AMA: Tell me about your ebook…

Editorial Note: I stumbled on a few “Ask Me Anything” questions I got a few months ago and had completely forgotten about. Over the next week or two, I’ll do my best to work them in to the schedule.

Tonight’s AMA question is another posed by someone I’ve Identified as LS. LS asks, “Kindle books… how many titles have you published, how many have sold, how you decided to set prices and whatnot?”

That’s not as straightforward a question as it might seem at first glance. To cover the basics, I’ve got two formal ebooks published under my own name. The first, Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees, is my treatise on what it means to be a youngish employee in the bowels of a giant bureaucracy. It’s still one of my favorite efforts to date. The other primary ebook I have up for sale is Retribution: Chasing Hearts and Minds. That’s my first foray into proper fiction – and one that I hope gets a follow-up sooner rather than later. I’ve actually got that next installment “sort of” outlined, but haven’t forced myself to sit down and do the hard work of putting words on paper.

I’ve also done a bit of short story writing under a pen name that, for the time being, is not a topic for public discussion. Writing under a name other than your own is a remarkably freeing experience and lets you dive into topics and ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise explore. I’ve made a conscious decision to largely keep me and my alter ego completely separate for purposes of discussing what I write about on a regular basis. Although I’m not ready to drop that veil just yet, for purposes of answering this AMA, I’m including the sales totals from these 15 or so other short stories.

I try to be “platform agnostic” when it comes to sales. I’m happy using Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords, and a dozen or more other small e-retailers. Without making this post into an enormous spreadsheet of sales figures, between all my titles and across all print and electronic platforms I’ve had 1905 total sales and earned near enough to $1,450 in royalties.

That’s not setting the world on fire in the publishing business, but I’m proud of those numbers because it’s something I carried through every step of the creative process and convinced people to pay real money for. It’s a deeply satisfying experience.

When it comes to price, I keep it simple. For ebook buyers short stories go for $.99 and the longer works for $2.99. Paperback copies come in at $7.99. Those are pretty much the lowest prices allowed by the retailers unless you’re running a giveaway promotion. I realize that I’m competing against a host of people who have jumped into the epublishing world over the last five years. My logic there is that I don’t have a built in audience and can’t expect anyone to pick up something I write over any of the thousands of other “no name” competitors. I never wanted price point to be the factor that sent someone over to the next guy to find a bargain.

I’d love to spend a little time talking about what might be next, but the reality is I’ve got seven different files sitting on my desktop right now in various stages of development. One is ready for final editing. Most are somewhere between notes or rough outlines and fully fleshed out written chapters. Some are “mine” some belong to my alter ego. What I work on largely depends on my mood. It’s not exactly an efficient way to operate. It might not even be an effective way to operate. Fortunately, since I’m doing this more as a way to blow off stress and be creative, the need to be effective or efficient isn’t exactly a driving force.

I love writing and get a real charge out of seeing someone pay money to read something I’ve come up with. At heart, though, I still mostly identify as a half-assed blogger so it’s safe to assume that the lion’s share of the day’s word count is going to keep pouring out on these pages for the world to see at no additional charge.

You’re welcome.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

If you’re clicking over to jeffreytharp.com and it’s Thursday, there’s a better than average chance that you’re looking for What Annoys Jeff this Week. It’s the only weekly feature I offer here and it remains almost without exception my high water mark for readers each and every week. If you’re here to read the next installment of the top three major or minor annoyances this week, though, I’m afraid I’m about to disappoint you. That’s because I’m going to use the platform this afternoon to go down a much more self-congratulatory path… I think.

If you look closely at the web address up at the top of the page you’ll see that it’s showing WAJTW/301. For those not following along that means it’s the 301st time “What Annoys Jeff this Week” is being used as a title. Given the occasional missed Thursday (although there have been damned few of those) WAJTW has been showing up regularly here for six years. In that time there have been about 900 documented annoyances. I’m still trying to wrap my head around those numbers. Even I have to admit that’s more grievances than I expected… and I’m the one who took the time to write them all out. I refuse to even do the math on how much time got poured into that (but it rhymes with funhundred and fifty hours and that assumes it only took 30 minutes to bang out each post).

So, what do you do when you realize you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time cataloging and bitching about the myriad things that have agitated you over the last six years? Since it’s the start of a long weekend, you mostly shrug your shoulders, order up a pizza, and wonder what jackassery the world is going to throw at you over the next six years. Say what you will about my chosen theme, but if you trade in people who do stupid things and what pisses you off, the well is just about bottomless. In my own utterly jaded way, I’m actually thankful for that.

Kind of back…

After a long and glorious spread of days off, I found myself back to work today. Maybe I should say I found myself kind of back at any rate. I worked from the comfy confines of my home office, which is probably about as a good a way to ease back into it as one could reasonably expect. It was still painful and I know it will be more so tomorrow when I resume my customary position locked into the middle of the cube farm.

I don’t know that I’ll ever really make peace with needing to whore my brain out by the hour to the high bidder, but I’ve at least accepted it as the preferable alternative to starvation and homelessness. It seems likely that acceptance is probably as good as it’s going to get. I can’t foresee a circumstances where I would spring fully awake from bed each morning eager and happy to file forms, create new and better slides, and engage the bureaucracy in a ceaseless battle of attrition. Climbing from the bed with my lips twisted into a grimace and with a gritty determination just to get through to the close of business feels like something I can manage, though. That’s probably enough.

