The price of Island of Fog novellas
Posted on May 4, 2015 (Subscribe to Blog)
I have great plans for the Island of Fog novellas. I published Eye of the Manticore in February, and most of the feedback I've received via email and Facebook has been positive. But is the price of $2.99 an issue?
Take this 2-star review from Amazon:
Not worth the price. This was a very short, although insightful, point of view story from Thomas. Not much outlined and displayed, although it did help (somewhat) explain/describe Thomas's history. I felt this was too short to be worth the price. But i definitely do love Robinson's Island of Fog chronicles and sincerely appreciate his writing and creativity.
The issue here might not just be the price. It might be that the novella is too short or simply not good enough to tell a full story. But the heading is "Not worth the price," which makes me think the price is indeed a major issue. Would the reader have given it a higher rating if it were free or $0.99? I don't know.
I'd really like to delve deeper into this and figure out how much of an issue the price is, versus the story itself. Would $2.99 have been too much for ANY novella no matter how good? Or would this novella have received a 2-star rating even if it were free? If that reviewer is reading this, please don't be shy! I'm always open to criticism and feedback, good or bad.
Before Eye of the Manticore was published, another reader once mentioned that $2.99 would be too much for any novella. Well, let's think about this. All the Island of Fog books are 100,000 words and were originally priced at $3.99 (except for Book 1, which is free in most places). Since Eye of the Manticore was looking to be about 40% of the length, at around 40,000 words, you could argue that its price should also be 40% at $1.60. So that reader was right.
However, $1.60 is a problem, for reasons I'll explain. As it stands today, the books are $4.99, meaning a 40%-length novella should be $1.99. This is better. But you see, authors earn 70% of the list price if the book is $2.99 and above, and only 30% if lower. This is a huge difference. A book priced at $2.99 earns me about $2.09 per book. A book priced at $2.98, just a penny less, would only earn me $0.89. And a book priced at $1.99 would be $0.59. This is the dilemma authors face for these shortish books.
So I opted for $2.99, the lowest price I could manage without drastically cutting my royalties. If I'm going to write novellas, or indeed any book, then I need to make it worth my while financially. It's not like I'm rolling in money from writing. The best I can hope for is to justify the time I spend away from actual paid work.
Then again, if a reader refuses to buy a novella for $2.99, then it's all for nothing. So there's a bit of a standoff here. I won't write them for less, but a reader might not buy them at that price. What to do?
It always surprises me when a reader says the price is too much. I forget that readers naturally have a different mindset. In my head, the violin starts up and I think of all the hours I spend writing and editing. I think to myself, "Why should this reader get it for less than the price of a Big Mac Meal, which is gobbled up in two minutes?" There's a reviewer who loved Book 1 (which was free) but complained that "the other books cost money" and gone on to ask where they can download them for free.
I think the internet – complete with piracy – has made a lot of people feel a bit too entitled. We occasionally spend $2 just to get cash out of an ATM, or $3 on a slushie or coffee, and we don't even blink. But spending the same on a book from a favorite author for hours of entertainment...?
All that said, every reader is different and has a unique case to put forward, and I'm not one to argue. The only thing is, I need to choose whether to write novellas that people balk at buying because of the price hurdle. I do seem to be selling Eye of the Manticore, but it only has two reviews – a 5-star and a 2-star, which makes my overall rating pretty poor – so it's hard to say what average readers really think.
Any and all thoughts on this subject are much appreciated!
I don't think 2.99 is too much to pay. Maybe a compromise is to have it be 2.99 for the first year of release and then go to 1.99 at that point.
Of course, people tend to be more vocal when they think something is overpriced. Most of us out here who were completely fine with the price aren't going to post a review saying we felt it was appropriately priced. Very few people review a book and make the price the overarching sticking point.
In my mind, the reviewer should have gone for 4 stars and then clarified that it was lower because of the price. The content was something he still enjoyed.
Perhaps produce a bunch of novellas and release them all together in one omnibus edition? That way you can justify a higher price and give value for money at the same time.
