Tag Archives: making a living


I really want to triple my sales from last month. I also want to know who’s out there buying my stories. So let’s see if I can kill two birds with one stone, shall we?

I’m getting a proof copy of this anthology in a few days. For every story you buy from here between now and the end of March, you will get one entry. Just email me at scott at scottroche.com and attach an electronic copy of your receipt from Amazon. All entries will go into a hat (possibly a real hat, possibly an electronic one) and I will draw a name. That person will receive a signed, personalized copy of the proof copy. This will be the only one of its kind in existence and will be worth at least as much as the paper it’s printed on for generations to come. The only catch? If I don’t sell at least twenty seven stories, I keep the book. There needs to be some incentive to stop my Mom from being the only winner. 😉

Simple enough? Now go forth and buy!

E-book Week Results

This past week I gave away over two hundred stories as a part of Smashwords celebrating Read An E-book Week. I figured I’d share the results with you guys since that was pretty phenomenal in my mind. There are now two hundred copies of my stories in the wild and I hope that will lead to people coming back for more.

Fetch” and “The Behemoth” were certainly the most popular. Only two copies of “The Battle of Wildspitze” were sold but it didn’t come out until late in the week and was not part of the giveaway. I guess people were attracted to the cover, blurb, and/or genre of those two big movers most. The reviews may have also been significant. That’s hard to say.

I do hope that if you were one of the folks who took advantage that you’ll remember to drop a review. They do help people to make the decision to buy. That’s part of the reason I did this, to see if it would generate some feedback and drive future sales. Sales haven’t been phenomenal there or at Amazon. I tweeted last night, tongue in cheek, that I tripled my January sales in February (moving from three sales to nine sales) and that I’d like to do that again in March. That would mean twenty seven sales and given that I’ve sold one this month that would mean needing to sell almost two a day for the rest of the month. That would be unprecedented, but it’s not out of the ball park.

I’ve got four stories and two collections up there right now. “Through A Glass, Darkly” combines “Fetch“, “Power in the Blood“, “The Good Doctor“, and a new one “The Good Samaritan” into one file for $2.99. If I could sell fifteen to twenty of those this month that would be awesome. It’s not a bad deal either considering “Fetch” and “Power” together would be $3.50. Those are two of my most well received stories and the other two would be icing on the cake. “The Good Samaritan” is the lead off story and if you download the sample from Amazon you’d get a good taste of that one.

So, please spread the word and help me meet this goal. Two a day for the next two weeks! If you’ve already read any of these stories it would help my goal to get a review on any of the ones on Amazon.

The Price is Right

I had an interesting Twitter discussion this weekend that involved e-book pricing. It’s on my mind a lot really what with me having a new book coming out in May. I had five dollars set as the soft price in my mind based on a few things I read in this post. I felt (and still feel) that this is a fair price point for a book in the sixty-thousand word range.

There are a number of people who disagree with me though. Brand Gamblin (an author whose work I will pimp without fail) posted recently about his experiment in advertising and his decision to drop the price on Tumbler from $4.99 to $2.99. He points to JA Konrath’s ongoing experiments in e-book pricing as well as data from Evil Genius Dave Slusher’s graphs and charts as the reason for this decision. Brand has been well pleased by the results, the increase in sales more than making up for the decrease in profit. While Brand isn’t saying that there’s anything “magical” about $2.99 (the biggest thing driving that price point is that it’s the lowest you can charge through Amazon to make 70% profit) and that not every book should be priced at that point, he is saying that that’s probably what I should charge.

Several people in my Twitter stream expressed a concern that I was letting a notion of what my book is “worth” in an artistic sense cloud my judgment in terms of the price I’m setting. They believe in me in some sense and in my work and want me to maximize my profits. I appreciate that concern and it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. I certainly want to make money on this deal and I want to both maximize the total profit and get this into the hands of the highest number of people possible. So I don’t have any high flung notions that my work is “worth” five bones. The notion of worth as Ed Talbot pointed out is philosophical and largely depends on how you’re measuring it.

