How much would you pay for a short story?

Quick question for you. I’m thinking of making some of my short stories available for download from this site, but am not sure how much to charge for them. So I’ve set up a quick poll, below. I’d really appreciate your vote (oh dear, I sound like a politician). Seriously, though, it would help, and please be honest. If you wouldn’t be interested or don’t think it’s worth paying for, just say so. The results are anonymous 😉

What I’m thinking of is a pdf document that you’d download after paying through Paypal (or some other method – suggestions welcome). The stories would vary in length but the average is probably 2,500 words or so. I’d set the price in British pounds sterling, but it would automatically convert to other currencies at the current exchange rate. So please, let me know what you think!

[poll id=3]

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There are 17 comments

  1. Andrew, this is a great question…a single song on iTunes costs $1.29 (American dollars). If it’s a song I love, I’m happy to spend it. That price point feels right to me for a short story.

  2. I don’t have a kindle or anything similar and I’m not keen on reading off a screen, not for anything longer than a blog post. I love the idea in theory as the short story and the long essay seem perfect for this. But I know I wouldn’t take advantage of it myself. It will be interesting to see the answers you get!

  3. Honestly, Andrew, this is a no go for me. Not because any story isn’t worth money but because there are so many writers offering individual stories for free.
    I had an interesting experience recently and my reaction will illustrate what I mean.
    It was the end of last year. All the book bloggers were posting their best of lists. This is something . many people are looking forward to. I certainly do. They are a special treat for me. I went to one blog during that time and the person mentioned her best of list but said, it was only available fro money. She was finacially in a tight spot and…She asked fro 10$. Maybe it’s excessive but funny enough, if hse had asked for 49p my reaction would have been the same and it spoilt her blog for me. While I’m not saying it will spoil my blog for you – I would like to point out that you must be very pcautious. At the end of the day people buy “products” from people they like. If they think you are greedy or not generous…
    A book is another story. I would of course buy an e-book but as long as stories aren’t sold like this often, you might end up, like said blogger, like the odd one out, the one asking for money for something that others offer for free.
    I’m sorry if this is a negative comment but I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking like that.
    Songs, as mentioned by Betthany are something where it is done usually, so it’s different as well

    You could sell a collection.

  4. That’s a tricky one. Personally I don’t like reading off a screen for long periods of time and so I avoid doing that as much as I can; even blog posts, if they are too lengthy I give up.That’s the technical side of it.
    Another side would be, just like Caroline said, that there are so many free stories out there, and so why pay for one?
    Personally I like tangibles, especially when it comes to books. One thing I would like to see is, say for example you want to publish a short story collection (on paper) and give people a sneak peak by making one story (or part of one) available online. That would give me an idea of your writing style, not to mention that I would appreciate the fact that you are giving something and so I would be more inclined to buy the whole collection.

  5. Thanks for all the responses so far! Those two suggested prices sound good. I feel the same about reading onscreen – have recently got an e-reader which makes it a lot easier, but I can see that if you don’t have one, that would be a problem.

    Good point about other stories being offered free. I haven’t seen other writers doing this on their sites, but I’m sure there are some – and then of course all the web zines. I suppose I would need to make a good case for why mine are worth paying for, if I do decide to go ahead with this. Will think about the e-book idea as well.

    Would love to hear some more ideas – either in the comments or by voting in the poll. Thanks for your opinions!

  6. I’d agree with Delia somewhat, in that making one of them free would be an idea. It’s always an idea to give things out freely if you’ll be asking for money later on/in other ways when it’s something like a short story. I know I’m very inclined to give an author a go on a work that costs money if I’ve been able to download a free short story, and I will likely read their backlist – you’re providing an example of your work and establishing a sort of trust, a respect almost, even if it’s not quite that.

    I would say if you do want to make money from them, how about making a collection with all/some of them in, thus creating a full-length ebook worthy of higher prices? That would eliminate the comparisons with other authors and their free short stories. And the more formats you can produce it in, whether free or not, the better.

    1. Thanks for the ideas, Charlie! In the past I’ve gone the traditional route of submitting to magazines and collections, getting them published and gradually building up to having a collection one day. Had never really considered self-publishing a collection – my idea was just to offer a few short stories on here as an alternative. But it’s definitely worth thinking about. I’m caught on the cusp of the old world and the new, and not really sure which way to go!

  7. I have added my vote without commenting here about a specific price. However, this is a brilliant idea, i think.

  8. Personally, I don’t think writers should give their stories for free, especially on the internet.

    I don’t download illegal music or films or books. It’s a question of respect for the artist and their work.

    Giving too much for free enforces the idea that it’s normal to have free books, films and so on the internet.

    1. Hi Emma,
      Thanks, that’s good to hear! There is so much free stuff on the internet, but it is striking that lots of people do spend money as well. I suppose it’s about offering something worthwhile and making the case for why it should be charged for, as well as relying on some of the honesty that you exhibit. Although the internet seems to have been around forever, it’s still quite early days really, and it’s not always clear how to handle the transition from the old model to the new. At first it was all about everything being free, but I think there is a growing recognition that people who create good things should be paid. I think you know that I used to be a journalist, and that whole industry really suffered from the early decision to give away everything completely free. Attempts to charge for news now fail completely, because the idea that news is free has become widely accepted.

  9. Interesting post, Andrew! I am a bit late in voting and commenting, but I enjoyed reading all the comments. I read an article recently about individual short stories of writers being available as e-books. And for some reason they all seem to be priced at 99 cents (which is between 49p and 99p). I think it an interesting new initiative – offering individual short stories as e-books – and it will be interesting to see how it goes. Maybe readers will warm up to it and it might be like downloading an individual song from an album.

    1. Thanks Vishy, and no problem about being late! I’m still thinking about what to do, so appreciate your contribution. If you can remember where you read that article, please let me know – I’d be interested to read it…

        1. Very interesting! Thanks for the link. Although they’re talking mostly about thriller writers, there are a lot of ideas in there that are applicable to all writers. I don’t know how they write so fast, though! 2,000 words a day, 7 days a week? That’s like a novel-writing machine!!

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