Another Ugly American

Image of Janis Powers
Blogger and world traveler Janis Powers Image / Twitter – Fair Use

Just when I thought it impossible to be surprised by anything I might possibly read at HuffPo along comes this inane and awkward article by Janis Powers. Generally I avoid the Huffington Post like the black plague where the absurd and idiotic masks as clumsy attempts at actual journalism. I read the Powers’ rant only because someone forwarded me the link.

For the benefit of those who may choose not to read the actual article, while touring New Zealand by rental car, Janis Powers elected to ignore the posted speed limits and was consequently stopped for speeding by the New Zealand police which she attributed to the mere misfortune of passing through a “speed trap.”

Her characterization of the event suggests that she resented being stopped from the get go because she obviously considers speeding to be such a minor, inconsequential violation that she shouldn’t have been subjected to such an inconvenience in the first place. She never takes any responsibility for intentionally ignoring the law. Evidently she feels she has the right to exceed the speed limit wherever and whenever she chooses.

What Powers really took umbrage at however was that the police required her to submit to a breathalyzer test because she was speeding. She admits that the officer explained to her that this was normal procedure with drivers stopped for speeding. She states that “as a visitor in any foreign country, I never expect my rights as an American to supersede those of the nation where I am traveling” but then goes into a rant about how being required to submit to a breathalyzer test because she was merely breaking the law by speeding violated all her constitutional rights.

Evidently simpleton Powers is unaware that her constitutional rights cease to be operative once she departs the friendly confines of the United States and all the U.S. legal theories she appeals to in the attempt to rationalize her actions and explain why she was right and the New Zealand police were wrong are completely without merit. She concludes by accusing the New Zealand police of using “entrapment to catch drunk drivers.”

To add insult to injury, Powers goes on to boast that she didn’t pay the fine for the speeding citation she received nor does she have any intention of doing so, smugly noting that the United States doesn’t “extradite our citizens back to foreign countries where they have violated the speed limit.” In Powers case, in my opinion it is most unfortunate that we do not. Such an irresponsible and feckless person as Janis Powers should not escape the consequences of intentional and immature behavior while visiting a foreign nation that brings discredit upon all Americans. Perhaps like the Chinese government is now doing, the United States should start penalizing its citizens for wanton, ill behavior while abroad.

Let’s face it, Americans traveling abroad already have a particularly bad reputation. Perhaps only the Chinese have a worse reputation as tourists. Americans are largely considered by the citizens of many other countries to be loud and obnoxious. Americans are known for whining, complaining, and crying about things, mostly about how things are so different (read inferior) in whatever country they happen to be visiting in comparison to how things are back in the good old U.S.A. Perhaps worst of all, Americans abroad tend to make themselves…well obvious. Hence the existence of The Ugly American stereotype.

There are reasons for the ubiquity of this stereotype. First of all, there are a lot of us, some 318.9 million of us according to U.S. Census Bureau 2014 figures. Our relatively extreme affluence in comparison to the bulk of the world’s population means that a lot of us have the opportunity to travel abroad. Sadly, many of us, like Janis Powers, can but probably shouldn’t.

Ugly American, as defined by Wikipedia, “is a pejorative term used to refer to perceptions of loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of American citizens mainly abroad, but also at home. Although the term is usually associated with or applied to travelers and tourists.” (Source: “Ugly American (pejorative).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 July 2015.)

It’s undeniable that some Americans simply can’t appreciate other countries for what they are and fail to alter their behavior to match that of the place they happen to be. Too many fail to grasp the concept that just because something is different in another country than back home doesn’t mean it is improper or inferior to the way things are or are done in America.

While I’m heartened by the fact that the baton of boorishness has been passed along to the Chinese, now considered in most quarters the world’s ugliest tourists, thanks to the longstanding Ugly American stereotype perpetuated by people like Janis Powers, Americans are still best advised to be careful of appearing to be loutish abroad.

What motivated me to post on this topic is that I’m not only embarrassed as an American by what was written in Powers’ cringeworthy article concerning events that occurred during her recent visit to New Zealand but as a Texan too since she claims to live in Texas. In her bio she mentions having graduated from Yale and having a master’s degree from the University of Michigan so I take some solace in the fact that she probably isn’t actually a Texan which involves a good deal more than just moving to the state from somewhere else. At least most Texans I know were raised a good bit better than the ill-mannered and dim-witted person Powers represents herself to be in her article, evidently was.

So thanks for the childish, absurd article Janis Powers and for giving America another black eye with your ridiculously inflated sense of entitlement and immature ways. I for one hope your next trip abroad takes you to a country less friendly and courteous than New Zealand so that you actually do get a taste of what it means to have your rights violated. I hear North Korea is lovely this time of year if you are looking for a fun holiday destination. If you had even a modicum of decency you would not only pay the fine for speeding but would write an apology to the people of New Zealand for your crass behavior. But having since seen that you have only defended yourself on your Facebook page to those who rightly were critical of your article and your wrong-headed opinions, I’m not holding my breath.

Supporting Indie Authors

Image of rock climbersGenerally speaking, many mainstream published authors dislike Indie authors and self-publishing. They are inclined to believe that traditional publishing is the only viable means through which the best and brightest authors get represented, published, and get their books sold.

A candid quote from mainstream author Sue Grafton during an unguarded moment in an interview with Leslea Tash for LouisvilleKY.com is one example of that view. For those who may not be familiar with Sue Grafton she is a contemporary best-selling American author of detective novels perhaps best known for her “’alphabet series” novels (“C” Is for Corpse, etc.) featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Here is what she has to say about Indie authors and self-publishing:

“The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish. I’ve got one sitting on my desk right now and I’ve received hundreds of them over the years. Sorry about that, but it’s the truth. The hard work is taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time. I see way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to. To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research.”

It isn’t my intent to take Sue Grafton to task here for her unflattering comments towards Indie authors and publishing. There is no argument that she did the hard work she spoke about―suffered early rejections of her manuscripts, learned lessons the hard way, and worked hard to master the writing craft before earning fame and fortune. It’s quite easy to understand why she has the views she expressed. The fact remains however that her views expose not only a serious lack of understanding about Indie publishing but perhaps the current state of traditional publishing as well.

It may have not been easy to break out as in author in the 1960s when Sue Grafton first got into the business, but it’s imminently more difficult today. Along with the growth of the Internet and Amazon came plummeting profit margins and declining sales for legacy book publishers along with a decline of the primary drivers for those profit margins and sales, brick and mortar bookstores. In response publishers cut staff and marketing support to lesser known authors.