So far a number of people have stepped onto the pre-sale band wagon, six to date, and gave me varying chunks of their hard earned dollars. Four have opted for the highest level of support, one at the ten dollar level and one at fifteen. To them, the idea and the reality of my work is “worth” the price that they paid. To say I am grateful is a wild understatement. I am also grateful to folks that have ponied up anywhere from $.99 to $1.99 for my offerings on Amazon and Smashwords. Their payments for my stories have meant far more to me than the coin I received. The accolades I’ve received from reviewers likewise made my day/week/month. That out of the way though, I need to look at this as a business man would. I’m not a business man at heart, but as Dan Sawyer’s often said to me (paraphrasing) authors/aritsts need to train themselves up that way.

I’ve read the threads on Kindleboards and I’ve looked on Amazon’s lists and the pricepoint that makes the most sense to me is the $2.99 one. I don’t have the researchers that publishers do, but there are a few things I know. I don’t have the following that Nathan Lowell does. People aren’t clamoring for this book. I’m a completely unknown author to 99.999% of the universe out there. So I need to make my prose as compelling as possible and price it reasonably. I won’t give it away (at least not in text form) since I think it is worth something and based on a number of things I’ve read, free e-books languish unread in their owners’ readers. I also don’t see charging less than $2.99 for it since, while it may increase sales (or it may not depending on who you listen to) I don’t think the subsequent cut in percentage will make it worth while.

The question of what to charge for the paperback version still looms large in my mind. I have the pre-sale levels set at five and ten for e-book and paperback versions respectively and I don’t see that I’ll lower those. That means if you’ve made the decision to support me already, you’ve likely paid more than you would have had you waited. And it may mean that if you were going to pre-order that you’ll wait til it’s out. I can’t fault you if you ask for a refund or if you wait until the launch. My hope is that you’ll support me anyway and that you’ll feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth at the “full price”.

As always, feel free to share your comments below and tip your servers well!

Gettin' Paid

So one of the things that makes its rounds in my circles is how difficult it is to make a living as a writer of fiction. I once bemoaned that fate to Mr. Sawyer and he, once again, called bullshit on it. It can be done. It takes dedication, hard work, and a few other things (not to mention a dash of luck) and we talk all about it in this conversation.

Let us know what you think, particularly if you disagree and why.

PS – Here’s part one.

Give It Away Now

So none of you good folks that are reading this are likely to be new to the idea that there’s a lot metric butt load of free content out there on the internet. Here I’m talking strictly about the legal, self published stuff. There are comic strips, novels, music, movies and more and all of this costs you absolutely nothing. It seems crazy and a lot of people really don’t understand it. I have been and will continue to be not only a cheerleader but an active participant in this community for years now and even I’m only beginning to “figure it out”.

For some people this seems to be mostly about finding a way to make inroads into the traditional publishing model. The thought being, if I can get a large enough fan base, then I can get the attention of the “gate keepers” at the big publishing houses and they’ll print my stuff and sell it. This has worked with varying degrees of success for authors like Scott Sigler, Pip Ballantine, and JC Hutchins, who all have struck deals with big labels. For others like PG Holyfield, Nathan Lowell, and Tee Morris their efforts have lead to deals with smaller publishers (and in Tee’s case publication of his non-fiction with big houses).

The traditional road is not one that others seem to be striving for. There’s a more “do it yourself” flair in authors like Cory Doctorow and Matt Selznick. While neither would eschew traditional publishing (and Cory has been published by Tor), it seems that they want to use all possible channels to get their stuff out there and cut out the middle man. That’s not to say that the aforementioned authors aren’t open to all ideas, I’m just talking about where their focus seems to be to me at the present time. Matt talks quite a bit about the neo-patronage idea. If I understand it correctly (and he may not have used these precise words), it’s about finding a smaller number of fans and dealing directly with them. I think that’s laudable.

So, why am I writing about this? Well two blog posts have come to my attention recently.

In the first, JC Hutchins let us know that the 7th Son sequels are not going to be picked up by his publishers thanks to the first novel not meeting their sales goals. He also says that he fears that the free model working as it has for some may be a fleeting moment and that he will no longer be contributing to it, at least not for a while. I felt saddened by his news, but I have to ask, is that me being selfish? If I truly want to be supportive of a fellow artist whose work I enjoy, shouldn’t I be more okay with his decision? I should, but I’m soooo used to that teat. Rather than being patient and waiting to purchase the works when/if they come out, the little voice in me wants to lament that I won’t get the fix I’ve come to expect. I mean I purchased Personal Effects: Dark Arts, but I didn’t purchase 7th Son. Intentions to buy it aside, that money still sits in my pocket and not his and I gave him only half of the financial support I could have.

