Real Value Isn’t a Fast Food Meal

Posted: August 9, 2014 by ajbrown in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

There is a value to everything. That value is different depending on whom you ask. It’s true. Let me give an example:

Kim Kardashian.

Okay, do you know what just happened? Half the people reading this just clicked the X button in the top right corner. Why? Because, like me, they are sick of hearing about Kim Kardashian (or any of the Kardashian’s for that matter).

The other half of you continue to read on for one of two reasons:

1. You like Kim Kardashian and you probably think this is about her.
2. You like my blog and you want to see where I’ll take this.

If you are those reading because of reason number one, go ahead and click the X button in the top right corner—this is not about Kim Kardashian.

So, here is how I judge the value in this case:

1. For the folks who went right ahead and clicked the X button, closing out the screen this blog is on, there is NO value in Kim Kardashian. For that, I am thankful, even though it probably cost me a few readers.
2. For the folks who read on because they thought this blog was about that Kim woman, and THEN clicked off when I told them it was not about her, this blog post had a value of around 50% interest.
3. For those of you still reading, welcome to the 75% value club. It’s nice to have you. Why only 75%? You haven’t made it to the end, yet.

Okay, so that value system is pretty much subjective, but the point is everything has different values based on different people. I like strawberry Kool-aid. I’m not a drinker of alcohol. Strawberry Kool-aid has more value to me than any type of alcohol. Again, subjective, but you get the point.

Let’s take a second here and look at the value of items or services. Someone who is a mechanic probably doesn’t value another mechanic’s service as much as someone who can do little more than crank a car up and put gas in it. The people who can’t work on a car would probably pay more for the service than someone who knows what they are doing.

If you don’t need an attorney, then there is no value in that service, whereas someone who just robbed a bank and got caught would probably think an attorney could be good money spent.

That’s still pretty subjective, though.

Let me take it in a different direction.

If you are one of my Faithful Readers, then you know that I would like to sell some of my books. If you have been awake at all and have Facebook and have any writers on your friends list, then there is a chance you’ve heard about Amazon’s letter to KDP authors involving the dispute Amazon has with Hachette. I’m not going to go into details, but it’s pretty much a ‘Mom, he’s touching me,’ type of thing. Name calling at its finest. They wish to drag the KDP writers into the argument, but most of us find this to be annoying, if not unprofessional, and honestly, a bunch of folks are pissed about it. Rightfully so.

The thing is, for all the great things Amazon has done for the ebook world, it pretty much frowns upon the same group of people who helped build its empire—the self-publishing (or independent) author. But that’s really for another blog post at another time. The point is this, though Amazon makes it easy to publish works to the Kindle platform, it also makes it difficult to get recognition within its own algorithms. Amazon essentially devalues the books for writers by not really making it all that easy to be noticed, while still taking in anywhere between 30-70% in royalties. However, right now they are acting as if we are valuable to them by asking us to do their bidding and help fight their battle with Hachette.

I’ve gone way off the topic here, but somehow I have managed to actually stay on it, somewhat.

Okay, let’s get back to real value.

People are willing to pay good money for books by the likes Stephen King, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins and a few other well-known writers. For those folks, they get more value for their buck by purchasing proven authors. I can’t blame them. Many of those same people would not buy a book by an unproven author at the same price as one of the proven ones. Why would they?

This is where value comes in to play.

It’s like buying a steak dinner from a fast food joint when you know Longhorns or Outback is much better. Unless you really like that fast food joint, you’re going to want that steak from a restaurant that is known for cooking them. When it comes right down to it, Stephen King and those other famous writers are the real steaks and the rest of us are the fast food rip-offs. At least, that is how a lot of folks (including Amazon) view it.

But wait, let me tell you about some of us fast food rip-offs. Yeah, there are those out there who write books and slap them up on Amazon or Nook or Smashwords without even looking over the manuscript before doing so. They just want to get that book out there and start making money. Yes, they do. Those are the real fast food rip-offs. They also make it tougher on the rest of us.

