Mark Edward Hall

The Official Website of Author Mark Edward Hall

THE PROS OF PUBLISHING SHORT STORIES ON AMAZON

I get asked a lot, mostly by newbies, how I can make money by publishing .99 cent Ebooks on Amazon. First, my .99 cent books are all short stories. I make .35 on a short story that would otherwise be lost in my computer forever. I have twelve of my shorts out there now with more to come and it actually amounts to a tidy bit of extra income each quarter. Most all of my shorts have been previously published, so anything I make on them now is a bonus and welcome extra income. By the way, I also publish these same stories on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.

All my novel-length works are 2.99 or above. On Amazon you receive 70% of anything priced above 2.99.  On a 2.99 Ebook I receive 2.05. Not too bad when you consider that the stuff I have with a publisher (three books to be exact) only nets me 17.5% of list. The publisher likes to word it as 40% of net, which doesn’t sound too bad when you sign the contract, but in reality it figures to just about 17.5% of the purchase price.

I’m not here to trumpet the virtues of independent publishing over legacy publishing, although I might do that in a future post. Writers have to make up their own minds about what’s best for them. I only know what works best for me. I have two new novels coming early next year and I can tell you this, they will both be independent books. I hire my own editor, commission the cover art from some very good artists, and I’m pretty good at doing the formatting. (Better than my publisher actually) So when you take into consideration the profit difference between doing it yourself and putting it in the hands of a publisher it seems like a no-brainer to me.  I wish I’d thought that way years ago.

By the way, I also offer some of those same .99 cent short stories as a collection entitled, Servants of Darkness, for $2.99. Readers who want to sample my work can buy a .99 cent short and if they like what they read they can buy an entire collection for 2.99. In this digital age I think writers are nuts if they don’t use every opportunity available to them.

Also, I am in the process of offering all of those same short stories on my website for free. Yes, you heard me right, FREE!  If someone wants to save the .99 cent kindle fee and doesn’t mind reading on the computer, they can read my short stories without paying anything. Maybe I’m nuts but I believe it’s the right thing to do.

But to answer the original question: How can you make money by publishing .99 cent Ebooks on Amazon? Just ask John Locke. If you’re a writer and you haven’t yet heard of John Locke, then you’ve been living under a rock. John Locke writes the Donovan Creed book series and he prices all his novel-length books at .99 cents. He sold a million of them in five months and they’re selling at the rate of one every seventeen seconds.

In summary I think the future is very bright for those writers who have the courage to be creative.

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Mark Edward Hall has worked at a variety of professions including hunting and fishing guide, owner of a recording studio, singer/songwriter in a multitude of rock n’ roll bands. He has also worked in the aerospace industry on a variety of projects including the space shuttle and the Viking Project, the first Mars lander, of which the project manager was one of his idols: Carl Sagan. He went to grammar school in Durham, Maine with Stephen King, and in the 1990s decided to get serious with his own desire to write fiction. His first short story, Bug Shot was published in 1995. His critically acclaimed supernatural thriller, The Lost Village was published in 2003. Since then he has published five books and more than fifty short stories. His new novel, a thriller entitled Apocalypse Island is due out in early 2012.

16 Comments to “THE PROS OF PUBLISHING SHORT STORIES ON AMAZON”

  1. Terry Says:

    Thank you so much. I have purchased books from kindle for 99 cents, and wondered what the authors actually received for that. I have published five small (very small) paperbacks at Amazon through their self-publishing site, Create Space. They, as paperbacks, are not selling well. (two in six months, and not enough yet in royalties to actually get a payment for them.) I am working on a different one now, which will be longer, and focused on a different audience (chronic illness related) I have considered epublishing and plan to look into it for this next book.

    Your post was so encouraging to me. I can’t imagine even selling a thousand books, let alone the inconceivable million. If I sold a hundred of a title, I would feel successful.

  2. Mark Says:

    I make all my book length books available in paperback from CreatSpace, Terry, but it’s not worth publishing short stories as print editions. Right now 90% of my writing income is through e-readers such as kindle and nook. It’s the future, embrace it.

  3. Blaze McRob Says:

    Even though I co-own a small press and will be published soon with another small press with my horror novels, I admit you’re on the right track and doing what is best for you. I know authors who went the traditional route and wound up with 7 1/2 per cent royalties. The big suck job. My press treats its authors well: 55% of selling price for ebooks and 25% for paper with the option to buy copies of the paper for 40%. I won’t get rich like this, but I will encourage and give writers the tools they need to be successful. We also give first rights only for anthologies, which means an author gets free editing and can do as you do with your short stories. All they need is a cover and formatting and they are good to go. I encourage them to do so. Why not? It’s a win/win for all of us.

    I am so glad you point out the importance of editing. Great job! After reading this post of yours, I’m seriously thinking of dusting off some of the hundreds of shorts I have lying around and putting them up.

    Thank you for this timely and informative post, Mark!

    Blaze

  4. Mark Says:

    Thanks for the post, Blaze. I’m going independent for a number of reasons. I have another post coming that will give a more in-depth analysis of why I think it’s important to make informed decisions about all of this. It is, after all, your future as a writer. I understand that not all writers want to be involve in formatting and editing and all that icky promotion, but as Dylan once said, “The Times they are a Changin”. No longer are writers able to just write. Even with a legacy publisher you are expected to promote and blog and do all of the things spoiled writers once expected publishers to do for them.
    There are only a few spoiled writers left and their numbers are diminishing. Many previous legacy published writers are cashing in their chips and going independent. If you’re expected to do the leg work anyway, then why not reap the rewards.
    By the way, I think you should test market a few of your shorts. What have you got to lose?

