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Publetariat Dispatch: The Hunger Games, Hype and Adults Reading YA

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author and small publisher Alan Baxter talks about adults reading what’s officially termed ‘Young Adult’ fiction. Warning: strong language.

Like so many people, I’ve just read The Hunger Games. I read  it because I wanted to know what all the hype was about. The books on  their own were a big success, then big budget movie moguls took them on  and the production company engaged in a massive online hype campaign.  Also, a friend suggested I read them, as he thought they were pretty  good. So I did. Meh.

I probably won’t go to see the movie, but, in case I did, I wanted to  read the book first. The book is always better than the film, after  all. And so many people have waxed lyrical about The Hunger Games,  I thought it must be worth a try. In all honesty, I was underwhelmed at  first. The book drags interminably with an unnecessary amount of  worldbuilding and backstory. It’s called The Hunger Games, for  fuck’s sake – the games really should start before I’m halfway through  the book. They do, just, at around the 40% mark or so, but that’s way  too late. I was moaning online about it and one person said, and I  paraphrase, “Yeah, I read that book. I’m sure there’s a pretty good  novella in there somewhere.”

That was a fairly accurate comment. However, when the games got  underway, and kids were running around trying to survive and kill each  other, my interest was hooked. In case you’re wondering what the hell  I’m on about, The Hunger Games is the story of a  post-apocalyptic kind of future where the masses are entertained every  year with one boy and one girl from each of twelve districts dumped into  a wilderness arena where they have to hunt and kill each other for  televisual shits and giggles. There can be only one and so on. Also, if  you haven’t heard about The Hunger Games, how’s that rock you’re living under?

So, as I said, the games themselves were good. It was interesting  stuff, exciting in its own way and I finally found myself enjoying the  story. I could understand what some of the fuss was about. It wasn’t  brilliant, certainly not worth the level of hype, but it was pretty  good. That first 40% of the book, however, should really have been, at  most, 10%. The whole thing would have been much better. And as a book  for young adults, it doesn’t need to be a huge tome.

So I could kind of understand where the affection for the books came  from. Whether I’ll bother with parts two and three remains to be seen.  While I ended up enjoying the last half of the book on a very  superficial level, it didn’t take away from the many, many flaws. The  vast majority of the worldbuilding and the concepts on which the entire  story is built are very contrived. There’s a lot of forced convenience  in the telling. But this is okay when you’re just having a casual read.  It’s not claiming to be anything else.

The dicussion on Facebook also raised another point, when someone  said, essentially, “You’re reading a book for children, so you should be  bored”.

I was astounded at that. There’s a vast chasm between  writing/storytelling that is simpler and less sophisticated than adult  fiction and writing/storytelling that is boring. Kids get bored too. To  suggest a book for teens should bore an adult is asinine. It would bore a  child too. A story aimed at a teen/YA audience certainly won’t have the  depth and complexity of an adult novel, but should still be an engaging  and entertaining story. When you read something like Harry Potter or His Dark Materials, there’s nothing boring about those. Except the last Harry Potter book, which should have been called Harry Potter And The Interminable Emo Camping*. Seriously, that book should have been half the size and it would have been great. But that’s a whole other rant.

The Harry Potter stories and the Dark Materials books are not boring,  even though they’re aimed at a YA audience. They’re interesting and  well-paced throughout, and they deal with subjects which challenge the  thinking of their YA audience, just like YA fiction should. We should  never write down to young people – they’re smarter than you might think.  The Hunger Games deals with themes which should challenge YA  readers too – kids as young as 12 running around killing other kids as  young as 12 for sport, for instance. The whole premise of the book seems  well outside a YA purview. Perhaps that very fact alone is what’s made The Hunger Games so popular. And that story, contrived and flawed though it may be, isn’t boring. The first 40% of the book is boring, however, and it shouldn’t be. To suggest we ought to find it boring as adults reading YA is ridiculous.

