The Nameless Horror

Brief Further: Ebooks, Mosby, Linkage

Steve Mosby says some things about what I posted yesterday. (It’s also worth chasing in his/my Twitter feed for the multi-way conversation we had with Al Guthrie and Simon Logan.) His point that the attractiveness of the 99c price (Al cites his own hoofing great (and as anyone who’s read any of Al’s stuff knows, richly deserved) sales figures to give you an illustration of how well it works when it works) only exists because it’s in comparison to more expensive books. As soon as everyone’s at 99c, there is no advantage.

The ebook market is a gold rush at the moment, and like any gold rush, most of us will chase it and come away with nothing while a few will become very successful indeed. Those of us who chase it too late will get nothing because the territory has been prospected out.

As I said while chatting (well, tweeting) to Al, I suspect that like any bubble phenomenon where you’re not certain you’ll be one of the lucky few, the only way to win is not to play. In chasing the hope of glittering sales and a slot in the top 100 of whatever, it’s easy to forget that what we do should have some inherent value.

It doesn’t matter if I could sell 500,000 copies if I only priced them at 10 cents a throw; my work, I hope, is worth more than that. I’ll happily give stuff away for nothing, knowing that’s what I’m doing, and knowing that everyone else knows that. But deliberately devaluing the only thing I create, that I put massive amounts of effort into creating, and tacitly admitting that it’s basically worthless? I’d be risking shitting on my future - and no one I’ve heard expects the magic 99c boom to last forever - for immediate gain in the present. I understand the lure of Big Numbers, and I know the arguments for future readership and visibility, but I still pretty much don’t get it.

tl;dr version (from memory, details and exact tale sketchy):

Old story about a woman talking to Pablo Picasso over lunch and asking him to sketch something on a napkin. He whizzes something off and she asks to keep it. “That’ll be $20,000,” he says.

"But it only took you thirty seconds!" she says.

"Ah yes, but it took me twenty years to only take thirty seconds."