Money grubbing authors? Readers, before you paint, make sure you have the right brush.

I received an email from a ‘devoted fan' who was dismayed to find that I've started writing a romantic serial novel. You can find Part 1 of Just One Night here. She accused me of being another one of those “money-grubbing authors” who rip off their readers.

Wow. Can I just say that again? Wow. I've never been called a money grubber before and I can tell you this right now: I don't like it.

I've seen a lot of press about a certain author who shall remain nameless, who writes this type of fiction and charges $2.99 per episode or part. These books are bestsellers, which means this author and her work are very popular with lots of readers. But there is a very vocal minority who is speaking out all over the place (reviews, blogs, Facebook, messages to me) about how this is a horrible practice, and as a result, all authors who write serialized fiction are being painted with the same brush. We are all, apparently, money grubbing wankers.

The only thing I'm going to say about this author or any other charging $2.99 per episode is this: if you don't think the value is there for your money, don't buy the book! No one is forcing readers to buy these books, right? On top of that, no reader has the right to decide for other readers what they should or shouldn't spend for books, so getting angry at people who do buy them is completely out of line. Yes, share your thoughts. No, do not attack other people. Do you cry foul and launch verbal missiles at publishers charging $10 or more for an ebook? No, most people don't. They just either buy the book or not. I've seen some pretty nasty messages to this indie author online, though, and I just don't understand that. Why attack someone over their pricing? People can charge whatever they want. Vote with your dollars, readers. Being angry and nasty isn't going to help anyone; it just makes your day suck.

Should you be a reader of serialized romance? It all boils down to value for me, as I believe it should for anyone spending money on any product.  Ask yourself how much entertainment you get out of that thing you bought and how much you spent, and decide if you could have spent that money elsewhere and been more entertained. If the answer is yes, then don't buy another. If the answer is no, then buy the next one. It's that simple.

Now, since I've asked not to be painted with the brush used on other authors, I'm going to show you why it makes sense that you judge me by my work and my actions alone.  What follows is the email I sent back to my ‘devoted fan'.

Here's the deal:

1.  Serialized fiction is not new. It began in the 17th century. Many classics were written this way … Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alexandre Dumas, and many many other authors used this form to publish their work. It fell out of favor with the advent of high speed presses, cheaper books vs, income per capita, and then the internet later, but still there are some modern-day authors who've done it, Stephen King being one of them.

Sometimes “old-fashioned” things are really cool and shouldn't disappear. Part of the joy of being an indie author is the ability to write in whatever format you want instead of the format publishers want (you know, those same outfits that charge over $10 for an ebook).  Right now there's a movement in several genres to bring this back, and it's not because of the money for many of us. Yes, there is at least one author out there who is doing it in a way that suggests it is about the money, but to paint the rest of the authors on the planet with a brush suited to one author would be unfair, don't you think? And like I mentioned above, many people find good value in these serials, which is why they're bestsellers.

2.  Serialized fiction the way I'm doing it — I hope and believe — will make the reading experience more fun for the readers because they have the opportunity to share their thoughts with me as the serials continue, for the first time putting readers in the position to be able to guide the characters and story arc to some degree.

This story, JUST ONE NIGHT, is not already written. I haven't even started part 2. I'm waiting for readers to comment on the website link I provide inside the book about Part 1 so I can take their thoughts, wishes, and desires into consideration as I write the second episode. Show me one other author actively doing that out there.  I'm the first I know of, and I don't do it to make my job easier. It makes it harder!  … But more fun.  I believe after I do this successfully, other authors will join in and you'll start seeing more of what I call “crowd-sourced fiction”. Have you ever read a book that you wish the author had written differently? Gotten upset because an important detail was overlooked?  Well, this is your chance to make it right.

3.  I put out a lot of material. It can be a monotonous job to some degree if I don't change things up now and again. That's why I change genres frequently. It's also why I do co-authored projects. It's also why I'll join anthologies and write a couple short stories here and there. Writing in this serialized format helps me stretch my writer wings and stay motivated to keep putting out great material on a frequent basis.  Would you rather I take long breaks and publish less frequently? Most of my readers would say NO to that.  I do what I can to keep my readers happy, because they support my family and me. It's that simple.

4. Let's do some basic math.  Is it really all about the money, as some readers assume?  Take a step back and think about this for a moment:

I've offered the first book for 99¢. It's 100 pages (I've already formatted the paperback, so I know this) or 25,000 words. One of my full-length novels is about 85,000 or so, and I charge $5 for that.  So for 30% of the book, you're paying 20% of the price.

