More About That Tortoise – And Then Some


More About That Tortoise.

I had to read this post twice – because as someone burned when the dot.com bubble burst I wanted to scream “NOT AGAIN! NOT AGAIN!” stop writing and hide under a bed somewhere.

Once burned, twice shy – the saying goes. However, it’s not the thought of bubble bursting that has me hyperventalating.

Truth paraphrased -> fools rush in where professionals tread with care. Which means that while “Tiffany Wannabe” may be pumping out junk – the pro-writers with some serious backlist are starting to gently dust off books lovingly stored away for years. I’m waiting to see some ‘neo-classics’ from various genre appear in e-book format.

My reader-self is squeeing madly at the thought of having my old favorites available, as well as books I wanted to read, but never found because of the “book as produce” model.

My writer-self is shaking in her boots, because pro-writers with serious backlist…yeah, same reason.

I’m not worried about people who can’t write cluttering up the $.99 ghetto – I wasn’t planning on staying there. What I’m worried about is the release of millions of books of backlist. As ZW noted – there are over 3mil e-books on Kindle. What is this going to look like when there are 6mil, 9mil, 12mil – because of millions of professional quality backlist books released into the hands of loving fans, and the next generation of loving fans?

(YEEP!)

If it is hard to be discovered now – what is it going to take to get discovered when ‘The Real Writers’ bring out their back list?

For example – once the likes of Andre Norton is released – are modern women fantasy/paranormal writers going to sell books, or will the re-discovery of the Grand Dame of Sci-Fi blow the rest of us out of the running?

That’s what worries me.

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The Death of Culture! (Oh My!)


Are there really two ways to look at writing? Is it an Art Form that is Sacred and somehow Magickal? Where the artistic must live tortured lives of poverty and disease – and die lonely and penniless in the city streets?

OH Pleeasssseeee! This is horse shit!

I feel that the pulp fiction moniker has set me free of the restrictions of the romance genre. IMO calling all Indie work “pulp fiction” takes the pressure off the price debate. The writer whose work is selling just fine at $.99 (71 pence) can say “Well, it’s a penny-dreadful – that’s where they sell.” And the person who charges “slick” prices ($3.99 and up) can shrug it off.

Everyone makes money, there is a bit of pressure to raise the price of the next book to “Dime novel” levels ($2.99 to $3.99) just to get away from the label of penny-dreadful, but if it doesn’t sell as a dime novel, then it doesn’t sell. We can stop worrying about what other people charge and get on with the business of writing and e-publishing.

Which brings me back to this–

“Literature and culture per se would die if every writer wrote only to satisfy a market bowing to instant monetary gratification.”- Authonomy Author

I keep looking at that statement, trying to make something positive out of it, but all it does is piss me off further.

Why do – errggg! – I don’t have any nice, or neutral to say to someone who has such a terminal cranial-rectile inversion. I could not stop myself from replying:

That sounds very British.
Oh, effing GAG ME!

Culture doesn’t pay the rent – but if you are independently wealthy you can be as literary and cultured as you like.

Me, I have bills to pay and elderly parents to take care of.

HOW DARE we insist on being – practical – when it comes to ‘Literature and Culture per se‘ by bringing filthy money into it? How ghastly and common of me. I should crawl back into my drafty ghetto apartment and die of TB like a good little artist.

Is there a puking smiley? I really need one. 8-<–

WTF is wrong with making a living doing something you love and are good at? I should sic Zoe Winters on this chick! (Just kidding, Zoe. Stay Zen girl and keep writing.) Making a living from writing may kill off ‘Literature and Culture per se‘ but WFT – it’s about time that mid-list and pulp fiction writers made some money.

The point is that the old Pulp Fiction magazines and books gave a lot of famous writers their start. They made their living pounding on typewriters – entertained millions of people. They put smiles on people’s faces, and became a beloved part of pop(ular) culture. Some of the books were forgotten, others are classics. How do you argue with the brilliance of Issac Asimov, mathematician?

You can’t argue with idiots – they aren’t smart enough to know when they’ve lost.

Pulp Fiction II – the Rise of the Penny Dreadful


For my next trick – I say that because we are merely playing with words – trying to put the Indie e-publishing craze and the rollercoaster ride that is pricing into some kind of historical context.

First a short history lesson, for that we shall go back to our friend Wikipedia for a definition of the “Penny Dreadful.”

“A penny dreadful (also called penny horrible, penny awful,[1]
penny number and penny blood) was a type of British
fiction publication in the 19th century that usually featured lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, each part costing a penny. The term, however, soon came to encompass a variety of publications that featured cheap sensational fiction, such as story papers and booklet “libraries.” The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap pulp paper and were aimed primarily at working class adolescents.[2]

For the sake of this argument, I’m going to say that the 21st century ‘Penny Dreadful’ is a full-length novel that sells for $.99 to $1.99.

That doesn’t mean the writer can’t make money. Sell them puppies as long as they’re hot. After all, if the author is making a couple grand a month – cry all the way to the bank.

Because that’s not saying the next book won’t sell at a higher price. We aren’t making judgment calls about the writers – just the books. If common wisdom is correct, the ‘average author’ will turn out five or more books (or a million words) before they ‘break out’ and their work takes a quantum leap forward.