It should simply have been a shorter book, with all that  worldbuilding and backstory tightened right up so that we got into the  excitement of the Games themselves sooner. At least, that’s my opinion.  And you all know how much I like to share an opinion.


One more thing before I go – I have one MAJOR issue with this story.  I’ve saved this for the end, because it’s a real spoiler if you haven’t  read the book. So, if you want to read it, maybe you should skip this  last bit. I mean, the whole story is utterly predictable from the  outset. That’s the lack of sophistication I was talking about earlier,  which doesn’t have to be boring in a well-written story. But…

We know damn well that Katniss is going to survive. We know almost  certainly that Peeta will survive too, somehow, or die doing something  to ensure Katniss survives. From the very opening scenes, we know how  this thing is going to play out, but we’re happy to go along for the  ride.

There are several problems with it, which I really can’t be bothered  to go into now any more than I have already and, in truth, it doesn’t  matter. I still enjoyed the book and I’m glad it’s popular and getting  young people reading. Top work.

But, right towards the end, there’s a surprise twist thrown in that’s  just fucking mental. What the holy god-dancing shit is that thing with  the dead tributes all coming back as werewolves? Or something.  Seriously, what the shit, Suzanne Collins? All these kids had been  killed in various ways. Many of them we don’t know how they died, but  they did. Then they’re suddenly all werewolves come out to screw around  with the final battle between our heroes and the one surviving tribute.  It’s utterly bizarre. Why are they werewolves? How are they werewolves?  What the fuck is the point in suddenly throwing that in at the end?

Sure, if you wanted some extra excitement, throw in some random  attacker to mess with the balance of things. Even a pack of genetically  modified wolves or something. But why the dead kids from before? Dead,  remember? No longer freaking living.

And, just as a matter of detail, if Katniss, Peeta and Cato hadn’t  managed to get onto the Cornucopia and have their last little scrap up  there, that pack of wolfchildren would have torn all three of them to  pieces and there would have been no victor, so letting those werekids  out at all makes no sense.

Anyway, I’ll stop ranting now.

* I can’t take credit for that title. I can’t remember where I heard it, but it’s perfect.


This is a reprint from Alan Baxter‘s The Word.


Publetariat Dispatch: Thrillercast Is Back For 2012

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!

In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author and small publisher Alan Baxter introduces Thrillercast, a genre fiction podcast.

ThrillerCast – the podcast I co-host with thriller/action adventure  author, David Wood, is back for another year. We chat about anything to  do with thriller and genre fiction, and regularly have cool guests on  the show.

The first ep of 2012 has just gone live and it’s a  corker. We talk about our plans for the year, discuss KDP Select, have  some free books to give away AND have a chat with Myke Cole, author of  the Shadow Ops books – the first one, Control Point, is out next week from Ace.

ThrillerCast ThrillerCast is back for 2012

The books sound great:

Cross The For­ever War with Witch­world, add in the real world mod­ern mil­i­tary of Black Hawk Down, and you get Control Point, the mile-a-minute story of some­one try­ing to find pur­pose in a war he never asked for. – Jack Camp­bell, New York Times Bestselling author of The Lost Fleet series


I’m  definitely looking forward to reading that. Myke is a great guy too,  and a total nerd for roleplaying games. It’s a fun chat.

Check out the episode here, and click here to go to the main podcast site, where you can access all Thrillercast episodes.

And check out Myke’s site here.

Publetariat Dispatch: Crowdfunding Or Panhandling? The New Arts Funding.

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!

In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author and small publisher Alan Baxter ruminates on the new “crowdfunding” movement. Warning: this post contains some strong language.

This is going to be one of those posts where I ramble on without any  real direction and hope I discover a point along the way. “How is that  different to any of your other posts?” you ask. Well, screw you. You’re  the one reading. In truth it’s because I have a lot of thoughts on this  subject, and I’m keen to discuss it, but no really firm opinion yet. And  I’m not the kind of person who would usually be described as lacking in  opinion. Let’s start with a description of the concept.

