My Ongoing Self-Interview I

Doing author interviews is a great way for writers to connect with readers. I’ve done a few of them, and I’ve answered random reader questions on Goodreads and Facebook. Often, I’ll get asked a question that is just plain fun to answer, and I find myself wanting to preserve my responses to these questions. So, I decided to start this ongoing self-interview on my blog. I will periodically post great questions and my answers to them. So, here is the first one . . .

Q: At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?

Wild ThingsA: Without a doubt, my first fascination with a book was with Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I guess I first encountered this book in kindergarten, so around age five. You know, there have been a few happenings in my life that left such marked impressions that I can remember sensory details about the experience—things like the taste of what I was eating, the smell in the air, the colors I saw around me. Sensory memory is a very powerful thing. Reading Where the Wild Things Are is the only experience which left a memory of playing inside of my imagination. Yeah, South Park got it right. Imagination Land does exist. I’ve been there. I remember, fairly vividly, pretending to be Max and living among the wild things. My bedroom became just like his bedroom. I remember more than just pretending to be Max; I remember what it was like to be Max (in Imagination Land, of course). That book was more than just a bunch of pages with pictures and words, it was an experience. That was my introduction to the power of books.

I started writing in high school. I think it was an expression of teen angst back then, like it is for so many teens (funny how they use the very mode of expression that many of them rebel against in English class—namely poetry). I wrote small bits of poetry in the form of song lyrics. I had them stashed all over my room as a teenager. Sadly, most of them are lost now. I never believed in myself enough to preserve them, to take my writing seriously. Then, when I went to college, I was fortunate enough to land in the writing class of Dr. Ron Colthard. In one of my typical smartass moves, I turned most every piece I wrote in that class into a humorous essay. Rather than chastise me, he took it upon himself to edit and critique those crazy things. He made me see that my self-indulgent bull could be turned into little gems of at least moderate literary merit. Before that class was over, Dr. Colthard tried numerous times to get me to submit something to the Cold Mountain Review (ASU’s creative writing publication), but I was too scared or maybe just too young and stupid. It took me two major jobs, a master’s degree, and twenty years to gain the courage to put my work out there. Now that I’ve done it, I wish I could go back to 1992 and smack my former self right across the head.

So, I got this email from Ammy . . .

Hulk HandsAfter reading this morning’s “Important Kindle Request” from Amazon (KDP), several thoughts come to mind. I’m sure I’m not the only indie author to chime in on this issue, and I’m most likely not the only one to voice the following opinions. But it’s my blog, and in the immortal words of Eric Cartman, “I do what I want.” So here they are—my thoughts on the Amazon vs. Hachette (Big 5) issue:

• Damn, that was a long email. I’ve no right to chastise anyone for being long-winded, but jeez, I think “The Amazon Books Team” may have overestimated the attention span of us authors. Just get to the freaking point already. I really don’t need to be dazzled by your knowledge of the history of printing. I had that class in college, and it was boring as hell!

• As an author, I think my own books are worth much more than $20 (don’t we all), but, as a reader, I agree with Amazon that $20 (plus) is too much to pay for ebooks. I can’t help but think about the average family (like mine). I could easily download and read at least one book per week. At $20 per book, 4 or 5 books per month turns into $80-$100 per month (for just one avid reader). That’s not a book budget; that’s a car payment (at least it is for me). No average family can afford that.

• Having made my point about pricing, it seems to me that the market itself will work this little problem out (in due time). The most I’ve ever paid for an ebook is around $12 (and that was only because I’m completely hooked on this series, and, even though it killed me to pay that, I just had to have it). Frankly, I cannot afford to pay much more than that, and I know I’m not alone. When consumers refuse to pay over $20 for an ebook, won’t the Big 5 get the message then? It will be hard for them to ignore a drop in sales. Amazon’s tendency to push cheap and discount books will not make it easier for them to charge higher prices, either. I just think, as with any other product, the market will drive the price. The Big 5 can decide to charge whatever they want to charge, but people don’t have to pay it. The market is flooded with other options.

• All of this price gouging and bickering could be a potential win for us indie authors. Reader disillusionment with the whole mess should be considered. If readers get tired of it, perhaps they will look to indie authors as their source for good books. After all, there is an abundance of good, quality indie writing out there, and most of us are not stupid enough to charge over $20 for an ebook. I’d say the indie market will follow suit if prices are raised, but, ultimately, our books will always be cheaper than books from the Big 5. We are the no-brainer alternative. I recently lowered my price to $2.99 and I’ve seen a slight increase in sales. Maybe we are already reaping the benefits of this dispute. (I know I’m not getting rich any time soon, I just want people to read my book.)

• One last thought: it will be interesting to see what this does to the print book market. If the Big 5 are successful in raising ebook prices, I will look into purchasing print books with the option to download the ebook for free (or at a reduced price). I guess I’m thinking, if I’m going to pay as much as I would for a print book, I may as well get a print book. This could be a bump for that market, who knows? [whohit]Ammy vs Hachette[/whohit]