Join Prism Book Alliance® as Andrew Q Gordon goes Outside the Margins today.
The first thing thwat comes to mind as I write this is; it’s hot! Like, walk outside for three minutes and you’re soaked in sweat, hot. Like, the dogs start panting so hard their tongues hang almost to the ground, hot. Now, I know there are some of you who live where it is really hot, and you’re all like—rookies. I know, you live where the dictionary lists as the meaning of hot. But for those of us who don’t usually have to endure 100 degree days, a month straight of every day over ninety is the depths of hell hot.
My theory is that part of the record temperatures in Washington DC this year has to do with the excessive amount of hot air generated during this election cycle. Not going to say more, but y’all know I’m speaking true here.
Too hot to go out means more time to stay in and do what people do inside. One of the things I did was watch John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. If you’re not familiar with his show, you should watch. He’s not only funny, but they actually do some real investigative journalism on the program. Last week, he talked about Journalism—specifically the growing threat we’ll lose our newspapers. If you have about 20 minutes, watch it, because it’s quite thought provoking.
One of the points he makes is that in the digital age, papers haven’t figured out how to make money—real money. The kind you need to do true investigative journalism. And without newspapers and their reporters, we’re stuck getting our news from entertainment shows.
Now I get this. I subscribe to the Washington Post home delivery, but that’s where the problem starts. No one wants to pay more than they have to right? The cost for a standard subscription is a bit over $11.00 per week. If you complain they’ll offer you a 30% discount to bring it down to about $8.00 a week. But if you look further, you can get a year’s subscription for $90.00—if you’re a new subscriber. That means if you renew, you pay about $400 a year to get the paper or more than four times the new subscriber rate. And I’ve learned that if you threaten to cancel, they’ll give you the $90.00 rate to keep you.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d rather have that $310 more than I want to give it to Jeff Bezos who now owns the Post. But it shows why newspapers are in such dire straights. They’re willing to ‘take’ the $90 rather than ‘lose’ a paying customer. The reality, however, is they need me to pay the full price to keep in business and since I’m not they are trying to make up the difference in advertising. And they can’t sell enough to close the gap.
This is playing out all across the entertainment spectrum. All you can listen to music subscriptions, streaming movies, and of course eBooks have all cut into the profits the old way of selling entertainment had generated. Much like the papers, the digitalizing of books has created a disconnect between the cost to produce and the price being charged. With all the free and .99 cents books, authors, like newspapers, can’t afford to keep in business.
Now, I’ll admit, much like my using all the tricks I can to get the lowest price for the paper, I’m probably part of the problem for eBooks. I have a day job that pays well and a husband who makes a good salary. I’m not depending on my sales for anything. (In fact, I’ve spent more attending cons, advertising, and other stuff than I’ve made from books sales.) So for me, it’s easy to offer a free copy of The Last Grand Master to try to get people to read the series. I’m also fine with discounting my books to get folks to read them. (Well, not me, but the publisher.) Unfortunately, that sets low cost expectations for buyers that hurt full time authors. Sure there are a lot of readers who will pay more, but that by far in the minority.
I don’t know the answer, but as John Oliver points out in the video clip, consumers are part of the problem. We want it for free and we’re not willing to pay for it, or we’ll only pay a fraction of what we used to pay. Eventually that will come to bite us on the ass when newspapers (and authors) fold and don’t come back. What will be left are those, like the Washington Post (or me) that have deep pockets to keep going despite not making money. I’m not sure that’s what people really want.
~Andrew Q Gordon
About Andrew Q Gordon
Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.
He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of twenty years, their young daughter and dog. In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.
On his website: www.andrewqgordon.com,
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/andrewqugordon,
On Twitter: @andrewqgordon,
Or just email him: email@example.com
Ashes of Life
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