The days of generous advances and book tours are over for all but a select few. Publishers are less willing and financially less able to make bets on new, unproven authors. It takes more than a great manuscript to get a book deal these days. Many publishers won’t even look at a new author without an established audience, social media savvy, and the willingness to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing their own book. Then along came viable self-publishing in the form of print on demand and eBook publishing platforms that permit virtually anyone to economically publish and offer for sale his or her own book. The Indie author/publishing movement was born. It filled the void, the growing gap between the huge number of writers who wanted to publish books and the relatively small number of writers that legacy publishers were willing to acquire.

The phenomenal growth and success of self-publishing has put even more pressure on traditional publisher’s sales and on their outmoded pricing models. Indie authors have become real competition for the legacy publishers. Not only has self-publishing attracted aspiring authors but many mainstream authors who haven’t reached star status but who have an established fan base are choosing to migrate to Indie publishing due the favorable economics and better royalties. That has resulted in a good bit of chaos in the publishing industry that has already yielded significant benefits not only for budding authors but for readers as well. From a reader’s viewpoint, what’s not to like about being able to pick from an almost infinite number of good novels in your favorite genres that are available at a fraction of the cover prices demanded by traditional publishers?

As Sue Grafton observed, some self-published novels are amateurish. Some are definitely bad. But not all, not even in my opinion most. In fact there are self-published books every bit as good as their traditionally published counterparts as the sales numbers prove. Indie author John Locke sold over two million copies of his books before signing a limited book deal with Simon & Schuster to gain wider distribution for some of his novels. Hugh Howey, an Indie science fiction author sold more than 200,000 copies of his dystopian novella Wool in the U.S. alone. He has since sold overseas rights to the novel in fifteen countries and the novella has been optioned by Ridley Scott for a movie. Many Indie authors these days regularly make best seller lists.

While economical self-publishing opportunities abound today and literally anyone could publish a book and get it listed for sale on Amazon or one of the many other eBook retail sites, it certainly isn’t easy to become a break out novelist as an Indie publisher. Anyone who believes that he can simply write a great book, publish it, and then sit back and watch the royalties roll in is in for a shock. It is after the book is published that the real work begins. To sell books an author regardless of whether a book is traditionally or self-published must find an audience. To be successful he must grow that audience.

While there is a plethora of book promotion companies that promise to help Indie authors grow an audience and sell books, for a price of course, the truth is advertising is not really what drives book sales. Primarily book sales are driven by personal recommendations from satisfied readers. This may be a simple as one person recommending a book she liked to a friend. But today, thanks to social media―Twitter, Facebooks, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc. a person can recommend a book to lots of friends all at the same time.

All of us self-published independent writers need your help and support to grow an audience. For most of us, success is not defined as much by royalties earned as by the number of people who read and enjoy the stories we tell in the books we write. Certainly buying and reading our books is one means of help and support, and we all deeply appreciate that. But there are some other ways that you as a reader can help and support your favorite independent authors that don’t cost anything beyond a few minutes of your time. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Post a book review on Amazon or Goodreads.

While all authors love getting positive reviews, I’m not suggesting you write and post a glowing review of a book you didn’t like. If someone doesn’t like a book I’ve written I want to know that too and why. I appreciate the opportunity to learn what others believe I’m not doing well as much as I appreciate hearing about what they think I got right. Experts say that other readers give more credence to book reviews written by their peers than to those written by professional reviewers. That’s why reader reviews are so helpful to independent authors.

2. Recommend books you enjoyed to your friends.

As mentioned that can be as simple as a recommendation from one friend to another but recommending a great read on your Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, or Pinterest board will go much further towards helping and supporting your favorite Indie author. Social media is sort of a two-edged sword for authors. Tweeting a “buy my book” advertisement, no matter how tastefully done by an author runs the risk of alienating potential readers. Tweet too infrequently and your book may not even be noticed in the noise of all the other tweets in competition for people’s attention. Tweet too often and people can actually become annoyed. We would all rather see a satisfied reader of one of our books tweeting about it than to tweet about it ourselves. That goes for all the other social media platforms too.

3. Visit, follow, and subscribe to author websites.

These days nearly every author maintains a web presence in the form of a website or blog. Authors love to connect with their readers and that is one reason these websites and blogs exist. Visit the sites, follow them, post comments where you can, and subscribe to author newsletters. It helps to build visibility for your favorite authors and really helps him or her build an audience.

If you really enjoy reading a particular independent author, it is really just as much in your interest as their interest to help and support him or her. Most everyone longs to be successful in something they are passionate about and for authors that means gaining readers. The failure to attract an audience can make a writer feel that all the hard work that goes into crafting an entertaining novel is just not worth it if no one is going to read it. So if you enjoyed your favorite author’s last book and you would like to make certain there is a next book, why not take a few minutes of your time to lend them your support? You can be sure he or she will be grateful for your help and support.

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Have you visited my official author website, www.larrydarter.com? If not, I hope you will take a look and I’d love it if you sign up for my newsletter.

Expanding Your Reading List Beyond Your Favorite Authors

Image of a stack of books
Expand your reading list

In any given year I manage to read about 25 novels. In past years nearly all of them have been written by recognized, established authors. This year that has changed. That has been the result of a small challenge I set myself―not to exclusively read novels by renowned authors whose work I’m already familiar with and in some cases love. The things I have discovered during this year of more selective reading has made me pretty happy with my decision.

Rather than restricting myself to reading only novels written by my favorite contemporary and classic authors I have actively searched for, purchased, and read novels written by authors I’ve never heard of, the majority of them new, self-published authors. As a result I’ve read and enjoyed a number of books in my preferred genres I ordinarily would not have bothered with in the past assuming I would have even heard of these novels had I not deliberately sought them out.

I have discovered there is a practical problem that must be overcome when it comes to finding novels by new authors to read. For the most part, all the high-profile venues that exist to alert readers to new books and their worthiness are skewed heavily toward the popular writers.

Publications like the New York Times for example review far more books by established, traditionally-published authors than those written by Indie authors. Certainly the problem is not limited to the New York Times. If the majority of books being held out and endorsed as good and worthy reads are by prominent authors it’s easy for readers to slip into thinking that the only books worth reading are those by authors who fit that description.

Finding novels by new authors worth reading is not however an insurmountable obstacle. Beyond perusing books summaries by genre on Amazon I’ve also found some good reads through my Twitter feed.