  5. Todd Thorne Says:

    You said it well, Mark. Writers should maximize every opportunity they have available to accomplish what they hope to achieve. That includes keeping up with news and developments since those opportunities continue to change and the best ones yesterday can quickly get replaced by better ones today.

  6. Mark Says:

    Thanks for replying, Todd. You’re absolutely right, writers now have options. The entire publishing industry is in flux. The big publishers have been blindsided by the advent of devices like Kindle and Nook (although they should have seen it coming) and the willingness of Amazon and other digital content sites to cut out the middle man and put the author’s efforts directly before the public. The publishers have always been the gatekeepers, omniscient gods with the power to make or break you, and they have wielded that power unmercifully. And suddenly they no longer have the power. Digital content is killing traditional bookstore so where do publishers go to sell their content? Same place the independents go; Amazon Smashwords, Barnes & Noble. Check out the digital price of a Patterson or a King book compared to most independents. It’ll scare you.
    I’m not saying that all or even most independents can compete with the A-list authors. Those writers will still sell to their core audience no matter what the price. To a point.
    Writers who want to put their stuff directly in front of the public now face an even harsher gatekeeper than the publisher: the reader. If you write and publish crap, the reader will sort it out in the way of bad reviews and no sales. It’s a brave new world filled with both uncertainty and possibilities, and I for one am happy to embrace it.

  7. Paul D. Dail Says:

    Great post. And very topical, at least in my life. I had just started working on a collection of short stories as a sort of apertif for my three loyal readers while I continued work on my second novel, but had just heard someone say I should consider putting them out individually. I had been a little torn about this until I came to the same decision as you… to offer them both individually and as a collection. It’s good to find someone else who is doing this to validate my decision.

    And I like that you are sticking to your guns with your $2.99 novel price point. I think more writers should, John Locke be damned (not really, but you know what I mean).

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

  8. Mark Says:

    Hey, Paul, thanks for replying. Yes, I know exactly what you mean about John Locke. He’s a genius at marketing. That’s pretty much the secret to his success.
    I, for one, might test market my new novel at .99 but if I do it won’t stay there long. Hopefully long enough to start attracting readers. We’ll see, I haven’t quite decided how I’ll do it yet. What I do know is, the future for the independent writer has never seemed brighter.

  9. Blaze McRob Says:

    I believe you’re right, Mark. I have so many shorts waiting to get out. I should do something with them and promote myself a bit.

    Blaze

  10. Ken Preston Says:

    Interesting post, Mark. I am planning on releasing some short stories as ebooks next year, along with a couple of novels, which I may bring out as print editions too.
    One question. I know that Amazon will reduce the price of a kindle book if they find it cheaper on another ereader format, so do they not mind you publishing your stories for free on your website?
    Cheers,
    Ken

  11. Mark Says:

    Hi, Ken. I doubt that Amazon even has much of an awareness of what goes on with individual websites. I think if you’re offering your stories cheaper on commercial sites like smashwords and B & N they have a problem with that and price accordingly, otherwise they don’t bother you.
    I took my lead from J.A Konrath, who has been spearheading this indie movement from the beginning. If you’re not aware of him or the things he has accomplished you should check out his blog. very interesting stuff. Here’s the link: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ He offers all his short stories for free on his site and has a very close relationship with Amazon. Some of his books are now being published on their imprint.
    Good luck with your stories, and your novels.

  12. Ken Preston Says:

    Hi Mark, Thanks for the link and the reply. Actually I’ve just finished reading Be the Monkey on Kindle, which is basically (as I’m sure you know) J A Konrath and Barry Eisler discussing self pubbing verses legacy. Fascinating stuff, and a very persuasive argument to go ‘indie’. I am currently revising my goals, and thinking of no longer chasing a traditional publishing deal, but going it on my own.
    Some people might think that’s nuts, but really, what have I got to lose. In both scenarios I still need to write excellent novels and short stories, ‘product’ if you like, and can change my ideas on the distribution (ie publishing) aspect at any time. The point is to produce saleable work, by whatever means you want to distribute it.
    Cheers,
    Ken

  13. Mark Says:

    Totally agree, Ken. The new gatekeepers are the readers. Let them decide what they do and don’t want to read. Democracy doesn’t get any purer than that. In my humble opinion, it’s about time.

  14. James D Says:

    What constitutes a “short story”? How many words? Are they priced at .99 because they have a tenth of the words of a novel or for some other reason?

  15. Robin Says:

    Thanks for an informative post and lively discussion! I have just begun publishing short stories on Amazon, and it’s a great way to get my feet wet in the literary market — so much easier and faster than using any kind of “middleman”, and it makes my work accessible to my readers in a far larger way than, say, publishing in magazines, an anthology, or a collection. Plus, it helps me learn book marketing on a small scale — skills that I’ll need when I eventually publish my novel.

  16. Mark Says:

    Thanks for reading my post, Robin. I wish you much luck with both your short stories and your novels. Let me know what your pen name is so that I can check you out on Amazon.

    Mark

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