Monday, January 7, 2013

A Note on Indie Ebook Pricing

I know everyone goes around in circles about this. Is $0.99 too cheap? Is $2.99?  How expensive is too expensive?  The way I see it, ebook pricing for the indie writer can be looked at two different ways--marketing and length.

It's a good idea to have a cheap or free story available, even several.  I have three free stories listed on my site at all times. One m/f, one m/m, and one f/f.  Two of the three I consider too short to comfortably sell for a dollar, and one was a good example of pure m/m sex. It gives potential readers a chance to decide if they like my writing style without losing any money in the deal.

I've read a lot of bad free books, and if I'd paid for them I probably would have stopped reading indie books altogether.  It's hard for a reader to know if they're getting good quality, especially since even professional publishing companies publish drivel like Twilight and 50 Shades.  When it's free there is no risk.

As a struggling artist whose skills and training outside of writing and literature are service oriented, I don't like to spend money on something that isn't worth it.  Most of my money goes towards things like food and rent. I rarely buy books new, implement my public library, and download ebooks when they are offered for free. When I like them, I buy more.  Poor people buy books. They need the distraction.  Give them a reason to buy yours.

If you are writing a series I think it's a great idea to have a free short story that is either stand alone or a prequel, and then offer the first book for 99 cents.  If your plot is good and it is well-written you can pretty much assure more book sales at a higher price from the following installments.

A few months ago I bought three novelettes from a fairly popular indie writer.  The first story was free and it pulled me in. The second one was $1.49 and it was equally awesome. The third one was $2.99 and I almost didn't buy it. That's a lot of money for a novelette. I read a free short story by another writer and was excited to read more of her work, but she was selling all of her shorts for $2.99 and I decided not to buy.

Whenever I see a short story marked at $2.99 I cringe, and a lot of the reviewers do too. "I didn't realize how short it was" is a common complaint and cause for low ratings. Why spend so much for 5,000 words when so many people are selling full-length novels at that price?

So what makes a short story and what makes a novel?  It is not definitive.  Every writer will give you a different number.  These are the numbers I'm comfortable with.

Flash Fiction: < 1,000 words
Short: 1k to 8k words
Novelette: 8k to 17k words
Novella: 17k to 50k words
Novel: 50k words and up

I think it's near criminal to charge for stand-alone flash fiction. Who wants to spend a dollar for six minutes of their time?  I really have a hard time paying $2.99 for less than novella length.  I figure novelettes should fall into the $1.50 to $2.50 range.

"Drain me Dry" is on the line between a short and a novelette, so I priced it at 99 cents. It's sequel, "Addicted to the Bite" (to be released mid-month) is almost 13k.  I plan on pricing it at $1.50.  I hope that the more I write about my main characters, Jamie-boy and Damian, the longer the pieces will get and the more I can charge, but I plan on always pricing in accordance to length. 50k is worth $2.99.  75k might be worth $3.50 or $4.00.

In the end, it comes down to readers.  If I wanted to make money writing I would have given up long ago.  I hope to make money writing, but what I really want is readers. I used to write fanfic just for the praise.  In the past I've written several online serials on a donations-if-you-feel-like-it platform.  I want my stories to be read by as many people as possible, so I plan to always keep my prices reasonable, especially for poor people like myself.


  1. Wonderful article, Leigh. I, like you, am absolutely blown away by the 2.99 5k word stories, and undoubtedly we have both seen even worse case.

    Part of the issue though is retailers like Amazon. We get half the royalty rate for works published under 2.99. I don't like it, but that didn't stop me from pricing similar to your self. Although, I've priced both my novellas low because I'm still new.

    I too would like readers, but I'll admit, I would like to at least earn enough to indulge is some guilty pleasures.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  2. Great article! But ... "50k is worth $2.99. 75k might be worth $3.50 or $4.00." I dunno, I think that kind of wordcount is some serious effort for both the writer and reader, and pricing should bump up to the $4.99+ mark when you're getting into novel-length! (Twitter @miranoire)