Crowdfunding  is something that’s not really new, but something that’s gained massive  traction in the internet age. Essentially it works like this: Someone  comes up with an idea that needs funding. They ask “the people” if they  would support said idea by pledging cash. If enough cash is pledged to  pay for the idea, the people are charged and the idea goes ahead. If not  enough moolah is pledged, no one is charged and the idea sinks like a  lead turd, never to be spoken of again.

It’s not unlike general  arts funding, except everyday folk are approached for the cash. And the  internet makes it especially easy with sites like Kickstarter and  Pozible streamlining the whole process. People pledging money tend to  get something out of it too. They can chip in a small amount just for  the warm feelings of contributing to something worthwhile, or they can  pledge more and get something tangible if the idea goes ahead. For  example, if it’s an event being crowdfunded a pledge of a certain amount  could include a ticket to the event. A higher pledge might include a  VIP pass. Higher still and you get a VIP pass and a t-shirt. And so on.  There are all kinds of incentives. And it’s becoming de rigeur for arts  funding. Which is, on the one hand, great – it helps to get arts things  funded. On the other hand, it’s fucked – arts things should be  government funded anyway, but the sad reality is that they’re not. And  they get funded less and less all the time. But I’m going to avoid a  political tirade here and just talk about the concept of crowdfunding.

My first direct experience of it was with a Kickstarter project where film-maker Christopher Salmon was asking for funds to make a short film of Neil Gaiman’s short story, The Price.  For a fully-realised animated feature he needed $150,000 of funding.  Neil Gaiman himself endorsed the idea (which is how I heard about it via  Twitter) and the thing went viral. The funding has hit $161,774 and the  short film is being made. I kicked in and my contribution will result  in me receiving a DVD of the film when it’s made. The Price is one of my favourite Gaiman shorts, so I’m dead chuffed about that.

I’m  now directly involved in another crowdfunded project. The Emerging  Writers Festival wants to run a digital publishing event up in Brisbane  and they asked me to be involved with one of the panels. I was happy to  oblige, but the whole thing can only go ahead if it gets funding from  the people, as the government are so tight they eat coal and shit  diamonds. The project has hit its goal. Sweet – I’m going to Brisbane. Here it is.

These  are examples of great ideas becoming real because the people behind the  ideas asked the public if they would be interested, and the public  responded by making it happen. Kinda awesome, no?

But it’s gone  beyond that. I’ve noticed several “name” authors using Kickstarter or  something similar to finance a new novel. They’re completely skipping  the publisher and using ebook and Print On Demand technology,  essentially self-publishing so they don’t need a publisher. But, and  this is important, they’re recognising the need for professionals in  editing, proofing, layout, cover design and so on. All of which costs  money. Plus, they want to be paid for their efforts. I know! Authors  expecting to be paid! Are they mad? Yes – mad as a hessian sack full of  Hatters in Wonderland. But then again, we all know writers are mad. We  wouldn’t be writers if we weren’t stark raving bonkers. So these authors  have asked the fans to kick in if they want to see the book.

This  is truly the most democratic path to publishing you can imagine, as  only those people who want to read the book will contribute. Therefore,  if the total requested is raised, the book will happen. (If only trad  publishers had anything like that assurance when putting out a new  book.)

However, and here’s the real rub, those authors need a fan  base in the first place. I’m quite okay with self-publishing and indie  publishing, as regular readers here well know. I’ve had a varied path to  publication myself and have dabbled like a mischievous sorcerer in a  variety of methods. Any path that leads where you’re going is the right  path.

Yet  I know that some newbies in the writing game – and other areas of the  arts for that matter – see crowdfunding as a way to get a start without  having to work so hard. The trouble is, someone with no real following,  without any proven track record or an existing fan base, will have a  hell of a job getting any cash at all through a crowdfunded project.  Like those self-publishers really nailing the market, especially with  ebooks, who are actually trading on their past publishing success, only  established artists are likely to get any crowdfunded money. The Amanda  Hockings of this world are most certainly the exceptions not the rules, as I discussed at length here. People trying to start out will still be struggling along like tiny minnows against the flooding tide of existing artists.