The other blog post was from a source I’d never heard of. Astonishing Adventures Magazine is shutting it’s doors. John Carlucci says, “We deserve to get paid for what we create.” And you know what? That’s a valid way of thinking. The magazine wasn’t generating the revenue it needed to and so it closed. He also said, “I’m tired of killing myself and not making the smallest of footsteps ahead.” That’s worthy of consideration too.

So, is “free” dead, simply dying, or what? Well I think that it’s too early to tell. I, for one, certainly hope not and I intend to continue putting out free content, while hoping to figure out how to get paid in the meantime. But this whole thing raises a question for me. Do we “deserve to get paid”? Should we kill ourselves, spending all of our spare time and energy in shaking our butts and trying to “get ahead”?

I think the answer to that, at least for me, is no and no.

I don’t get to decide that I “deserve” to get paid. Now that’s not to say that I don’t think what I write is worth something. And yet here I be, writing words I have no expectation of earning a nickel for. I think that for me, it’s about writing something that’s worth your time. If you decide that that time is worth your money, well that’s your call. Would I like to get paid? Oh absolutely. Money is great. I’d love to quit the day job and spend hours and hours creating. Even then though, isn’t it the audience that decides whether or not we deserve to get paid? If I don’t buy JC’s book (provided I am capable financially) then isn’t that me deciding that he didn’t deserve it? If I don’t buy it then he didn’t earn my money, did he? (And for the record I do intend to buy it. He did earn every red cent that I will eventually give him.) keep in mind, I’m not certain of everything in this paragraph, this is me thinking.

One thing I think I am sure of though is that I’m not killing myself for anything. Maybe that means I don’t have what it takes. If I’m not willing to shed blood, sweat, and tears and shake my tail feathers as hard as some out there do, then maybe I won’t make it. I think I’m okay with that. I do want to write. I do want to write professionally. I will sweat for that. I will lose sleep over it. I will likely even cry over it at some point. But proverbially kill myself? Sacrifice my every waking moment or very nearly? No, I don’t think I’m in a place to do that, especially for zero/nominal return. Kudos to those of you who make the sacrifice and I hope it pays off.

So all of this said, why do I put out free content? I don’t expect that it will get me published. I don’t think it will get me a lot of kudos/feedback, though it has garnered me more than not podcasting has. This whole podcasting thing started out as and continues to be about me creating more and learning more. I’ve also made a lot of friends and met a metric butt load (can you tell I’ve got a new pet phrase?) of awesome people. I’ve written more as a result and am trying to hone my craft (that doesn’t sound too writerly at all, does it?). So that’s why I podcast and that’s what I expect. That’s why I give it away. If it has any side benefits, like Random House or Dragoon Moon Press offering me a contract or me getting an agent, then I’m not gonna cry. Ultimately though, even if it does, it’s up to the audience to decide what my writing is worth in terms of dollars and cents.

Am I right or am I waaaay off base here?


Matt Selznick clarified his neo-patronage concept. Here ’tis:

Hi Scott — great post; thanks for including me in it. I wanted to clarify a few things.

It’s nice to be included in the same sentence with Cory — yeah, we share some DIY sensibilities, it’s true — and we’re both (he on a larger scale than me, of course) published by third parties. You mentioned Tor with Cory — my first book, “Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era” is published by Swarm Press and hasn’t been available in it’s self-published paperback form since July of 2008.

You mentioned neo-patronage. Neo-patronage doesn’t have anything to do with dealing directly with a small number of fans. Neo-patronage is a compensation model that asks everyone who takes value from their experience of a piece of art to compensate the artist accordingly. The idea is that the audience is the arbiter of value… if you think the experience of reading “Brave Men Run” for free online is worth $5.00, or $20.00, or $50.00… great! If you think it’s not worth anything, fine.

Under neo-patronage, if you enjoy a book, that author did, in fact, earn the right to be compensated by you, since the author provided you with a service — an experience you would not have otherwise had and, presumably, you enjoyed. So I disagree with you there — even if you haven’t paid the author, they still earned the right to be paid.

When someone does work or performs a service, they deserve to be compensated — just like when you go to your day job and do your work, you deserve to be paid whether or not the boss actually pays you. You’d be put out if you didn’t get paid for work you did, right?

That’s the thinking behind neo-patronage. Pay what you think the work is worth, and never assume that something available “for free” has no value.