A writer buddy of mine was recently lamenting the fact that people won’t shell out 99 cents for his book. Mine are 3.99. If everyone I know (and the people I have come into contact with online) would buy my books, my wife wouldn’t check the bank account with shaking fingers every night.

Come on, people now...

See, here’s what got me thinking.  Yesterday, at about dinner time, a young man showed up at my door and launched into his spiel.  When he got to the ‘before you say no’ part, I smiled and said, ‘I’m not going to say no…we’re pretty broke, but can I donate $5?” I’m not trying to brag.  My 5 crumpled up one dollar bills aren’t going to change his life or break us. And I have sold stuff door to door and it is hell. So, I empathized. But it got me wondering.

I’ve bought peanut brittle to send peoples’ kids on a class trip (I LOATHE peanut brittle). I tip 20%. If you’ve ever been a waiter you don’t tip %15. I’ve bought Girl Scout cookies…sometimes from people my own age who were selling them for their Girl Scouts.

I’ve bought water for homeless people. I’ve given countless bills and handfuls of coins to buskers and various street performers.  But people get downright offended about spending money on BOOKS? Something that is tangible…that they can keep…that took a lot of time and energy to write?

OK, some books suck. Mine don’t. Neither does the book written by the fellow I mentioned who priced his wonderful book at 99 cents (ahem…Antrobus).

Now, here’s the part where I sound like a whiny bitch, but bear with me. I know you have bought Girl Scout cookies and chocolate bars and blah, blah, blah.

I am a freelance writer. I charge $35 per 500 words. I can write about almost anything. Now, I don’t get paid to write my two posts per week here on IU. I’m not complaining. IU is staffed by professional writers like myself. All the content is free. You can read things on here all day. We enjoy it and feel like we are giving back.

So, we write. And writing is just part of it. There is the crazy amount of work Hise and Kat put into keeping the site up and running. We do a lot to bring you a laugh, an idea, a new way of looking at writing, etc. We don’t sell cookies. Or peanut brittle (thank god). But there are ways you can show your appreciation. Leaving comments is great! Love the comments! There are also IU shirts and mugs and mousepads, oh my. You could buy one and it would help Hise and IU out a lot. Or donate a few bucks.

You could buy a couple of our books. Or all of the books. See, I debated even writing this because writers have been made to feel like pariahs for trying to sell their work, But why? Why can Girl Scouts guilt everyone into buying their cookies? I don’t know about you, but the Girl Scouts haven’t done shit for me lately.

Yet, thousands of people come to this site. They must be enjoying themselves or enriching themselves somehow. You must be getting something out of this or you wouldn’t be here. (BTW, if you were my client, we just passed the $35 mark.)

I don’t want to beg or whine. Honestly. But I see it like this. I belong to a motorcycle forum and a knife forum. After kicking around there a while, I learned a lot. I felt grateful. So, I paid the twenty bucks to become a lifetime member. And that $20 has paid itself off in knowledge, friendship, and camaraderie. And sometimes free stuff!

Here’s all I’m trying to say. None of us are about the hard sell. Which is why we are all poor. If Indies Unlimited means something to you…if you are entertained…if you feel that you have gained something from the site, well, buy a mug. Buy Hise’s book. Buy David’s book. Or one of mine. Or one of Kat’s. Or one of Ed’s, Jim’s, Val’s, Lois’, Laurie’s, Rosannes’, Yvonnes’. Drop by some of our websites. Visit the mighty room of RUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bottom line, I am about as poor as you can be and still live inside. Fine. That was my choice…sort of. It’s one I question every day. But if someone or something does me a solid, I’m happy to shell out a few bucks so they can keep doing it and to show that what they do is appreciated. It just seems right.

I don’t mean this to be some big guilt trip. I spent a long time on the motorcycle forum before I heard someone mention paid memberships. It hadn’t even occurred to me. I mean, it was all free, right? After all, it was on the internet. But when I realized, man, I couldn’t get my wallet out fast enough.

*     *     *     *     *

JD Mader is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of the novels JOE CAFÉ and THE BIKER – and co-author of the mighty Bad Book. For more information, please see the IU Bio page and his blog:www.jdmader.com (and musical nonsense here: JD Mader).


Author: JD Mader

JD Mader is an award winning short story writer and novelist. 'Joe Café' and 'The Biker' are out now, as well as 'Please, no eyes'. and the collaborative 'Bad Book'. Mader has been writing for half his life and has no plans on stopping any time soon. Learn more about JD Mader at his blog and his Amazon author page.

43 thoughts on “Kumbaya”

  1. Amen, brother. Well played. Thought you were gonna go down too easily in the box for a minute, there, but you stayed on your feet and slotted it deftly into the bottom left corner while giving the goalie the eyes. Just remember, though, if you remove your shirt to celebrate, it's a yellow card.

    But, seriously. Nice post.

  2. JD,

    I started publishing e-books in the year 2000 — long before the advent of the Kindle or any form of popular e-book reader. I sold them for $3.50 each. I published some PD books and gave them away for Free. NO takers.

    About 2001 I took a sales seminar where the workshop leader said, "People don't value what they can get for nothing." I raised the prices on all my e-books and put prices on the free files. The formerly free files were priced at $1 less and began to sell briskly. While free, no one had asked for a single download.

