Buy your favourite author a latte

Five Rivers’ editor, Robert Runte, recently posted the following very cogent article on his blog at We’re reprinting it here with his permission.

Reading a “review” of Five River’s new Dave Duncan release on Amazon, I was taken aback by someone rating the book was one star because it was priced at $4 for a novella. The reviewer made it clear that he hadn’t actually read the book, but was merely incensed at the price.

Leaving aside the obvious disservice of erroneously giving a one star quality rating when really the complaint is about the cost rather then the quality of the writing, I simply don’t get the attitude that authors, editors, cover artists and publishers should all work for free. An unfortunate result, perhaps, of the burgeoning self-publishing industry where substandard authors—desperate for an audience—price their books at $0.99, or give it away free in hopes of attracting readers. I understand the principle of giving away the first book in a series in hopes of attracting sales to more recently issued volumes in the series, but what we’re seeing is a race to the bottom.

Promotional giveaways notwithstanding, in general you get what you pay for. 

Or to put it another way, I don’t get why some people seem to believe that writing should be sold by the pound or linear foot. Fifty Shades of Grey is 528 pages long but does that really make it worth a cover price three times higher than Duncan’s novella? To me, it should be the other way around: Duncan’s books are the ones worth reading. Once you get past the actual paper costs (not relevant in digital books), there is no reason to assume that longer should necessarily cost more, or that shorter needs be massively discounted, to the point where writing and publishing are no longer economical. 

I think a novella by Dave Duncan is worth $4. I pay more for my morning latte. Dave’s novella took considerably longer to read than a latte to drink, and the pleasure of that reading lasted longer yet.

If the cover of the latest issue of, say, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine included a short story by Dave Duncan, I would have immediately paid $6 for the magazine to get that story. Indeed, I did renew my subscription to NeoOpsis  Magazine awhile back because they had a Dave Duncan short story in the latest issue. So why is it that some people suddenly find $4 an outrageous price for a novella when its a standalone package?

I love Duncan’s stuff, and I want him to write more of it, so am willing to pay him to go do that. Specifically, to write the next two books in this series. A consumer will end up paying $11.95 for all three novellas in the series. And you know what? I’m okay with paying $11.95 for a Duncan novel or story collection. His books are worth at least that much of my coffee money. 

So here’s the thing: if you ran into your favourite author at the mall, wouldn’t you offer to buy him a latte if you got to sit and listen to him tell a story for an hour?