I am so glad I made the decision to expand my reading list this year by choosing to read new authors. In part, my decision was motivated by the fact that I had already read everything that my favorite contemporary authors had written and was in the position of impatiently waiting a year after finishing their last novel until they published the next one. Those of you willing to make a similar effort to expand your literary horizons might be as pleasantly surprised by what you find as I’ve been. But allow me to add a small caveat.

While the addition of Indie authors to my reading list has significantly improved my enjoyment of reading, that’s not to say I haven’t come across bad books or novels that actually felt painful to read. I have. But I came across books like that far more infrequently than I actually expected when I decided to take on the challenge of finding new authors to read.

Think about your own favorite author. Regardless of how famous and widely read he or she may be today, they were once an obscure, unknown, new author publishing a first novel. No matter how compelling the characters they create or how gripping and entertaining the stories they tell, he or she would not be a renowned and perhaps best-selling author today had someone not taken a chance and read a novel by a new author. Those first readers were impressed sufficiently to recommend the book to others who also found the novel a good read and as the say, the rest is history.

At least from an economic perspective, it isn’t really that much of a risk to buy and read a novel from a new, unknown author. In comparison to the novels by known authors which typically command cover prices of close to $30 for hardback editions and $10 or more for electronic versions, eBooks by new, Indie authors are widely available for $1.99 and less. That is less than I spend for the cup of Starbucks coffee I have at least once each day.

Even if on occasion you end up feeling that even such a paltry sum has been wasted because you purchased a book you really found awful and perhaps couldn’t even make yourself finish, what have you really lost? And on those occasions when you come across a real gem of a novel that provided you hours of reading pleasure, getting the book for such a pittance and discovering a new author you like in the bargain simply adds another layer to an already positive experience.

I’ll wait just as impatiently for the next novels from my favorite present-day authors and I’ll fill the unavoidable 12-month voids by reading some of the classic novels I’ve not gotten to, but I also intend to persevere with my challenge to expand my reading list with a generous helping of novels by new authors.

Are you up for a similar challenge? Why not expand your own reading list to include novels by new authors and see what you discover? You might be glad you did. I know I am.

Monday Motivation: Overcoming the Procrastination Demon

Cartoon image of Pacman demon
Demon Thy Name is Procrastination

I’ve always been terrific at making goals. Unfortunately I’ve also always been even better at procrastinating and as a result many of my goals were never realized. I’d write endless to-do lists but then never get around to the follow through. It happened again and again and I could never quite grasp what the problem was. Why was I so great at establishing goals but so terrible when it came to executing a plan to achieve those goals?

Any of this sound familiar? Are you given to procrastinating? If so, perhaps some of things I’ve discovered recently that have helped me in my own battle to overcome the procrastination demon might benefit you in your own personal struggles with it.

Recently I became aware of entrepreneur Natalie Sisson and her “15 Days to Freedom Blog Challenge.” While Natalie’s primary focus is on helping people with an entrepreneurial spirit build successful online businesses, I immediately had a sense that her challenge might be something very useful in helping me to become more successful as a writer and aspiring novelist. So I signed up for it.

To large extent, Natalie aims to help people become more productive because quite obviously being more productive can often translate into becoming more successful. One of the first things I learned from her about becoming more productive was the importance of identifying and eliminating those things that made me less productive.

It’s been my habit for a long while to check my email first thing in the morning after getting out of bed. Since I always want a timely reply from people I email, I of course have the tendency to feel an obligation to reply timely to emails I receive. Thus, a good bit of my early morning hours were spent reading and replying to email.

Also given that I’m a voracious blog and news reader, many of the emails I receive relate to breaking news stories and new blog posts from people I follow. So checking email predictably ended up with me spending a lot of time reading news articles and blog posts.

In principle, nothing wrong with that of course. I love keeping up on current events, learning new things, and reading the perspectives on a variety of topics from people I find interesting. Yet thanks to Natalie Sisson, I came to see my morning email reading habit was a problem in one sense. The exorbitant amounts of time I was spending each morning on what essentially was little more than some entertaining reading was just a creative form of procrastination. Instead I might have been spending that time on something much more productive, like writing for instance.

An hour here, two hours there, over the course of a week can really add up to a lot of lost time, more importantly a lot of lost productive time. I came to realize that reading my email first thing in the morning meant I was devoting at least the first hour of my day to the goals of someone else instead of my own. My own objectives were being hijacked by whoever decided to randomly show up in my inbox.

I decided to change my morning habit. I stopped reading email first thing in the morning. By doing so, I literally gave myself 7-8 extra hours of productive time each week. I also struck a blow in the fight against the procrastination demon. Just this past week I wrote several of the scenes in my current novel during the hour or so each morning I formerly devoted to reading email and following the links I found in many of them.

Do you know when we procrastinate the most? Researchers tell us that it is when we are in a bad mood. We are wired as human beings in such a way that we cannot ignore our emotions. Feelings are such a fundamental and unavoidable part of the human experience they do impact on our productivity. When I’m in a bad mood, productivity is the last thing I’m thinking about and I easily slide into the procrastination mode. That leads me to another thing I learned from the 15 day challenge.

I needed a strategy to overcome bad moods. In a very real sense procrastination-management techniques are mood-management techniques. Again Natalie Sisson provided some ideas. She encourages those who take her challenge to identify something they find promotes a sense of well-being, focus, and a positive outlook and to make that a daily morning habit―whether it is a Yoga routine, meditation, or physical exercise.

For me, I’ve always been a life-long recreational runner. For me there is nothing like a good run to lift my spirits and pull me out of those inevitable little ruts we all find ourselves in at some point or another. While there is some disagreement among scientists about whether it is the increased release of feel good endorphins like dopamine and serotonin or some other causative factors, researchers do agree on one thing.

Runners and other habitual exercisers have better moods and suffer less depression and less anxiety than people who don’t exercise regularly. They experience more general feelings of positive well-being. Some researchers believe that people who are physically active on a regular basis simply reap the benefits of active relaxation―that moving the body and focusing on the sensation of moving the body and getting into a rhythmic activity and motion produces a relaxation response. That they believe contributes significantly to the feelings of psychological well-being observed.

In spite of how much I’ve always loved running, I’ve never loved running first thing in the morning. Candidly, I’ve just never been a morning person. During the many years I served in the Army, running very early in the morning was always one of the things I most disliked. It wasn’t the running I objected to but the time of day we were made to do it. So previously it was never something I’d chosen to do when the decision was mine to make. But recently I’ve made the effort to do what the Army made me do, go for a run first thing each morning. It hasn’t been easy but I’ve been making progress and I’m already seeing the benefits.

