If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

July Interviews

7/1 Lena Gregory, Scone Cold Killer
7/8 Jessica Baker, Murder on the Flying Scotsman
7/15 TG Wolff, Driving Reign
7/22 Leslie Budewitz, The Solace of Bay Leaves
7/29 Cynthia Kuhn, The Study of Secrets

Saturday Guest Bloggers

7/11 Mark Dressler
7/18 James McCrone

WWK Bloggers:

7/4 Valerie Burns
7/25 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

I am to Blame for Decreasing Author Incomes: A one-way conversation

By James M. Jackson

Much of the world blames Amazon for the decline in author incomes. Here’s the truth: I am to blame, not Amazon. Well, I’m not all of the problem, of course; but a tiny bit does belong to me. A critical component of economics theory is how supply and demand shape prices. Part of the problem (the demand side) follows good economic logic on my part; the supply side of the problem demonstrates my economic foolishness. Let me explain:

Shall we start with the demand side, where I claim I am driven by economic logic? Thanks for your indulgence, because at least that part doesn’t make me look stupid.

There would be no Amazon if I didn’t buy stuff from them. (I suppose it’s clear that “I” includes a gazillion other people.) I do not buy print books for retail price, which means I rarely venture into a bookstore. Why should I pay full retail when I can buy the same book online and have it delivered to me in two-days’ time? My TBR (To Be Read) pile will hold me at least that long, and I don’t need the immediate gratification. I make an exception to the full price rule when I purchase a book in person from an author I know, but of the 1,000,000 books published in 2018, I don’t know very many of their authors, so that is cold comfort.

I have given up serendipitous “finds” by not wandering through a bookstore. But honestly, ever since I abandoned the self-help section, my choices have been driven by recommendations from people I know, authors I already read, and interviews I hear on NPR.

And if the author is well-known, I’ll get the book from the library. My taxes and donations pay for the library; I don’t feel guilty about this, nor do I object to people borrowing my books from the library. I love libraries. Always have; always will.

I tried Kindle Unlimited for a year. It was a test to see if I saved money. I didn’t—I don’t read enough books, and many of the nonfiction books I read aren’t available on that platform. But if it or any of its kin saved me money, I’d gobble it up like a mallard on white bread. Saving me money means someone—usually the author—is losing money.

So that’s not so bad, really—me being willing to take the deals the publishing business is offering, even though I know they’re not in the long-term best interests of my author community? Right? It makes sense. And it makes sense to millions of other readers. What, you wonder, is this irrational part I alluded to.

Because I am an author, I also affect the supply side of the equation. I add a book a year to the available titles. Economically, it makes no sense for me to do this. If I had spent the same time making burgers at McDonalds or performing any other near minimum-wage job for which I could qualify, I would have made more money than I have from my six published books.

Being an author is pure economic folly. Yet, I have done it for more than a decade and plan to continue. Unlike many of today’s authors, I do make money and pay taxes on it. But it is a pittance, and if I didn’t have outside income, I could never subsist on my profits. I’ve signed publishing contracts with little or no advance, and I’d do it again for the right opportunity. I accept the terms offered by Amazon—even if that means they take 65% of the value of my novella sales.

I continue to write short stories for which I receive token compensation. My little drop in the supply of books ocean is trivial—but combined with hundreds of thousands of others like me, we present a problem for all authors because we add to the supply and are willing to work almost for free.

Which means, I am personally stupid or we’re missing something from this economic equation. I add to my personal economic balance the pleasure I receive creating stories people enjoy reading. I love meeting fans, and other authors. I make no claim that I must write. I choose to write and that makes me part of the problem for those who think they must write.


James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I read library books, so I'm part of the problem. The highest circulating category at my local library is DVD's.

Jim Jackson said...

Margaret -- as I said, I don't seem reading library books as a problem. I remember being in the bowels of the Cincinnati Library when the latest James Patterson arrived -- hundreds of copies of the latest James Patterson!

Annette said...

Margaret, I don't count library books as part of the problem, nor those who read them. I'd much prefer knowing my books are being checked out of the library than hearing about the folks who download them for "free" from a pirating site (a topic for another blog someday). The library system has purchased our books, and if enough readers check them out, the library will order more. YAY, LIBRARIES.

Jim, I am in the same place as you. Making money but when you calculate the hours I put in and the money I invest in travel to events to meet and greet readers, I'd definitely make more slinging burgers at McDonald's. I'm a vegetarian. That's not a good mix.

