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