Posted on February 13, 2015 at 12:00 AM by Jeffrey Bruner

An ongoing series of posts about results of our survey of 1,200 Fussy Librarian subscribers.

One way the ebook has revolutionized the publishing industry is the number of shorter books (short stories, novelettes, novellas) has exploded over the past 10 years.

Authors can now write as long (or short) as they want.

In many ways, the shorter book is a good fit for the modern lifestyle. A 60- to 90-minute read works well for the period after dinner but before bedtime.

It's good for commuters on public transportation and cubicle dwellers on their lunch hour.

Not everyone is willing to make the commitment to 600 pages and the shorter book is perfect for them.

The shorter book also has become a great promotional tool. Serialization is making a comeback and more authors are willing to do free promotions with a shorter book as way to get readers to buy their other works. 

Still, as I put together the reader survey, I wondered if short story / novella readers were a niche market or mainstream. And 1,200+ readers said ...

Question: Do you ever read short stories or novellas?

  • Yes: 75 percent

  • No: 25 percent

That's a pretty emphatic answer.

Find the right story and put a professionally designed cover on it and you've got a chance to sell to 75 percent of readers.

You're unlikely to find many consumer markets that widespread. Woohoo.

That's the good news. Now the bad news (for some of you) ...

Question: What's a fair price for a book with fewer than 125 pages?

  • These books should always be free: 30 percent

  • 99 cents: 43 percent

  • $1.99: 16 percent

  • $2.99: 7 percent

  • $3.99: 2 percent

If you're selling at $1.99 or more, you've automatically lost nearly three-fourths of the market for shorter books.

Maybe in time we can change how consumers think about it, but for now you've got to sell to the market you have ... not the market you want. 

I suspect that if the question was worded to reflect books 100 pages or less, the "always should be free" percentage climbs even higher.

I'd strongly recommend going free for ebooks less than 100 pages. Include links to your other books in the back and include your email address to start building a mailing list.

For books more than 100 pages, a price of 99 cents should resonate well, all other factors (blurb quality, cover quality) aside.

And this goes for all books, regardless of length: Put them on sale. Create a sense of urgency for someone to buy your book!

If you can do a Kindle Countdown sale, that's great. If not, you can still create a "sale" price.

Remember, lots of products in America are on perpetual "sale" because a lot consumers are conditioned to never pay "list price." (Think cars, for starters.)

$5.99 —> $2.99

$3.99 —>99 cents

99 cents —> free

All of those represent a discount of more than 50 percent to the buyer. That's incentive.

Now create urgency — set your sale to be two days: the date of your preferred promotion plus one day. That will capture 99 percent of the email opens.

And if your sale dates are flexible, let me know in the notes field of the submit form.

I'll email you with a new suggested promotion date if your first choice isn't available.

Other installments in this series

Readers and free books

All about that blurb

What readers say about ebook prices

Why do readers stop reading?

Categories: Pricing, Reader survey

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