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Short Story vs. Novel Pricing

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Philip Overby, Apr 14, 2015.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    So I'm seeing that selling short stories or novellas is becoming more viable these days. I wondered about opinions regarding the pricing of short stories.

    My plan is to release two short stories a month for 99 cents a piece. As I was reading around the internet, I saw some people say "99 cents is dead" but I think that was in regards to books. When it comes to short stories, I didn't see anything like that. I do think it's perfectly fine to price your stuff however you like, but I'm just curious as to opinions.

    Is 99 cents a good price point for short stories? And what's a good price for an unknown author selling a novel? I'm just looking for opinions, so no answer is wrong obviously.
     
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Is selling and buying short stories really a thing? I haven't really considered it at all.
    Personally, I'm unlikely to buy a book at 99 cent. It's the kind of price that would make me think the author is desperate to get a sale and that they're relying on price instead of quality, but that may just be me.

    If I was into reading short stories, 99 cents would probably seem a reasonable price.
    How long would such a short story be? 2k words? 10k?
     
  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, I know a lot people that sell short stories individually these days. It's common for indies and trad published alike to put out content in between novels. I don't know if it will become more and more common. Some people don't dig short stories for whatever reason, but I have heard that shorter work is becoming more and more accepted. Tor.com even mentioned they hope to lead the charge in making novellas more popular.

    Short story length differs depending on who you ask, but I'm hoping to do from the 9,000-12,000 word range depending on each story. Essentially something someone could read in a few sittings or even one sitting if they (hopefully) like it well enough.

    I was going to do this a different way, but I got advice from someone who's done pretty well that if I released two quality short stories a month with memorable cover art, I could do well to get my name out there. Plus, the idea is to release the short stories and then the occasional novella or novel with more fanfare behind them. Ideally, (every writer has a vision, right?) I would try to find out which characters the readers liked the most and I'd do novels based on these characters. Not to say I wouldn't do novels in other worlds or with other characters, but I hope to try to constantly communicate with any readers I do get (let's hope!) to find out which characters they like the most.

    I will most likely still have free content out there, but I'm trying to figure out ways to bundle it with other stuff so that it's a bonus. Although my plan is to offer free stuff to people that consistently buy things. My idea, and this may be completely weird or foreign, is to treat my short stories like one might do a Kickstarter. Meaning you may get extra stuff depending on what "tier" you are. Say if you give a brief review, Tweet about, or blog about 2 out of 4 of the releases, you might get some free flash fiction. But if you do the same with 4 out of 4 releases, you "unlock" a free story. Not sure but I think it could be a fun way to reward people for buying my stuff, spreading the word, and then get unreleased fiction.

    OK, marketing rant over. Just trying to be creative with how I release things. Not sure how it will work, but it's worth a try.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  4. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    While I'm not confident I can work at that pace--which is why I expect a summer release for my own work at best--that advice gives me hope.

    I'd rather sell ~10K words for $0.99 than work on a novel. I personally enjoy keeping my stories short and sweet, so if I can get readers to buy short stories like that, I might stick to shorts and not bother with a novel to follow. (Maybe a novella will happen when I'm aiming for short. If a story feels like it should be bigger, I'll write it that way.)
     
  5. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    This particular author, not sure if he wants to be named or not, releases a lot of short stories in between novels and has done pretty well. He also bundles collections. I'm not exactly sure the length of the shorts, but I read one of them in two sittings so it was an easy read. What I'm hoping to do is provide a pulpy style so they're easy and fun to read.

    I'm not sure if there is a vast market for fantasy short fiction or not, but it can't hurt to try I say. Romance seems to do pretty well with the short fiction, so I don't see why it can't work for other genres. Perhaps fantasy having a reputation for being epic makes some people think this kind of fiction isn't available these days.
     
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I'm kind of intrigued by this whole idea. To the point where I'm pondering what short stories I myself could write, and about which characters.
    It's just that the idea of paying for short stories is kind of new to me - even though I actually bought a short story collection a while back, and really liked it.
     
  7. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Yeah, I'm working on a series of short stories to publish. I plan to do .99 for individual stories and then do bundles for more.
     
  8. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I think people have kind of been doing this in different ways for years and years. They're usually just either bundled with others stories in anthologies or collections. I think the concept of selling individual short stories is relatively new. The Kindle Single program seems to encourage this more. Just for reference, I've seen shorts for sale by Hugh Howey, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, David Baldacci, etc. Of course I've seen indie writers taking advantage of this idea as well. And it seems 99 cents is the standard right now from indie to traditional publishers.
     
  9. Incanus

    Incanus Archmage

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    I like the idea too. I started with shorts and I'm editing them now (taking my time to learn how to really polish up the prose). Though I plan on moving on to novels, I like the idea of completing shorts with some regularity.

    My opinions about pricing are going to be worthless, but .99 for a short sounds good to me. What about novellas though? 1.99? 2.99? Maybe 2.49?

    Looking at the math, Phil would be producing about 240,000 polished words a year. More than double what I'm currently capable of. And then artwork for every one? That's 24 pieces of art to commission in a year. Maybe a little less if there is a novella or two in there somewhere. Still, that sounds... expensive.
     