    Guess what? Sales increased on all fronts in 2001, doubled in 2002 and surpassed all expectations in 2004, 2005, and 2006 — all before the Kindle came along.

    As an e-book customer myself, I often download freebie books. I have gone on to buy subsequent books by the same authors if I enjoyed the free ones and that pays off for those authors I like. But I don't always read them promptly. I don't always finish them, either.

    Anyway, just wanted to say not to UNDER-sell your product.

      1. Doesn't seem to make a difference for me, but again, it's a niche work anyway. At any one time, it could be free (and I'll provide a free copy to anyone who asks), 99 cents or $1.99. But no more than that, as its short.

  3. WELL SAID. As a community of independent writers, we need to support each other by reaching into our pockets and buying other writers books when we can. The key of course is 'when we can' because I know that's not always possible for everyone.

    I've been given lots of help and advice during my self-publishing journey and I try to give back as much as I can too, and I love it when a fellow writer that I've been helping tells me that they've taken the time to look at my work or passed along the name of my book or even purchased it themselves.

    I'm with ya, I have no shame in asking another writer to take a look at my work, and please pay careful attention to the real pretty lookin' "buy" button off to the right of the title.

    1. Oh, I am familiar with the buy button. 😉 I don't spend money on much, but I agree with you, we need to support each other and we need to SOMEHOW convince the public that book are valuable. I've been bitched out for pricing my books at 3.99. A movie is 10? Five for a sandwich? It really doesn't make sense at all. A book provides hours of entertainment and you get to KEEP it.

      1. I don't think 3.99 is too much to ask for something that is entertaining and doesn't make you fat, damned Girl Scout cookies. I just bought your book Joe Cafe' because I read the sample on Amazon and it grabbed my attention right away. I think that is the point. To some extent price doesn't matter as long as the book doesn't bore the snot out of me. Keep writing and I'll keep reading. This site is head and shoulders above the rest.

  4. Great post!!!

    I especially liked that you didn't put another s after the apostrophe after Lois. You're smart. And funny.

    I never pushed people to buy stuff for fundraisers. And, per what Arline said above, I haven't yet put my book up for free on Amazon. Just can't do it. If you won't spend 2.99 for a book about the Hampton's lifestyle, then you aren't my target audience.

    1. Thanks, Lois. I pride myself on proper apostrophe usage. 😉 It's an ironic twist of fate. Books used to be unattainable – available only to the rich. Now that they are affordable for the masses, we are shunned. TV don't require the turning of pages…maybe that's it.

  5. hey, like the post – kumbaya and all that.

    Tell David he needs to bring his book up to 2.99. 😉

    I did a lot of reviews for people and expected a review in return. It didn't happen so I don't do reviews anymore. Sorry.

    I have the policy now that if you read my book and review it, then I'll read yours. I know it sounds selfish, but if I go the other way, I won't get reviews (I still don't have them) and I do more writing of reviews than writing of my books.

    Does it make sense?


  6. Had to reread this because I got completely distracted by the idea of a "knife forum". There's a story in that my friend, a damn fine story.

    In any event, I'm glad you posted this. As someone new to the site (well okay it's been almost a year but you know what I mean) I didn't know about the payment or not. I realize that's my own fault, I should have clicked the "About" section.

    Love the content here (and the extremely talented writers) so shall do what I can to support, even if I have to hit up Fagan for a loan again. 🙂

  7. Great post as always. You really put it out there every time. You've even gotten some non-choir members commenting, sweet.

    You're not asking for much, really.

    I was thinking of setting up right next to the Girl Scouts in front of Publix.

    I also have a tent, so no matter how bad it gets …

    These are random thoughts more than comments.

  8. Congrats. A rant that didn't go over the edge.

    It's always the challenge, getting people to notice your books without turning them off. And you got me to download a sample of Joe's Cafe – but then I'm easy.

  9. I quit the Girl Scouts because I ended up spending my allowance to reach the required number of cookie sales. Which is a clue that I will probably need to keep my day job for the rest of my life. However, because I have a day job, I have play money and have just bought a Kindle and am making my way through the IU staff books. So stop yelling at me already. =)

    1. You rock Krista.

      I walked out of Wal-Mart one day last week (don't judge me) and there was a Girl Scout table sitting right outside the door. I paused to check an email that had just beeped on the phone, and the lady at the table asked if I would like buy some cookies to help support the Girl Scouts.

      To which I replied, "I've been a supporter for seventeen years. I named my daughter Scout. Your welcome."

      Priceless moments like this are what I live for.

  10. I started out at LinkedIn – which was a nice segue into the whole online thing – but I'm now spending most of my time here. Thanks for some great posts, including this one and, just for the record I'm reading Sable City 😀

    I've only had my Kindle for about 6 weeks but I'd like to second that advice about increasing the price. I never get freebies because… I think they're not going to be any good. Maybe I'm old fashioned but I think samples should be free but /books/ should be proud and demand the respect of a few dollars. I've bought short stories and novellas and haven't regretted paying for them. Length does not count but quality does.

    And now I'm going to slink back into my corner – night all.

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