The Indie Dollar Store

Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

Gird ye loins, oh Authors! Touchy subject ahead.

A book, fiction or non-fiction, is an author’s blood, sweat and tears. However, what is its true value on today’s market? More accurately, what is its perceived true value?

Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale. Everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wonder whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid.
– Soren Kierkegaard

If a writer is in any way reasonable, he\she should be pleased that Stephen King frightened millions of dollars out of his fans’ wallets, and that J.K. Rowling can now afford a solid platinum magic wand. Good for them! However, as a general rule, traditional publishers wouldn’t offer their own mothers a sizable advance on novice literary or genre fiction, and most indie authors would be more than happy if their books produced enough income to exceed the Federal Poverty Level.

One obvious exception, there is always a market for religious books promising salvation in presidential election years.

Note also, there are many supporters of today’s budding authors, usually parents who dream of using those truly magic words, “He finally made enough to move out of the house.”


Indie books are now a large segment of the publishing market, and this was achieved by a high percentage of authors pricing their books at 99¢.

Yes, indie market share is in large part dependent on The Indie Dollar Store!

When did one dollar become the fair market price for an author’s blood, sweat and tears? When did our society lose all respect for the starving artist?

These questions are even more viable when you consider that one of our most derisive insults is to call someone a ‘two-dollar whore.’ That’s right, some of our countries best writers are now cheaper than a guaranteed STD.

Now, I have nothing against any dollar store. In fact, I shop at them fairly often, mostly buying things that are ridiculously overpriced in any reasonable world. To date, my spilled milk has not complained that it was wiped up by a cheap paper towel, and my toilet has only on rare occasions complained that I didn’t pay double or triple for bathroom cleaning products. However—I have to be honest—at that same dollar store, I have only purchased one paperback—yes, for a dollar. In my defense, the book was supposed non-fiction written by a politician, and I consider it very reasonable that I NOT pay full price to be lied to in writing.

Yet, I’ve purchased quite a few eBooks online at their full price of 99¢!

Many indie authors price their book at 99¢ for the simple reason that many people will no longer pay more for a good read. Why this creates a problem is easier to understand if we use a little sixth-grade math and frame it as a word problem:

If Johnny sells 100 eBooks to cheap bastards avid readers who will only pay 99¢, and the online bookstores take 30 to 40 percent, how many days this month can Johnny afford to eat?

It’s at this point that even the most talented novice writer begins to look for a gainfully employed spouse.

Or not.

Historically, poverty is not unusual for any artist. For instance, Van Gogh only sold two paintings in his lifetime, and it’s rumored that one was remaindered at a dollar store.

Book Cover image


We must also consider the entire world market. In fairness, every product on today’s market is cheaper than it was a generation ago if you compare apples to Fuji apples, adjust for inflation, and still have any disposable income leftover.

However, should such economic theories and woes apply to hard working writers? Is pouring your heart and soul onto the electronically printed page a labor of love because that’s all we’re ever going to get?

Further, is it morally justified that books today are cheaper than they were for your parents’ generation? For example, in 1970 a good ebook cost…

Uh…give me a minute here…uh…

Parting Funny: Limited carry-on—the stewardess said your carry-on bag had to fit in the ass of the passenger in front of you.Dennis Miller
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