. One would have to sell a lot of books to make money.

Does the increasing price of books mean publishers are rolling in dough? If it’s one of the big publishers then probably. Small to medium size publishers struggle to make it just like their authors.

Are book stores raking in the money? Look at how many large book stores have closed over the last couple of decades and you’ll get your answer.

As an avid book buyer it makes me anxious to see the price of books so high. My favorite places to buy books has always been used bookstores. Much of that stems from growing up poor so the library and used bookstores were great for someone like me. But even I remember buying books at places like Kmart and Wal-Mart and paying the full list price for it. When I was growing up, paying $5 for a paperback wasn’t too out of reach for a person like me. Today, though, I wouldn’t be able to afford as many books as I could as a kid. There are still plenty of used bookstores and the library for people, but it is a distressing to see how expensive books have gotten.

As an aspiring author, it gives me pause about the cost. Should I be fortunate enough to have novels published, I don’t know if I’ll feel comfortable seeing $10 to $15 or more being charged for a paperback. I understand it’s a business and yes, I do want to make money doing what I love, but I do not want to see books becoming a luxury good. There’s too many other basics of life that have become that. Books are meant to educate or inspire or entertain. Putting a high price tag on that signals only a select group is allowed to enjoy it.