Of  course, you’re always going to get those who buck the trends and emerge  out of obscurity like a lucky butterfly made of cash, but they’re going  to be very rare. I guess it’s fair in some ways – we all need to work  hard to get successful. I think there’s something fundamentally damaging  about success that comes too easily. Then again, I work like a  son-of-a-bitch and success is a slow burn for me. So maybe I’m just  bitter. But people expecting a handout without proving themselves are  unlikely to get one, and that’s where this is different from  panhandling. After all, it’s far easier to ignore a beggar on the  internet who wants you to fund their desire to write than it is to  ignore someone on the street who’s really doing it tough and simply  trying to eat. The truly destitute in society need our compassion and  assistance. Would-be writers crying out online, pleading with people to  pay their rent and grocery bills while they try to make a go of writing,  do not. They need to do something to earn our attention, then maybe  we’d be more inclined to throw a few shekels their way and see if they  can climb a rung or two of the ladder.

It sounds harsh and I don’t  want to be accused of ignoring the struggle of emerging talent, or  stepping on people trying to get a start in this game. Thor knows, I’ve  struggled hard enough myself, and still do. But I’ve mentioned it before,  determination and hard bloody work are as important as talent in this  game. If you can wrangle a few bucks out of people without proving  yourself first, more power to you. I wish anyone trying it the best of  luck. But don’t get shitty when you post a Kickstarter saying you want  five grand to try to finish your first novel and get pretty much sweet  fuck all. We’d all have loved five grand to finish our first novels, but  none of us got it and we went ahead and did the work anyway. Of course,  a few people do get actual arts grants for this stuff but, like the  established writers making a go of crowdfunding their next books, those  arts grant recipients had some history to prove themselves worthy of  receiving said grant.

So I guess my opinion really is this – I see  the whole new trend in crowdfunding to be an extremely exciting thing.  Let the voice of the people be heard. It’s a great way to finance things  which might otherwise slip under the radar and never happen. But I  don’t think it’s a way for unknown names – in any field of endeavour –  to suddenly circumvent that harsh crucible of slaving away at their art  like a motherfucker while also scraping a living, engaging personal  relationships and generally being a human person. Which is a shame, but I  guess these things aren’t easy for a reason. I compare it often to my  life as a martial artist, and like I often tell my students, “Kung Fu is  seriously hard work. After all, if it was easy, everyone would do it.”

I’m certainly interested in your comments on the subject, so do chime in below. (Publetariat Editor’s note: click here to leave your comment on the original article, where it appears on Alan’s site.)

And maybe I’ll see you in Brisbane!


This is a reprint from Alan Baxter‘s The Word.

Publetariat Dispatch: Thoughts On Getting Close To The End

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!

In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author and small publisher Alan Baxter muses on the experience of finishing a new manuscript. Note: this post contains some strong language.

Novels are like lovers – you only pick the ones you think you’ll like, but no two are really the same. Sometimes they’re just awesome and make you feel special. Sometimes they let you down. Often they can surprise you, make you feel a whole range of emotions. And when it’s over, you sometimes wish it could go on forever and other times you’re glad, because it started to feel like more work than it was worth. Or you’re satisfied and it lasted just as long as it was supposed to.

And I’ll stop there before my analogy disappears up its own arsehole. The thing is, it occurred to me today that this applies to writing novels as well as reading them. I’m currently around 94,000 words into my third novel. I’ve written numerous short stories, a couple of novellas and now I’m close to typing those strange words – The End – on my third novel length work. Novels are certainly unique creatures and while many bear similarities, just like lovers, no two are the same. And no two writing processes are the same either.

I’m still very much a journeyman writer. Perhaps when I get to that stage where I’ve written loads of books I’ll have developed some kind of process that’s familiar and practiced, but there’s a part of me that hopes that never happens. I like the excitement of taking on a new project and if it all started to feel the same I might lose the urge.

