Love Your Library

So, I received this email a few days ago about the value of higher education. It kind of looked like spam… well, it probably was. However, I thought it was interesting, none the less. The email linked back to a website called Webucator. First time I’d ever heard of it, and I haven’t really browsed it other than to read the related post. However, the email posed two questions:

  • Could you have gotten as much out of four years in the public library as you got out of college?
  • What would you do with a year in the public library now?

Ejumacate me!

I’m a huge fan of education… especially the good education (wink)(wink). I have a bachelor degree and a master degree. I started working toward a PhD but dropped out about a year or so before completing the program, when I decided psychology wasn’t truly a career I wanted to dedicate myself to. Now, I’m knocking out some prerequisites so I can earn a MBA. I’ve spent more of my adult life enrolled in school than not. For me, learning is very rewarding. Even when I’m not in school, I spend time researching and learning new things.

Public Library VS College

In my mind, the first questions is rather loaded. It makes the assumption that individuals will go to the public library for education if they opt out of college. I personally don’t go to the public library for education. I go for entertainment. Before eBooks were popular, I’d check out fiction. Those occasional instances I did check out non-fiction, it again for entertainment.

Entertaining Subject Matter

Maybe I wanted to learn how to craft something specific. Or perhaps I was interested in Victorian dresses in order to research a book. I was fascinated with bugs at one time and might have gathered books for the science section. However, my interest in non-fiction was never focused. The books I checked out wouldn’t have provided me the knowledge I needed to get my foot in any particular door, because my interests were so varied. Also, reading books typically is a lone project. I sit down and read without necessarily discussing it with other students or a professor to act as a mentor. There’s no one to challenge me when I read a book. It’s purely for entertainment.

Who’s Responsible?

Secondly, there’s no accountability for the books read in a public library. Finishing a degree or even taking specific classes gives the assurance that the student has learned key pieces of knowledge. I don’t have to learn anything when I go to the public library. I can just sit back, ready, and enjoy. What I retain, I retain. What I learn, I learn. What ever doesn’t happen, well… who cares? There’s more entertainment in the next book, which might be completely unrelated to the book I just read.

Now I’m Tracking

A big bonus for formal education is that it keeps me on track. I may not particularly enjoy the subject matter or the book knowledge required for a course or degree. However, knowing I have deadlines that are externally enforced keeps me on top of things. For me, that’s important, because it keeps me going; it keeps me focused on the end results… finishing the course or obtaining the degree. Others might work differently, but that’s me.

So, if I spent 4 years straight in a public library, I highly doubt I would have obtained the same knowledge as going to college. Now it’s certainly possible to obtain a college education in a public library. However, how many individuals are willing to do that? How many individuals will take the initiative to do so? I might have pose different question: Was the knowledge I obtained through college beneficial, applicable, and useful in the working world? Now that I’m a working girl, how much book knowledge do I still use?

A Year in the Public Library

Hmmm…. Just the idea of spending a year in a public library fills me with anxiety… almost a sense of claustrophobia. I hate to say it, but public libraries are outdated. They’re filled with books, most people would rather have in eBook format. They have sections of VHS and cassette tapes, which should be decommissioned to a museum. Why would I go to a library? For the quiet? Are the shush rules still enforced?

Earlier this week, I went to the state capitol. The library happened to be visiting and had an event to check out mystery books. Now when I say mystery books, I’m not talking about the genre. I’m talking about books wrapped in paper bags, so you can’t see what’s in them. On the outside was a clue to what kind of book it held. I picked up two. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten into reading, and I’d hoped those books would jumpstart my desire. However, even as I checked out these mystery books (which I still haven’t read), I couldn’t help think what a pain it’d be to flip through the pages or lay down in bed with a book vs reading a digital copy. I still haven’t opened the books to see what they are.

So… what would I do in a public library? Probably every thing I’d rather be doing at home… or perhaps I’d be doing less than what I’d be doing at home since the library has limitations I don’t have at home… like walking around in my underwear. 🙂

In Summary

There’s a place for formal education. That’s not to say, formal education couldn’t use some improvements. A large percentage of required courses don’t prepare individuals for real work. However, formal education does give an individual a little foundation. That way students can at least carry on an sensible conversation. Above all, I hope a student would learn some basic writing, math, or whatever skills. From there, work experience is there to help push an individual into expert-hood.

I think an even better approach would be to match formal education with work experience, similarly to what’s expected of doctors, nurses, or other programs which required internships/residencies. Make internships mandatory for all degrees rather than electives.

But let’s face it, public libraries are not the happening place they used to be. Downloading an eBook is far more convenient than visiting a library. Furthermore, digital books tend to be more convenient to read than physical books.

