Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Readers Buy the Brand, Not the Story

What is a short story worth?

This seems to be a hot topic these days among indie authors.  There is this ridiculous obsession with what "readers" will think is a fair price for a story.  Some authors think that the story should be at least 5,000 words long in order to sell it for 99 cents.  Others argue it has to be 10,000 words to be worth 99 cents.  And still others (like me) will put a 2,000 story for sale at 99 cents.

You know what?  None of this arguing matters.

You want to know why?  Readers by the brand, not the story.

People don't pay $4 for a coffee.  They are paying $4 for a Starbucks coffee.  That same person would probably refuse to buy a gas station coffee for $4 because in their mind it would be a rip-off.  Gas station coffee is low quality whereas, in their mind, Starbucks provides a high quality coffee drinking experience.

The same goes for short stories.  When you first start out as an author, you are gas station coffee.  It's not that your stuff is bad or good, you're just not a known brand.  You'll have readers that will buy your work because it's cheap and you'll have readers that will balk at your product because, in their mind, no money is worth your gas station coffee when they could just go to Starbucks (read: known author).

 Which is why you have to work at becoming a brand.  Yes, bicker some more about a 5,000 short story and how it could be considered a rip-off at 99 cents.  But you know what?  If JK Rowling or Steven King published a standalone short story that length I bet people would buy it for $4.99 and not even bat an eyelash.  Those authors are brands.

So stop stressing about whether or not you are ripping off your readers.  So long as you are upfront about the type of product you are selling (like, saying it's a short story), charge what you think the story is worth and have done with it.

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