elf: We have met the enemy and he is us. (Met the enemy)
[personal profile] elf posting in [community profile] sps
At some point, hopefully soon, I'll write a squee-filled rec for Sing My Name by Ellen O'Connell, and exhort all my friends who have any hint of interest in historical romance to go read it, and hey look, if you're not sure it's to your tastes, you can download & read the first 50,000 words to decide if it's worth paying $3 for the rest. (It's worth it. I've never read a romance novel with slashy subtext minor characters before, and now I want fanfic for Beau and Roddy.) (I will be asking for this book at Yuletide. Really.) O'Connell has two other books; I've read one and it was great (this is better) and I've now bought the third, which doesn't say "romance" but I've decided I no longer care. She goes on the short list of "just buy it all."

This isn't that squee. This is a raised-eyebrows, look-over-the-glasses, oh-no-he-didn't look at a different ebook: The Berlin Sex Shop Episode, by Mister Average, which I suspect is a pseudonym. I found this one by browsing recent uploads to Smashwords (because that's about the only way to find anything at Smashwords) and I was just... boggled.

He (there's no rule that says "Mister Average" has to be a he, of course, but I'm going with the standard conventions here for pronoun use) has 6 other "ebooks," which average about 4000 words, and each of which are priced at $2.99. That's right; he wants $2.99 for this 4150 word short story, just like O'Connell wants $2.99 for her 135,000-word epic.

I get that I am not a magazine editor; I don't buy fic by the word. I don't value long stories more than short ones; there's a 400-word 4-drabble series that I re-read about once every two years, because it hits me like a knife every time. I do, however, value long stories greatly, because I like to be reading for hours and hours, and no matter how excellent a short story is, the hours of entertainment it provides aren't *reading* hours.

I expect short fic to cost less than long fic. I expect Ms. O'Connell put many, many more hours into writing her story than Mr. Average did into writing his, and I'm willing to pay more for those hours. Although I grant that the difference between writing a 75k book and a 150k book may not be too much, depending on the writer's skills, there's something in me that just says writing 5000 words is much, much less demanding on a writer than 100,000. (Maybe because I've written things that were 5,000 words long, and not things that were 100,000 words long. Even *really hard work* 5k word stories, with fingernail-chewing to get the right phrase and frantic Google searches to track down odd historical details, don't eat that much of one's life. They just don't.)

But hey--maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe Mr. Average's fics are so clever, so scorching hot (they're erotica), so panty-soakingly excellent that I won't care if they cost twice as much, because his ficlets are the stuff that revives dull marriages and turns double dates into orgies. Maybe he's just got a $3 minimum for ebooks 'cos he thinks that's a good starting price, and somewhere under another name he's got novels for $7. Maybe his stories about taboo sex are so boundary-pushing I'd be dying to throw money at him. (I bet you can see where this is going.)

So, what does the Berlin Sex Shop Episode have to say for itself?
One of the benefits of travelling is that you become anonymous, and you can do things you may not do at home. On a visit to Berlin, we were brave and decided to head into a sex shop. We had no idea that what we experienced would be so exhilarating. It was wild. So good, I had to sneak back there again later... for more sex with strangers!
So far, so good. 1st person POV, which is common for erotica. Nice solid kink-meme premise with a background that works for original characters, either as a stand-alone or connected to other stories. The writing in the blurb isn't particularly inspiring, but there's nothing wrong with it--no weird grammar or bad spelling that jumps out at me. (I don't bother with anything that has grammar or spelling errors in the blurb. If the author can't proofread the advert, I don't trust the quality of the story.) So, would I be interested in the Berlin Episode? Lemme look...

No sample.

None.

I can't even read the opening few paragraphs to decide if I like this author's writing style.

So, ahm... I'm looking at Mr. Average's kink stories, in which he wants a total of just under $21 for 28,000 words of erotica of unknown writing quality, heat level, kinks (other than what's in the descriptions: forbidden partners, 3somes, exhibitionism, and a bit of D/S), formatting, and really, length, because that 4000 words could include five paragraphs of author bio and hype for his webpage.

Will I be reviewing Mr Average's works? Hell no. Mr Average can round up his own readers. He seems to think that kinky stories are so rare and precious online that people will fork over the price of a novel for ~15 minutes reading material. (Fictionwise's estimate. I read a lot faster than that. But theoretically, one would slow down to savor a short story.) He's got clever titles like "The English Milf" and "The Girl Friend Who Wanted To Be Punished," which probably tells me a lot more about the content than an actual preview would. (They all seem to be 1st person POV male stories. Hmm. Fancy that.)

He must think he's an incredible author, so much that his story descriptions will get people to throw money at him hand over fist. Or that he's writing such exotic material that people will take a chance on it, because it's so rare.

Heh. Had I a stronger social network and better coordination & cheerleading skills (and time to waste), I might try to coordinate a kinkfest based on the works of Mister Average--or rather, based on the titles and descriptions. "Here, pick a fandom, and write 4000-6000 words that fit this summary." I bet we could get some *scorching* fic out of that, even given the fairly blatant privilege-laden straight-cis-male focus he's set up. But I'm not doing that. I'm just looking at his "ebook" description (I always feel a bit weird calling a 4000-word story a "book"), and comparing it to O'Connell's epic-length mega-novel, and boggling.

When Konrath talks about what it takes to be a successful self-published author? This isn't it.
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