Writing for Joe’s Beer Money

The idea that creators of popular fiction are writing for “Joe’s beer money”* is an often derided concept, but in my opinion it shouldn’t be.

For one thing, the fact that Joe is reading for pleasure at all should be celebrated, not sneered at.  Elitists might be surprised at what Joe sometimes picks – it isn’t just thrillers and soft-core porn.  I remember stopping for coffee for once at a truck stop that had, in addition to the usual snack foods and sundries, a wire spinner rack filled with audio book rentals for pick-up-and-drop-off .  One of the more well-worn items on the rack was an audio book of Homer’s Iliad.

For another thing, writing for Joe’s beer money is demanding work.  Joe doesn’t make so much money that he wants to finish a book feeling like he threw away some of it on a thing he didn’t enjoy.  (And let me say right here that Joe is just as capable as anyone else of acknowledging different values of enjoyment.  See Homer’s Iliad, above)  Furthermore, Joe is honest:  He’s not going to pretend he liked your book just to impress his friends and co-workers.  But if he does like it, he will read your next one, and probably the one after that.

Also – oddly enough, the cost of a mass-market paperback novel and the cost of a six-pack of ordinary beer have stayed roughly equivalent at least since the 1970’s, which is about the time when I started keeping track.  (Of paperback prices, at any rate.  I had to go to the internet for the beer data.)  Trade paperbacks are more in line with the cost of imported and craft beers; and it’s entirely possible that part of the controversy over how much an e-book should cost is also a disagreement over whether an e-book is more like a six-pack of Budweiser or a six-pack of some five-star brewpub’s signature XXX Strong Ale.

*The original quote is often attributed to science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle.

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