Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Graduations, Dreams, and the Future

This is probably one of the more rambling posts I've written. But then, on the eve of yet another change in the fabric of my life, the mind wanders and makes strange connections.

My son graduates high school tomorrow. A once important rite of passage dimmed by the demands of society.  Once upon a time, a high school diploma was a ticket to a good job.  Now high school grads compete with unemployed college educated and beyond for $9-10/hour jobs.  I know, I was one of them when I was between jobs.  What will he do after this? He wants to be a filmmaker, so he will attend community college, work on a portfolio and network and hopefully turn his internship experience into paid and credited work.

He was never a big fan of traditional school, but start talking cameras, film techniques, special effects and editing and he will talk your ear off for hours on end and reveal his already considerable knowledge and creativity.

As an author, I get it. I can do the same thing with novel, Dark Dealings, my next project or any writing or publishing topic. There is the job and there is the passion. We hope and work for the day when we can get paid enough to pursue our passion and ditch the job. I once read that luck is the collision of hard work and opportunity. So until the opportunity arises my son and I work hard.

Lots of people think that you just sit down one day and write a book or make a movie.  Well, I suppose you could but as anyone who has cruised youtube or the kindle store will tell you: it’s probably not the best approach.  A good story is hard work and deserves to recognized as a thing of value.

Last year Amazon introduced a program called KDP Select. You may not be familiar with the name of the program, but if you own a Kindle you have benefited as a reader. Authors, on the condition of that they remove their work from other eBook retails (Barnes & Noble, ITunes, etc.) get special promo including the ability to give their book away free for five days during the commitment.  They compete for money from a KDP pool that may or may not equal or exceed their normal revenue. Hundreds if not thousands of authors participated and still participate with varying results.

I chose not to enroll Dark Dealings for several related reasons, which some will argue over. This is my first novel and so does not lend itself to some of the good reasons to markdown to free or reduced pricing.  

First, I think exclusivity is not fair market practice, even for a short period, for the author or the owners of other eReaders.

Second, by so many authors offering their work for free, I believe, we have created and expectation of free. A class of “buyers” will wait until a book comes up free. And then can, because they have already filled their Kindle with dozens of other freebies.

The question is how many of those freebies will they actually get around to reading and when. More importantly, will they review the book online (hopefully favorably) or recommend to friends?  I believe that this does not help an author’s long term career. Of course only time will tell.

Free or reduced price ($0.99) has its place in a marketing plan.  It is best used as a loss leader.  Where a early part of a series is marked down to entice and introduce a new reader with the expectation that the reader will then purchase other books in the series or by the same author. Now I have given copies away in focused promotions and ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) to review sites. That is part a marketing plan not spaghetti thrown up against the wall.

So what does this have to do with my son’s graduation? I want him to know that if he is talented and works hard that he will not have to randomly give his efforts away. That writing and film-making are marathons not sprints.  To hang in and not be seduced by instant gratification.  To have a plan, even if that plan changes with circumstances.  To hope that one day, lots of people will pay the fair price of a movie ticket to see his movies, so he can keep making more and then inspire and mentor the next generation.