Randy Ingermanson 

Randy Ingermanson has published six novels and received about a dozen awards for his writing. He holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley and is the entire software department for Vala Sciences, a San Diego biotechnology company. Randy is the inventor of the "Snowflake Method," used by novelists around the world to design their novels. He the publisher of the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, the world's largest electronic magazine on writing fiction. More than 1000 novelists read his daily blog, the Advanced Fiction Writing Blog. Randy's goal is to become Supreme Dictator For Life, and he may have already succeeded. Visit his site at www.SupremeDictatorForLife.com.


aka Randy Ingermanson

“Lookit this great new book I just bought,” a familiar voice behind me said.

I spun around in my chair, wondering who had let my plumber, Sam, into the house. “What are you doing here?”

Sam grinned at me. “Just came to show you this new gadget. Betcha you ain’t seen one of these yet. They’re the hottest thing.” He held out a sparkling new Kindle from Amazon.

“I hate to break the news, but I’ve had one of those for a year.” I pointed to my desk.

Sam’s mouth fell open. “You telling me I ain’t the first feller on the block to buy one of these?”

“That’s right. You ain’t. Aren’t.”

I expected this to deflate Sam a bit, but he just stood there, smiling at me with an expectant look on his face. After a full minute, I said, “Well, um, it’s great that you’ve joined the rest of humanity and have a Kindle, but I really need to get some work—”

Sam held his Kindle and a USB cable out to me. “Thought you’d never get the point. Just plug it in with this here cable.”

“Plug it . . . in?” I stared at him. “You want me to plug your Kindle into my computer?”

“Well, a course. How else you going to give them to me? Case you didn’t notice, cell phone service sucks right here where you live.”

“Give what to you?” I usually understand Sam perfectly, but this time he had me mystified.

“Yer books. That’s what I bought this thing for, ain’t it? To put books on?”

I forced a short laugh. “Sam, just log on to Amazon and buy my books there. Do it at your own house and Amazon will download the books wirelessly to your Kindle. It couldn’t be simpler.”

“Well sure it could be simpler. You lost me there when you started yapping about buying yer books on Amazon. I already bought this Kindle thing here. So now I want the books loaded on. Don’t go complifying things on me.”

I stared at him. “You do realize that you still need to buy e-books, don’t you? They don’t just magically appear on your Kindle. You know that, right?”

Sam held up both hands. “Now you just hold on there. What kind of a ninny do you take me for? I bought this thing with good money that I earned the old-fashioned way—”

“By overcharging your customers,” I said.

“—and now you want me to go paying more money to put books on it? That ain’t fair. You got any idea how much this thing costs?”

“Yes, I own a Kindle, remember? Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got work to do.” I stood up and tried to guide Sam toward the door, which is a little bit like a rowboat trying to guide an aircraft carrier, since Sam is about three hundred pounds of solid plumber.

Sam didn’t move, but his face had turned red. “Now you just wait one second. I ain’t going to let you cheat me outta my free books.”

“I’m not trying to cheat you out of anything. But books aren’t free.”

“Sure they is. Ain’t you been on Amazon lately? Lotsa books are free on Kindle. Tons of ’em. A guy won’t never need to buy books again. Ain’t that the point of the Kindle? Kinda like a buffet line—you pay once and then you get all you can eat?”

“No, that is not the point!” I shouted, suddenly furious. “How do you think authors are going to get paid if our books are free?”

“Now don’t go getting all hot at me. All you big-shot authors been getting rich fer years, charging twenty, thirty dollars fer yer books, and now you don’t want to give nothing back. That ain’t right.”

“Sam, how much do you think an author earns for each book that gets sold?”

Sam’s eyebrows knotted as he concentrated. “Well, say a book goes fer twenty bucks in the store. Then taking out gas money fer the truck driver and the cost of paper for the feller that printed it . . . I guess you probably get about eighteen, maybe nineteen dollars. Right?”

“Try a dollar. Or maybe a dollar fifty.”

Sam shook his head with the expression of a man who’s been offered a fantastic deal on the Golden Gate Bridge. “I wasn’t born yesterday. What are you trying to pull on me? That’s like me putting in a hunnert-dollar faucet and then only charging five bucks to do the install. It don’t work that way.”

“It works that way in publishing.”

Sam scowled at me. “What idiot would sign that kinda deal? You authors is supposed to be smarties, all of you. Although some of you ain’t got the sense God gave a cockroach.” He gave me a

meaningful look, then caught himself. “Not trying to be offensible, but that’s just the truth. Even if you ain’t the shiniest nail in the outhouse, there’s gotta be some authors out there who know better’n to sign a deal like that.”

For a second, I wanted to punch Sam in the face. I took a deep breath and counted to ten.

That didn’t help, so I kept counting. The higher I counted, the madder I got.

When I reached fifty, Sam handed me his Kindle. “Now, time’s wasting away, and I got faucets to put in, at a hunnert-per, so if you don’t mind, I’ll take my books and get on the road.”

I made an instant decision, one I thought I might live to regret. But sometimes an author’s got to do what he’s got to do. “You’ve got the wrong cable,” I said. “Come with me, I’ve got just the thing.” I strode out of my office, across my dining room, and out onto the deck.

Sam trotted after me. “Now yer talking. I thought that cable looked kinda flimsy. Whaddaya use for downloading?”

I didn’t say a word but just kept walking to my garage.

Sam followed along beside me. “And hey, sorry fer that thing I said about authors being stupid. Now if any of you was actually dumb enough to only take a dollar fer yer books, that’d be stupid, but ain’t nobody that thickheaded, right?”

I pointed to the switch over by the freezer. “Sam, can you hit that switch and open the door and give me a little light? It’s dark in here.”

Sam scurried over to the garage door opener.

I quietly set his Kindle down on the hard concrete floor.

He punched the button with his enormous thumb and then turned to grin back at me.

I picked up a case of unsold copies of my first book, long out of print. “Here’s how we download free copies to the Kindle.” I raised the box high overhead and slammed it down on the small plastic device. The box split open and dozens of copies of my book spilled out on the floor.

Sam screeched and dived onto the pile, scooping away books, gibbering, and finally emerging with a broken mass of plastic. “I . . . you . . . that ain’t right!” he bellowed.

I picked up a copy of my book and heaved it out the door. “A buck a book ain’t right,” I shouted. I slung another one after it. “Buying unsold copies that sit in the garage ain’t right.” I grabbed Sam’s shattered Kindle out of his hands and threw it out on the driveway. “Free e-books ain’t right.”

“Okay, okay!” Sam stood up and dusted off his hands. “You made yer point. But if it ain’t right, then why is all them publishers so keen to give away free e-books?”

He stalked out of my garage grumbling and climbed into his truck. He started the engine, and then leaned out of his window to yell at me.

“It ain’t right fer you big-shot authors to teach customers that e-books is free unless you mean it!”


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