My first novel can be bought on Amazon for 99 cents.
That’s quite a deal, less than a buck.
One time I ordered three of them, just to give to friends.
You quickly learn that when booksellers on Amazon say 99 cents, they really mean four dollars and 98 cents, because shipping and handling is $3.99.
That’s where the booksellers are making what little money they do from my 99-cent books.
As you know, when writers run out of the free copies they get from the publisher, they can buy their own book at a 40 percent discount. Many writers earn what little wages can from publishing by ordering their books wth this discount and selling them at readings they do in the community.
Michele Serros talks about how she had the trunk of her car filled with copies of her book, and she went from town to town setting up readings, selling books.
So these 99 cent copies of my book on amazon were even cheaper than buying my book from Simon and Schuster, which is still in print and available new for $12.52.
I ordered the three copies, and they arrived in such bad shape there was no way I was going to give them to friends.
They were from public and school libraries that decided not to keep them on the shelves.
They had given up on my book, I guess, maybe because nobody ever checked it out.
One of them came from the Eola Road Branch Library in Aurora, Illinois. On the side they stamped the book in red letters, DISCARD.
I thought it might be insulting to give such a book to friends, so they just sat on my shelf at home, and last week I pulled them down, and here they are, before me as I write this.
How do I feel about this?
Great! What a gift!
About a year ago, a Facebook friend sent me a picture of my first book, Chicano Chicanery, that he had bought at a used bookstore in Seattle.
He didn’t tell me what he paid for it, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t above the original sticker price, that the copy had depreciated in value over the years.
And here’s the important, I mean, the really really crucial point to telling you all this:
When I published Chicanery, I was so unhappy, because I worried too much about book sales.
I was fortunate that Chicanery was reviewed by the Sunday New York Times Review of Books, because that helped boost books sales, and I could walk into bookstores all over the country and I often find a copy on the shelf.
But rather than being happy that my book was on the shelf, if there was only one copy, I would feel bad and say to myself, They only ordered one copy?
If there were five books on the shelf, like I once found in a downtown bookstore in Seattle, I immediately got depressed too.
Why are there still five on the shelf? I asked myself. Nobody’s buying my book!
I tortured myself with thoughts of selling books, and suddenly numbers became important to me.
When I would get the quarterly reports, the numbers could make me happy or sad, and when Amazon became so omnipresent in books sales, I started to pay attention to my Amazon.com sales rank, and it depressed me.
The day could be beautiful.
The sun could be coming into the window and warming my face.
I could be sitting on a soft couch made of Twinkies, and I would see the Amazon sales-rank number and suddenly all the beauty in the world disappeared.
All was darkness and sadness, and I was depressed.
Writers are not the only ones who are made sad by numbers.
We know for a fact that when somebody doesn’t get enough likes on social media, they can get angry, sad, depressed.
I remember one of my Facebook friends posting how disappointed he was with his “friends” because he didn’t get enough Likes for his recent post.
He said he knew what he wrote would be controversial, but he was brave enough to post it anyway, and he implied that we could not handle his courageous honesty.
I had no idea what post he was referring to, because the algorithm that makes choices about what appears on my Facebook feed didn’t include that post.
You can tell the guy that his “Likes” have little to do with popularity, but more with accessibility and algorithms, but nonetheless, that low number, maybe 12 likes, took away the joy of his day.
We give numbers have the power to change our perspective.
Example: We could be full of light, walking down the open road on a beautiful day, monkeys singing in the trees, and we pull out our smart phones, check our bank account, and see the number. And suddenly, the world disappears, and we are plunged into despair.
Resist the tyranny of numbers!
I don’t think writers should care much about numbers, because what should matter is not sales rank, but development as a writer, expanding our voice.
What matters for us is that we get new readers every day.
Being a writer is a Becoming, not an Arriving.
Being a writer is a life’s work, and I think it’s great that somebody can get my novel for 99 cents (plus $3.99 for shipping and handling)!
And the shadows took him is used in some themed-literature classrooms at colleges and universities, and I hope students order it used.
I would too.
Like all writers, my goal is to be read.
My goal is to welcome souls into the landscape, have them walk around with my characters, have them enter doors and walk down hallways.
In fact, anyone who doesn’t have a copy of my novel can write me.
The first three people who give me an address, will get one of the 99-cent novels pictured above, signed of course.
When fiction writers create stories and novels, we are creating a tiny universe, where the energy swirls within language and imagery and desire.
All a writer really wants is for you to come inside.
Come in! Come in!
I just sent out the there copies to the first three who asked.
They went quick!