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Friday, 12 October 2012

Let's Talk E-Book Pricing

By Donovan Starr


     Because publishing has changed so much, and because erotica (and romance to an extent) differ so much from other forms of fiction, I’ve chosen to weigh in on the matter of e-book pricing. When e-books and indie publishing made their first big splash, I heard much racous about the low cost of e-books, particularly in the .99 cent to $2.99 categories. Books often do move better at $2.99 as opposed to higher prices. That seems to be the sweet spot, but I don’t blame those who charge a little more if they can get away with it. Some well-established author friends have told me that if a reader isn’t willing to pay $3.99 for a novel or $2.99 for a novella, they don’t want that person to read their work. Fair enough.

     Erotica and romance (or erotic romance) differ a bit in this regard. An erotic/romance author can charge—and receive--$2.99 for a much shorter work. You really can’t get away with that in, say, the horror genre. I know because I have a long line of friends in the horror field, both new and established. $3.99 is the best you will get for a full-length novel before readers begin to roll their eyes.

     And yet serial erotic romances can demand $2.99 per instalment. Some readers hate it, but if you look at the numbers of authors like Delilah Fawkes of The Billionaire’s Beck and Call series, and her counterparts, it’s clear that a lot of people are willing to pay that price for something they want. Part of it may be the suspense of finding out what happens next, assuming they enjoyed the previous instalments enough.

     Still, I wouldn’t charge any more than $2.99 for anything in erotica or romance no matter the length. I've done too much research on the topic not to know better. When stories in erotica reach a certain length and you only charge 99 cents, it’s sometimes taken as a comment on the product’s quality. Many of my stories are priced at 99 cents but that’s because they’re rather short. Quickies you might say. But my Game of Inches series is significantly longer per instalment than any of those short stories hence the $2.99 price point. If I priced it at 99 cents, readers would regard it as garbage and not buy it. In horror, you could never get away with pricing a novel at 99 cents. Readers have reached the point in which they associate 99 cent products with garbage. Not so with erotica, but then other genres wouldn’t allow the abundance of short stories to be successful either. Erotica is a genre of short story readers.

     When can you price at $2.99? In my opinion, the story should be no less than 4, 000 words before you charge that much. Instalments of A Game of Inches are still considerably longer than that, so my conscience is clear in terms of how I’ve handled the market. Some charge that much at lower word counts but you can tell by their sales rank that they don’t sell very well. In that case, 99 cents would  be better.

     Quantity over quality? What matters more? A relationship between story length and price point still exists in erotica as it does in other genres. Erotica and romance happen to be more lucrative perhaps because they account for much more of the market than horror and other forms of fiction. In fact, romance books account for a rather large percentage of books sold.

     So, if you’re writing in the erotic/romance field, wait until your stores are at least 4, 000 words long before you charge $2.99. And, if you’re writing a serial, make sure your instalments are a good 7, 500 words long. Sure, many successful ones are shorter, but by making it longer you can avoid reader complaints—and avoidance.



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