First of all, consigning running to later in the day invited procrastination. Frequently it meant I skipped doing it because some other competing priority came along during the day that I felt I had to give my attention and efforts to. By running first thing, that problem has been solved. As a result not only have my moods generally improved, I feel like I have more energy and am more focused the rest of each day, more eager to attack those to-do lists I’ve made for myself. Speaking of to-do lists leads to my next point.

While I’ve always been terrific about setting goals and making to-do lists that would facilitate me accomplishing them, as mentioned I’ve often fallen short when it comes to the execution step. Ever made a detailed grocery list only to arrive at the supermarket and realize you left it on the dining room table? That sort of explains my experience with to-do lists. I never had a system. Sometimes I’d save them on my computer as a word processing document. Sometimes I’d scribble them on a handy scrap of paper. Sometimes I’d enter them in the reminder app on my iPhone. But invariably, when it occurred to me to actually check-off something on the list, the list was not accessible at the time. Procrastination was the natural result.

Besides advice, another thing I love about Natalie Sisson is that she also provides a wealth of tools you can use to become more productive and most of them are free. Asana is one of the tools she recommended that I am taking advantage of. In a nutshell, Asana is a web and mobile application designed for everything from creating simple to-do lists to enabling teamwork on complex projects without email. It was founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-engineer Justin Rosenstein, who both worked on improving the productivity of employees at Facebook.

I now use the application exclusively for not only creating my to-do lists in a place that is always readily accessible to me wherever I happen to be, but I also use it to schedule my daily running sessions, writing projects, and even use it to schedule “me time.” Information that helps me avoid procrastination is always as close as my computer or smart phone. There is a premium pay version of the application but for my purposes I find the free version is more than adequate for my own needs. Asana has provided me the personal system I’ve always needed to get things done.

Another useful technique I want to touch on that I’ve learned from the 15 day challenge and that has helped me become less prone to procrastination and more productive is eliminating distractions. Put succinctly, focus is nothing more than the elimination of distractions. As mentioned, reading email first thing in the morning is an example of one of the distractions I personally identified and eliminated. But there are lots of others. Social media is a huge distraction for many people. Text messages and time spent talking on the phone are other examples. Actually any list of potential distractions that contribute to procrastination can be virtually infinite. All of us I think at times can readily identify with what it means to be driven to distraction.

We are more connected today than at any time in history due to the proliferation of mobile communications. Some have termed this constant connection as “culturally generated ADD.” We’re also seemingly always busy with never enough hours in our day to get everything done. We have a daunting list of responsibilities, we spend hours in meetings, our boss needs us for something and something else after that, our friend or partner calls to chat. We just can’t hide.

Modern life provides the environment for the perfect storm of procrastination. The most effective way to remove distractions is to change your environment. Find a place where you can be alone. Disconnect from the Internet and turn off your cell phone. The degree to which you can do that and systematize it is the extent to which you will improve focus and gain productivity.

Some top executives who were never able to work uninterruptedly for more than twenty minutes at a time—at least not in the office, found that their productivity soared when they started spending just 90 minutes a day working at home every morning before going to the office. You don’t necessarily have to do it at home. Anywhere that you can shut off the electronics and where no one can bother you will work and will allow you to reap similar dividends.

Even if you can’t manage 90 minutes at first, try a half hour or even just 20 minutes. Chances are whatever amount of time you invest in removing distractions will pay off so dramatically in terms of increased productivity that you will become motivated to actively look for ways to expand that uninterrupted time.

The last technique for stopping procrastination I want to discuss is rewarding yourself. Rewards not only make us feel good, they actually motivate us. I’d used this technique in the past but made one mistake that mitigated to large degree its usefulness. I would never reward myself until a project was completed. That might mean I waited days, weeks, or even months before I enjoyed the reward which wasn’t very motivating at all. For example, in motivating myself to write a sufficient number of words daily to finish my novel in time for the scheduled October release date I might have told myself I’d indulge in a nice reward once I’d completed the first draft. No matter how large and enjoyable the planned reward might be, it would always seem so far in the future before I’d get to enjoy it. That just wouldn’t be very motivating at all. Instead, what I am actually doing is this.

I now reward myself more frequently. If my goal is to write x number of words per week until the novel is completed I break that down into smaller x number of words per day. Each time I achieve a daily goal, I indulge in a little reward. The rewards are smaller of course but they are more frequent and as a result I sustain my motivation more consistently. When the first draft is actually finished then I’ll indulge in a larger reward more in keeping with the significance of achieving a larger more difficult goal. The rewards are up to you. Choose things that you like and know have the power to motivate you. Just enjoy rewards frequently instead of viewing a large reward from a distance while waiting until a large goal is accomplished.

To sum up, five techniques to avoid procrastination and to increase productivity are:

  • Avoid reading your email in the morning.
  • Manage your mood.
  • Develop a personal system using something like the Asana app.
  • Eliminate the distractions.
  • Reward yourself and frequently.

Do you have your own techniques that help you increase your productivity by overcoming the procrastination demon? If so, please share them in a comment.

The Draw of Los Angeles for Crime Fiction Writers

Image of downtown Los AngelesA friend asked me yesterday why I chose Los Angeles as the setting for Come What May, the novel I’m currently writing. “Why not Dallas,” she asked.

Frankly I sort of side-stepped the question by replying with something along the lines that I felt readers would find the story more interesting set in Los Angeles than in Dallas.

It wasn’t that she hadn’t asked a good question but more that I had hadn’t really thought about my decision enough to come up with a more intelligent answer.

One of the great pillars of wisdom when it comes to writing is “Write what you know.” So why use a city you’ve never lived in or even visited more than a few times as a setting for your novel? Doesn’t it make more sense to use a city you have more personal knowledge of?

I do believe I can be very effective using your own city as a novel setting. Robert B. Parker has long been one of my favorite crime fiction authors. I’ve read all 40 of his Spenser novels and Parker’s writing definitely has been a big influence on my own.

One of the things I really liked about the Spenser novels was that they were all principally set in Boston, a city that Parker was intimately familiar with as was very evident in his writing.

Admittedly, I did choose Los Angeles as the setting for my book without really giving it a lot of thought. After thinking about my friend’s question I think a part of my decision was motivated simply by the fact that ever since the days of Raymond Chandler, Los Angeles has featured prominently in crime fiction with countless numbers of crime novels set there.

