Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Value of Money

I've bitten the metaphorical bullet and lowered the price of The Dawn Herald to 99 pence. A difficult decision. While I was crafting a hen pie (leeks, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, Fino sherry, white wine, mustard, chicken stock, browned chicken, lemon zest, thyme and heavy cream) and roast potatoes (in duck fat, crusted with rock salt, naturally) for a dinner party we had last night (during which I bit the Dude, and not merely from hunger: I'm still not entirely sure why. Suffice to say, I was vexed about *something*) I gave the knotty problem some considerable thought. A glass of wine and a touch of lightheadness later (note to self: don't drink blends, only the pure stuff), I came to the conclusion that the reason why I and half the world's population balk at cheap stuff is precisely because it IS cheap.
The cheaper the item the less likely people are to want it, except at Sale time, when they lunge on uninspiring blouses and vomit-coloured trousers with all the frenzy of a Dude at feeding-time. No-one would ever imagine that the cubic zirconia from Claire's Accessories bear any relation to De Beers' diamonds. Because De Beers charges up to many millions for its pieces, rather than 99pence. People wouldn't willingly choose a Vauxhall Astra over a Lamborghini. Rarity value is everything. And books are no exception.
What books do you associate with 99pence? Why, discounted books, of course. In one of those metal cages that resemble large wastepaper baskets with 'Clearance' on the side. Or in a warehouse of all the books that had become too dog-eared and foxed on the shop floor. Or the books no-one wanted, the rejected brainchildren of many a hopeful author. Conversely, books selling for the requisite £8.99 command respect. They've been printed by proper publishing houses, they seem to say. By people who want the author's work and are prepared to market it for them. Illustrated by entire departments of artists. With fonts especially created for them. £8.99 and above sounds serious. 99 pence does not.
However, I've decided that the rarity quotient just doesn't apply to virtual media. Bands put their music out there for free. The finest writers jot thinkpieces in the ether. Great art is available for the entire world to see and be inspired by. And offering a book on Kindle for 99 pence doesn't devalue it. On the contrary, it allows the author the kind of exposure that costs a publishing house millions of pounds in publicity - for free. Success is an elusive sort of thing, desperately sought by many and achieved only by the very few: one must use whatever means are at one's disposal to achieve it.

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