I am publishing a collection of short stories as an e-book. In this week’s blog posts I’m trying to work through the relevant pricing issues and set a price for that content.
In the comments to my initial post on this subject, Will Entrekin talked in part about pricing his own content using what he called the iTunes model:
When I first published my collection, I used what I called the iTunes model: I priced the flash fiction at 99 cents, the short stories and essays at $1.99, the poetry as an EP (5 or 6) at $4.99, and then the collection at $9.99.
As I noted in my response, for a while I’ve been subconsciously thinking about the idea that 1 short story = $1. I don’t know that twelve short stories necessarily compels or justifies a $12 price for the whole collection I want to publish, but I can see selling individual stories at $1 each and feeling as if that’s somehow fair. (I use the word ‘fair’ here in the naive humanistic sense, not in the savvy cannibalistic marketing sense. Obviously a product is worth whatever you can get for it, and any sale justifies whatever lies you need to tell or relevant information you need to withhold in order to induce that transaction.)
One practical problem with selling individual stories for $1 is the difficulty of providing a sample by which the reader can judge your authorial skill. I’m not saying that each story should be partially revealed, but I do think that readers deserve some reassurance that you can execute a story from beginning to end. My intent with the collection was to make some percentage available for preview, but to sell the entire collection for one price. (I’m not sure of the mechanics of this, but that’s the idea.)
If I were also to sell each of the the twelve stories as singles for $1 each, it seems at first blush as if the sample portion I was giving away should also be available for free. Yet the more I think about it the more I don’t think I would do that. I would still make the sample available relative to the collection, but if you wanted to purchase the sample as a distinct piece of content I think it would be sold at the same $1 per-story price.
Does that seem incongruous? In a weird way I think it actually makes sense, but maybe I’ve already become deluded about these issues.
In any case, I think there’s much to recommend the idea of a collection of short stories being sold like an album of songs. To the extent that the mediums are different, making the analogy less than perfect, I agree. But in terms of practical solutions it seems like a workable idea, and one that’s already being demonstrated in a similar market.
— Mark Barrett
Jan Oda says
I read your previous post about your doubts about the free model, and I think you do make some valid points. However, in your previous post you pondered on adding extra’s to purchases to make them more appealing.
For me the difference between offering something free before or after a purchase is minimal. They’re both meant as an incentive to make readers buy the collection.
With e-zine’s, blogs and author websites, the internet is filled with free short stories. You’re up against some big competition. That’s why I’d argue that offering a free sample of your writing beforehand is almost necessary. You could either offer 2 stories that are in the collection, or some that aren’t, but I think you can’t get out of offering something for free completely. Or you’d have to have a wicked marketing campaign.
I don’t mean this in an egotistical way, but I’m not worried about the competition. It’s entirely possible that I’m not a very good storyteller. Or perhaps I’m an okay writer but I failed to execute these particular short stories effectively. In any case I’m reluctant to make any claims about my own level of skill, or to implicitly or explicitly denigrate anyone else’s level of skill.
What I am confident of, however, is that I know the level of skill I am aiming for, and that’s how I’m approaching the pricing question. If I can’t hit that level of skill then I don’t deserve to get paid anyway. If I can deliver to my own level of expectations, however, then I think that’s worth something.
The market may in fact tell me I’m wrong. It’s entirely possible that I may have done what I set out to do creatively, but because of the amount of product in the market my stories are literally worthless. Maybe everybody else is just as good. Maybe most of the people buying content don’t care about my subject matter, or about the level of skill involved. (Somewhere there’s a fruit grower who grows the best fruit in the world, who can’t make a living because there’s too much acceptable fruit available at lower prices. I understand that possibility, but I also understand the desire to want to grow the best fruit you can grow.)
The one thing I can’t get away from is that I care. And I think I have to care before anyone else will. Whatever my talent level, I have to be enough of an egotistical jerk to say, “No, this isn’t free.” Because if I’m not willing to do that — for whatever deranged reason — then I’m agreeing with the people who believe that just because something is on the internet that means it should be free, and I don’t agree with that.
The internet can be a free and open place of ideas and a marketplace at the same time, and I think I get to determine how my content is treated. The market always has the right to prove I’m a fool by refusing to buy my goods.
I do agree with you that providing a free sample of my work is necessary. Not as a means of competing on price, but as a means of demonstrating ability. I think that’s critical, and fair. And I really mean that. I don’t think anyone should buy my content on faith, just as I don’t think they should buy it (or read it) because of the price point.
In the end they should buy and read my stories because they are good. Because I mean them to be.
— Mark Barrett