JanNoWriMo and Pricing Woes

Wow. Talk about a crazy writing schedule. For the last two weeks or so, I’ve been getting up at 4, sometimes 3 in the morning to start writing. I’ve been writing on my lunch breaks, writing when I get home from work, all to get the awesomeness that is WOOL 5 out of my head and onto (metaphorically speaking) paper.

Really, I’m pulling the story out of thin air and putting it into my really thin Air! (Macbook Air) *rimshot*

The result of all this sleep deprivation (besides the horrid sense of humor displayed above) is that I now have 95% of the rough draft for WOOL 5 complete. I’m over 51,000 words! That’s another NaNoWriMo pulled off in less than three weeks. Unreal. It also means WOOL 5 qualifies as a novel, which leads me to my next point: How much should I charge for this bad boy?

During my brief career I’ve tried to be, above all else, completely fair and forthright with you, my handful of readers. Like the 3-part story of my middling success, my openness with sales numbers, detailing my every thrill and heartbreak, even dancing for you with silly a hat on when I reached 100 reviews. I’m as transparent as Wonder Woman’s primary mode of transportation, people.

So here’s the skinny: The first WOOL was around 11,000 words. A short story or a novelette, depending on who you poll. I priced it at the minimum and never figured it would sell more than a few copies. Soon, it was selling thousands. WOOL 2 was 20,000 words or so, and I kept the price the same. WOOL 3 went to 30,000 words. WOOL 4 was 40,000 (coincidence. really). All at less than a buck.

Here’s the issue: I’m making a pittance on each sale. Enough to quit my job so I can write full-time, but not so I don’t worry for how long I’ll be able to (or that this cavity will get worse as soon as my insurance is kaput). The reason for the pittance is this: Amazon has two royalty tiers in order to promote higher prices. They don’t want the downward pressure spiral of us indies devaluing the e-book, which I agree with. It’s painful to see poor little WOOL competing with 200,000 epics that were never edited, just thrown onto the Kindle market. I spend as much time revising and editing these stories as I do writing them. A fair price for WOOL 5 would be in the $4.99 to $5.99 range. Similar works of slightly greater length sell for $9.99 as e-books.

The two tiers, then, go like this: Anything below $2.99 receives a 35% commission. That’s 35 cents that I get when you buy a copy of any of the current WOOL books. Amazon gets the remaining 64 cents. At $2.99, which is where I price the Molly books and Half Way Home (which is almost exactly the same length as WOOL 5), I get a 70% commission. That’s a little over two dollars, or 6 times what I make otherwise! For three times the cost, I get six times the royalty. And the reader gets 4 times as much book!

This is what I would like to do, what I really need to do in order to keep writing full-time, but I worry about reader reaction. I don’t want it to seem like I’ve drawn people in only to gouge them later. In reality, the size of the product (and quality, judging by reviews) has gone up while the price has remained the same.

An informal polling on FB and Twitter received a ton of support for the higher price. I appreciated this, but I would love to hear from more of you. What are your thoughts? Is $2.99 fair? Will you buy me a cup of coffee for my month of sleepless nights? I want to do what’s right for all of us, to keep things fair, and so I want to know.

20 responses to “JanNoWriMo and Pricing Woes”

  1. Although your dance moves made me throw up in my mouth a little I say go for the $2.99 and don’t even think about it!

    1. I really wish you hadn’t seen that.

      Or my wife. She’s taken to sleeping in the other room.

  2. Hugh, I think people are buying your book not for the price but because they enjoy reading the story. Sure, the price brought people to try the book out but now they know the work is good and interesting. Ford sold his cars for what they were worth, so should you.

  3. I agree with WHH. I know I’ve already told you to go for $2.99, but I’m going to say it again. Plus, WHH makes a good point: Wool probably sold because of the price, but now people are buying because of the story. $2.99 is still very, very inexpensive, and it isn’t such a big jump that people will be put off.

  4. Asked my husband. He said to go even higher than $2.99.

  5. $2.99 is not gouging. I read WOOL 1 – 4 and bought Molly 1 – 4 at full price without thinking about it. You are not Dickens and we are not paying you by the word here, Howey. We’re paying you out of enjoyment tinged with desperation. Stop fretting; charge the $2.99 and think no more of it. This will free your brain up to go write faster, and we will all thank you.

