Someone has discovered the fact that Kindle books are returnable. Over the past few days, I've had a copy of all my current Kindle stock purchased, and shortly thereafter refunded. Congratulations, friend, whoever you are... you've been able to sample two and a half years of my hard work, and saved yourself a whole twenty-one dollars.
I know I usually try to avoid emo in my blogging, but trust me, this isn't emo. People who game the system don't turn me emo. They just piss me off. I tend to value things in terms of work, how many hours or days of work are needed to earn the price of an item. Even at minimum wage, even after taxes, $21 is less than four hours' work.
Four hours, random book-returning person? Really? It would take you that long to read everything you bought and returned. By default, I must be worth at least that much time to you. Do you feel I've somehow cheated you, given you a subpar experience? Or are you well-intentioned, trying to get my sales numbers up without overspending?
Yes, I do try to think the best of everyone. I hope that doesn't make me too much of a cockeyed optimist (cue music from South Pacific), but there's a nice wide cynical streak in me as well. There would have to be, given the differences in my documented readership/fanbase and my sales numbers. Let me lay this out...
On each of my two main posting sites, fanfiction.net and fanficauthors.net, my email alert list is into the four digits. Bear in mind, this is after Jeconais, who runs FFA, went through his email listings and weeded out all the bum addresses. Everybody on that list had to reverify their email or they wouldn't be on the list any longer.
Over on Facebook, my following's a bit smaller, only three digits long, but as it's public record I don't mind quoting it. 671. Six hundred seventy-one people have been willing, at one time or another, to press the "Like" button and follow the page of the PAGE (the Panther Author Goddess of Evil/Everything, for anyone who came in late).
So, when I write stories, or provide amusing anecdotes, for free (such a magical word, free), hundreds and thousands of people are willing to be a part of it. But when I dare, when I have the outright gall, to ask for money in exchange, the number of people willing to participate drops down into the two digits. Into the low two digits.
Now, granted, an awful lot of those people are truly awesome and supportive, buying multiple books as gifts for family or friends who might enjoy them. (You know who you are. Huge hugs and thanks to you.) But still, no matter how amazing those few devoted fans are, they cannot possibly replace the larger fanbase I need to succeed.
If everybody who reads my work for free went out right now and purchased one book from me, just one, I'd be on the top of the sales charts almost instantly. That would give me the one thing I lack, the one thing that's harder to get than anything else in the publishing world, which is visibility, being seen by those who might like my work.
I don't want, I have never wanted, anything in this world that I haven't earned, O readers. But I've given you nine years' worth of writing, and some pretty big pieces of my heart. To find out that most of you value that less than half a day's work, less than an hour's work for a single e-book, even the most expensive one I've written...
I wish I could explain how painful that is. But for one of the only times in my life, words fail me.
Thank you for reading. Regular posts resume either Thursday or Saturday.