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I’m going to have to be the one who blinks, aren’t I?

2012 October 12


I discovered something annoying a couple of days ago.  To my further annoyance, this experience showed me a couple of things that I habitually don’t like paying attention to.

First, the annoying thing.  After probably more consideration than it should have taken, I had settled on a pricing scheme for my writing.  Unless I decided to make the story free, under 5000 words = 99 cents, under 10,000 but more than 5000 = $1.49, 10K to 20K = $1.99, over 20K = $2.99.

And then I clicked through a couple of thumbnails on the iBookstore to make sure that when Smashwords takes the titles I publish with them and distributes them, it’s all looking good on the other end of the distribution pipleline.

It turns out that Apple’s iBookstore doesn’t like my radical nonconformist $1.49 price point.  It’s been rounding those suckers up to $1.99.  Well, darn.  Doesn’t seem like a big deal?  Well, it’s kind of not.  It’s a difference of 50 cents either way.  It’s just that I had kind of set up this real estate in my head: ‘this story is kinda longish, but it’s not so long that I think I should be asking a whole extra buck for it’.   That territory only exists in my head because I realized a while ago that a lot of folks are offering novel-length work for $2.99 online– especially self-published types like me.  It’s actually a pretty practical strategy, keeping prices low, because with self-publishing the author sees a bigger percentage of the sale price than with traditional publishing.  And of course, some things wouldn’t work at all with traditional publishing.  Like publishing short stories individually, which is what I do.

At first, I was really annoyed.  Like, more annoyed than I should be.  That was my reaction, because, let’s face it, I react to a lot of things like that.  I have a learned (I think) tendency to overreact.  “What the hell is wrong with Apple, that they can’t handle something simple like charging $1.49 for something?” I asked nobody in particular out loud, aggrieved.

And then I said to myself, “shaddap, Stuart.  This calls for adaptation, not complaint.”

Could I jump on my Twitter account, start blogging, email… a bunch of somebodies at Apple, I guess?  Start a campaign of outcry for the wild and strange $1.49 price point?  Sure I could.

Could I accept that Apple just seems to handle pricing in dollar increments, probably because it keeps things simple for them and their customers?  Yeah, I could do that too.  But, my internal grump complains, that’s more work for me.  I’m going to have to edit all my prices on Smashwords, edit prices at Amazon to match, edit the pricing paradigm that I keep in my own precious skull.

Well, it sounds like less work than trying to start a grassroots charge to get Apple to change to conform to my expectations.  And changing my prices is probably WAY more likely to work.  And, after all, is the difference between 4,000 words and 6,000 words really a big enough deal to make a price difference?  Yes and no… but so what?  A few cents here and there aren’t going to make or break me as a writer.  Concentrating on good writing that others might be willing to buy and getting it to where interested people are going to see it, that’s going to make the real difference.

Commence ‘Operation: Repricing’.  This time, I’m going to be the one who adapts.  Look, I don’t like to adapt sometimes.  Sometimes, change seems like a big chore.  But if I let it be a big chore, I’m going to be unhappy, because change is a constant.  I’m going to run into a lot of things that are bigger than I am, like the Apple iBookstore.  There are times and places that taking the hard road and saying ‘no’ to something bigger than I am is the correct choice.

But wisdom is in identifying when taking a stand is appropriate, and when it doesn’t make any sense.  I’m not claiming to be particularly wise.  I’m just wondering why in the world I wasted even ten seconds being grumpy about this.  As a reader, I like 99 cents for a short story.  Now, why didn’t I just listen to my internal reader in the first place?  Silly me.

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