Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Try a Sugar Pill

Do you suffer from Dry Mouth? Restless Legs? Do you wander your kitchen at two in the morning, scrubbing the counter for what might be residue, even though you rationally know they’re just bumps in an old surface?

Try Sugar Pill. In clinical studies, Sugar Pill did not cause shortness of breath, rectal bleeding or severe ulcers. Sugar Pill has been proven to not cause drowsiness, anxiety or violent marital strife. In some cases Sugar Pill did not cause stroke or stroke-like symptoms. People with heart defects complained of no change in their dispositions.

Sugar Pill works using a revolutionary technique called “your digestive system.” It goes to the same place where all the food does, and stays there. Sometimes it makes friends. It never makes side effects that are way scarier than what it’s supposed to cure.

You can operate heavy machinery while using Sugar Pill. If you're diabetic or may become diabetic you should talk to your doctor before trying Sugar Pill. Ten out of ten doctors claimed sugar pill had no negative side effects. More than ten doctors were unavailable.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: He Wasn't Ready

He banged on the bedroom door again, louder this time so maybe Grandpa's hearing aid would pick it up.

"For the second time, Mom wants you in the car. We’re late."

The door swung inward. There were a lot of surprises behind the door. Grandpa in only tighty-whities and a silver crucifix was one. The look of animal revulsion in his face was another - he'd looked a hundred kinds of pissed in his existence, but never this way. And then there was the gun, the ancient service revolver that Grandpa pushed into his grandson's breastbone.

"You know what happened when I wanted my mother? She died having my third sister. When I wanted food, the world gave us a Great Depression. When I wanted to stay out of it, the Japs bombed us and the draft was on. When I wanted to finish school on the G.I. Bill, she got pregnant."

"Grandpa, what the f--"

"You fucking swear at me in the house I bought? When my first boy was born and I had his room set up for sports-everything, then he came out with only half a foot. When we were supposed to take a second-first honeymoon to Niagara Falls, Sissy got the measles."

He didn't even try to interrupt now. He raised his palms, imitating a submitting bank robber. Maybe it would get the crazy old man to lower the gun.

It didn't.

"When I told your grandmother I didn't like smoking, she said she needed something to cut the stress. When I asked her to see Schmidt about that cough, she said next month.” He stamped his heel on the redwood planks. “When I got down on this floor and begged her to take the chemo, she said it wasn't dignified."

Grandpa shoved the muzzle into him like a steel finger, sending him far into the hall. The old man retracted his gun, rubbing it across is sagging chest.

"No. I will go to the funeral when I am fucking ready. I see you once a year, and the next time will either be Christmas or my God-damned funeral, so if I hurt your fucking feelings, go sulk in a corner." He actually pointed to one, with the empty hand. "You go there and you wait for me to be ready."

He withdrew the hand, catching the edge of the door and closing it behind himself. His grandson stood there. He heard the radio flick on inside the room. Tinny AM music belting around him, the grandson pulled out his phone. He leaned against the corner and texted Mom.

gp needz 1 min

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: "Life is not a support system for art. It's the other way around." -Stephen King, On Writing

“Because if life were a support system for art, then you could just go on life support. And with a support system for the support system for your art, you could paint forever. Film endlessly. Write boundlessly. And then there would be way too many paintings and movies and books on the market, and people wouldn’t want them as much. They’d only want the endless, boundless output of their favorites, and we’d clone choice authors. We’d have casks of Jonathan Swift and James Joyce. Can I interest you in a 2018 Rudyard Kipling? It was a very good year, and he even wrote his own label in the form of a clever poem. Yes, 2018 was a splendid venture, the year we cloned and life-supported so many of him that we had to take out one of Saturn’s moons to store the author-vineyard. Three years later, HarperCollins bought two planets for their two big gets, because Dorothy Parkers are from Venus, but David Sedari are from Mars. Entire planetary surfaces devoted to imitations of authors on uppers, tubes in those nostrils and electrodes in their ventricles. A million hairless apes chained to typewriters, fed nicotine, sugar and romantic disappointments. All for the art of it. All support from life.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

High Book Prices Are Good For You

Last week Patrick Rothfuss and DAW Books released Wise Man’s Fear. The hardcover went for $29.95 in U.S. currency, though you can get it from Amazon for $17.47. Their Kindle edition is $14.99.

In two weeks John Scalzi and Tor Books will release Fuzzy Nation. The hardcover will run you about $24.99, though you can pre-order it from Amazon for $14.10 – or pre-order the Kindle edition for $11.99.

What bothers you about this pricing scheme?

A) Some major authors are demanding significantly more per e-book than smaller writers can. With the wealth of 99-cent titles, charging more than ten dollars for something they don’t even have to print looks greedy.

B) Price cutting by the likes of Amazon and Wal-Mart are moves smaller book stores cannot possibly match. It will contribute to an industry with fewer lit-devoted retailers and where many authors get paid even less per book than they used to. After its competition is broken down, nothing will prevent Amazon from hiking their royalty fees, thereby screwing over the authors that are self-publishing with them.

C) All those 99’s are deliberate lies. $11.99 is actually twelve bucks and we all know it.

I’m probably the only one who immediately jumps to C. It’s a deceptive mathematical practice invented by think-tanks to dupe you out of way more money than just a penny or dollar.

Many people stop at A. Zoe Winters earned an onslaught of complaints for “putting a price” on her readers when she dared suggest charging less than $3.99 cheated many writers. There is a frustrating hoarder-class of readers who only want things that cost a dollar or less. They are the extreme reaction to an inexpensive market.

I endorse Rothfuss and Scalzi charging so much for e-editions. Cheap shouldn’t be the standard for our industry. However unfair people may call the pricing schemes, Rothfuss hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller’s List in that first week. What his class of author charges makes up the price ceiling for the industry. His $14.99 gets divided more ways than the profits of a typical 99-cent Smashwords release, but that’s not the salient point. This is the most that my work is allowed to cost.