RealmShift was the first novel I wrote. Not the first one I started, not by a long way. I’ve written varying amounts of several novels. But it was the first one I finished and knew was a real novel. It went through many more redrafts and rewrites before it was published, of course, but I remember the feeling of reaching the end of that manuscript. I remember the feeling of writing it, feeling the story pouring out, astounded at how it was telling itself. Other times I struggled, trying to make something work. But there was a distinct vibe to writing RealmShift. I knew the main character inside out, I knew the mission he was on, but I wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to end until I got there.

My second book is MageSign, the sequel to RealmShift. When I started writing that I knew exactly how it was going to end. The final climax was the entire reason for writing it, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I had lots of notes and plans written, but there were huge gaps that I trusted myself to fill as I got to them. Which I did. There was a distinct vibe to writing MageSign too, and it felt very different to RealmShift.

Now I’m close to finishing the first draft of my next book. It’s the same “world” as RealmShift and MageSign, but a whole new story with all new characters. There are a couple of cameos from key players in the first two books, but that’s mainly for the geeky fun of it. This book feels very different again. Where RealmShift grew from the main character, and MageSign grew from the final climax, this one has grown from a strange and weird concept. The concept led me to develop a main character and that subsequently led to the story. It feels quite different to either of the previous two.

I wanted to write something different. My books are dark fantasy thrillers, and this new one is too, but with a slightly different feel, a different pace. I’m playing with different archetypes, different character relationships and a pervading sense of dread rather than a flat out race against time. And it’s been a struggle. This story has been harder to get out than either of the previous two. A lot harder, in fact. That’s not because it’s more complicated. If anything, it’s a simpler concept than either of the previous two, with fewer key characters. I don’t know yet if it’s any good. I think it’s awesome, but you always feel like that with a new lover. Hopefully I’ve written something better than ever, less predictable, more nuanced. The fragile, insecure writer in me wonders if I’ve blurted out a pile of shit.

When I finish a novel, I immediately go through it again, sorting out all the little issues that occurred to me along the way, that I made notes about as I wrote. Sometimes something will happen later in the book that means I need to change something near the start. Or I’ll have a better idea and need to rework something. Then there are all the little bits and pieces that I can weave in here and there to make the whole story arc flow seamlessly, and often some of those things can only be added later, when you know exactly how it all ends.

After that, assuming I don’t decide I need a complete rewrite (pleaseno!), the next stage is to put the book away for at least a few weeks. I’ll write other things in that time. I have a couple of short stories clamouring to be written and I want to write the next Ghost Of The Black novella. Then I’ll go back to this novel and redraft again. That’s when I’ll really get a feel for what I’ve created.

Only time will tell. Regardless, I’m very close to the end of actually writing it, as opposed to revising it, and some time in the next couple of weeks (I hope) I’ll type those two fateful words. The End. Then I’ll sit back in my chair staring at a completed manuscript. I suppose I’ll have to brace myself and, after the process described above, send it out to the beta readers and see what they have to say.

I wonder how other writers do it? If there process is anything like mine?

Anyway, it’s another novel, like the others I’ve written in so many ways. It’s the kind of thing I think I’ll like. At times it made me feel special and awesome. I really hope it doesn’t let me down… or would that be me letting it down?


This is a reprint from Alan Baxter‘s The Word.

Publetariat Dispatch – Ebook Pricing: A Rumination

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!

In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author and small publisher Alan Baxter discusses the many factors and considerations that go into ebook pricing.


There have been numerous articles, online and off, discussing ebook pricing and I won’t bother to list or link them here – I’m sure you ingenious readers can find them. So why am I chiming in again? Well, it’s a fluid subject, always on the move. More and more people all the time are taking up ebooks and it will become the norm. It’s impossible to put timeframes on something so variable, but it will happen.

