A couple of months ago, Mark Coker revealed some data that indicated that the sweet spot on ebook pricing was $2.99. Since then, Smashwords has been flooded with erotica stories priced at (c'mon, make a guess--yep, that is right) $2.99.
As I write this (2:45 pm on Saturday, 23 June 2012), peeking at the erotica listings on Smashwords, I am not surprised to see that all ten of the erotica ebooks on the first page are listed at $2.99. One of them is four to five thousand words; four of them are three to four thousand words; one is between two and three thousand words; and four of them are between one and two thousand words.
[Erotica listings on Smashwords--I wonder if the numbers have changed much since I wrote this. Maybe you want to go look to see if all ten books are at $2.99. It could be a drinking game.]
Actually it is the last four that make me think that price inflation has occurred since Coker revealed the price information. Three of the four are 1130 words, and the fourth is 1100 words. When you account for front matter, that $2.99 for less than a thousand words.
(My front matter--copyright notice, link to Smashwords suthor page, sexual dubious warning, etc.--is about two hundred words. I can't imagine doing it with much less words.)
Given this sample, on average you are paying $2.99 for 2619 words, and some of those words consists of advertising, guilt and copyright notices. I am not sure that two and a half thousand words of erotica short story is worth $2.99.
Now before Coker made his announcement that the best price for earning was $2.99, I saw a lot of variety in the erotica ebook prices on Smashwords. It ranged from 99 cents to ten bucks. (There were also a lot of free ebooks--but that is promotion mainly.)
I was starting to vary my erotica ebooks prices before this announcement, experimenting with $1.99 and $2.99 prices--but seventy percent of my stock is still priced at 99 cents. I am waiting on more sales data before deciding where my sweet spot is for erotica. But I can see already that $2.99 is not necessarily my own personal sweet spot for erotica, especially short stories.
And I know that as a customer and reader, it is not a price that I am willing to shell out just to recieve a thousand words.
(Yes, I am writing some erotica. Doesn't every writer sooner or later write erotica just to test the market? And no, monkey-brains [a friend of mine], I am not going to reveal my erotica pen-name here.)
This is not just an erotica question. I write more than just erotica. Multiple genres, multiple pen-names.
For instance, recently I was kicking around the prices for several pieces of fiction that I was uploading to Smashwords. [Morgan Drake Eckstein on Smashwords.] The collection of several stories and poems ended up with the $2.99 price; the single short story and the infamous Zealot's Dictionary (a humor piece) got priced at 99 cents. It made sense to me; after all, I do not want to price myself out of the market.
And that is what I think this rush to use $2.99 as the price is going to do with a lot of erotica writers. I think that it is going to be a bad move that is going to cost them sales. I foresee a lot of people having to lower their price. Especially those people who are only offering a product of a thousand words.
The reason for the rush is that I think that the writers who are jumping on this price do not understand the data. The figures that Mark Coker was sharing are based on the TOTAL of Smashwords sales. The figures include those people in the top ten spots, as well as everyone else. It included works with as few as five hundred words up to the hundred thousand plus; in other words, flash fiction to novels--everything was included in the data.
In fact, the way I read his comments, it sounded like readers like longer novels and that the sweet spot for the price of a long novel is $2.99. I could be wrong; after all, I am using just the collected data and not the raw data.
Furthermore I believe that those people pumping out $2.99 erotica short stories are forgetting that each writer has their own sweet spot for pricing. My pricing sweet spot may not be the same as yours. Your sweet spot depends upon your audience. My audience is definitely different than most.
So for now, there are a bunch of writers who believe that $2.99 is the best price for erotic short stories. I disagree. Time will tell if they also end up believing otherwise.