That ceiling has multiple affects. It makes less expensive e-books look alternately like bargains or cheap trash. Of course, the glut of bad prose in the 99-cent region is just as responsible for the trash aura, and if you’re self-publishing at this price range, you’re doing it to capitalize on a low barrier for purchase. Whatever word-of-mouth and word-of-Twitter you can muster work better with impulse-buy pricing. The higher price of a Rothfuss or Scalzi book serves as a buffer, because none of us will compete well going dollar-for-dollar against the titans. Charging the same does not give you the same level of hype. Even if you’re better than they are, they bring a fandom with wild expectations and exaggerated reactions. You, as the breakout writer who only charged $2.99, aren’t held to the same unfair standard, and have a better chance of winning audiences over. It's the loss leader strategy that looks better the higher top authors charge.

Smart authors play with their pricing. If two hundred copies move at five bucks a pop, how many might move at four? Or three? But you can only charge that in this publishing world. If Stephen King’s next 1,000-page Kindle edition lands at $2.99, good luck charging more for your 300-page novel. Now James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer and the inevitable next Harry Potter book are impulse buys.

It’s only in our publishing world, where known authors can charge $15 on every Nook and Kindle, that you can safely float up to $4.99. At $4.99 your novel grosses five times the profit of the 99-cent bargain, while only costing about one third of your most powerful literary competition. That looks more reasonable to a reader in this marketplace. And you’re free to descend further and perhaps take off at 99-cents. We have the millionaire success stories, and I have nothing against selling at that price, or dipping there for a temporary sale to spark more interest. But for many writers it will be two hundred sales at one buck or five, and two hundred copies at five bucks a pop adds up to a doctor’s visit for your daughter.

The reader demand for cheap e-books is more interesting when contrasted to other reader actions. Contrast our debate with a recent Rutgers University controversy. The university paid Reality TV star Snooki $32,000 to speak, while paying famous author Toni Morrison $30,000. There was massive outrage that the writer wasn’t getting more money. If you were angered that someone from Jersey Shore got more than a hardworking author, then ask yourself: do you only buy books that are priced low and thereby send less money to the author?

Again, I chose C. My objection was that both were going to make more off of one talk than most authors will from book sales this year. You might be surprised how few writers, even bestsellers, make $30,000 in a good year.

Since January I have been working on one novel. I’ve pushed myself so hard that I’ve become physically sick from it at least three times. It will be two more months before the rough draft is complete, at which point I’ll have to edit strenuously to get it into first draft state. Then I’ll beg the smartest people I know to give me a few rounds of criticism, and I’ll tabulate the results for several rounds of revision and polish. If I’m lucky, the fourth draft will be the final, complete sometime around winter. I want you to know that I am earnestly racking myself to make this book worth your time. When I edit the day’s words, I’m thinking about the time you’ll have reading them. Whether you’ll pay five bucks, or one, or take out of a library – that’s not on my mind. That’s honestly why it disturbs me when I come up from my writing hole and read derision for authors who manage to make a good living.

If you sincerely believe the fruits of my labors will only ever be worth reading for $0.99, then I question what our relationship is. Maybe this novel will be self-published. In November, my market strategy may show that 99-cents is an optimal price (God willing, I’ll have the integrity to charge an honest $1.00). But if I get a big break with the Big Six, I’ll be relieved that everyone involved can make a profit from our pricing. And if I don’t get that break, I’ll still be glad that the market has room for a story that costs five bucks. That niche can only exist because there is a high standard of value from the market leaders.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Methinks, OR, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." -William Shakespeare, Hamlet

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much."

The Lady Winchester touched her stately bosom. "Did he just accuse me of the murder, or say I’m complaining too much about the way his insane family’s behaving? "

Her butler answered with trepidation, "Would one offend you less, madame?"

"Well one has some grounding rational fact. I was nowhere near his ruddy father when he was stabbed."

“I believe he was poisoned.”

“More’s the reason I didn’t do it. I didn’t even know the royal limp-dick had died. I’d know how if I knew it at all. Now is his brat saying I killed him, or complaining I bitch too much?”

“The Prince is disturbed, madame. I don't even think he was referring to your ladyship.”

“I’ll disturb him more. Sue for defamation.” Her plucked brow wriggled. “See how he does without his inheritance.”

“Which would the lady prefer he had suggested?”

“Now, I think the murder. Slander could bring us in… well, how much did the whelp inherit?”

“Mostly grief. I think Claudius got the rest, including his mother.”

“He wanted his own mother?”

“I think he wants his father.”

She swatted him across the face. “That’s incestuous, homosexual and maligns the dead.”

“Pardons, madame.”

“You don’t say that sort of thing out loud. He could sue.”

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Easter Basket Vs. Exercise

"No, Jacob. I know you want your Reese’s, but they’ll spoil your appetite. And I know you want your Reese’s more than dinner. Honestly, they taste better than what Mommy’s making – but that’s because they’re evil. What you need are raw vegetables, dark green lettuce and fresh radishes. Now, I know they taste like dirt. They came from dirt. But they’ll give you more energy and build muscle mass so you can run two miles and do half an hour per day on the elliptical like me. Don’t you want to be big and strong and perpetually sore from exercise, just like Daddy? Many nights you’ll be left too tired to do more than watch Idol, but imagine how good you’ll look, and it will add years to your life. Seven, ten, maybe thirteen years. Thirteen more years of eating meals you hate, exercising until you ache all the time, and mild condescension towards those who sag more than you do. That’s much better for you than eating Easter candy before dinner. Now give Daddy those Reese’s."
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