Just got a (justifiably) cranky e-mail from a guy who paid something like $3.50 for “Walk the Plank,” the second episode of The Human Division, and was annoyed that he got 32 pages for his money. Here’s my thought on this:
1. We (i.e., Tor and I) are charging 99 cents an episode, or an amount roughly similar depending on your country and currency. If you are paying substantially more for an episode where you are, I suspect it has something to do with the retailer and/or taxes and/or I don’t know, maybe dragons.
2. Holy cow, don’t pay $3.50 per episode. That’s just nuts.
3. As a reminder, all the episodes will be compiled into a single book in May. If you’re confronted with paying substantially more than 99 cents an episode, just hang back and get it all in one go; I suspect the single volume will be substantially cheaper than each individual episode at that price (at 99 cents, the individual episodes will add up to more or less the same price as the single compiled eBook version, for those trying to figure that one out in their heads).
While I’m on the subject of “Walk the Plank,” if you look at the Amazon reviews here, there are a lot of one star reviews complaining primarily about the length of the the episode, i.e., that it’s too short for the money. I figure this is a fine time to remind people that I’ve always taken pains to let people know the length of the episodes range from 22,000 words to 6,000 words, and that the average episode length is about 10,000 words (actually slightly over that, but we’re rounding).
I don’t personally feel that the lower end of that range is too short for 99 cents; I’ve had several shorts available electronically that sell for the same price which are that length or shorter, and they’ve been selling perfectly well without complaint. My own personal rule of thumb for a while is that you charge a buck for up to ten thousand words and add on another buck for every 6,000 or so words from there, a pricing guideline that’s more or less reflected in my shorter works in general.
That said, Tor and I agreed that pricing every Human Division episode at 99 cents made sense because we didn’t want people to see the price jump around depending on the length of episode. A side effect of that (and probably of having the first episode be a double-length episode), is people perhaps assuming that each episode would be of equivalent length to “The B-Team,” rather than “The B-Team” being the double-length pilot. Something for us to file away for our post-mortem.
In the meantime, if you’re one of those folks who thinks 99 cents is too much for below [x] number of pages, the solution in this case is to check the page lengths on the sale pages and calibrate accordingly, and/or perhaps consider waiting until the whole run is done and the compiled version is available for sale in May. As noted before, the cost of buying all the individual episodes and of buying the single compiled edition will be roughly the same, so there’s no real economic penalty whichever way you choose (unless you’re one of the special cases noted at the beginning of the entry). It’s really a matter of personal taste.
As a final note, a small request: If you read “Walk the Plank” and enjoyed it (or didn’t enjoy it for reasons other than length), if you’d consider dropping by Amazon and leaving a review that would be swell. The complaints about length are fine and something for Tor and me to think about, but it would be nice to have people mentioning the story as well as the meta-discussion of what the appropriate price/length ratio is for one’s dollar.