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The Price of Success

I keep hoping that one of these days people are going to settle down about pricing their books and either agree to disagree or just do their own thing. I know I have, but I seem to be in the minority. Lots of independent authors think they’re gaming the system and winning by tweaking their prices on a daily or weekly basis, trying to ride imaginary waves that propel them into bestselling lists with low prices then maximizing profits by raising prices and screwing readers until they’ve fallen in the rankings. Then they lower prices to try and climb back up the hill. Ugh.

This is a fail. An epic fail, in my opinion. An occasional special price for a reason? Sure, go ahead. But doing it every fourth or fifth day? Come on. This just shows a disregard for readers and shows an interest in the bottom line over everything else. Me, I’d rather pick a price and stick with it. In fact, that’s what I do! I’m still priced at or under the value of most books out there and according to the reviews, my books are pretty darn good.

But to be fair, until only very recently writing was not my primary profession. I had a day job as an IT Manager, Developer, and DBA. That day job ended recently and I’m looking for another one. Writing is fun for me, but I’m not sure it will ever hit the level of stand-alone profession. I’ve got a family to support and that includes not only food, rent, and transportation but also health insurance. There’s a history of, “Hey y’all, watch this!” in my family (case in point: a recent trip to the ER when I stabbed myself in the leg).

I read recently that the magic number of publishing 30 books was what it was assumed would be enough to be successful as a writer. That fell under the romance / erotica genre, so it might be different than people like me that write in different genres (I’m primarily fantasy and science fiction, in case you just stumbled across this). Presently I have 23 books published, but 5 of those are free as an offering to readers to try me out and see what they think before they buy. That means, in theory, I’m 7 – 12 books away from the magic number. I’m already hard at work on number 24, Victim of Fate (book two in my Blades of Leander series). If I can sustain last year’s rate I should be there by the end of 2013, but what we’ve found is that having the writing income as well as a day job income is very reassuring. Bills get paid off quicker and we can enjoy ourselves a little bit more by going out with friends and spoiling our children a little more. Note that I said children – I’m still hammering away on the keyboard of a PC that’s several years too old to effectively play Black Ops, let alone Black Ops 2! (yes, that’s a source of irritation for me, but let’s move on).

Back on topic, my advice to fellow writers, especially the new writers trying to break into the business is to just focus on writing the best damn books you can. My experiences in marketing and promotion is that you should save your money and focus on writing. Get as many people as you can to buy your book in a short time frame (preferably a day or a week) and boost it enough to get it noticed and put on some lists, then other people will see it. If it’s a good book then it will continue to grow from there. Tweaking prices is a waste of time and it only adds stress and workload to you. It’s the tool of a control freak to try and think you can control sales. You can’t. It sucks, but we’re at the mercy of our readers – the only way to truly influence them is to write something they love and talk about. And yes, I’m admitting that I’ve got the same control freak problems.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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