  10. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    For novellas or even full-length novels, I'm seeing 2.99-5.99 being bandied around a lot. 1.99 seems to be the kiss of death for some reason. Not sure why, but a lot of places seem to be recommending against that price. From what I'm gathering, 2.99 is the new 99 cents when it comes to novels. And for shorts, 99 cents is the new "free." Although I'm no expert on this, these are the kind of things I've been seeing over and over.

    Luckily, I have a friend that's currently doing art for me for free (not sure why because his style is really cool). They're kind of minimalist covers in some regards, but I think the images are still striking. It's kind of a manga/cartoon-y style, so I hope that makes it stand out in some way. Since I'm doing (dark) comic fantasy also, I think it allows us to take some chances. Covers I've seen for comic fantasy tend to be a bit more playful/experimental. We'll see how the pace goes. We may work out some kind of payment later on depending on how he feels about the process.

    I may start out doing two shorts a month and then slow down when I'm working on a novella or novel. This is just a tentative plan. Since I'm working part-time right now, it gives me lots of time to get work done. As of late, I've been getting between 3-5 hours of writing a day. Getting away from my computer has helped a lot in that regard. Notebooks are my friends. :)

    In regards to editing, I'm hoping having eagle-eyed critique partners will help in that regard. And since I'm doing short stories, it's not the huge time commitment that a novel would be. So ideally I'm hoping to find crit partners that are focusing on short stories so the exchange will be easier for us. The key for me is just making sure the stories are fun, coherent, and clear of any grammar problems or typos.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  11. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I'm really tempted to get in on this as well now. I'll try and hold off a little though. For one, I don't have the ideas for the stories (yet) and for the other I don't have the storytelling skills for shorts yet. I'll need a bit more practicing with the format to get a feel for it I think.
    It's something I can do on the side though. The big hurdle will probably be to come up with the background plot that ties the shorts together. Something that isn't necessarily the focus of any of the stories, but that still goes on in the background.
     
  12. Incanus

    Incanus Archmage

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    An excellent idea! Yes, having a similar art format across the stories strikes me as a really, really good plan. Also it sounds like the art style goes hand-in hand with the style of the stories. I don't think it gets much better than that! I whole-heartedly applaud this approach.

    If you're lucky, maybe your friend will do the work for some occasional sushi. (I know I would).
     
  13. Tuxedo Mark

    Tuxedo Mark Dreamer

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    I write exclusively in the "series of short stories" format. I price each at $0.99.

    I do generic text covers, but each series is assigned its own background color.

    I have some limited series (probably to total ten stories each) going: Vampire Killer, Destined, Blackjack Jill (non-fantasy). One series, "Becoming a Hero" (mild sci-fi) is completed and collected. I priced the collection at $2.99. I published a "sampler" collection of the first story in each series for $2.99. I'm also collecting two stories each of "Vampire Killer" and "Destined" in a series called "Action Girls Collection" ($2.99).
     
  14. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Thanks! I hope it works out. The basic thing we're going with is one main image with a blank background and then he designed a border of bloody swords that wraps around the image and has the Splatter Elf logo in blood at the top. Then there is also the trademark elf head screaming in the corner. :)

    I told him in some ways the art style reminds me a bit of Where the Wild Things Are and in other ways Edward Gorey. So I think it has sort of this grotesque children's book quality to it. Kind of combines the quirky, weird, and bloody which fits what I'm trying to do.
     
  15. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I just had that idea I needed for what the short stories might be about. What if I make them about incidents mentioned in my novel? In my wip there are a lot of references to past events, but without much information about what actually happened. If the reader has read a short story about that specific event, then they may get a sense of recognition, increasing their enjoyment of the novel.
    I can then sell the shorts for cheap, and then also create a shorts plus novel bundle for all of them at once. Possibly including a bonus story or two.
     
  16. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, I like that idea. It would be a great way to give some background information without info-dumping. One thing to consider though: would the reader still be able to read the novel without the short stories? Because I know there are people out there that just don't read short stories for whatever reason. I do think it's a good idea though.
     
  17. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Also for reference, here are some big names that are releasing stories for 99 cents. It does feel kind of weird for me to release something at the same price as these folks, but it seems to be standard across the board no matter who it is. I don't always think people say "Well, I can buy this short by George Martin or this other writer I've never heard of." I think readers like to buy lots of fiction, so hopefully it's doable. 8 Great Fantasy Shorts for .99 or Less » Grimdark Alliance
     
  18. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    For sure. The novel is already written. I can just pick the events I feel like. You wouldn't have to read either to enjoy the other.
     
  19. Uffda

    Uffda Scribe

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    Hard to compete these days, especially with so many self-pubbed books at a $.99 and $1.99 price point.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 20, 2015
  20. AndrewMelvin

    AndrewMelvin Scribe

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    I'd be interested in seeing how you get on, as I've been thinking about trying something similar. Your price strategy sounds good to me, and I wish you lots of luck.
     
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