Monday, 9 July 2012
Words are (truly) Cheap
Why is it that everything, and I mean, everything in life, is so bloody expensive, mass-produced or not - well... that is, all, except e-books?
But back to this picture here; it absolutely blows my mind that people will pay this, even upwards of $5.00, for (oftentimes, a weak) coffee – and oftentimes more than just once a day too – something that took only seconds to make by anyone at all, and that can be dismissed almost as instantly as simply being a poor experience if it's distasteful, but an experience, no doubt, they'll repeat over and over again, yet, most don’t want to pay more than $2.99, for what can often be the result of years of slogging, to read a lovingly compiled book; many expecting to pay just 99c – which, if it also happens to be weak, they’ll feel completely hard done by and suspicious of every other book that dares to ask for such an outrageous price. There’s something wrong with this picture, literally; people obviously willing to feed their stomach willy-nilly, but not the mind; insult to their intelligence or not, a book has more value, surely, than what will end up at the bottom of a toilet bowl when all's said and done? Even if some books are better deposited there too. But don't the two normally go together; body and mind?
Why then, do we put up with being so undervalued as authors? The answer to that is of course obvious, all authors know that; the indie world of publishing making it easy for anyone at all to publish a book. This results in millions of people all trying to undercut each other in the hopes that their cheapie will sell millions. But only the lucky few achieve that kind of success, usually with supreme marketing skill - or the funds to pay someone to do it for them - providing of course they've produced a well-written book. Marketing, a harder task even than actually writing a book, in my own considerable effort (which after six months of following advice and sacrificing much of my valuable writing time, to that end, religiously putting the work in, but no matter how I much I do, no matter how many places I advertise, I don't see a difference in sales, and am at the point of seriously considering going back to contacting agents (they shouldn't be as busy, these days, should they?)
Don't get me wrong; undoubtedly it's a wonderful opportunity for authors to publish books that mainstream publishers perhaps won't even glance at, but there has to be some kind of distinction other than price, to discern between those who've actually taken the time to study the art and put their life and soul into writing books. They need to break free from the tsunami of mediocrity and amateurishness that can barely splash around a few words; people with no understanding of the formulaic aspects of writing because they haven't bothered to take it seriously at all. Yes, the slush pile, as far as I can tell, anyway, is now on the reader's computer in these modern times, via Amazon and Smashwords and other distributors, and no longer just the traditional publishers' desk - which, for all we've ever said about them, we might now have a better understanding of. But still... books are no different from anything else that's widely available; and so, I ask again, why is it, in an expensive world of everything else, that e-books, and the talent that's put into many of them, are ALL EXPECTED to be so underpriced?
Just like the thousands of coffee shops we have to choose from, and anything else for that matter, there's good and there's bad, cheap and expensive, Dollar stores and Harrods, and everything in-between. Why then, when many people see a book priced at more than $2.99, do they balk at it? Why, even, when they see it being offered for free, which I personally completely don't agree with outside of promotional giveaways, and which did absolutely nothing for me in Amazon's KDP programme, do they value it even less than that? It just doesn't make sense. It doesn't seem fair. But then, the world never has been.
This kind of low pricing is completely outrageous; any hard working author's work should be rewarded; they have a great skill, and, if they're like me, give up many aspects of normal life to bring the world stories for the love of it - and by author, I mean, any who've actually taken the time to at least try and hone their craft, whether still early on in their writing journey or not, and not one who simply thinks they can sit and type out a story because everyone at the BBQ say they're hilarious when recounting what happened last Saturday night.
And so, I’m happy to start seeing that certain organizations are beginning to try and come up with ways to separate the English from the (double) Dutch. But perhaps an entrance exam, or something, like the one I had to pass to be employed as a freelance writer, or maybe we should have to prove something of our credentials at least - I don't know; I'm not the one with the answer, just a lowly writer, working for a pittance. But one needs to be arrived at, soon, for true talent deserves to emerge from under the tidal wave that is the sea of indie publishing. Hopefully, these companies are doing this with a view towards upping the prices of well-written books, too, and that people will start to bear in mind the old cliché, 'that you gets what you pays for'. With everyone and their dog crying for pay rises these days, I think its high time, authors had a commensurate level of compensation as well - writing simply for the love of it, or not; if it's professional, published and available to the public, then it deserves more than the paltry amounts we seem to have accepted that they go for in our otherwise over-priced with everything else world. Four or five books that can be kept for an eternity = the price of one designer coffee, gone in minutes? Hmmm....
Also, on the whole coffee analogy thing, it seems appropriate to mention that it's unfortunate that the most popular chains are where most people tend to flock to, of course this happens because everyone else goes there, the human race inclined to be automaton, mainstream an inevitability. But hasn't individual, true, talent, supposed to have been liberated in the indie publishing world? Were we not supposed to be sitting in independent coffee shops stirring Grande cups of libretto at our leisure by now, chewing on our grubby laptops while staring into the universe and sharing the ideas that came from the strange abyss of imagination we've always travelled because that's what the people said they wanted?
Why then, in a so-called indie world of publishing, should we have to, increasingly, feel the need to appeal to a mentality that has no problem shelling out a fortune for a cup of froth simply because it's the flavour of the month? Why do many writers jump on the copycat bandwagon that will inevitably drown the rest of us in the way that wizards and vampires (and undoubtedly to come, fifty ways to drink a coffee) have done? Indie or not, someone, somewhere, is still telling the world what they're going to like next... and that's a shame. Fashions and trends are one thing; but everything, everyone, pretty much, is the same all over the world. And the ironic thing... people actually do this for the money? Wake up and smell the sea-salt, that boat sailed; you're supposed to be an inventor; YOU create the next big thing.
As Alanis once said, I hate the world today. And by the world, I do of course mean many aspects of the Internet and it's anti-social media - which I pretend to slot into with only a slightly better shape than I ever did in the real one as an oft misunderstood artist type. And sadly, for all I hated about the real world too, it seems to have stopped percolating different varieties of coffee altogether, blending them all now in a huge gigantic melting pot that has cheapened, but not in my book, the true art of what being a barista might once have been.
Poets are fairies… kind of
spreading their mystical word
All with long hair… probably
and glasses… sensitive rhymester nerds
Yeah, can be seen in coffee shops… usually
staring blankly out the window
herbal tea in coffee mugs… maybe
stirring everything but inspired libretto
Most of them smoke weed… obviously
I mean come on; poems are serious shit man
Stoking up words of paranoia... typically
and calling it enlightened inspiration
Ye-ah... they’re all fucking weirdoes, poets
floating around with chewed pens and grubby laptops
smiling melancholy at nature and stars… fucking souls
Get a real job... ya freaked out crazy crackpots
- S P Mount -