  6. Personally, I would be happy paying around $8 for Wool 5. After reading 1-4, I trust that it will be well worth the money. From a business perspective, I’m not sure that going that high is a good idea as it may turn off readers with the big jump. I think it’s totally reasonable, though, to go as high as $4.99 without scaring away too many people. Might I suggest releasing a compilation at some point? That could be a good way to “even out” the pricing for the middle books. Just a thought.

  7. Elsewhere, I’ve been a naysayer, and I think that’s mainly because I’ve been an obsessive reader of ALL the reviews. My *personal* opinion has always been that Wool 5 (and all the preceding volumes, actually) is well worth $2.99. Now, having read all 102 Amazon reviews, the comments on your Facebook page, and the comments here–I say, without reservation–$2.99. And God help us all, because it’s a frickin’ STEAL.

  8. Er, I should point out that I’ve read all 102 reviews of Wool 1…as well as all the reviews for Wool 2-4. (Sorry.)

  9. Seriously, Hugh, why don’t you have a PayPal button? I mean, I get it that as an indie writer trying to find your fanbase (a task at which you seem to be doing just fine), you want to put your creations out there at a low price point. At the same time, those of us who are fans of your excellent stories and writing know that we’re getting something amazing for next to nothing (why, in God’s name, did I spend THAT much for that Stephen King “Dome” horseshit?). So let me laugh as I spend 3 bucks for Wool 5 (and later slip you a couple more bucks so you can buy more ramen noodles to keep you fed and writing).

  10. PS: When Wool 5 is published, you should do an Omnibus edition of all 5 for $4.99. I’m pretty sure this is a no-brainer….

    1. Sabrina: DONE! Count on it.

  11. You’re absolutely right. It’s the price of a cup of coffee… I’d pay more for a new release at the video store, and I suspect Wool5 is better than any of them anyway…

  12. Definitely $2.99.
    the fact that your take home percentage doubles at that price really should seal it.

  13. Honestly, I would HAPPILY pay $4.99 for Wool 5 since I already know that it is going to be a page-turning, quality work, just as the first 4 were. And as Peter said, $4.99 is the price of a cup of Starbucks that will satisfy me less than reading your works and probably give me a stomach ache at the end of the day! (Never gotten a stomach ache from your books, but my fingernails would like to have a chat with you!)

    As other posters above me said, it was the $.99 that prompted me to read Wool 1, but now you have me at your mercy, and I would be willing to pay whatever you believe is worth your time and effort (and hat wearing stunts)!

    1. Jill, I installed a Papal button for awesome and generous fans such as you. After you finish WOOL 5, if you feel you have just been blown away and for far too little, you can always return and help fund the creation of my next work. :)

  14. I haven’t even finished Wool 5 (nyah, nyah, I’ve gotten to read some of the early pages), but I hit that PayPal button like an experimental rat glomming on the reward bar to give me that sweet sweet feeling of electricity to the right part of my brain such that I don’t even care about eating, defecating, or reproducing.

    1. Haha @ Lisa.

      That comment tickled me.

  15. Hi Hugh! This is what happens when a guy sleeps with 3 dogs (small dogs, though) and a cat (and don’t forget the wife!) – up at 3 am and reading Hugh’s blog! So I am 100% with Jill, I’d gladly pay $4.99 for Wool 5. But, I do agree with your comment about some (I would say “cheap”, but let’s say “value conscious”;) ) people complaining about such a jump in price for the last installment. I’d be happy to pay $2.99 through Amazon and make a donation directly to you via the PayPal button. I’ll have to dig out my PayPal account info, haven’t had to look that up since about two years ago when I had to email it to that Nigerian princess for her dowry so she could reclaim the monarchy…

  16. I read Wool 1-4 in two nights of staying up WAY past my bedtime. What a great story! I think that most people understand that the more labor and quality that is put into something the more that thing is going to cost. I would pay $4.99 for Wool 5 and not give the price a second thought.

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