Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why I Like Horror

In a recent email exchange, a friend expressed surprise that Horror is one of my favorite genres in fiction. Here's how I explained why:

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I have an odd fascination with archetypal good vs. evil (or, God vs. Satan) stories. I guess it's because, even though I don't really believe in good and evil in the Biblical or religious sense, others' unwavering belief in them seems like the primary driving force behind most human behavior and societal frameworks. Whether you're talking about education, politics, law, economics, or even entertainment, notions of what's good and what's evil are in there somewhere.

I don't go for ALL Horror, though. For example, I was never a fan of the zombie sub-genre and I can't wait for that trend to peter out. I don't find stories where it's basically a bunch of people running/fighting for their lives against some destructive horde very interesting.

The kind of Horror I'm drawn to is the sort where the stakes aren't just about saving one life, or even thousands of lives, but saving the souls of all of mankind. It's a very rich literary vein, dating all the way back to Dante's Inferno.

Horror can be tremendously inventive (see Neil Gaiman's American Gods, for example: it's a sort of fantasy/horror hybrid) without getting too sprawling (like traditional Fantasy or Sci Fi often does), and there's a lot of catharsis in it. Seeing one guy, or an unlikely team, defeat evil-with-a-capital-E definitely keeps my experiences with internet trolls, red-tape-loving government workers and rude drivers in perspective.

Also, what character could possibly be more interesting, or relatable, than Satan? According to the Bible's version of events, he was (and still is) an angel. He was banished for mutiny, essentially. He thought it was unfair of God to place mortal man above the angels, it was ultimately a fight for angelic civil rights. How many of our worldly political revolutions and wars have been built on similar foundations? To me, any Horror that traces its roots back to that first big Biblical throwdown has a lot of built-in depth, whether the creators of the piece intended it or not.

So I'm a sucker for archetypal good vs. evil stories (Constantine, The Ninth Gate, The Exorcist, The Shining, The Stand, etc.) and vampire stories, because vampires are considered to be no less "fallen" than Satan.

I don't write in the Horror genre because I don't think I have the right sensibilities or skills for it. But I'm very glad that others do.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How To Sell Your Integrity, $470 At A Time

Here are two new questions authors need to add to their vetting process when considering hiring out for costly author courses, services and how-to books:

Do you have an affiliate program for this product or service I'm considering, and if so, how much of the sales price will be paid to the affiliate advertiser?

Imagine that the answers to those questions are, "Yes, I do have an affiliate program, and half of the price you pay is sent back to the affiliate whose link you followed."

So far, so bad. Now imagine the price you're being asked to pay is $940, and $470 of that fee will be paid to the affiliate.

Pick your jaw up off the ground because I'm sorry to tell you, this is not some far-fetched scenario. Today I received this exact offer to become an affiliate advertiser for someone offering author and book marketing/publicity products and services.

I get affiliate requests pretty frequently but anyone who reads this blog or visits the Publetariat site regularly knows I don't say "yes" to many of them. Today's request is just about the best example I've seen to date for explaining why.

Here are the pertinent excerpts from the email invitation, with my comments below each. Note that any boldface emphasis in the quoted passages has been added by me.

I am writing today to suggest a partnership: make this course available simply by letting their existence be known. With my affiliate program, the seller earns a full 50% commission. Although the science exposed is worth hundreds of times more then what is being charged for this air-tight system, the Amazon course is priced at a disquieting rock-bottom $937! Each time a client purchases the course, $468.50 will be deposited into your PayPal account.

I wouldn't call $940 for a course in how to game Amazon a "rock-bottom" or "disquieting" price. Well, maybe disquieting, but not in the way this offer intends. Considering how many books and courses on that very topic are already available for a fraction of that price, and how many free resources are available on that topic as well, I'd say "highway robbery" is a more accurate descriptor to use here.

So why is the price so high, you wonder? That would be on account of the $470 this publicist pays the affiliate on each sale generated by the affiliate.

If I were to accept this offer and start promoting the program to my readers, and one of those readers who signed up were to later learn HALF the cost she paid for the program went to me as an affiliate advertiser fee, she would feel I'd been dishonest and greedy, and that the publicist had ripped her off. And she'd be right.

How could I possibly stand behind this program as a good value for the money, knowing HALF of that money is going to pay (maybe "bribe" is the more accurate term to use here) affiliates? How could this course possibly be worth $940 if the woman who created it is willing to give away half the purchase price on every sale to an affiliate?

Please let me know if it would be of interest to sample the course to ascertain this match made in heaven: a plethora of magical material tailor-made for the self-published author, coupled with exposure to a large population of our shared target market. A mere 20 sales a month garners a cool six figure side-income- not bad for mailbox money!

This is the passage that troubles me the most about the email because there are plenty of desperate and greedy people out there in the online bookish world who will immediately accept this invitation, start promoting the hell out of the program, and have no ethical qualms about it at all.

These are some tough economic times and as a single mom raising two kids, one of whom is heading off to culinary school this fall, I could definitely use the additional income. But I won't line my pockets by emptying the pockets of people who trust me. follow-up tradebook, [Title] ...This industry textbook is chock full of secrets about which PR firms never want their clients to know. In and of itself, [this book] is worth thousands of dollars. However, I also sell it independently for $295 because our goal is to help the self-published author achieve at an affordable price-point.

I wouldn't say $300 is "an affordable price-point" for a BOOK. At least, not unless there's a cashier's check for at least $250 bound into it. And given that elsewhere in the email she says she throws this book in for free when someone buys the $940 program, it's hard to believe it's really worth anything near $300.

So I'm going to reply to this woman with a fairly curt, "No," and invite her to read this blog post if she wants to know why I'm not taking her up on "this match made in heaven", and why I'm not anxious to start working on that six-figure side income.

My integrity is not for sale.