There are several theories on how ebooks will fit into the mainstream. Firstly, it’s important to remember that it’s not either/or. You don’t have to choose. I love all books. I love print books and ebooks. The vast majority of new books I buy these days are ebooks, but if I really like something I’ll get a hard copy to go on the shelf. Or if a book is a particular piece of art, I’ll get it. I love getting contributor’s copies of books I have stories in, because I’m a vain fucker and like to point to the brag shelf and say to people, “Yes, I have work in all those anthologies. And those are my novels. Ahaha.” Shut up, I need validation.

I see the general breakdown of production settling into something along these lines: All new titles will be ebooks, some, especially from smaller publishers, being only ebooks. Alongside that I see a lot of publishers using Print On Demand technology to make paperbacks available to those who like them. And then a short run of actual printed stock, possibly limited edition hardbacks for collectors. That makes three primary delivery systems of stories – electronic, mass-market (though probably POD) and artefact. This is my prediction, but it’s not particularly relevant to this post. I’m looking here at ebook pricing based on the fact that ebooks will become mainstream and will eventually be everyone’s primary method of consuming stories. Don’t get upset, there’s nothing you can do about it. Have you seen Star Trek? How many real books do you ever see? Yeah, it’s gonna be like that. You can’t hold back the future any more than you can hold back the tide with a broom.

So, how should we price ebooks? I ran this question by the straw poll that is my Twitter and Facebook tribe and got some really interesting answers. Firstly, I’ll give my personal opinion.

An ebook should always be cheaper than the print book, by a fair factor. If most paperbacks are $9.99 or less, then ebooks of those titles should be $7 at most. If a book is really popular and in demand, like the new George R R Martin book, it can be more. The Kindle of that one is $17, which is fine, because the only other option is a $40 hardcover. At least, that’s true for Australia. On Amazon, the book is listed at $35 but on special at $18.81. Add postage to Australia and it’s close to $40 again. However, once the paperback edition comes out, that ebook puppy better drop to less than the paperback price or the publisher is taking the piss.

So, for the purposes of simplicity, let’s look at standard paperback vs ebook pricing. If the print edition is $10 or less, the ebook needs to be at most two thirds of that price. There’s no production cost once the e-edition is set up and ready. There’s no distribution cost. And there’s no physical artefact for the reader. Sure, we’re buying the story and that deserves to be paid for, but the item itself is also a factor.

“What about the poor starving author?” you cry. I am one, so don’t come crying to me. Of course the author needs to be paid and we need to value his or her product. But let’s not get all high and mighty without the facts, ma’am. Ebooks generate a massive royalty compared to print. If the author has signed a good contract – and they should be getting a new agent if they haven’t – they should be getting a royalty model on ebooks different to print.

My novels are $9.99 in paperback and $3.99 in ebook. (So reasonable I’ll wait here a moment while you go and buy them… got ‘em? Good. You’ll love them.) I make a bigger royalty on ebooks than I do on print, even though the retail is less than half. That’s because the margin on print production to retail is very slim and I get a slim cut of that. The margin on ebook to retail is far bigger, often up to 70%, and I get a far bigger slice of that pie. Mmm, virtual pie.

So authors can actually do better selling ebooks for far less than print books. Right now, if I sold 10,000 copies of RealmShift this year, I’d much prefer to shift 10,000 ebooks than print ones, as that would pay me far more handsomely. And I do like a handsome paycheque. I would also love to sell 10,000 copies of anything this year, please tell your friends.

Personally, I’m against the popular 99c price point for ebook novels. As an introduction, or a special offer, it’s a good idea. But for novels I think it generally undermines the value of the product. In my experience, most avid readers will view a 99c novel with suspicion and expect it to be shit. They’ll often be right in that assumption. It’s important for authors and publishers to not devalue their content. As one author said, “If people think my novels are only worth 99c, I don’t want them as fans.” That’s a bit extreme, but he has a very valid point. If people aren’t prepared to pay the equivalent of a cup of coffee for your months of hard work, well, fu** ‘em.

