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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Friday, March 8, 2013

What Price Fame?

Okay, right up front, I'll admit the title of this post is a little misleading.  I am really not expecting to make it to famous in this lifetime.  What I really intend to do here is talk a little about the price of things, and in some instances, the cost of pricing things.

I once worked for a major national department store chain.  I won't name names, but you'll likely know who I'm talking about anyway.  They've been all over the financial news lately, and the story is not pretty.  Like many stores of their type, the ones that catered to middle class working families who knew the value of their hard earned dollars, this store took the X % Off Sale approach to the extreme.  Savvy shoppers, or even just the averagely intelligent shopper, routinely waited for the weekend ads to roll off the presses before rushing in to purchase the bargain of their choice.  I worked the switchboard at this particular store, and it was not at all unusual for me to get inquiries about scheduled reductions in certain departments, say from the wife whose husband was in need of a new suit.  She knew that sometime in almost any six-week period, men's suits would go on sale, and she wasn't about to drag her man in before they did.  While I was kept in the dark with regard to these matters, I'm sure there were sales clerks on the floor primed with the information.  When all else failed to close a sale, they would relinquish a "tip" in hopes of seeing them return for the "bargain."

Okay, I like a % off as well as the next person, but I also know there are built in safe guards to keep the store afloat.  We all understand mark-ups and can't really expect a retailer to sell everything below cost.  At some point we all become immune to the thrill of the bargain hunt and settle for paying a reasonable price anyway.  Or do we?  What's happened recently to the above-mentioned chain suggests otherwise.  They apparently decided the American consumer had lost interest in those glossy ads and sale banners. They took a gamble on the simple, everyday low price angle, banking on their decades-old loyal customer base.  The result has been disastrous, to say the least.  Apparently, minus the assurance that "you saved $X.xx on your purchase today," a bargain is not really a bargain.  Regardless of the value for dollar aspect of this strategy, if it hasn't been marked down from somewhere, we don't want it.  We'll take our loyal customer selves elsewhere.

Now I find myself in the business of not only writing books, but figuring out how to sell them.  As an Indy author, I'm allowed to set my own prices based on a number of factors, the most confusing of which has to be that we're talking about the value of an ebook here, ether, air, here today, gone with the press of a delete button tomorrow.  These books won't even end up in a cardboard box at a yard sale priced at a nickel each!  That one out of the way, since it's too much for my 60-year-old brain to wrap around anyway, we try to do a little research.  How much does a comparable book sell for, and does it sell?  Then again, is it really comparable, since that writer uses words and paints pictures I would never dare to, and still plan to look my grandchildren in the face.  So we try to set some realistic goals.  Am I seriously planning to make money, or just take myself to dinner and a movie once a month?  Would I prefer to sell ten books at a higher price, or twenty at a lower figure?  Since we're being realistic here, maybe I should just give them away, since after all, why would anybody in their right mind be willing to pay for the work of a complete unknown?  Obviously, this is an issue clouded by ego, emotional investment and a total lack of objectivity!  Just pick a number!  In my case, after some thoroughly unscientific experimentation, $3.99 seems to be the sweet spot for my novels.

There are plenty of wonderfully clever people out there devising brilliant strategies for writers just like me.  I read what they have to say and think that if I only spoke their language, I'd see how useful their advice could be.  (Any of you, feel free to take pity and contact me here. Just be prepared to lead me gently by the hand to that dim light at the end of the marketing tunnel.)  In the meantime, I'm sticking with the naive approach that a bargain is still enticing, and a happy reader is worth more than money in the bank. 

The point of this post is simply this--for the next three days Hearts Unfold is on sale for just $0.99!  Get yours while they last! ;0)

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