Looks like The Fussy Librarian is sharing more results today. This time in response to short stories (classified as under 125 pages in this survey). As you know, I hold the belief that writers should be paid for their works, just as people going to their day jobs expect to be paid. Now how much a work is worth is up for debate. This is what I like about the Fussy Librarian surveys. It’s asking the readers, the actual consumers what they think their entertainment is worth.
Short Stories in Numbers
If we do the quick math on that with the standard assumption of 250 words per page, that’s about 31,250 words. The minimum to be considered a novel is 50,000 words or 200 pages. Keep in mind, 200 pages is a short novel. These days, I’m seeing novels running in the 300-375 range (75,000 – 93,750 words). In other words, the short story is looking at about a third of a book, if you’re pushing for the upper 125 page number. With that in mind, according to the Fussy Librarian, 75% of those surveyed read short stories.
As a reminder, I mentioned in my last post that The Fussy Librarian revealed the $3.99 price point as the high frequency for eBooks with 55% of those surveyed believing that eBook prices should range from $2.99-4.99.
So what does the survey say about short stories? Well, 30% of those surveyed believed short stories should always be free. This kind of makes me think of the free pens with our logos that we give out to clients. We use the free pens as a way to promote ourselves. Likewise, many authors do the same with their works… the loss leader. However, a loss leader only works if you have a collection of stories to sell. Otherwise, the loss leader is just lost money. 🙂 And really, a loss leader is really a marketing strategy, not an evaluation of how much a work is worth.
So our paying readers… what do they think? The high frequency this time around is $0.99, which came out to be 43% of those surveyed. Not bad, I think, considering 125 pages is about 1/4 to 1/3 of a book. That leaves the remaining consumers (25%) in the $1.99-3.99 price point.
What’s an Author to do?
When I think of 30,000 words, I see it as quite an investment. It’s not like the 5-15K short stories I whip up with Control Freak that might take a week or two max for a first draft and a few more weeks to refine, polish, and edit. A decent 30K word story can easily take a month or more to write (at least for me). Then there’s months and months of rereading, polishing, and editing. We’re not looking at a quick turn around. The longer a work is, the more chance time investment it takes (exponentially).
Yet 30% is a big chuck of consumers who think that effort should be free. If readers believe smaller works have no monetary value, what can an author do? Well, an author can consider packaging their works… putting together a short story collection that equates to the size of a full length novel.
The Unanswered Question
I found it interesting that 30% of consumers thought smaller works (125 pages or less) should be free while 25% of consumers didn’t read short works. Hmmm. What’s the distribution on that? Were those who did not read short stories likely to think short works should be free? Or was it the other way around… those who consumed smaller works valued them less monetarily?