If nothing else, I know the posts here are going to start picking up again soon. Few things feed that beast more than anger, frustration, and cynicism. All of those elements are in short supply when I’m left to my own devices. It’s remarkable to see how the word count plummets when I pass a day not filled with meetings and random paperwork. By Thursday, I think it’s safe to assume I’ll have a full head of steam built up and be back in proper form… that may not exactly be a good thing, but it’s at least the enemy I know. That should probably count for something.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Warranty work. My fancy three year old tacticool backpack busted a clasp holding the shoulder strap together a few weeks ago. It’s got a “lifetime” warrantee, but they want you to send it back for them to look at it before they decide to repair or replace the offending piece. Look. Just send me the $.25 part and I’ll swap it myself. That seems like a solution that would make life easier on everyone. Apparently it is not.

2. Bad head space. I’ve been in a shit head space for a few weeks now. Taking every bit of available energy to manage a cool and reasonably calm exterior while the inside runs somewhere between a steady simmer and rolling boil. It’s just damned exhausting. Coming home every day ready to crawl into bed at 5PM isn’t my style when there’s things that need doing and I’m determined not to let the 8 hours I just spent whoring myself to the high bidder ruin the reason I’m whoring myself out to begin with. The up side is that when I do finally crawl into bed, I’m out like someone flipping off a switch so it makes for some awfully deep and dreamless sleep. So I’ve got that going for me.

3. Elephants in the room. There’s a great big obvious topic I’d dearly love to write about this week in far more detail. Doing so, of course, would violate my personal guidelines about how much of those details get posted online. Sometimes writing in generalities just isn’t the kind of catharsis you need to address the elephant in the room. Some day, if I manage to escape getting hit by a bus or stroking out at my desk, I’m sure everything will find it’s way into print. Somehow, though, I’m sure it won’t feel as good as saying it when my blood is up.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Forgetting Tuesday. So as it turns out, when I have more than two days off I lose all sense of time and do things like completely forget to write a blog post in the middle of the week. Since the chances of finding too many four-day weekends in the course of a year is slim to none, I’m not worried that this will become a regular occurrence… but really any deviation from the normal schedule is enough to make me just a little bit twitchy, especially when it’s something as built into the daily schedule as writing. Maybe we are all entitled to an occasional misfire, but I like to think my inner sense of consistency is stronger than that. Apparently it is not.

2. Luddites. I work from home one day a week. To make that possible I rely on a lot of decades-old technology such as email and the telephone to stay connected to the home office. When I discover that my normal day for working at home is going to be shanghaied because I’m “needed” at the office, that usually translates into having to have someone available to flip the slides. That’s fine. Whatever. But when you’re going to want to do things like that could you please not let me find out that the person we’re staging this meeting for will be talking to us from his car on the way to some other meeting while I drag myself in to the office to huddle around a single land line like a congress of latter-day Luddites. If only there were a fancy device that let people hear voice communication from more than once location simultaneously instead of trying to pretend we exist in a universe where the best solution is two tin cans and a bit of string.

3. The oblivious. There are any number of awkward things that can happen in the modern office. Of them, the one that annoys me the most is probably the people who have no natural sense of when a conversation has hit it’s logical conclusion. They just continue to stand there looking at you as if you’re supposed to stop the world and entertain them for whatever duration their attention span can muster. Look, even when I’m not pressed for time, I don’t want to spend any significant part of the day in idle chatter. I’m just not that social. If you’re that desperate for social interaction, hit me up on instant messenger like a normal human being. I can work with that. But please, for the love of all the gods, don’t just stand there with your arms draped over my cube wall hoping that I’m suddenly going to get chatty. And yet I’d be the asshole if I just looked directly at someone and told them to go the fuck away.

Three long days…

I had three long days to get a post together. I’d like to sit here and make some brilliant excuse for why it didn’t happen. The truth is I kind of completely forgot that today was actually Monday and not the second coming of Sunday. The fact that it’s Monday utterly escaped my mind is the closest thing I have to an excuse for today’s lack of pithy commentary/bitching and complaining.

If I’m painfully honest it was nice to have three consecutive days when I wasn’t particularly worried about stringing words together in something close to a coherent (and mildly entertaining) order. I’m sure all will be as normal by this time tomorrow, but just now I’m going to soak in the last of these three days and appreciate them for the unplanned break they became.

Seven years, but still no itch…

Way back in January of 2010 I was casting around for a new blog platform. Having moved the original blog over from MySpace to Blogger, I was really looking for the place on the internet that could give me a permanent home – or at least a home that’s as permanent as we make anything in the electronic world. I did my homework and tried to assess all of the potential platforms, finally landing on WordPress as the one that seemed not only to offer exactly what I needed, but the one that seemed least likely to go belly up in six months.

A few credit card payments to secure domain names and for hosting fees and *poof*, WordPress became the one stop shop for whatever words felt like they needed said on any given day. Very little has changed here in the intervening seven years. In fact the page format is almost exactly as it was when I started posting here back then. Fortunately I made a point of choosing a layout that wasn’t destined to feel like a throwback to the early days of the internet and at least to my eye it’s managed to avoid looking too terribly dated.

One of the biggest reasons I selected WordPress from the competitors was that through WordPress.org it gives you the power to control nearly every possible element of your site. Despite good intentions to learn all of those under the hood management tools, I remain stubbornly fixed at the .com version of WordPress. It’s probably time I accept that I’m never going to be the nuts and bolts designer of this place and stick to what I do at least with some marginal level of skill – putting a few simple words on a blank screen and convincing a few people a day to give them a read.

As always, I’m happy to be spending one more “big day” on WordPress with any and all who stumble across my small portion of the internet. We’re seven years in and I still feel like I’m just getting warmed up.