Then you have those writers (and small market presses) who take their time with the production of a book—and believe me, book publishing is a huge production. There are those who pour over each story for hours and hours, reading the manuscript over and over, tweaking sentences and structure and grammar and spelling. There are those who spend hours looking for the right cover art and often going through several covers to try and find the one that not only fits the story, but appeals to the readers—because as writers and publishers we are under the belief umbrella that a reader’s first impression, the cover, can make or break a sale. There are those who seek out beta readers and editors and proofreaders. They ask questions of friends and other writers, so often hoping for just a little bit of help. There are those who go to great lengths to make sure the formatting is right, often going over each page to make sure the fonts didn’t mysteriously change from Times New Roman to Curlz, or that the italics and bolds are in the right places. There are those that when all is said and done and the story is as right as it can possibly be, who let the mouse hover over the SUBMIT button because, quite honestly, they are scared of whether the story will be received well or torn apart by the masses, or even just by one person.

What is the value of that book for that person? Why should that person sell their book—their hard work—for $1.99? Why would they not sell their book for four or five bucks more? Because the value of their work, as they see it, is not the same as it is for those who might possibly read it? For those doing the work, they believe—no, they feel it in their bones—that their work should be treated just like the real steak houses. Those writers aren’t fast food rip-offs. They are the real deal. Readers just don’t know that, yet. Many of them don’t know the value of an independent writer’s work.

Before Nike became the brand name in shoes, it was nothing. Before Wal-Mart became the mega-bagillion store it is, it was just an idea. Before Amazon became the king of Internet shopping and ebooks, they were just a dream in someone’s basement. Before Stephen King or James Patterson or J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins became even remotely famous, they were nobodies, scratching at the surface of the publishing world, wanting that one shot to prove they were the real steaks and not the rip-offs. You see, everyone must start somewhere, and to everyone, their own value is the most important thing to them.

Everyone values things differently. I think that’s a given. In order for anyone to make it in any business, others must find value in them or what they are doing or both. These days I rarely buy books by big name authors. These days I rarely buy books from the Big 5 publishers. These days I like to purchase books from small presses and the little known authors out there. Why? Well, a few reasons:

1. The big name authors have become too pricey. They know their fans will buy whatever they put out, including their grocery list. And why wouldn’t they? They’ve earned their spot among the real steaks.
2. I like to find new authors, ones I’ve never heard of, and ones you’ve probably never heard of either.
3. I also like to support those new authors and small presses.
4. I’m one of those little known writers, and the hope for me is that someone will pick up something I’ve written—will, you know, take a chance on me—and like it enough to tell their friends, and then those friends will like it enough to tell their friends, and so on, and so on. It’s my hope.
5. I just might be that person that finds a new writer and tells all my friends about that person (you know, like reason number four).
6. I’ve always pulled for the underdog or the little guy, and those little known writers and presses fit the description.

Now, about that value thing. No, this isn’t a value meal at Taco Bell we’re talking about. This is finding things that are worth your hard earned money. If you are a reader, then that means you want good books. You want to buy books by writers you know and trust and who have proven that they can deliver the goods. Sometimes, they don’t quite succeed in getting those goods delivered. Sometimes the real steaks aren’t cooked all the way.

I encourage you to take a chance on writers you’ve never heard of. You don’t have to spend 10 0r 12 or 20 bucks on a book to do that. Most of their works aren’t all that expensive. Just take a chance on a writer you don’t know. You never know what value you will find in a book from that no name writer. You may just develop a new favorite.

If you have made it this far, I thank you. I also welcome you to the 100% value club. You didn’t click off until the end. I hope it was worth your time.

Until we meet again, my friends…

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Comments
  1. Justin Dunne says:

    They feel it in their bones!

    I’ve picked up a couple of cheeseburgers that don’t look like the picture in my time, but finding a steak surprise washes the bad taste out pretty quick.

    Not every writer writes to make bazillions. I like the writers who write to be read. Sure, those writers still want to be able to feed their children, and maybe buy a jet ski, we have to be honest, but the ones who write foremost to be read, to share a story, they aren’t going to charge you a fortune. You can get value from them.

    Buddy, I get value from you…

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