That of course begs the question, why? Is there something about Los Angeles that causes the city to come to mind for those writing tales of murder and mayhem? Do Americans consider Los Angeles to be a particularly dangerous, crime-ridden place perhaps due to much-publicized crimes like the mysterious 1947 Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) murder, the Manson murders, and the O.J. Simpson murder case?

Factually, Los Angeles does have significant crime but that isn’t surprising for a city with 3.8 million inhabitants. But the truth is Los Angeles isn’t really as dangerous a place as many people might think. In 2010 for example, the total number of murders in Los Angeles dropped below 300, the fewest number of homicides since 1967 when the United States was at war with Vietnam and when Elvis married Priscilla. The number of 297 murder victims was still a significant number of corpses of course, but keep in mind the population of the city in 2010 was almost 4 million people.

Breaking that number down a bit, the total number of 2010 Los Angeles murders translates into about 7.8 homicides per 100,000 residents. That number actually compared quite favorably with the numbers of major American cities with some of the lowest homicide rates in the country.

In fact, the 2010 murder rate in Los Angeles was lower than that of Dallas for the same year. In 2010 there were 148 homicides in Dallas which was actually a 43-year low. The population of Dallas in 2010 was roughly 1.2 million which works out to a homicide rate of about 12.3 per 100,000 residents, higher than that of Los Angeles which is something many people wouldn’t have guessed.

Regardless of what some people may think, Los Angeles is statistically no more crime-ridden than other major U.S. cities and it can be argued, a safer city than many. So at least in my view that doesn’t explain why so many authors use Los Angeles as the setting for their crime fiction novels. The explanation I think is found more in myth than reality.

Los Angeles simply has so much to offer a crime writer. There is the vast and varied landscape to use as backdrops. There is the Pacific Ocean, palm trees, film industry, mountains and hills, and the desert. There is the continued draw of Hollywood for the imagination. There is the L.A.P.D., the famous police department immortalized by popular television series like Dragnet and Adam 12, not to mention its thousands of unsolved cases for writers to draw inspiration from. Los Angeles is simply a fascinating city revered as much for its shady underbelly every bit as present today as in Chandler’s time as for its glitter and glamor.

Not to say that a compelling crime novel couldn’t be set in a city like Dallas, but in my opinion the imaginations of crime fiction enthusiasts are simply more readily stirred by a tale set in Los Angeles with its seductive blur of artifice and reality.

At the end of it, I think that explains why I chose Los Angeles as the setting for the Malone novels. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Countdown to my journey to Middle Earth

Scenic photo New Zealand South Island
Middle Earth beckons

Let me preface this slightly embarrassing admission with a small disclaimer. Geography was never my strong suit during my formative primary school years.

A number of years ago I was planning my first trip to Australia. Early in the planning stages I decided I’d devote a day or two to visiting New Zealand while I was in that part of the world.

While my knowledge of New Zealand at the time was quite negligible, I was aware that New Zealand was located just mere centimeters to the southeast of Australia on the world map. Surely I’d be able to catch a ferry or something to get there from Sydney.

Imagine my dismay when I subsequently learned that New Zealand was some 4,155 air kilometers distant from the east coast of Oz, about a 3.5 hour flight. Sadly, I had to scrap the idea of visiting New Zealand on that trip due to both a lack of sufficient time as well as funds. I already had a rather ambitious plan for seeing Australia.

Still I never forgot about New Zealand. As the years passed and I came to learn more about the country my resolve to visit there only grew. In fact visiting New Zealand became firmly established on my travel bucket list.

In the meanwhile, it has been my very good fortune to meet and make friends with several Kiwis and that of course heightened my desire to visit New Zealand all the more. After all, who doesn’t enjoy the prospect of visiting the homeland of dear friends?

Then along came the Lord of the Rings movies. Middle Earth bade me visit all the more.

With regard to one of those Kiwi friends I mentioned, a romance kindled and love blossomed. What better reason to visit New Zealand could anyone ask for? While we have spent time together outside her country I have yet see her home or to meet her family and friends there which I am very keen to do.

My partner and I had sort of planned that I would visit this past June but complications here at home prevented those plans from coming to fruition. Mid-August has since presented itself as a likely time for several weeks of traveling and so I started watching airfares. Just last week I found a great deal on an Air New Zealand flight. So at long last I’m finally headed to Middle Earth in just mere weeks.

To be sure, the chance to spend time with my partner and meet her family is what I’m most excited about. But I do plan to see a bit of Middle Earth too while I’m there.

Not long ago I discovered Young Adventuress, a blog written by a nice young lady named Liz. In one of her posts she detailed her visit to Hobbiton Movie Set near Matamata in the North Island of New Zealand, the set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies. Certainly I’d not miss a visit to The Shire while in New Zealand. After all if you are going to visit New Zealand, you may as well make an epic adventure of it.

So sometime in September, look for me to share with you my Kiwi experiences and hopefully a lot of great photographs of a truly beautiful country. I’m so ready for the trip. At least now I know what a “dairy” is in New Zealand and more importantly how a dairy differs from a dairy farm. That little nugget of information should come in quite handy. And who knows? Perhaps, like Liz did, I’ll have the opportunity to channel my inner Hobbit while visiting The Shire.

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Got Milk?

cartoon image of a cow
Who knew?

Not long after meeting my partner Suzanne who lives in New Zealand, I developed the daily habit of reading the online edition of the New Zealand Herald newspaper. I thought it would be a great way to learn more about Suzanne’s country. Now she actually teases me about knowing more about what is going on in her own country than she does. While it has been a good way to learn about New Zealand, it has on occasion produced some humorous moments.

It seems according to the paper that there has been a rash of dairy robberies in New Zealand recently. I was somewhat mystified by that. My paternal grandfather owned and operated a small independent dairy when I was a child. Based on that I couldn’t begin to fathom what would make them such an attractive target for armed robberies. I had visions of a criminal arriving in a gleaming tanker truck, jumping out brandishing a firearm, and telling a hapless dairy farmer, “This is a stickup – give me all the milk and no one gets hurt.”

