How Much Should You Charge For Short Fiction?

Dean’s finally convinced me.

I’ve read Dean Wesley Smith’s pricing suggestions for short fiction before, but while I’ve been tempted, I’ve been too unsure of my writing ability timid to try and raise my prices.  But after reading and re-reading all his posts on pricing, it has got me thinking about my own buying habits over the past few months.

I’m an avid reader (mostly non-fiction) and can often buy one, two, ten books a month.  And while I have a budget for book buying (sort of) I’ve noticed that my buying habits have changed.

I’ve always been prepared to pay up to $9.99 for a good Kindle book.  That hasn’t changed (although if it IS priced this high I have to really want it, or think it will solve my problem).  It’s the lower priced books that I’ve been avoiding.

Not intentionally mind, but seeing that 0.99 cents no longer makes me willing to try it.  Not like it used to do.

Free.  Well I still download freebies if I think I’ll read it or I want to sample an author.  But 0.99 cents – not so much.

In my case – free & priced above $2.99  is more attractive than 0.99 cents.  And I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking.

The 0.99 cent ghetto

There has long been a rumour among various author forums, that 0.99 cents is now associated by readers as bad or trash books.  With the rise in self publishing, readers are automatically assuming that low-priced books are from badly edited, poorly written writers who should never be uploading books to Amazon in the first place.  And that higher priced books are written by professional, traditionally published authors.

While I don’t necessarily agree with that assumption, I think there are good and bad books at all price levels, it does make me wonder if poor sales of my 0.99 cent short stories are because readers are disregarding them based on price.

I’ve got decent reviews for them.  The covers are good (designed by my graphic designer hubby).  I’ve had them professionally edited.  The blurbs probably need some work, but overall there is something about them that makes people less willing to take a chance on them.

Could that reason be price?

There is only one way to find out.

Raising prices on my short stories experiment

Since I’m all about testing and reporting results, it’s time I did a little pricing experiment.

Once this month is over, I’ll be raising the prices for some of my shorts to $2.99.  As per Dean’s suggestion, I’ll add a second BONUS story to increase the word count, but half my short stories be going up in price (so if you have been thinking about getting one of my shorts, you might want to do it in the next few days).

It may work, or it may create a backlash by readers.  Personally I have no idea – I’ve heard both positive and negative results from others over this.  Some say it actually increased sales and reviews, others say readers negatively report the high price in reviews.

I thought I’d start with the erotic romance stories first, since I’ve heard these readers are less concerned with higher prices.  *Shrug*  If I find sales increasing, the following month I’ll increase some of the dystopian thrillers too.

Only time will tell.

Will you make more profit this way?

In theory, it makes reasonable sense that, yes, you should make more profit as an author by raising your prices.

At 35% royalty, you’ll make approx 0.35 cents per sale of a 0.99 cent book.  At 70% royalty, and at a price of $2.99 you’ll make around $2.09 (depending on buyer location).  So you need six sales at the lower price to make the same as one sale at the higher price.

I’m sure you’ve seen that comparison before – I’m not telling you anything new there.

The real question is will it ACTUALLY lead to more profit?  As in, if you sell three books per month at 0.99 cents and zero books at $2.99 you haven’t really increased your bottom line have you.  In fact your profit has decreased.

Again, I don’t have an answer for you.  I *think* it will increase my profits, but really I have no idea.  Because my sales just might stop altogether.



  1. Bea says

    Interesting post, and thanks, Tracey. So far I’ve made just about every mistake you can think of in my e-efforts. I okayed the DRM (having no idea what it was) only to discover DWS and others don’t recommend it, and of course now I can’t change it.
    I put up 99 cent stories and got a few sales, nothing to write home about. You and DWS both recommend adding a bonus story to bring up the Word Count, but does the bonus have to be a continuation of the same characters, etc.?
    Also, I have no idea how to add the bonus (do I include a new cover for the bonus story?) and where do you mention the bonus?
    I really appreciate your posts, because quite often I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of knowledge that seems at the moment to be overwhelming.

    • Tracey says

      Congratulations Bea for getting your book out! And even better that you’ve got a few sales, that’s great.

      As for the bonus stories, I’ll be using stories from the same series. As long as it’s from the same genre it would be fine. You just add it, in the same file, to the end of your other story. No need for a new cover (unless you plan on releasing that individually as well).

      I still don’t know if raising the price will be a good decision or not yet. Only time will tell :)

  2. Bea says

    Thanks, Tracey. I really appreciate you keeping us up-to-date on these matters, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for you.

    • Tracey says

      It did at first, and my revenue went up. But I’m currently experimenting again at the lower price, and revenue is even higher. *slaps self* Pricing does my head in.

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