Friday, August 17, 2012
A Latte, My Mystery, or Both?
A few hours after posting the previous blog, in which I forecast a future for dead-tree books for some time to come, I had to attend a meeting in Santa Cruz. Before it started, I was talking with several people I know, and one of them asked how my book was doing.
Another asked what kind of book it was, and when I replied it was a mystery novel, he said he was a big mystery fan and asked for the name of it. I told him The McHenry Inheritance, and in about 30 seconds he showed me the cover, from Amazon, on his iPhone. When I told him that was the one, he bought it on the spot and showed everyone the title page on his phone. Then another friend, also a mystery fan, joined the conversation, and the guy who had just bought the book sent him a link as we stood there.
I wish selling books could always be that easy.
Instant Digital Gratification
At $2.99 for the e-book, my mystery, like a latte, is essentially an impulse purchase. The internet makes it way too easy to buy something on the spur of the moment, but since that’s working in my favor at the moment, I’m not complaining.
Shortly after Christmas I was reading The New York Times Sunday book section on my iPad when I came across a review of Death Comes to Pemberley, a mystery novel by British author P.D. James, drawing on characters from Pride and Prejudice. My wife, Linda, is a big Jane Austen fan, so I e-mailed the review to her, along with a query: Want to buy? From the next room, she e-mailed back yes, so I went to Amazon, bought the book with one click, and a few minutes later had it on my iPad ready to go. She stayed up late that night to get started reading it.
For all the ease of doing it that way, I am not yet a total convert. Probably three out of four books that I read are actual printed books. I subscribe to the Times on my iPad and enjoy it very much, but find it maddeningly slow at times — three to four minutes to bring up a page in the worst case. I’ve been a New Yorker subscriber since 1968 and get the iPad version as well as the print. I read about a third of it on the pad and the rest in the mail-delivered print version.
The ability to buy something on the spur of the moment has its downside. A few months ago I was in a large department store trying to cash out a couple of bucks on a gift card. The only person ahead of me was a woman with two Santa Claus-sized bags in tow, from which she was taking item after item, which then had to be scanned for a return. As the line began to build behind her, she turned, flashed a wry smile, and said:
“Sorry. I do a lot of online shopping.”
When I recently offered my book free on Amazon, more than 300 people bought it. If 15 of them actually read it and post a review, I’ll be doing pretty well. Most of the rest probably grabbed it because it looked halfway interesting and the price was right. It was an easy score, but probably with not much reward. It calls to mind Carrie Fisher’s famous line, “The problem with instant gratification is that it isn’t fast enough.”