The two most common complaints leveled at short form erotica (short stories to you and me) are that they are too expensive for what they are, and that the quality is too poor.
I received my first ‘It’s too expensive’ message yesterday. It was not actually part of an Amazon review, just a message from what looks like a fakeish account (and just a porn collector) from Tumblr. I doubt the sender bought anything, just looked at the $2.99 price and the length of the stories and made the comment to be ‘helpful’.
When it comes to pricing (and especially my pricing), there are a variety of forces at play here.
First, how much effort does it actually take?
There was that writing thing, then the first edit, my partner proof read it, then I made changes during the second edit. Then I had to format it for submission to the Kindle, create a cover, upload it all, and a final visual proof of the Kindle version online. Finally, write the blurb for the book entry on Amazon.
Oh, and then add it to my WordPress blog and Tumblr, and announce it on my Facebook page. I haven’t even started any real marketing of anything beyond trying to get a few people to read my Twitter, Facebook, Tumblrs, and WordPress blog. That’s just a value added extra effort on top of the actual writing and publishing side of things.
It can take a working day. It can take a lot less, and I can clearly see from the dreadful quality of some stories that have passed my way, that a lot of people don’t edit or proof read, and leave any grammar and spell checking to Word. However, I like to keep the quality of my work as high as I can, so each story, from conception to publishing, takes roughly a complete working day. And I charge $2.99 for that. Yes, it could sell a million copies but we both know it will not. At my going rate for commercial work in my main line of employment, I would have to sell quite a few hundred copies to earn equal remuneration.
All in all, it’s not a small venture, even for a short story. My first erotic short, Last Night in Berlin, does come in on the short side even by my own estimation. However, it still has a start, middle, and an end. It has sex. It is a complete erotic short story. And to read it costs less than the cost of a beer.
Second, the price of beer. I judge my own disposable expenditure level by the cost of beer. In the UK the price of a beer in a bar or pub is around £3-4. Anything priced below that I class as a disposable purchase, something that is essentially a throw away purchase. After all, once you’ve drunk that beer it’s gone.
Third, blame Amazon. Amazon’s pricing structure means that at $2.99 and above I get a whopping 70% royalty. Below $2.99 and I get a measly 30%. To put that into a nice easy to view sum, selling 5 copies at $2.99 makes $10.50. Just one cent less at $2.98, I would have to sell 12 to make around the same sum. At the very common price point of $1, I would need to sell 33 copies. I am sure Amazon have their reasons for the gouging at lower price levels. I’m not sure what they are, but they must have them.
Were Amazon willing to simply have a flat 70% rate it would give sellers much more leeway in their ability to price their works and try to make a reasonable profit from their hard work.
And finally, just because XYZ gives their 200,000 word full length novel away for a $1 does not mean that all other works should be priced relative to that. My work is my work, and I price it accordingly. I am quite sure that in time I will drop various items to $1 and probably do promotions where you can get books for free. But right now I do not. and that’s fine for me, and fine for anybody else who wants to put their work on Amazon or anywhere else.