I have a novella available for 99c, which is deliberately priced low for several reasons: It’s only around 30,000 words, it’s available for free right here on this website and it’s a teaser, to help people notice me. I also self-published it, so I keep all the royalties, such as they are. Sure, I think it’s worth more than 99c, but I also think it’s fair to charge that and hope to get more readers that way.

So my thinking is that the sweet spot for ebooks is the $3 to $7 price range, with exceptions made for very special items. Authors will make at least as much, if not more, than they would from paperback sales and consumers get to read more and still value the work of the people they like to read. Given that paperbacks here in Australia are usually around $20, I’m actually happy to pay anything up to $15 for an ebook, but I really stop and think twice if it’s over $10.

I won’t name names, because I didn’t ask permission to use the comments, but here’s what some of the people on my social networks had to say on the subject:

I’ve paid up to $9.99 for a book a really wanted, but insofar as most genre fiction the price range generally is settled between $4.99-$7.99. A lot of indies sell their books at 99 cent, but I personally think that is a mistake because all it does is get the value shoppers and it rarely builds a loyal following. At least at the $4.99 range you have wiggle room to offer periodic sales and such.

I’ll pay up to $15, but only for something I really want to read. Generally $7-10. I tend to steer clear of anything at 99 cents simply because it’s so ingrained in my mind that anything priced so cheap can’t be good.

I’d pay up to $15 though the most I’ve yet paid was half of that. I love that you can get classics and foreign books, many that are not available in print here in Australia, for free or very cheap.

I think 10 bucks is reasonable.

I usually pay around the $10 mark – give or take $2-$3. Like others, I get twitchy if it’s only 99c or so, unless I know the author.

$2.99. Can’t borrow ‘em out. Can’t resell them. No physical formatting. No shipping. No distribution.

I get uncomfortable with anything over the $10 mark, but have no real basis for that limit. Will pay more for favourite authors just as I was and am willing to pay for hardcover rather than wait for paperbacks for same.

$5 its a new technology.

I generally won’t pay more than $5 depending on restrictions. If it’s only a license to read (a la Kindle) I pay less

up to $10 is ‘buy without thinking twice’ & up to $15 is ‘buy at once if I *really* want it. Anything higher, I hesitate.

$6-7? Like to compensate author/editor for the work, but don’t want to pay non-existent print/delivery etc costs.

So from that selection of comments it seems there are certainly a number of things people still take into consideration and DRM is a big factor. But the general consensus is ten bucks or less overall, with a couple stretching out to a maximum of $15. Interesting times, indeed.

You’ve read my thoughts and heard a few others. What do you think? How much will you pay? And how much or how little do you think is unreasonable?


This is a cross-posting from Alan Baxter‘s The Word.

Publetariat Dispatch: Harry Potter 7.2 – The End Of An Era

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!

In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author and small press owner Alan Baxter talks about what comes next for JK Rowling and Harry Potter.

We went to see the latest and last film installment in the Harry Potter series yesterday, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. The film is pretty good, even if it is pretty much one long action scene. With a story there are normally three acts. There’s a setup, with questions asked and situations created, then there’s some kind of action and usually some extra problems thrown in, and finally there’s resolution. I recently saw something that sums this up beautifully:

vonnegut three acts Harry Potter 7.2   the end of an era
I found this via Chuck Wendig’s Tumblr, and I love it so much I want to punch it in the face.

So, the problem, if you can call it that, with the last Harry Potter film is that it’s all the last cup. It’s all resolution, action-packed climax. But that’s okay. Because seven previous films have done all the work of the first two acts.

Say what you will about J K Rowling and the Harry Potter stories, there’s something truly amazing about the achievement. Sure, the stories may be derivative, distillations of so much fantasy that’s gone before. But everything is informed by something. Sure, Rowling may not be the greatest writer on the planet, but she does spin a yarn that keeps you reading, and what more do we really want than that? These aren’t wanky literary explorations of language and word form. They’re rollicking yarns, aimed mainly at young people. And Rowling does have a dab hand at naming things. She comes up with the best names.

