WritingFilter: What is a good pricing for self-pub short stories?
May 12, 2014 7:00 AM   Subscribe

I have a couple of short stories out there on the market right now. They're between 4000-6000 words each. I've really been struggling with how to price these, and I have found no good advice on Google. How should I proceed? Writer flurries inside.

There aren't a lot of good benchmarks on Smashwords about this, since the price ranges vary from miniscule to completely crazy and seem to have no relation to anything objective, like page counts.

What seems reasonable to the hive mind for pricing this kind of thing? I'm self-pubbed, and not really writing for money as a primary objective, but would like to at least see a tiny bit of return. Because I'm a new author, I've been giving away my stories for free for over a year, hoping to catch some curious passers-by, but I feel like it's not doing me any real favors at this point.

Where's the sweet point of pricing that balances turning off potential new readers and accounting for the shorter length of the work? Thanks, folks.
posted by Queen of Robots to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
99 cents seems to be a low enough bar for people to purchase something short.
posted by xingcat at 7:01 AM on May 12, 2014

Best answer: It really depends on what you think your audience is like. If you have people who view you as a unique product you can probably charge a few dollars.

Since, as you say, you are a new author, anything more than a nominal price is going to drive people to substitutes. So $0.99 might be a good way to go. Or you could give some away free / cheap and then charge a couple dollars for deeper cuts, so that you are capturing the parts of the audience that like you and targeting them for higher prices.

No reason you have to charge the same rate for anything -- some free and some premium ($3-5) might be a good hedging strategy. That way, you don't scare away any potential readers, but you can still pocket a few bucks if you suddenly get popular for unpredictable reasons.

Really, of course, the business of marketing will take up as much time and effort as you put into it (just like the work of writing). Since this is a side project for you, you probably don't want to spend a lot of time on research and promotion. Just come up with some prices, stick 'em on, and adjust if something crazy happens.
posted by grobstein at 7:14 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you're self-publishing, $0.99-$1.99 s the standard for e-shorts, $2.99 for a novella. If you'd like to make more money off of them, pro-paying short story venues start their pay at $.05 a word.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:21 AM on May 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Mod note: This is a response from an anonymous answerer.
Hi, I'm a writer and I sell short fiction exclusively in a few different genres. None of my individual stories exceed 12K words. I publish at various sellers and sell ebooks only. My ebooks earnings broke $98K CDN in 2013, so I feel comfortable that I'm doing something right.

Shorts are priced priced at one of three points: free, $0.99 and 2.99. Free and $0.99 are for firsts in series or very good sellers that you hope will drive buyers to your other works. The general price point for shorts of high quality should be $2.99.

Here's the pricing strategy I use.
First in series: Free if possible (requires price match at most vendors), $0.99 otherwise. Get them interested.
Second in series: $0.99. Make it easy to justify purchasing the next book in the series.
Remaining in series: $2.99. Two books in, if they enjoyed it so far they're happy to pay a decent price to get the rest of the story.
Bundle of entire series: $3.99 + $0.99 for every book over 3 in the series.

There's a mental barrier that makes $1.99 a shitty price; basically, $0.99 is so close to free that people don't even blink at purchasing it, and $2.99 implies this is a quality product. Pricing at $1.99 means you lose the impulse cheapo buyers and the quality conscious buyers see it as cheap shit of possibly dubious quality.

I wouldn't price anything above $2.99 unless it was either a bundle of a complete series or at least 50K words. Even at 50K I would probably go no higher than $3.99.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:57 AM on May 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

I have self-published three novels (kinda long-ish) and recently one novella and done quite well with all of them (one of them did exceedingly well). I use both Amazon and Smashwords, and my Smashwords sales are a tiny trickle compared to what I get off of Amazon. (I'd go exclusive with Amazon except I don't want to punish people who bought Nooks...)

My first two novels were priced at $2.99, and I got a LOT of "Wow, this is a great value!" and "You really should raise your prices a bit" comments from readers. The next novel went out at $3.99, and it still did great. (This is all American prices & such, btw... obviously there's some crossover, and I do get international sales, but I'm primarily oriented to the US market.)

The novella, which I put out last month, has been doing great but I also priced that at $2.99 and I've gotten a couple of grumbles and lower star-ratings based on that price. Remember that no matter WHAT you do, you'll always find someone who complains about it. (Two of my novels carry great big funny but explicit warning blurbs, and people then complain that the stuff in the warnings actually happens.) $2.99 is a fairly common price for shorter stories than my novella, but I wonder a bit if I spoiled some readers with the dollar value of my other works.

A quick note: on Amazon, at least, you have to price at $2.99 - $9.99 in order to get the full 70% cut off of royalties. Also, royalty tax rates are a flat 35% in the US; I started doing my taxes with a professional accountant this year and found that there's no exemptions on that. Make sure you set a little of your royalties aside for that, because once you start making enough on your books to pay real bills, you can wind up with a nasty surprise in your tax returns.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:57 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

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