Friday, February 17, 2012

eStory Economics

I mentioned that I stuck a couple stories up on and Smashwords. I did this for a couple reasons, neither of which is to make money–at least not directly. I don't expect that either will add much to the family coffers.

A fair price for a short story, at least in my mind, is $.99. That seems to be the going rate, and the royalty on such things, set by the seller, is about a third of that, plus or minus. (I didn't bother to send these to Dan, and that's just because I know it's more hassle for him than it's worth. He gives me a much higher royalty than anybody else, and his cut on something like this is like a dime. I mean, really, he has to track the things for a dime each?)

You have to sell a whole lot of stories earning thirty-five cents a pop to make enough to do anything. Ten of them pay your parking at a meter for a couple hours; A hundred might let you take the grandkids to Mickey D's for burgers and fries; a thousand of them is what? Part of a car note? And probably about what you get if you sold it to a magazine or anthology.

Chances of me selling a thousand of either title in the next, oh, couple years? 

Approaching zero. They aren't bad stories, but that's how the market goes.

And yes, there are folks who offer an entire novel on for $.99 and get rich. There are also folks who get struck by lightning or eaten by sharks, and chances of you doing any of these are probably in the same ball park. You could win the lottery, too. 

So why do it?

Two reasons: One is for my hardcore fans who might find it interesting. Doesn't cost them much, and there you go.

Second is, like a snowball rolling down a hill, there is a certain amount of inertia added when readers have more things from which to choose. They log on, see the list, and if they like some of it, they might be willing to risk buying more of it. 

When I find a writer I like, I tend to buy everything they have available, then drum my fingers waiting for them to get off their ass and write some new stuff. (And yes, if somebody is going to point that finger at me, I acknowledge it–we're a lazy bunch, us writers.)

Just so you know ...


SM said...

The worst thing is when you find an author and realize they are dead. If Beam Piper came back to life, I think his fans would kill him :)

Readers these days are a bit spoiled. It took me 5 or 10 years to complete a Piper collection, and years to find a used Pratchett. Amazon and eBook do encourage impulse purchases, which is good for authors and their heirs.

Steve Perry said...

Indeed, instant acquisition is good for authors who have a piece of the sale. Unfortunately, in the U.S. used books don't put a penny into a writer's pocket, unless you happen to buy it from him or her directly.

In some countries, the U.K, I think writers get a bit of money of you borrow their books from the library, but I don't think there are any where they get anything from used books.

SM said...

I don't think that is unreasonable though: the author already made money when they sold it the first time, and from then on it is the buyer's property. Used book stores tend to be small businesses that barely keep afloat, so having to track down the copyright holder for each book they sold would be a great burden. One in my home town has been driven out of business by e-books; he specialized in softcover fiction and has lost just enough sales that he can't meet rent any more.

Canada has a tax on recording media, hard drives, and flash drives for musicians but not many musicians seem to make much that way. It also has a “public lending right” subsidy to authors when libraries buy their books.

I hope that someone finds a way to make short fiction pay again. The current push for fiction to come out in 600 page novels, because that's the largest size that can be bound efficiently and there are very few magazines with very thin margins, isn't a good thing.

Steve Perry said...

Not unreasonable at all -- once you buy it, it's yours, and should be. I am just pointing out that ebooks provide a revenue stream for writers that many on them can use. Better for the writer if you buy an old title that way than a used book. Of course that impacts the book reseller negatively. Not necessarily a happy choice either way.

I would miss used bookstores if they went away; already miss plenty that are gone. But the times they are a'changin.