But I'm among those who must write. It's who I am. Thank heavens I married a man with good health insurance and a lot of patience.

Grace Topping said...

I am a great library user, but I also occasionally purchase books--primarily those written by friends and writers I know from conferences or online. I truly want to support them, but if I bought all the books I wanted, I wouldn't be able to make this month's mortgage payment. So I get the Kindle versions when I see them go on sale. It helps their numbers go up, I hope, and I get to read their works--eventually. When I read a book I've gotten from the library, I try to help the author by writing a review of the book.

Shari Randall said...

So it's you! ;)
This former librarian will post about all the ways libraries help authors but just mention here that libraries buy a lot of books and introduce readers to our books. So as Annette says, Yay libraries!
We can blame Amazon for a lot of things - Amazon is to blame for their resale market - allowing folks to sell used books as "new" and undercutting what little authors get.
I think the whole feeling today that things should be "free" doesn't help and neither does, as you say, the idea that if art is fun to make then that fun is the artist's reward. Funny that people will still pay a lot for video games - I wonder why that is?

Jim Jackson said...

Annette -- It's nice to know I have company.

Jim Jackson said...

Grace -- Readers who leave reviews make authors happy. Thanks from all of us for that.

Shari -- The practice of selling used books as new is a problem, although since most of my income comes from electronic book sales, it's a lesser issue for me. Those who buy pirated electronic versions were never going to pay me money anyway. I hope their negative karma provides a just reward.

Judy Sheluk said...

As always, on point. And we write because we love it, and can't imagine doing anything else. And because there's a teeny bit of us that thinks one day our ship will actually come in (and we hope not to be at the airport at the time). I buy books, from Amazon, from the bookstore, from the used bookstore, and I borrow books from the library. I also have Kindle that is fully stocked. I used to say my books would be my pension. Here's hoping.

E. B. Davis said...

I doubt that you hurt sales that much, Jim. I download a lot of the books for WWK interviews for free, which also hurts sales, but since the interviews advertise the books--maybe it makes up for my free copy. None of us have made good money writing. Of course, we all have that hope to be the next Janet Evanovich or Diane Mott Davidon or Susan Grafton.

I wish there were more readers in the world, and it seems younger people play more games than read. Are we getting more competitive? Is that the draw? Seems to me, playing games involves more work than reading.

Warren Bull said...

If I asked you to write me a check, the stamp would cost more than the amount on the check so, never mind. I am another person who depresses author earnings. I don't know where people get the idea they should be able to read books for free. Few of us try to take paintings off the walls in museums so we can have them for free.

KM Rockwood said...

Very few people make a living pursuing their passions (I don't mean nobody does, just that they are few & far between.)

If all the inner city kids I taught who thought they would someday support themselves playing basketball were able to do so, we'd have hundreds of professional basketball players. Heaven only knows who would provide the venues and funds for them.

Most people who indulge in arts and sports know they will not show a good profit for it. That's why we have community theater, sponsored art shows, local barbershop quartets, neighborhood soccer leagues. All of which enrich the lives of not only the participants, but also the entire community.

I see my writing in the same context. Yes, it would be wonderful if I could make money at it. There's nothing wrong with trying. And some people will end up with a decent income from it. But to me, it's not that important.

Jim Jackson said...

Judy -- indeed there is that lottery mentality; especially if we know someone who has indeed had significant success.

EB -- We'll see how younger generations spend their time after they reach their sixties. When younger, I played and watched a lot of sports. Now I don't play sports and rarely watch them.

Warren -- Stealing has never been legal, but plenty of authors give away books and some of them are even very good. Authors trained readers, I think; not the other way around.

KM -- You share an interesting perspective. Thanks.

Kait said...

Always wondered who to blame--now I know!:)

Previous commenters said it better than I. We all hope someday our literary schooner will arrive, but in the meantime, writing is who we are.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I order books from Amazon of those authors I enjoy. I also get checks several times a year for my books that they sell. Is it very much? No, but it's better than nothing. As for my reading I often get books I want from one of two local libraries, too. It's usually books for the two book clubs I belong to. As for me, I self-publish so I don't have to pay anybody for publishing except the little to Create Space and Amazon when I want to order my own books to sell from the backseat of my car. As for others ordering my books online, I'm just happy they want to read my books.