So, my not so humble opinion says public libraries lose this round.

To Edit or Not to Edit

Last week, Steve Evans responded to my post about fair eBook prices. It got me thinking about the writing and publishing process, and the reason why I expect to be paid for my work. I realize, it wasn’t the writing itself, but rather the stuff that comes after writing which turns the whole thing into work.

I Enjoy Creating

I enjoy the entire creation process. This includes developing plots, creating characters, writing, and even developing book covers. Oh… what fun I have! I have 4 novels which are 75-95% finished with the first draft, a few more that are in the 50% range, and a host of other ideas floating around. However, when I think about going back and polishing those books, my motivation falls flat. In fact, I don’t even want to finish them when I think about having to prepare the for publication. So, I have some choices when it comes to getting my books out there.

Outsource

I can outsource the stuff I don’t like. One of the things business owners should realize is they don’t have to do everything. What they’re unable to do or just plain don’t want to do, they can outsource it to others. For instance, I can pay someone to critique my works, pay for a proofreader, editor, and marketing person. However, the key word is pay. 🙂

One thing everyone realizes is that resources are limited. There’s a cost benefit to pretty much every choice we make. If I pay someone to do all the things I don’t want to do or am unable to do, there are other things I won’t be able to afford to do. And I’ll be honest here. I don’t have a few thousand dollars to blow per book with little chance of recovering the costs.

To Hell with It All!

What Steve really got me thinking about was why I continued to do things I didn’t enjoy. It’s not like I have to prepare my books for publishing. In fact, I can write my first drafts and shove them in a virtual drawer, if I wanted.

On the other hand, I’ve been feeling rather guilty… especially when it comes to the sequels to Shadow Cat. I really feel as if I should finish what I started, and get those other two books out. In fact, book two is pretty much written. While polishing it, I thought about feedback I received from Shadow Cat, and wanted to make sure I didn’t make the same mistakes. So, I went back and rewrote a section. Now the whole thing needs to be reviewed for consistencies. The final book is at that 75% stage… so I’m pretty close with being done with them all… but then I’m in the to hell with it all stage. I just don’t feel like going back and reviewing and polishing them. So why should I continue doing things which make me unhappy? 🙂 There’s enough unhappiness in the world. I don’t need to add an optional unhappiness to my list.

To Hell with My Reputation?

Then again, I can take that attitude and do something different with it. I’ve read quite a few literary agents say they see books on the market which aren’t ready for publishing. I wholeheartedly agree with them. Dare I take my not quite ready drafts and put them on the market? Just the idea feels me with anxiety.

I talked to my husband about the pros and cons of doing that. The reality is I have works I’m sure someone would like to read. However, they’re unlikely to make it into readers’ hands if I’m stuck on preparing them for publication… at least if I continue to work on them to the extend they satisfy me.

However, I can write my first draft, then do a pass or two before sending it off into the world. I can stop obsessing over getting each phrase to sound just right.

What Do You Think, Readers?

Literary agents have their own viewpoints. However, they aren’t my market, readers are. From the reader’s standpoint, would you rather see an early draft of a story or bypass the story all together? I ask because I’m in the to hell with it stage. The works I’m just on the edge of completing will either be filed in the virtual folder or I’ll likely finish them and do some rudimentary passes before sending into the world.

Is it better to get the work out or to slave over the work with the chance it’s just not going to get the attention it needs to be “ready for publication?”

What are your thoughts?

The Fussy Librarian Reader Survey – Short Stories

Looks like The Fussy Librarian is sharing more results today. This time in response to short stories (classified as under 125 pages in this survey). As you know, I hold the belief that writers should be paid for their works, just as people going to their day jobs expect to be paid. Now how much a work is worth is up for debate. This is what I like about the Fussy Librarian surveys. It’s asking the readers, the actual consumers what they think their entertainment is worth.

Short Stories in Numbers

If we do the quick math on that with the standard assumption of 250 words per page, that’s about 31,250 words. The minimum to be considered a novel is 50,000 words or 200 pages. Keep in mind, 200 pages is a short novel. These days, I’m seeing novels running in the 300-375 range (75,000 – 93,750 words). In other words, the short story is looking at about a third of a book, if you’re pushing for the upper 125 page number. With that in mind, according to the Fussy Librarian, 75% of those surveyed read short stories.

The Results!

As a reminder, I mentioned in my last post that The Fussy Librarian revealed the $3.99 price point as the high frequency for eBooks with 55% of those surveyed believing that eBook prices should range from $2.99-4.99.

