The Chair, Assigning Value, & Fear

The Thinking Chair

I’m a member of the local online rummage sale group on Facebook, which is a great way to get rid of unwanted stuff in a hurry, but it’s also a great way to find/buy stuff you never knew you needed (and really, you don’t). Like the old Red Robin booth I got for my writing desk. And the old fabric and wood rocking chair I bought this past weekend. I didn’t/don’t need it, had to rearrange a bit to make room for it, it doesn’t match the rest of our furniture or the decor, and according to hubby, I don’t look like I “fit” it when I sit in it. Apparently tattoos, a cap, and a superhero shirt clash with beautifully carved thick wood and faded tapestry fabric. Who knew?

Whatever. My personal style may not match the chair, and the chair may not match the rest of the house (though it does blend well with the tapestry and wood dining room chair that it’s close to, and the antique sewing machine behind it that I still haven’t put back together), but I love it. I love just looking at it – it’s calming and reminiscent of past lives and lifestyles that I sometimes wish we could incorporate into today’s world, even if just in a small way. It’s not the kind of chair you’d spend hours in…it’s comfortable, but not plush. But it’s the kind of chair you could sit in when you need to noodle something out, or deal with something that’s been on your mind, maybe with a crochet hook or knitting needles in hand.

I have a wingback recliner in the office that I use as a reading/writing chair. I think I’ll dub this new rocking chair the “thinking chair”.

The Reading Chair

And perhaps look for a small, tapestry-covered footstool to go in front of it since I can rarely reach the ground to rock when I’m in a rocking chair (relatively short legs, I guess).

I’ve been thinking a lot about value lately, and how we assign value to things – including how much we’re willing to pay for something. A week ago, I was raising the price of my alter-ego’s new book to “normal retail” online, and I decided to raise the prices on all of my other books too. Previously, I’d priced books by what I thought they’d sell for – the value I expected others would put on them. I determined that almost exclusively by page count/length, and genre. I was trying to get them to sell based on price alone, and sales generally trickle at those prices for me.

Here’s the thing. It takes a lot of time for me to get a book written – even a short one, and even more time to edit, check the formatting, write the blurbs and create the covers. It takes money to get the formatting done (I’ll probably go back to formatting the digital versions myself…more time!), and money to buy cover art images. And even pricing for the lowest-spending reader, I still get only a handful (sometimes not even that many) of sales in a month.

Does this mean I’m not a stellar writer? Possibly (I’m certainly not a “bad” one, considering some of the incredibly/inexplicably popular messses out there for sale). Does it mean I’m not good at marketing? Absolutely. Does it mean that my admittedly possibly mediocre books should be priced at bargain basement?

No. No it does not. $3 is nothing for a story, even a short one. Some people spend more than that on coffee in the morning or lunch during the work day. I spent just shy of that on a cup of tea at the bookstore last night. $3 for all the hours and work I put into that story is a pittance. And if people won’t pay that for one of my short stories (and $4-5 for a longer novel), then I’m really not doing a very good job with either writing or promoting them, and don’t deserve the sale.

With that in mind, I raised all my prices. And sales went flat. And that’s okay. It is what it is, but I’m done with bargain-basement pricing. I’m assigning more value to my work, and my time, and readers can decide whether it’s worth that to them or not, but at least I feel like I’ve shown some confidence in my abilities, and that I’m not undervaluing what I do (or try to do, anyways).

I am going to be going through and redoing cover art and blurbs on some older books, to bring them up to date. And I’ll be working on some promotional things as well, just to draw attention to them and let people know what I have available. I have one book I’ll be going back through and re-editing too, but that won’t be a normal thing. most of my books are already well-edited, this particular one sort of slipped through the cracks and it won’t take me long to fix the minor nits within.

So, I’m assigning more value to my work, and whether it deserves that valuation or not will depend on each individual reader. And my mission/goal is to make sure that what I put out is worthy, in my own eyes, of the value I assign to it. Fair enough, I think.

As far as that whole promotion thing goes, I need to be more “forward” (aggressive?) about letting people know that I write. I don’t know why it’s such a difficult thing, but somehow, it seems stranger and uncomfortable to talk about being a writer (and even openly acknowledge it) locally than it does to say I’m a database administrator for the county. Probably because I make a good wage as a DBA, and there are measurable activities that tell me I’m fairly decent at my day job. But because I make very little money as a writer, and that’s really the only measurement I have for that particular “job”, it’s harder to acknowledge/admit to. I feel like people will think I’m a fraud, or a “wannabe” writer (even though I’ve published around 40 books now…it’s only the ones people have heard of that matter).

And we all get annoyed by those people who claim to be writers and never write or publish anything, don’t we? Even though I have written and published quite a few books, a lot are under pen names, and none are popular, so I feel like I come off like the wannabe, even though I do actually write and publish (okay, so I took a couple years off, but I just published two stories this year, and I’m working on a couple more). Gotta love “imposter syndrome”, eh?

In any case, I went to the annual shareholders meeting for our local bookstore co-op last night, and beforehand hubby was looking at the site and asking why my name wasn’t on the author/shareholder page. My answer was that I guess they overlooked me, or that I haven’t really pursued getting my books in the store yet (I don’t currently have any that meet their “criteria”), but really, it’s probably just because I haven’t emailed them and said, “Hey, I’m an author/shareholder – would you add me to the list, please?” Because it’s probably just that easy. And I’m just…not that forward. But there’s no reason not to be.

Aside from fear.

Fear is why I priced my books so low to begin with – I was afraid no one would see the value in them and pay a higher price. Fear is why I don’t talk about being a writer with people I know personally – because I’m afraid of all the negative connotations that might bring, and also the “oh, I’ll read your book” or “I’m reading your book this weekend” statements that never result in feedback.

Incidentally, if you’re going to read my book(s), be kind. Don’t tell me you’re going to. Just do, and then if you liked it, tell me (or just leave a review wherever you got it). If you didn’t like it, we’ll both be happier (and things will be less awkward) if I don’t even know you read it.

But seriously. I’m more afraid of what people will think if they know I’m an author than what they think when they see my tattoos. Even I know that’s seriously messed up and backwards. Especially when I’ve devoted an entire arm to tough, resilient animal tattoos reminding me to be bold and strong and fearless. I really need to work on taking my own advice.

And yes, I got the bookstore manager’s card, and will follow up with that whole “will you add me to the author page, please?” thing. And getting my books into the store.

Do you have a “thinking” chair? What are you afraid of? Post a comment – as Red Green says, “We’re all in this together!”


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2 comments on “The Chair, Assigning Value, & Fear

  1. Mauri Stott

    I love this — I think you are right on the money, so to speak, about book pricing. I only ever gave one book away for free after it had been on sale for a fair price (one that was fair to readers and to ME), for about 3 years. That publishers take brand new books and put them out for free is one of the most insulting things I have seen happening, or even for .99… I’m sorry, but no. I haven’t put a new book out in a few years, but I could never imagine putting a new one out for less than 3.99 and if it was a long length, 80K or more, I would consider 5.99. That might drop as time goes on, but that would be over years. I sold books at those price with no problems. When I want a free book, I go to the library. I don’t buy many books under the price that I would charge myself, because I also think people need to be paid for what they are worth, and also people need to be willing to pay, and yes, stop being afraid to do that.

    1. Jamie DeBree

      It’s a fine line for me, because I see the value both ways, and our library balks at stocking indies, so it’s not like someone could just get my books free there if they can’t afford it. But the “normal” price will definitely be higher from now on, and then occasional sales/giveaways for bargain hunters. Hopefully I’ll tap into the best of both worlds that way. 🙂