Tag Archives: neil gaiman

Does Amazon’s lending service help or destroy authors?

Amazon Prime members can now borrow a book for free with no due date.

There seem to be mixed feelings among writers about this offer. What does it mean for authors and publishers?

Complaints about this are similar to debates regarding ebook pricing and giveaways. At what point are authors pricing themselves out of business?

Assume that it takes about six weeks for a seasoned author to write a strong first draft of a novel. Depending on the writer’s process, research may come during these six weeks (lengthening this time) or after, when revisions take place. Critique partners read the chapters and make comments. Changes are made. This may take several more weeks, depending on deadlines and other issues.

If the writer already has a publisher waiting, then it’s time to send the work there to be read, marked up, and sent back for final revisions. Tack on some more weeks and hours of work on the author’s part.

If the writer does not have a publisher waiting, then begins the submission process, which can take months or even years to complete successfully. Finding the perfect match in an editor or agent is a notoriously difficult thing to accomplish, and many writers never find that “best fit.”

Count up the hours and weeks/months/years it took the author to write, research, revise, promote, query, revise, submit, revise, and finally realize publication, and then that $0.00 price tag looks a bit low.

But is it a killer for the industry?

Amazon’s new lending service is technically a subscription model, since borrowers must be Amazon Prime members – they must also own a Kindle to participate. This reminds some users of the Netflix structure, where subscribers are able to put some films in their “instant” queues indefinitely. I have over a hundred in mine right now. Some I have watched multiple times.

I also already have an Amazon Prime membership; it gives me deals on shipping and renting films online that I can’t find on Netflix. In addition, I own a Kindle and am constantly purchasing new titles to save for a rainy day. Amazon Prime lending is definitely a service that is intended for a consumer like me.

When I consider the debates surrounding Amazon’s lending subscription, I take the writer’s process very seriously. My YA fantasy finished its contract with its original publisher after a good two-year run, and I decided to indie publish it to keep it out there while I work on other titles.

The opening week cost was a choice I had to make carefully. Should I go for a standard rate of $2-3 for a full-length novel that has been thoroughly edited and vetted by readers and reviewers already? Or should I lower the price to attract new readers who might be willing to take a chance on something when the risk is only $0.99?

For my opening week, I have offered From Light to Dark at under a dollar because I ultimately decided the extra readership is my most important asset. This isn’t the only work of fiction I will want to share with audiences. The larger my audience grows, the better my returns will be – and, consequently, the more I will write.

I wonder whether the Amazon lending service will provide a similar result for authors. It’s worth noting that many of the major publishers have rejected this new borrowing plan and will not offer their books as part of it. Are they making the right decision?

I keep thinking of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, which he released for free as part of Creative Commons, and his description of Neil Gaiman’s question to fans:

“Hands up in the audience if you discovered your favorite writer for free ­­because someone loaned you a copy, or because someone gave it to you? Now, hands up if you found your favorite writer by walking into a store and plunking down cash.”

According to Doctorow, it was the freebies that made life-long fans of writers. These people came across a title by paying no money at all, but after that they bought several copies of each title the author put out, some to share with others, and they attended book signings and generally spread the love.

So, readers and writers, what do you think? Are authors pricing and lending ourselves out of business? Or are we taking a loss up front to expand our readership down the road?

From Light to Dark

I Don’t Love You Because You Love That Book

Do you look at people’s bookshelves first thing when you visit their homes?

I think it’s interesting to find out what people read. Somehow I have it in my head that this knowledge will help me understand them better – maybe even clue me in about our chances of becoming good friends. I have no idea whether this method is accurate, but, hey. It’s something I do.

Apparently I’m not the only one. This article describes a dating site that focuses on what people read as a matchmaking tool. Pretty neat idea.

There are lots of books I love to read, mainly in scifi, fantasy, or spec fic in general, but I’m flexible.

And, of course, there are some books I really don’t like to read. I have nothing against the publications or the authors themselves; the stories just aren’t my cup of hot cocoa.

Heart of Darkness is one that doesn’t do it for me. I recognize that it is a classic work of literary art, but I can’t get into it. I imagine that I would not have much in common with someone who absolutely loved Heart of Darkness more than anything in the world.

That seems like a petty reaction, doesn’t it? Surely I could have other things in common with someone who enjoys a book I don’t care for. Joseph Conrad doesn’t manage the universe… does he?

I have a similar reaction to anything by Ayn Rand (who, I should point out, was a great writer with entertaining stories). She rubs me the wrong way, even though I enjoyed Anthem. This may be because I once dated a guy in high school who said I should check out Rand’s much debated essay “About a Woman President” because it might give me a useful perspective on life.

“For a woman to seek or desire the presidency is, in fact, so terrible a prospect of spiritual self-immolation that the woman who would seek it is psychologically unworthy of the job.” – Rand

I’m still not exactly sure what the boy in high school was suggesting when he asked me to read that essay, but ever since then I’ve felt a little hesitant around Ms. Rand’s most die-hard fans. 😉

Now, show me someone who’s a Neil Gaiman reader, a Ray Bradbury enthusiast, or a Shakespeare fanatic, and I’m ready to sit down and chat for hours. Toss in some Harry Potter or Sookie Stackhouse for fun, and we might just be best friends for life.

Are these reliable measurements of compatibility? Is it fair to say, “I don’t love you because you love that book”?  🙂

How often do you do the Bookshelf Check?