So what does the survey say about short stories? Well, 30% of those surveyed believed short stories should always be free. This kind of makes me think of the free pens with our logos that we give out to clients. We use the free pens as a way to promote ourselves. Likewise, many authors do the same with their works… the loss leader. However, a loss leader only works if you have a collection of stories to sell. Otherwise, the loss leader is just lost money. 🙂 And really, a loss leader is really a marketing strategy, not an evaluation of how much a work is worth.

So our paying readers… what do they think? The high frequency this time around is $0.99, which came out to be 43% of those surveyed. Not bad, I think, considering 125 pages is about 1/4 to 1/3 of a book. That leaves the remaining consumers (25%) in the $1.99-3.99 price point.

What’s an Author to do?

When I think of 30,000 words, I see it as quite an investment. It’s not like the 5-15K short stories I whip up with Control Freak that might take a week or two max for a first draft and a few more weeks to refine, polish, and edit. A decent 30K word story can easily take a month or more to write (at least for me). Then there’s months and months of rereading, polishing, and editing. We’re not looking at a quick turn around. The longer a work is, the more chance time investment it takes (exponentially).

Yet 30% is a big chuck of consumers who think that effort should be free. If readers believe smaller works have no monetary value, what can an author do? Well, an author can consider packaging their works… putting together a short story collection that equates to the size of a full length novel.

The Unanswered Question

I found it interesting that 30% of consumers thought smaller works (125 pages or less) should be free while 25% of consumers didn’t read short works. Hmmm. What’s the distribution on that? Were those who did not read short stories likely to think short works should be free? Or was it the other way around… those who consumed smaller works valued them less monetarily?

Questions, questions….

The Fussy Librarian Reader eBook Survey

The Survey

Recently, The Fussy Librarian conducted a survey in regards readers and ebooks. The Fussy Librarian was generous to post some initial data about what readers think are fair prices for a novel length ebooks.

Oftentimes, it’s difficult for authors to price their books. One one hand, authors want readers to download their books and read them. When the readers don’t bite, it can create a sense of desperation. Sometimes that desperation can drive authors to lower their prices to dirt cheap (and at times, free) in order to reduce the barriers of downloading their work. Other times, authors will base their prices on what other authors are doing or what others are telling them to do. In a way, it’s a bit of a scattered approach.

What I like about the survey The Fussy Librarian conduct is it takes some of the guess work out of it. Rather than relying on tidbits of information here and there, it’s going directly to the target market… the reader. What are readers willing to pay? And what do readers feel is a fair price?

Mildly Annoyed

I have to admit, when I first review the results, I was mildly annoyed. In fact, my husband (dear man puts up with so much), listened to my short rant about those who thought all ebooks should be free, and how I’d like to visit those folks’ place of work and receive free products and services. It made me think of the starving artist profession.

Then I had to realize… there are always those out there who expect a free ride,  may not appreciate the effort (or even the cost to produce a piece of work), or think in a way I can even fathom. Rather than be irritated with a bunch of strangers, whom I don’t understand, I should focus on the positive results of the survey… the parts I feel really pertain to the type of readers I’m seeking…

Those Who See eBooks Worthy of Compensation

I found several items about the survey interesting. First, the mode (highest frequency) was the $3.99 price point. For the longest time, I’ve thought $2.99 would be the mark. However, my thoughts on that was based upon the royalty rates. For Amazon, the $2.99 price point is the lowest an author can sell a book, while still receiving 70% royalty. Anything below $2.99 and the authors are put in the 35% royalty category. Likewise, anything above $9.99 puts the author at 35% royalty. However, few self-published authors price above $9.99.

In a way, my $2.99 price point was my projecting on the readers what I thought they’d be willing to pay based upon the lowest it makes sense for an author to price an ebook.

The second item which caught my eye was the skewed results.

Fussy Librarian Survey Graph

Approximately 55% of participants fell in the $2.99-4.99 price point. In fact, almost three quarter of those who answered the question believed $2.99 or more was a fair price for a novel. For me, that’s huge. I’m not saying my books are great or even worthy of the effort of downloading. However, to know that a large portion of readers value the work that authors put into a book (even at the $2.99-3.99 price point), feels me with hope.

It’s true eBooks are less expensive to produce than physical books. After all, you don’t have the printing, delivery, or even same storage costs. However, there are still cost-associated services which go into creating an eBook (writing, editing, formatting, illustrating, marketing, software, etc.). I’m going to go out on a limb and make the assumption that outside of the writing process, most authors would rather not deal with the rest of the book creation process. It’s work… and to be success (or even unsuccessful), it’s hard work.

So when I got over my initial disappointment with those who felt eBooks were unworthy of compensation, I was pretty happy to see majority of readers did not feel that way.

I definitely look forward to the future results The Fussy Librarian has in store for us!