When I started selling ebooks four years ago, I could package a 1,000-word short story ebook and readers would buy it for a buck. That was four years ago. Looking at the accumulated sales data since then, readers are less incline to buy a 1,000-word short story ebook for a buck these days. Although the 1,500-word short story ebooks are still selling good, I think the minimum word count for a short story ebook that readers are willing to pay a buck for is 2,000+ words. I decided to improve my ebooks to better meet changing market conditions.
I came out with three new short stories ebooks−“Reaching For The Heavens,” “Travelers Among Strange Worlds” and “A Sorrowful River Runs Through Here”−that each has three short stories organized around a common theme. This trio of short stories ebooks features eight short stories that are still available as short story ebooks and an original short story.
Are readers willing to pay a buck for a 3,000-word short stories ebook?
The initial sales data is yes. A co-founder of a new ebook subscription service contacted me about publishing on their platform and specifically requested the trio of short stories ebooks (a future blog post will cover this in detail). An encouraging start for a new product category.
I may remove the eight short story ebooks after I get more sales data from the subscription services like Scribd, Oyster and others. Subscription services justify having as many ebooks as possible to increase every opportunity for attracting readers. However, since I specialize in SHORT ebooks (i.e., short stories and essays) and will be publishing my 75th ebook at year’s end, pruning and maintaining my ebook catalog becomes an issue. Sales data decided the creation of the new short stories ebook; sales data will decide the fate of the older short story ebooks.
When Bibliocracy stopped being an ebook retail store last year, I didn’t care much since I never made money from the three ebooks I got to post for sale. When Sony closed their ebook retail store earlier this year, I shrugged my shoulders since I didn’t make much money over the last four years. But when Diesel abruptly closed their ebook retail store last month, I checked the numbers and realized that I didn’t make much money there either.
Is the bottom falling out for ebook retailers?
The short answer is yes, based on my ebook sales numbers over the last four years. Bibliocracy was an independent ebook retailer that wasn’t successful. Sony and Diesel were part of the Smashwords premium catalog, which lagged behind the Big Three—Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo—in sales. No surprise that these three ebook retailers have raised the white flag.
Amazon is now a distant fourth behind the Big Three for selling my ebooks. The “world’s largest market” is typically 20% or less of my annual sales. I expect that number to become smaller this year. The general trend for most Amazon authors over the last few years is declining sales. If Amazon stops selling ebooks, I wouldn’t miss them as a publisher.
The longer answer for Diesel is an antitrust lawsuit against the Big Five publishers over the agency pricing model that allow publishers to control the prices of their ebooks and prevent ebook retailers from offering discounts to compete with other ebook retailers. Diesel may have a strong case since the publishers are reluctant to grant the smaller ebook retailers the same terms that they given Amazon and Apple. As many independent bookstores have complained for years, this two-tier system makes it difficult for them to compete with the larger retailers.
As the ebook market continues to grow, it’s not unusual for the bottom of the market to shake out weak businesses. If Kobo stops selling ebooks, I’ll start worrying about the overall health of the ebook retailer market. Until then I’m going to keep on writing, publishing and selling my ebooks wherever I can.