I'm primarily an author, but I enjoy working in business, too. My husband and I buy closeouts from major U.S. manufacturers and resell them to discount stores. When the dollar stores gained popularity years back, U.S. manufacturers couldn’t compete with the off-brand imitations being sold for a dollar. Americans fell in love with dollar items, but it didn’t take long for people to notice that, not only was the price cheap, so was the quality. You can’t manufacture quality for under a buck, at least not with consumer goods.  How about with a 99-cent book?

As an author, I write about a psychologically tormented detective and each book in the series chronicles his mental healing process.  Each case to which he’s assigned ignites whatever point he’s at in his psychological progression. The first book received critical acclaim and the second book is due out this year.  It is important to me that the psychology I present is accurate along with any forensic information. I don’t mind doing the research because I enjoy learning new things.

When I realized that authors were putting out their novels at 99 cents, I was disappointed, but not surprised.  I work in the discount business, after all. But to me, there’s a vast difference between wholesale closeouts of dish soap and creative writing.

What happens when you begin to demand bargain basement prices for Fine Art? As in the business world, you might find yourself holding an “off-brand” imitation.

It takes a lot of effort to give readers a truly heart-pounding thrill or a spine-tingling mystery from beginning to end. Is it worth putting in hours of time and research only to be paid under a buck for it? That doesn’t sound like a good ROI (return of investment).  Maybe that’s why some writers are bypassing the traditional approach to writing a novel.

I know a voracious reader (Mr. Bob P) who has downloaded numerous 99-cent books. Bob says,  “I have read many 99 cent books. None have been very good. Some started out alright but collapsed in the middle.”

Why would the books collapse in the middle?  As you know, many e-books offer the first few chapters free to get you hooked.  Maybe the idea is to get you hooked, but then the buck (pun intended) stops there.  Why put out effort to write a novel that is only worth a dollar? Why not get the reader hooked in the “free” opening chapters and then figure out some ending just to be done with it? Get on to the next book. Sell more.  Low profit, high volume.

But does that business model belong in the world of creative writing? Most books already cost less than a movie ticket and the entertainment lasts hours longer.

Now, I understand promotion.  I don’t blame an author who is “running a special” or trying to get an edge in a highly competitive field.  And in these recession-filled times, the lure of the 99-cent book is strong.  Readers like Mr. Bob say, “What do I have to lose? It’s only a dollar.”

Well, it’s also your time and the kind of stories you want to fill your brain. Ultimately, it’s your choice.  Still, I hope that cost alone is not a factor when choosing your brand of entertainment.  Patronage of the arts is absolutely essential because it would be a shame to toss Fine Art into the bottom of a bargain bin.

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