I’d been meaning to ask Suzanne for a long while about the disturbing popularity of dairy robberies and what she made of it before I finally remembered to bring it up. I was met by a sudden outburst of laughter. Once she was able to compose herself sufficiently to stop laughing she patiently explained that the dairies I had read about being robbed from time to time are not the dairy farms I had in mind. Instead a dairy in New Zealand is what Americans would call a convenience store – a place where you can buy bread, fizzy drinks, lollies (Kiwi for candy), and well…milk. She assured me that it wasn’t necessary to wear gumboots when visiting a dairy nor was there any risk of stepping in cow poo.

Obviously I have much to learn about the Kiwi version of English. I didn’t really need the dairy robberies gaffe. After all it isn’t as if Suzanne doesn’t already get heaps of entertainment from my lame attempts at pronouncing New Zealand place names that have Māori origins. Oh well. At least I keep her laughing and that’s always a good thing isn’t it?

Favorite Novels

book cover to kill a mockingbirdWhat is at the top of your list of favorite novels? You know the one you have read so many times you’ve nearly lost count. A truly great novel is like a great love affair, the experience of reading it can be that intense. The bond of affection you feel for your favorite novel is timeless, it’s impossible to erase. Such a novel can be literally life-changing and becomes forever a part of you. I’ll tell you mine and how it was life changing for me and how that i still relevant today many years after I first read it. I hope you will tell me about yours.

Last year I saw the Denzel Washington film, The Equalizer. If you’ve not seen it the film is about a man who believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But then he meets a young girl under the control of some violent Russian gangsters and he decides he can’t stand idly by, that he has to help her. I thought it was a very good and entertaining movie throughout but there was a minor side-story in the film I found intriguing.

Robert McCall, Washington’s character, was always reading a book in the opening scenes of the movie. It was revealed after a time that his wife had been reading the books on a list of the 100 best novels of all time but she had died before finishing the list. As a tribute to his late wife, McCall was finishing the list for her by reading the remaining books.

The idea of reading the 100 best novels of all time really captured my interest and so I searched the Internet for a top 100 novels list. I discovered that there are actually many such lists, but I settled on one of them and beginning this past January I started reading the books on my list.

Having been an avid reader since childhood, not surprisingly I had previously read many of the books on the list at one time or another during my life. But when I decided to commit to reading the books on my top 100 list I decided that I’d read them all, including reading again those I’d read before. At the moment I am reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It’s been one of my personal favorites for a very long time now. This is actually the fifth time I’ve read the novel. I believe I was around 12-years-old when I read it for the first time.

To Kill a Mockingbird is primarily a novel about growing up in the 1930s in the Southern United States. One of the things that makes the story so brilliant is that it is told from a child’s point-of-view, that of Scout Finch, a tomboy who lives with her brother Jem and their father Atticus in the fictitious town of Maycomb, Alabama. The book covers a span of three years when Scout is aged 6 to 9.

Telling the story through Scout’s eyes, an innocent little girl, Harper Lee is able to discuss sensitive issues like the manner in which people of color were treated by whites in the Deep South during that time period in American history when racism was sadly so commonplace. As a child, Scout was able to make observations about racial slurs and racial discrimination that an adult would avoid or sugarcoat in the interest of political correctness since readers would be likely to be forgiving of a child’s perception whereas they might find it offensive for an adult to make the same observations.

Central to the book was the story of the character Tom Robinson, a black man arrested and tried for the rape of a white woman, a crime that he not only did not commit but that never even actually happened. Tom was vigorously defended by Scout’s father Atticus and even though Atticus proved Tom’s innocence at trial, the all-white jury convicted him nevertheless because he was black. That part of the book, the outcome of the trial, the fact that an innocent man was convicted of a serious crime simply because of the color of his skin made me angry even as young boy. That explains to a large degree why To Kill a Mockingbird for me was one of those truly life changing books. I came away from the reading of that book determined that I’d never treat a person of color any differently than anyone else.

Frankly, I’m not even sure I really understood what racism was at the time I first read that book. But reading it certainly made me aware of how wrong it was to use racial slurs or to discriminate against someone on the basis of race or skin color. One point that was forever driven home to me as a 12-year-old boy was that racism is produced by ignorance, only ignorant people are racists.

Reading the book To Kill a Mockingbird was not only a very formative experience for me but instructive as well given the era I grew up it. Segregation was still in effect in the public schools when I attended primary school. Whites and blacks attended separate schools. I remember watching the civil rights marches on the news on a black and white television set and saw on television Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. The first civil rights act was passed when I was aged 8. I personally witnessed racism and discrimination and know what it looks like and that it is ugly beyond tolerance.

It seems ironic that I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird once again at a time in this country when racial unrest between blacks and whites is perhaps the worst it has been in more than 50 years. In April 2015, violent protests erupted in Baltimore, Maryland following the death of a black man at the hands of Baltimore police. Riots that included the burning and looting of businesses on a scale that hadn’t been seen since the Los Angles Watts Riots in 1968 ensued.

More recently, racial animosity between blacks and whites reached a whole new level less than two weeks ago when Dylann Storm Roof, a mentally troubled and hate-filled 21-year-old white male, entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine innocent African-American men and women attending a Bible study. The firestorm of controversy that has erupted as a result has re-opened old wounds dating back to slavery and the American Civil War which ended 150 years ago. The United States is being portrayed throughout the world as a country mired in racism and racial unrest.

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 as the 44th President of the United States was hailed as a water-shed moment for this country. As the first African-American to be elected to the nation’s highest office, many Americans as well as those of other countries regarded his election as the end of the shameful legacy of racism in America. Distressingly, race relations between blacks and whites in the United States rather than improving have steadily worsened during Barack Obama’s presidency.

Uniquely qualified and positioned at a time in history when he might have “bound the nation’s wounds” in a manner not seen since Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, President Obama has shown himself unequal to the task. Rather than the unity he promised while campaigning in 2008, it can be argued that the unwise actions of the president himself have encouraged the resurgence of racial divisiveness in America.

In addition to the leadership failures at the highest level of the federal government, the inconvenient truth is that there are still far too many people in this country, both white and black, who are intent on keeping racism alive to serve their own personal interests and agendas. Those most prominently featured in the news continuously lamenting racism and telling us all what a huge problem it still is, for the most part have earned their very livelihood off continually raising the specter of racism their entire lives, finding evidence of it around every corner and behind every bush. Without racism they would not only lose all relevancy but their powerful positions and paychecks. They can’t afford to let racism die and so continually administer CPR to the patient to keep it alive.

