After selling short story ebooks for over a year-and-a-half, I can say that reprint content (i.e., published manuscripts) sells better than original content (i.e., unpublished manuscripts). This may surprise some writers. Although the ebook publishing revolution is the great equalizer for content, some content are more equal than other content (to paraphrase George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”). Knowing the difference can increase your ebook sales.
Depending on the content, I include one of the following two lines in the description and on the title page for the ebook.
For reprint content: “This 1,029-word short story was first published in The MacGuffin (Fall 2009).”
For original content: “This 1,155-word short story is being published for the first time.”
Readers looking for something new to read—especially from a writer they haven’t read before—would probably purchase the reprint ebook because an editor thought the original manuscript was good enough for their publication. (Assuming that the editor wasn’t an utter moron, which I have encountered a few during my snail mail submission days.) Readers can independently verify most publication credits on the Internet or at the local library, if the reader wants to go one step further before buying the ebook. Reprint content inspires trust, whereas original content requires a leap of faith, from the reader.
My goal as a short story writer is to publish my manuscripts elsewhere first. After the exclusive period is over (i.e., 90 days for web publication to 365 days for print publication), I can re-publish my short story as a reprint ebook. My goal as an ebook publisher is to fill the pipeline with reprint content as much as possible and use original content to fill out the publication calendar (two ebooks per month). Reprint content takes very little time to turn into an ebook. If I can get enough reprint content into the pipeline, I’ll have enough free time to write and publish an original novel ebook.