Venue and reason for my murderous gathering...
A gathering of assorted people intent on murder, in the spooky, beautiful old Lit and Phil library, on a wet snowy night - it could have been the start of a Golden Age crime novel, and who knows, several novels and stories may emerge from the twenty writers who attended my ‘Time for Crime’ Workshop as part of Newcastle Noir crime fiction festival. The old massively-carved tables had been arranged in a long line, as if some League of Assassins were expected. Some attendees had dabbled in crime fiction, and others were hesitating on the brink of villainy, as I assigned writing exercises to produce Chandleresque 'first lines' to grab the reader by the throat, then others to help create villains and to evolve detective protagonists who might become as famous as Vera, Lord Peter Wimsey or Jack Reacher. I was not slow to remind them of one of the joys of crime writing, revenge on school bullies, cheating exes and abusive bosses. 'Favourite tip tonight, "Murder them horribly"' posted one happy workshoppee on facebook later, one who may need to be silenced... mwahahahaha!
My most recent crime novel, sadistic surgeons get the scalpel

My mob-handed turnout brings me to money. Money for murder, in the form of books and event tickets. The things people are willing to pay for, and not. The amount people are willing to pay, and unwilling. A short while before the workshop, the librarian in charge told me the bookings were high, up to 16, and should they stop there? I answered airily, 'Oh no, if it rains some of them will stay at home, so take a few more.' As it turned out, all 19 who’d booked and paid turned up, plus an extra one, despite the awful wet snow pelting down (yes, in April). Was this my famed brilliance as writer and tutor, or the fact they’d shelled out for their tickets in advance? Or both perhaps.

It’s a well-known phenomenon among performers and poets and the like that if tickets are free, some people who’ve booked may change their minds if it’s raining, they’ve got home from work and settled down in front of a warm telly. If you charge say, £3 or even £2 each, that number goes down. Once the public have coughed up a tenner, they may well venture forth even if the flooded streets are teeming with escaped killer sharks.
Mmm, posh drinks... now to find a free ebook...
Yes these are hard times dosh-wise, but it seems expensive cocktails, often the price of a paperback novel, and posh coffees in coffee shops, are happily paid for despite their ephemeral existence and ease of home-making, yet book prices cause a kind of tetanus of the wallet. There is much discussion among writers about how much to charge for books, especially ebooks. We as readers are so spoiled by ‘free!’ Kindle books, or 99p/99c offers, we rear like startled yearlings when we see a fiver or so. My local book group, when choosing next month’s book, always check that it’s available on Kindle as most of us prefer that – and if it’s expensive, there’s a shocked gasp and a chorus of ‘let’s not bother’. Anything over £4.99 has to look pretty damn good. And sometimes ebooks are overpriced. We looked up ‘Circling the Sun', a fictionalised account of the life of exotic aviatrix Beryl Markham, and found the Kindle version is £9.99,  £2 dearer than the paperback – odd, since the overheads for each are so madly different. We then found and chose Beryl’s 1942 autobiography 'West With The Night' which is cheaper and in her actual voice, and though still a tad pricey, must have had to be scanned in page by page and converted to Word with much editing before being Kindled.
An amazing woman, who wouldn't worry about the price of a cocktail or indeed, a cockpit

How about you, do you count the cost of Kindle books? How much are you willing to pay for a paperback or an ebook, compared with a coffee or cocktail? Not that I can hang about here chatting,  I've just read that Lauren Henderson's first crime novel 'Dead White Female' is free this weekend, having gone newly into Kindle format, so I'm off to bag one, having loved her sexy, witty series  when it first came out.
Free this weekend on Kindle

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Some of my thirteen books, including crime novels, are now on Kindle UK US, iBooks UK USKoboNook and more, on all platforms worldwide.
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Chris Longmuir said…
What a brilliant start to a miserable day and you are so right about everything you say. I just wish I had been present at your Newcastle Noir event, it sounded great. Money for Murder, I love it. It would make a great book title, when are you writing it?
Jan Needle said…
great post. thanks val
Lydia Bennet said…
Very apropos, I've just seen a post on fb, an author was contacted by a reader who praised her books but said she'd returned them all to amazon after reading as they cost too much - between 99p and 2.99 - so she read them fast and sent them back. Would the author make all her books free in future. Incredible! Thanks for comments Jan and Chris. :)
glitter noir said…
Wise and witty words. Russell Blake wrote of one reader who wrote to tell him how much she loved the free, promotional titles in one of his series. But she complained that the remaining titles were not free, which wasn't fair. RB wrote back to thank her for writing and to point out that giveaways are intended to draw in new, paying readers so that the artist can be paid for his/her many year of training and hard work. And, he pointed, it would defeat that purpose if he gave away all of his books. She wrote back to tell him it would be a cold day in hell before she'd pay a penny to a greedy bastard like himself.
Enid Richemont said…
Chris - re- revenge, might you incorporate Lydia and Reb's so-called 'readers' into a VERY sadistic crime novel? L and R could email you their own gruesome details/suggestions offline.
Jan Needle said…
i'd like to meet that lady, reb. a princess among women! i once did a whole day in a school in sheffield for thirty quid. at lunchtime one of the english teachers told me he didnt know how i had the cheek to accept payment because teachers were underpaid, unlike people who just wrote books. i took him for a pint to try and shame him. it didnt work....
I've only seen Newcastle from the train, or in "Get Carter!" of looks like just the right setting for a Crime Workshop.
I can even imagine the unleashing of Killer Sharks upon those streets and alleys.
It's harder to imagine a scenario though, where readers (or perhaps any other "consumers") don't want to part with the least pennies possible...unless that is they've been successfully hooked and reeled in by some free or cheap content upfront. (Library books being the "first taste" a reader might try of a new author in Ye Olden Days...)
That £4.99 pricetag looks interesting, I've never priced anything that high...yet...
Thanks Val!
Excellent post, Valerie - and what a great idea. I'd definitely have come myself! And yes, people do tend to value more the things they have to pay for. The FB author should certainly have pointed out to her reader that Amazon very much frowns on people reading and returning books in this way. They know. They'll stand so much, but if it happens too often, they have been known to close accounts!
Umberto Tosi said…
Well, that was fun to read! Thanks, Valerie! I got a nice gritty taste of the genre too. There a so many ways for us to give away our work. What a lovely world. I price some works high to move lower priced ones as "bargains" myself. Then there's always Amazon Prime, which can be used with care, I'd say for the older works. Your class sounds wonderful. I'd sign up myself were I in range.
Chris Longmuir said…
Interesting! I wonder if the fast reader is the one who always downloads and returns each new book I publish? I'm not bothered much by returns but this one stands out because it always happens within the first month of publication. I always watch for this now! And you're right Catherine, Amazon knows exactly how much of a book is read. I wonder if this reader is aware of this?
Lydia Bennet said…
But if Amazon can see this person keeps doing it Chris, how come they've not pinged the appropriate algorithm by now? I do think returns have to be allowed as they are for other amazon products, but if over a certain amount has been read, it should be refused.

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