My royalties on a 99¢ sale is 35¢.  On a $5 book it's 70% or $3.50.  Anything under $2.99 has 1/2 the royalty rate (which is why you see authors often charging this $2.99 amount.)

Let's say I charge 99¢ for Book 2 also, $1.99 for Books 3 and 4 and $2.99 for Books 5 and 6 (this is not necessarily my plan, but it's good for illustrative purposes.)  In total, for 150,000-word story (about 600 paper pages – a monstrous romance novel), you'll pay $12.00.

How many hours do you think it will take you to read a 600 page novel? Now divide that by 12. That's how much you're paying for the entertainment I provide. My royalty in this split scheme would be $6.27, but if I charged $12.00 outright, I'd make $8.40.

So essentially, writing serialized fiction, I do more work (working with readers to make a better product) for less money.  Add on top of all this that I have to pay for cover art, editing, website changes, and all the other expenses that come with publishing a single part of this serial, and you'll see that it's not just about the money.  It's about a lot of hard work and dedication to the process and to the fans.

Judge ME by MY actions.

In the end, you're going to make your decision about me as a writer and me as a person, and use that opinion to decide whether my work is worth spending your hard-earned money on. I would like to think that you'll look at ME for that and what I DO, and not what another author might be doing.

The bottom line is this: if you like my work and you look forward to reading what I write, then buy my books. Invest in me. If you don't, if you feel as though I charge too much for my work, don't invest in me. Invest in someone else who gives you a better value for your buck.  I believe that my work is worth what I charge, and that I could actually charge more and still have a very big following. But I try to keep my prices affordable for the vast majority of readers because I know what it's like to spend a lot of money on books. I've done it all my life. Making an income as a writer makes it possible for me to keep being a writer. No one should expect me to apologize for earning a living at this.

If you got  this far in the message, gold star!  I hope this clears up any misinformation that might be floating around out there about my latest adventure, at least about me personally. Thanks to those readers who are willing to give this a shot. I'm having a ball so far and I really appreciate your feedback!

9 comments on “Money grubbing authors? Readers, before you paint, make sure you have the right brush.

  1. Oh wow. I hate when people act like that, but please don’t take it personally. Chalk it off to part of the price of fame in the days with the internet. I see this crap a lot on Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter and around the internet, but usually its an author raving mad about a negative review. In truth, it’s not just authors who behave badly 🙂 Fans can be just as crass and ruthless.

    Give them time to adjust. I about had a coronary when Kresley Cole quit writing historicals to focus on writing paranormals. So how stupid was I, huh?? Now its one of my all time favorite series. Although, I never wrote KC and ranted to her, that is just tacky as it gets. I have a bit more class than that. 😉 Besides, I would be eating crow big time now.

    I didn’t know all of the history behind serials, so thanks for posting it. I found it interesting. (I read it in the include you put in your book.)

    All the best,

    • Good point, Karlyn. Failure to give things a chance can cause you to miss out on some awesome stuff! I hope my book qualifies. 🙂

  2. I’ll admit that the thought of waiting for a story to trickle out at the author’s preferred speed does out a hitch in my stride, but because I adore everything you’ve written, I bought it immediately and loved it. I will keep going back for more because it’s a well-written, compelling story. It’s difficult to adjust to change, but often worth it, as it totally is in this case. Look forward to more Jennifer and William!

  3. please write the part two of Just one night!!! I really enjoyed reading it , please don’t mind the naysayers of serials , no matter what , we, your avid readers will enjoy , buy and follow your books regardless of the price. its never about the question of money , but the enjoyment of each readers of reading your stories. I know , some authors really do it for the money, any avid reader can recognize them a miles away. I just blast them in my reviews at amazon no holds barred. 🙂

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  5. I think you have every right to charge however much you feel like charging. I have no problem paying for your books or the other author which i think i know who this other author is. Both author’s are fabulous writers and please not feel discouraged by these small minded people. I’m currently writing my own book and it’s a long process and i will be releasing it as you are. Writing just 100 pages is a lot of work. For me i write a section leave it for a while then come back a reread this bit just to make sure i’m happy with it. My suggestion to your complainer is to try write their own book and see how much time and energy goes into it and then see if they complain about paying $2.99 or more for part of a book. I think it’s a bargain. I have just finished reading your Just One Night and I can’t wait for book 5 to come out. So please ignore the haters and write for your fans cause we love your writing.

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