Ronnie Schiller

Author of Infernal Stock Series and Mother's House Payment - a Memoir, Hobbyist Shutterbug

A Person is Worth More Than A Dollar


The ongoing conflict between Hachette and Amazon over e-book pricing has highlighted some of the glaring differences of principle between traditional publishers and the world of electronic distribution. In the most simplified terms, Hachette wants e-book prices to be fixed at a minimum price that is near the hardback release price. Amazon wants the e-book prices to be lower to reflect the much lower cost of production and distribution of an electronic book format.

Bearing in mind that the publisher has control over the timing of the release of the e-book, paperback, or audio format of any book, this is not a matter of competing formats. It has more to do with the perceived value of a commodity, to wit: a product is viewed as less valuable if it is less expensive and more accessible.  That is well and good if you are trying to control the value of an item that has no inherent value–such as a diamond. Let the diamond sellers of the world continue to manipulate the market into paying outrageous amounts for as long as people let them. This is about knowledge, and that is worth more than diamonds.

To be very clear, this post has transitioned into the portion that is entirely based on my opinion. Let no one walk away feeling that I have misled.

I am a self-published author. The majority of my business has always been through Amazon.  My position in this matter is not based on a loyalty to Amazon. It is grounded in my belief that the success of a book should be measured by the number of readers touched by the story, and not the number of royalty dollars earned per copy.

Some authors, like any other group of people, prefer to focus on financial gain as a measure of success. Amazon has addressed that in their latest communication:

“We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99.”

I highly recommend this particular paragraph in the Amazon message.

I can attest to this. Once I let go of the notion that the price of each unit mattered somehow, I found that unit sales increase more than made up for the difference. I got what I truly wanted: more readers.

I imagine that the authors contracted with Hachette’s divisions at the former Time-Warner Publishing and Hyperion never set out to publish with a big house solely so they could have a greater audience. If that were the case, Hachette would not need to be so concerned about money.

I can’t see the point of protecting a perception of exclusivity in the value of a book. It’s not in my makeup.  I’m not condemning those who do, but I simply don’t see things that way.  To me, a person is worth more than a dollar. The story is worth nothing if only few can afford to access it.

Asking the right question: better than knowing the right thing to say

We were visited by a friends with kids today. The oldest child in the family is a precocious 12-year-old boy who is tall for his age and very bright for any human standard. I enjoy smart kids; they give me hope that the world of my retiring years won’t be a complete disaster. This kid happens to be a voracious reader, lover of mathematics, and spontaneously capable of reciting 16 digits of pi whether you like it or not. He’s truly a delight.

I gave him a copy of each of my novels. I keep one set on the shelf, in case I need to refer to the published version. I felt obliged to warn him that my books are the product of an amateur level of expertise. The poor boy just finished reading Hunger Games again. I don’t kid myself about whether my writing stacks up to that series.

These are not the keystrokes of a millionaire.

Still, he politely dug into Infernal Stock I: Dixon Breaks Loose while the adults milled around in the sun. He was 30 pages into the story before he stopped to ask me some questions about my methods and the inspiration behind the characters.

I don’t offer advice to other writers because my methods are not disciplined or orderly. I’m not an outline person. I never have been. When I was in school, if an outline had to be included in an assignment, you could bet that I created it after the draft of the paper. My brain does not work that way. Ideas grow out my mind like a climbing vine, twisting and looping into whatever shape it finds comfortable or best for soaking up sunlight. My characters choose a path and I follow the characters. It’s all I know how to do, for now.

I told him about the basis for a couple of the minor characters. One of the characters, inspired by a memorable girl from my third grade class, led into a sidebar about bullies. The girl had been a misfit for as long as I had known her. One of my last interactions with her ended with me hitting her in the face with a soccer ball. I was provoked, but my response was not reciprocal. I knew, and still feel, that I was the jerk in that situation.

He asked if I was a bully. I swore that I was not. I was picked on by other kids and the adults. I was low on the hierarchy of elementary school politics. But, that girl was lower, so I wasn’t afraid to return her aggression.

“You were like me,” he said, “but I don’t pick on anyone else. Everybody picks on me.”

I nodded, thinking that a boy of 12 who is taller than me and stands his ground in a size-14 shoe could probably crack a few skulls. He wouldn’t, though.

“I was a wild animal when I was a kid. I didn’t have parents to teach me how to behave. You’re lucky to have your mom to keep you straight,” I said.

I told him that all of the really smart kids knew to be respectful of everyone, and they were more successful as adults. I hope that helps him get through the hard years of middle- and high school. If he’s lucky, he’ll make it through without inspiring guilt in anyone who remembers him.


Free Kindle Promotion for June

It’s hot outside. That makes me a bit lethargic and cranky. It’s no wonder, then, that I bristled at the email from my bank, letting me know in legalese that they will no longer pay interest on my savings until the balance increases. That was just another bit of kindling to the bonfire of financial fear.

I have lived in many different homes in my life. I have lived in several different states and towns.  No matter where I go, there are always railroad tracks nearby. Sometimes, they were close enough for me to hear the drumming of the wheels as I lay in bed.  Sometimes, I could hear the whistle rising faintly in the afternoon air.  In some cases, I only saw the tracks as I commuted to work. I suppose that is the way America has grown; there are tracks everywhere.

This is the truth, but it’s also a perfect analogy to explain my relationship with poverty. I lived nearest the tracks as a child–I could see the trains rumbling past through a thin scrim of trees at the end of our lawn. No matter how many years pass, the memory of shame and desperation follows me. No degree or technical, white-collar job makes me feel secure because I know that the tracks lie just around the corner.

I want to feel better, so I’m going to laugh in the face of the monetary establishment. I’m giving away my top-selling book for free in Amazon’s Kindle format. Enjoy it.

June 22, 2014 through June 25, 2014

Free Kindle format Mother’s House Payment – A Memoir

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