The horrific, mind-numbing violence visited upon those innocent people in Charleston, South Carolina should never have happened and is condemned by every decent American regardless of race. The institution of slavery that existed in the United States for more than 80 years is the most shameful period in the history of a country founded upon the very words “All men are created equal.” Thankfully that ended 152 years ago with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Today in 2015, there remains alive no one who gave the offense of slavery and no one remains alive who was offended. Yet the historical existence of slavery remains for some a ready torch to illuminate the specter of racism and to kindle the fires of racial strife.

I find the current events reported in the media today just as illustrative as I found reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. There still remains far too much ignorance in the United States, first on the part of history revisionists who loudly proclaim their ignorance of American history by shrill insistence that the sole cause of the Civil War was the desire on the part of Southern states to retain the institution of slavery when slavery was nothing more than a peripheral causative factor. Then we have the ignorance on the part of professional race-baiters who out of greed for fame, the trappings of power, and filling their own pockets with cash refuse to allow racism to die.

To paraphrase the words of Christ in Matthew 26 when he spoke of the poor, sadly it seems the ignorant we will always have with us too. But having been born and having lived during the era of segregation and open racial discrimination against black people, I have not only personally witnessed the ugliness of racism and inequity of discrimination, I have also witnessed the decline of racism and steady improvement in race relations throughout my lifetime. That is the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the achievements of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968. Those telling Americans today, including the mainstream media that racism remains a huge issue in this country are quite plainly ignorant or intentionally pursuing some evil agenda.

Thankfully the vast majority of Americans of every race, color, and creed, are too decent, informed, and educated to believe that a person’s worth is to be judged by the color of his or her skin. The race-baiters and the hate mongers are the minority and I am confident that they will not prevail.

It both incenses me and offends me to hear people portray the United States as a country where rampant racism exists because I assure you it does not. The acts of one deranged, racist individual does not make all of the same race guilty by association.

Admittedly racism is not yet dead in this country but it is definitely on life support, being kept alive by artificial means by the ignorant. In truth, Dr. King’s dream has largely been realized during my lifetime and those who refuse to accept that diminish the legacy of arguably one of the greatest men in the history of this nation. I continue to believe that one day his dream will be fully realized, that one day “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.'”

A 15-Day Challenge

Do you woman white water kayakingenjoy a challenge? If so you might be interested in reading more about the one I’m working on.

A few weeks ago I learned about Natalie Sisson’s “15-days to Freedom Blog Challenge” and decided to participate. The challenge in no small way was the genesis of this blog. As part of the challenge, participants are required to create a blog and to make every effort to publish a post for fifteen consecutive days.

As Natalie explains it in her own words, “I designed this challenge to get you into the habit of daily blogging while creating more freedom in your life and business through proven strategies and techniques delivered one daily challenge at a time.” (Source: “15 Days to Freedom Blog ChallengeThe Suitcase Entrepreneur. N.p., n.d. Web.)

I actually learned about Natalie Sisson and her 15-day challenge from reading a post at the blog of a former participant who shared how much he had gotten out of completing the challenge. His words really resonated with me because I immediately could see how what he had learned from the challenge experience could readily be applied to my own aspirations as a novelist.

Frankly, in only the first eight days of the challenge I have already found the experience to be even more eye-opening and instructive than I even imagined. Natalie is an amazing entrepreneurial coach and a great motivator. She simply has heaps of great tips and strategies that I’ve already found to be very useful and valuable to implement.

While I haven’t been entirely successful with respect to publishing a new post every single day during the challenge, I have completed all the other daily assignments each day and that is really the part of it all that I have personally found most beneficial and valuable. Make no mistake. There is a lot more to Natalie’s challenge than just writing some blog posts. In my view the blogging part of it is to help you think about and focus on all the other valuable things you are learning along the way.

The assignment for today (Day 8) was to think of three major goals that I want to achieve over the next 12 months and to annotate them on a calendar. The goals could be personal, business-focused, or a combination of both. Here are the goals I decided to set:

  1. In August of this year I’m taking a 3-week holiday to spend time with my partner in New Zealand.
  2. In October of this year I am going to publish the debut novel in my new detective fiction series.
  3. In April 2016, I am going to finish writing and will publish the second novel in my new detective fiction series.

The first goal makes pretty clear where my priorities lie. My partner lives in New Zealand and I live in the U.S. While we communicate almost constantly via text and phone, it’s been almost five months since we were able to actually spend time together. While we have both learned that being in a relationship with someone literally on the other side of the world is not easy, we’ve made it work. But we both want to remove the distance from the equation as soon as possible and hopefully that will happen before the end of the year.

In the meantime, while she has been so wonderful and patient we are both craving some face to face time together. So, I’m taking time in August to make that happen. My writing is important to me of course, but my partner and our relationship is and will always be my number 1 priority.

The remaining two goals I came up with are focused on my writing but actually it is fair to say that they too are in a real sense related to my relationship goals as well. While my partner is keen to relocate here and to experience life in the U.S. I don’t for a moment expect her to permanently give up her own country, her friends, and seeing her family at home on a regular basis. So the plan is that we will split time living together here and in New Zealand.

While I write simply because I enjoy it and love telling stories that others find interesting and entertaining, I would also in the future very much like to succeed as an author in a financial sense. This would give me the freedom to travel whenever I wish and the financial resources to realize the dream of spending a part of each year in New Zealand with my partner.

After writing and publishing the first two books in the new series I have planned, I think I’ll have a good sense about whether I can grow an audience large enough to make writing a realistic means of earning a living.

No matter what you do for a living, if you haven’t heard of Natalie Sisson before reading this post, I urge you to visit her blog and learn more about her “15-days to Freedom Blog Challenge.” Beyond working through the daily challenges myself I also get to read about the experiences of others who are completing the challenge while I’m doing it. I can honestly say that I’m not the only one who is really benefiting from participating in it by picking up heaps of useful strategies and tips that aren’t just applicable to business success but to a living and enjoying life to the fullest on a personal level as well. Participating in the challenge is completely free. All you have to do is register.

On Book Pricing

Image of a kindle readerAssume that you are considering purchasing a novel in a genre you already really like but written by a new author you’ve never read. How much of a factor in your final decision would the cover price be?

Frankly one thing I dislike about self-publishing is having to set the cover prices of my books. For my upcoming detective novel, Come What May, I had to face that earlier than with my previous books.

For the first time ever I have made a book available for preorders. My primary book distributor recommended it and sold me on the idea on the basis that preorders enable more effective advance book marketing.