The writer can always move to the next level, – a ‘dime novel’ sells higher – $2.99 or a bit more. This may sell more copies of the first book. The point is that sales and income will rise at the higher price. I see authors all over Kindle boards planning how to make the transition to ‘dime novels.’

‘Slicks’ are the next step up, Mid-list writers will most likely find a home somewhere around the $2.99 to $3.99 level. They are recycling previously published work, already have fans and readers – so they may start at $3.99 where the ‘average jane’ author will need to ‘break out’ to sell well at $3.99.

Then there are the ‘super-slicks’ who have their own pricing structures. Some can sell short fiction at $2.99 for 10k words. Why not? They have the advertising budgets and turn out a professional product. They probably know who their readers are and have no problem targeting them in the most efficient manner.

Remember, too, there are e-publishing companies who have a pricing structure by length that has worked for them for 10 years or more. There is no reason that they can’t carry on. They have a professional products and hot markets like romantica/erotica.

So we have a series of terms to describe this mushrooming e-market, nicknames that look back fondly to the glorious Golden Age of Pulp Fiction.

Pulp fiction – Short stories & novellas that sell for $.99. Also a blanket term for any work self-published to an e-book vendor.

Penny Dreadfuls – Pulp Fiction novels that sell like crazy for $.99 to $1.99.

Dime Novels – Pulp Fiction novels priced from $2.99 to $3.99, written by Indie authors.

Slicks – Novels or backlist by Midlist authors self-published in the $3.99 range.

Super Slicks – Work by e-publishing companies that have their own price structure. Short stories can start as high as $2.99, for 10k words.

The New Age of Pulp Fiction?


Welcome to the New Age of Pulp Fiction – courtesy of e-reader technology and digital self-publishing.

How many people remember the “Golden Age” of Pulp Fiction? Okay, maybe no one remembers 20th century history. I wasn’t born yet, but at least I had heard of it. Just so you don’t have to google it – I’ll post the Wikipedia definition of Pulp Fiction:

Pulp magazines (often referred to as “the pulps“), also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long. Pulps were printed on cheap paper with ragged, untrimmed edges.

The name pulp comes from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. Magazines printed on better paper were called “glossies” or “slicks.” In their first decades, they were most often priced at ten cents per magazine, while competing slicks were 25 cents apiece. Pulps were the successor to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short fiction magazines of the 19th century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, the magazines are best remembered for their lurid and exploitative stories and sensational cover art. Modern superhero
comic books are sometimes considered descendants of “hero pulps”; pulp magazines often featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters, such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Phantom Detective.

Cheap stories – often lurid and poorly edited – easy to get, easy to discard; what does that sound like? The modern Indie e-book has been touted as the ‘slush pile come to life’ by the ‘trade’ publishing establishment.

I say the Indie Publishing masses could do much worse than embracing the label of ‘Modern Pulp Fiction.’

Why not?

“At their peak of popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, the most successful pulps could sell up to one million copies per issue.”

Fiction novels for $.99 from Indie authors are very much like the 10-cent magazines. Your mileage – or quality – will vary greatly from author to author and book to book. Already there are lines drawn – certain authors continue to sell books at a higher price. While others have their sales stall at the $2.99 break point.

Whether or not people actually read $.99 books is a good question. However, they do buy these books – often thousands a month. In that case – why should the author care if the book is read or not? Cry all the way to the bank.

“Literature and culture per se would die if every writer wrote only to satisfy a market bowing to instant monetary gratification.”- Authonomy Author


Well, that tidbit of British snobbery came from an Authonomy wannabe who couldn’t be bothered with something as – common? – tedious? – as marketing their work.

If only I could have stopped myself from replying:

That sounds very British.

Culture doesn’t pay the rent – but if you are independently wealthy you can be as literary and cultured as you like.

Me, I have bills to pay and elderly parents to take care of.

No wonder the Brits hate the Irish. We insist on being – practical – even when it comes to ‘Literature and Culture per se‘ by bringing filthy money into it. How ghastly and common of me.

Is there a puking smiley?

How does this tie into pulp fiction? The distinction between ‘literature’ the art and ‘story-telling’ entertainment is the difference between a ‘trade’ published, $12.99 e-book and a KDP, $.99 pulp fiction e-book.

This is a wild and wonderful free for all – that may kill off ‘Literature and Culture per se‘ but WFT – it’s about time that mid-list and Indie writers had some fun and made some money.

The point is that pulp fiction gave a lot of writers their start. They made their living pounding on typewriters – entertained thousands, or even millions, of people. They put smiles on people’s faces, and became a beloved part of pop(ular) culture long after the books themselves were forgotten.

Mom just recalled a box of pulp westerns in her attic that they read as kids. My aunts Joyce and Elizabeth read these pulps and played “Cowboys and Indians” so many times that they ended up with life-long nicknames. Joyce became “Steve” and Elizabeth became my beloved Aunt ‘Dillon.’ I was a teenager before I discovered that Aunt Dillon had another name.

That’s not art, that’s family history.

Guess which one is more important to me.

Got that in one, didn’t ya?