Thanks Brian! You make perfect sense.
And Guanomere, that's something I considered as a possibility. Basically, those who don't like the price can refuse to buy it until it's available as a compendium. But then I'd need to say in advance, "This will be available in the future along with two other stories for the special price of $x.xx..."
I don't think you should drop the price at all. I don't think you should even consider it any further than this post. You are right about the amount of time and energy that has to go into even publishing a piece of work, and you are right about people being very entitled these days. I think you summed it up beautifully with your comments about how easily our money can flow for various other things without us even missing a beat. If anything, I would suggest you raising the price of the other books by a few dollars. This might sound strange, but hear me out. I have a yard sale each year and my goal is simply; price it to sell so it goes, and yet I would make barely enough to warrant my time and effort. After going to other people's sales and witnessing items flying away at prices I thought were too high, I was left scratching my head. Maybe they (potential buyers) were associating the price of the items with the quality of the items. Hmmm... time for an experiment. So last year, I simply upped the price of my items, not by much, but perhaps where I would be happy with .50, I instead marked $1.00. The outcome? 60% of my stuff sold in the first day! Maybe people really do associate price with quality? I don't know how you feel about this, or even the thought of raising the price of the other books, and I don't think that price would sway my opinions personally, but this is indeed a fickle society we live in. It might be worth some thought at least? Also, we are nearly done reading Eye of the Manticore and so soon you will have another review for it, and I assure you it will be positive. ;)
I must admit I did think the novella was a bit expensive (£1.99) compared to the price of the main books (£2.99) when you think you are getting half the number of pages, but I also thought that the main books were very cheap. I would probably have paid a pound more for them (£3.99), especially as we were so eager to read them and the first book was free. Still, I do not mind paying that price for the novella because I think I got a bargain with the books, not to mention the free stories. In my case, I rather spend money on books than some other silly thing. Hope it helps.
Monica, that's brilliant! I'll definitely consider that... and now of course people will be out for your blood, blaming YOU for upping the price. :-) Ha! But I'll think about it. I've read many times that extra-low prices cheapen the product and put people off, so I suppose the reverse is true in that putting the price up a notch might make it seem "better" somehow.
Arantza, that's interesting too. You're talking about UK prices, and something is a bit off with those. I think it's partly because of the January introduction of VAT (like sales tax over here). I set the books at $4.99 US, and I have a choice of having the UK books auto-priced from that or manually set. Rather than having odd-looking auto-prices of £3.29, I set them at £2.99 including VAT, so UK customers a little better off already. But I can't go lower than £1.99 at the 70% rate, which means a £2.99 book is £1.99. Compare:
$2.99 is 60% of $4.99
£1.99 is 66% of £2.99
£1.99 is 60% of £3.29
So I should at least increase my UK prices to £3.29 to compare with the US.
Interesting to hear both of you saying you'd be okay to pay a little more. And yes, the first book IS free. Thanks for the thoughts!
$2.99 price I feel is reasonable. Thinking of the time spent using your imagination to put together a story that is interesting plus of ten giving up familytime because an idea hits you and you have to get it written down before the thought goes away. Besides anyone that knows your work knows your stories are well worth it. I buy anything you publish on "Island of Fog" they are that good! Altho I usually go for full length books cuz I am one of those readers that start a book and before you know it I am immersed in it...part of it. A book that is too short just "gets my feet wet".
I agree with both Brian Clopper and Arantza. I reserve that 5th star for the 500 plus page novels. I bet that 2 star review was about the length and not the content - which is always fabulous. I do miss the novels. I'm not a short story/novella reader. With four exceptions: King, Koontz, Robinson & Quinn. There's a slew of free books out there by new authors, and maybe we are spoiled because so many of them are really good. However, the IoF series is well established now, so I say do whatever you have to do in order to keep them coming. You are a natural born writer - don't deprive us of that over $.
Thank you, Carol and Kat! Very much appreciated. And being listed alongside King, Koontz, and Quinn as well! :-)