The eBook version of Come What May is now available for preorder at Barnes & Noble.com and Kobo. It will also be available for preorder at Apple iBooks. Because the time frame for preorders differs at Amazon from the other outlets mentioned, it will likely be sometime in July before the book can be preordered there.

For the curious, you can see the listing for Come What May at Barnes & Noble here and at Kobo here.

If you have read this far and have assumed this post is going to be a pitch for you to preorder my book, you can relax now. I only mentioned the book being available for preorder as an introduction to the topic I actually want to discuss today, pricing an eBook. Who knows? You might find it interesting.

Setting the cover price for a book isn’t as simple or straightforward a decision as someone might assume who has never self-published a book. It’s isn’t just about price but value, two very different things. A great many books have been written on how to price an eBook. In fact if you Google a phrase like “how to price your eBook novel” the search will return about 192 million results.

Authors have different goals when they set out to write and publish a book. For the purposes of this post I’ll focus on just the two most common goals:

  1. To maximize income from book sales.
  2. To maximize the number of people who read the book.

Candidly, writing is one of those things I’d do whether I ever made any money from it or not. While I like money as much as the next person and making a little extra is always quite nice, I don’t for example depend on book royalties to put a roof over my head or food on the table. Suffice to say that earning royalties from book sales, while of course always welcome, is not my primary objective.

I’m definitely in the “to maximize the number of people who read the book” camp as far as my primary goal for this book. An author’s goal behind writing and publishing a book is one of the factors to be considered in pricing the book. Someone who hopes to derive substantial income from book sales, all other things being equal, is going to set a higher price for a book than someone like me who is seeking to build an audience, not just for this book but the ones that will come after since Come What May is the debut novel in a new series I have planned.

A self-published author can conceivably set a price for his or her eBook at anywhere between zero and infinity. I’ve seen eBooks with cover prices set as low as ninety-nine cents and as high as $75. Truthfully, I’ve never purchased an eBook with a price at either of those extremes. I suppose the reason is I’ve doubted that a quality book worth reading could be had as less than a dollar and can’t really imagine any eBook being worth $75.

I could of course give my book away for free in the hopes of maximizing the number of people who might download and read it. But setting the price at zero might very well gain fewer readers than putting a price on it which of course wouldn’t satisfy my goal. People in our culture often equate price, at least to some degree, with quality and value. Plenty of people might assume that a book being given away free is probably not very good and not worth their time to read. Many people do in fact consider just about anything offered to them free as having no value at all.

A good illustration of the preceding principle is a joke I heard in a comedy routine once. The comedian said he replaced his old refrigerator with a bigger, newer model. He placed his old refrigerator at the curb with a sign on it that read “working refrigerator free for hauling away.” He said the refrigerator remained at the curb for weeks. No one had shown the slightest interest in it.

The comedian said he wasn’t out to make any money on the old refrigerator, he just wanted to get it hauled away, hopefully by someone who could get some use out of it. So he got an idea. He replaced the original sign with one that read “working refrigerator $50.” He said that he woke up the following morning after changing the sign and looked out. The refrigerator was gone! Someone had stolen it during the night! Evidently someone decided the old refrigerator had some value after all.

I’d actually be perfectly happy to sell copies of my book for ninety-nine cents, if I could feel confident that more people would read it than if I set the price higher. That of course would satisfy my primary goal, maximizing the number of readers. But there is of course no way to predict how many people might buy and read the book if it was priced at ninety-nine cents in comparison to how many might buy and read it if I set the cover price a bit higher. As a first novel or at least in this case my first novel in a new genre, there is no historical pricing point data on which to base a decision about the cover price.

With this first detective/mystery novel I haven’t any reputation or credibility with my target audience. I lack a body of work on which readers might form opinions as to my competency as a writer and my skill as story teller. On the opposite end of the spectrum, consider my favorite crime fiction author. He has written 41 novels and in my opinion they are all uniformly good. He has lots of fans who enjoy reading his novels and his books carry the imprint of a well-known and respected publishing house. I think I paid $10.99 each for the electronic versions of his two most recent books and probably an average of $9.99 per eBook over the years I’ve been reading him. Obviously, I’m not going to command a price like that for my first crime fiction novel or even for the next several books in the series I’m beginning.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that there is a significant difference in the price of a hard cover book and the electronic version of the same book. That’s another factor in setting cover prices. Again using my favorite crime fiction author as an example, I paid $10.99 for the eBook version of his most recent novel but the list price for the hard cover edition on the date the book was released was $28.95. Part of that of course is the difference in production costs. There are substantial costs involved in printing and distributing a hard cover book while the costs involved in producing an electronic book are very modest in comparison. That however is only part of the reason behind the price difference.

If you think about, when you purchase an eBook you aren’t really purchasing a book at all because you never own it. Instead you’re purchasing a license that entitles you to download and read a book. You can sell an actual book or even donate it to the library when you’ve finished reading it. But until relatively recently you couldn’t even loan an eBook to a friend once you finished reading it much less resell one. Even though under some conditions you can loan electronic books to friends today, it still isn’t nearly as straightforward a proposition as simply handing your friend the copy of a book. That is the real reason for the significant price difference between physical books and virtual ones and also a factor is setting the cover price for an eBook.

What really keeps a self-published author up at night is hoping he or she won’t miss hitting the sweet spot when it comes to pricing his or her book. Price it too low and many people will assume it must be awful and not work reading. Most people won’t knowingly pay even a $1 for a book they think is bad. Price it too high and many people will be unwilling to buy and read it because they won’t believe the book has enough value to justify the price. A price that is too high might also price some potential readers out of the market simply because they don’t have unlimited disposable income to spend on books. The elusive best price then lies somewhere in between too low and too high.

As you can see now unless you already knew it before reading this post, setting the cover price for a book isn’t as simple as you might think at first blush. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of factors to consider. Along with selling a book you also must sell a buyer on the idea the book has a value and a value that is commensurate with the price. When reduced to the lowest common denominator, a book like most everything else consumers buy is really worth what someone is willing to pay for it. That’s the real value of the book from a purely economic perspective.

For any of my readers who may be considering reading Come What May, I do hope you will consider visiting my official author’s website, While there you can opt in to receive my free monthly newsletter by email if you wish. It’s not really a great commitment since if you choose to subscribe to the newsletter but change your mind later you can of course cancel at any time. I mention this because in connection with the release of my book in October, my newsletter subscribers will receive an exclusive special offer to purchase the eBook version of my novel at a price substantially below the cover price. There is also a contest in the works where some subscribers will win the chance to receive the eBook absolutely free.