Friday, January 18, 2013

Chipping Away At the Fiscal Cliff One Book At a Time

The Fiscal Cliff. It is a term we have all heard a million times before. It is the proverbial dead horse that has been beaten and ground into the mud so many times, there is little left to look upon but a greasy smear. I certainly have grown weary of the debates and the raucousness associated with those two little words. I had pretty much decided to move on with my life and ignore the Fiscal Cliff - that is until I found myself pushed over its edge. 

I got my first paycheck from my day job for 2013 the other day, and I saw in bright, undeniable terms just how real the Fiscal Cliff was to me and how real it would be to millions of Americans across this great country of ours. Frankly, it hurt me in the pocket book. My check was smaller.....much smaller. I discovered to my horror I was bringing home less money than I did when I started my job some 5 years ago. I found myself scrambling to redistribute money I had already budgeted out for bills, groceries, and, yes, the occasional moment of entertainment with a now more anemic pot of money, just to get me through another two weeks before my next anorexic paycheck was direct deposited, so I could start the process all over again.

I resented this process and the shock my sudden fiscal misfortune caused, but it got me thinking. As I worked through the devastating effects of the Fiscal Cliff reality on my life, I knew there would be others who were battling with the same predicaments I was, and they would be asking the same question I found myself asking as I looked through my list of wants and needs, determining what I could actually afford. What expendable item should I cut from my budget first? I knew the answer before I even asked the question. Entertainment items would be the first thing to go. The fun things are usually what suffer in times of financial crisis. The more expensive the fun thing is, the more likely it is to be cut from the list.

It is a shame when you think about it. The fun things suffer when hardship comes. In hardship, aren't we most in need of something to distract us and take our minds off of the difficulties we face, even if it is for just a brief moment? As I thought about this conundrum of finances versus entertainment needs, I thought about my writing and my first novel. I want more than anything to make a living doing what I love to do. In order to do that, I have to have an audience for my first novel. If I have an audience for my first novel, as I work diligently on my second novel, it will create (hopefully) an automatic readership for it. The key to this happening is for people to buy the first book and fall in love with what they read. If the country is locked in a financial crisis where most families are faced with the same dilemma of a limited budget, the likelihood of my first novel being included as part of that budget dwindles.

The thought was pretty disheartening at first; this idea of my potential success as a writer being affected by circumstances in Washington that were out of my control. Then it hit me. I may not be able to control what happens in Washington or even what choices people make in regards to what stays on the budgetary list and what does not, but I can make my first novel more affordable and more accessible to the average reader on a budget. And that is exactly what I have done. I have permanently lowered the price of The Chronicles of Mister Marmee ~ The Case of Jack the Nipper eBook from $4.99 to $2.99.

When I was a kid growing up, we didn't have a lot of money. In fact there were most weeks where we spent the last few days before payday on a wing and a prayer. I babysat, did mail in rebates (when they were still offered in the coupon section), collected aluminum cans.....you name it.....just to bring in a little extra money to help my family make ends meet. I never thought of us as poor. I just knew we were cash deficient. My one big treat every now and again was a trip to the used book store that was down the road from our house. It was back in the day when a new paperback book was under $3. This bookstore sold used books for half off the cover price, and I could usually afford to spend $3 every other week or so. I would scour the shelves for my hidden treasures and would carefully count out the change to the man who owned the store when I found exactly what I was looking for. Somehow it always came out just right. It never went over the $3 I carried in my pocket. There was always some 'special deal' that kept me from having to part with one of my treasures and put it back on the shelf with the hope it would still be there the next time I came to call.

I have often thought back on that time and the used bookstore I loved so much. I believe in my heart of hearts the owner knew my financial situation and always managed to find a way to work out the price of my treasures so I could afford to have some distraction in my day to day life. He knew I needed to have those worlds to lose myself in. Those wondrous worlds found only in the pages of my beloved books. I don't think he ever made much money off of me, but I think he gained a lot more from the experience than could ever be deposited in the bank.

In my small way, just like the man at my favorite used bookstore, I am taking a stand for my readers. It is a small gesture I know. It won't make much of a dent on the Fiscal Cliff, and it won't change the reality that so many families will be facing throughout this next year, but it is a chip nonetheless. A single chip that in its smallness, weakens and marrs the face of what had once been a seemingly impervious and unmarred cliff face. And who knows.....perhaps my small act will inspire others to chip away at the cliff as well, remembering always that we rely upon each other to get through this life in one piece. If enough chips are made in the cliff, perhaps it will crumble, and we will discover that together, we can weather the worst. Perhaps we will be scraped and bruised but never overcome, as long as we chip away at these cliffs together.

I know......it sounds like a tall order for a small chip, but it has to start somewhere. Someone has to strike the first blow, and today, my hammer swung. Perhaps tomorrow, you will have the courage to pick your hammer up and see where it lands.

The Chronicles of Mister Marmee ~ The Case of Jack the Nipper can be purchased for $2.99 from the following retailers:

Amazon
Apple iTunes
Kobo
Smashwords (all formats)

Pricing will be reflected at other retailers (Barnes and Noble, Diesel, Inktera, etc.) over the next few weeks as the distribution lines are updated.