I was a bit of a critic at first, especially of the first couple of books. Poorly written, derivative stories that insult the genre, blah, blah, blah. Yes, I’m blah, blah, blahing myself. It’s true to some extent, but Rowling kept going, she created a remarkable world and truly interesting characters. Well, mostly. Ginny Weasley, for example, was always a bit of a glyph. But Rowling got young people excited about books again, and for that she deserves a knighthood or a statue or something. We can forgive the small things in the face of the big achievement.

And that achievement is seven books that sell better than the Bible. A merchandising empire that makes nation states weep. Rowling is worth an estimated £500 million. That’s pounds sterling. That’s a mental amount of money from writing about a boy wizard. On top of that, we’ve got the films.

Never has a film franchise like this happened before. Sure, there have been film series’, though none with a single story that runs to eight full-length episodes. There have been characters who have cropped up way more than seven times, like James Bond. But each of those is a seperate story, and there have been many actors playing Bond. To have a story like Harry Potter extend over eight films, over ten years, with the same cast literally growing up as their characters is something we may never see again.

It would be fantastic if some other great book series’ received the same kind of treatment, but it’s unlikely. Not often does a prospect like Potter come along. Very few stories will guarantee a return on investment like Harry Potter does. It’s beyond mainstream; it’s ubiquitous. Producers and financers knew they could pretty much spend carte blanche on Harry Potter films and guarantee getting their money back several times over. Nothing is a safe bet like that in this world. Rowling created that – a guaranteed massive return investment. And you thought her magic was all fiction. This last installment shattered box office records worldwide, with US$169.2 million in US and Canadian ticket sales over the opening weekend. The opening weekend! And they’ve yet to truly milk it, with the rest of its cinema run, then DVDs, then special edition DVDs, then 8 film boxed sets. Not to mention all the associated merchandising.

Then there’s Pottermore to keep the whole thing monetised. Then there’s always the possibility of more books. The whole 19 Years Later thing at the end of the story is there as some kind of cap, but there are loads of ways around that if Rowling chooses to write more.

Of course, the real test of Rowling’s skill will be to write something else. Amazing as the Potter success is, she’ll always be measured against it and may not be able to write any other stories. I hope not. I hope she comes up with something all new, completely unrelated to Harry Potter and his world of wizards and witches, though I doubt she will.

So, for now at least, it’s over. It really is the end of an era. Children started reading books with the success of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. They grew up alongside their favourite characters while film stars grew up playing those characters. I’m glad to have seen it through. There’s a good sense of closure now and the books and films will stand as one of the greatest storytelling achievements of all time.

I’m still left with one question unanswered. Why does Harry Potter, or any other witch or wizard, wear glasses? They can regrow bones, for goodness sake. Surely they can fix a spot of myopia. Then again, perhaps it’s good to be left with some questions. Well done J K Rowling, and well done Harry, Hermione and Ron. You all did good.

This is a cross-posting from Alan Baxter‘s The Word.

Publetariat Dispatch: Good Show, Sir – Bad Book Cover Archive

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!

In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, indie author and small press owner Alan Baxter shares the Good Show, Sir website, which showcases truly awful book cover designs.

My brother-in-law put me onto this great site (thanks Adrian!) It’s called Good Show Sir and it’s all about showcasing the worst book covers in sci-fi and fantasy. Their explanation is this:

Because sometimes, a book cover is so bad that all you can do is step back in wonder and say “Good show, sir, good show”.

The truth is that these days there’s been a considerable improvement in book cover design. Some covers of recent spec-fic releases are truly outstanding. But there was a time when any sci-fi or fantasy book was guaranteed an awful cover of one kind or another. That’s where this site comes in. Check it out here.

To whet your appetite, I present this:

This is a reprint from Alan Baxter‘s alanbaxteronline site.