Why My Short Fiction Is Exclusively In My Store

You might have noticed that I’ve stopped publishing my shorter fiction on third-party bookstores like Amazon and Kobo and whatnot. If it’s not credibly a novel by historical standards1, it’s in my store. If you’re unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity when someone asks me about my business model, I make a lot of noise about the importance of having your work available on every platform. Why would I break my own rule? Because I’m okay with exclusivity, so long as it’s mine.

My short stories have a publication life cycle. The good ones I publish as stand-alone chapbooks. (The bad ones get thrown in the Pit, where the stronger devour the weaker. It’s not nice, but go ask David Attenborough how nature works.) When I have enough stories on a theme, I gather them into a collection, Kickstart it, and unpublish the chapbooks. Publishing a title on every retailer takes about four to five hours. Unpublishing takes about the same, because while unpublishing requires less information, interfaces optimized for offering something to the world are often anti-optimized for undoing that. I have to expect to make a few hundred bucks to be worth the time.

As I’ve discussed earlier, Amazon penalizes pricing books outside the $2.99-$9.99 range. I’ve been forced to price my short stories at $2.99, even though I think $1.99 is a more fair price. I carried that price across all platforms. For years people bought them at that price, until suddenly they stopped.

I had no idea why they stopped. It’s not like I can reach out to people who buy through Amazon.

But after this had gone on for a while, I asked a couple folks who signed up for my Patronizer program. (It’s Patreon, except you can use either Patreon proper or go direct with me.) Every one of them gave me the same answer: “I used to buy your stories, but now I send you money every month and get them for free.”

Obvious, really. I have successfully disintermediated many of my short fiction readers! Yay me!

That’s old readers, though. But what about discoverability? Having more work in a bookstore prioritizes you in their algorithm. My fiction career is not as strong as my nonfiction career, surely I need all the help I can get. Uh… have you looked at my fiction name over at Amazon? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Supposedly the more titles you have, the more likely it is that the Almighty Algorithm will bless you with virality. I do not chase algorithms, because The Algorithm giveth and The Algorithm taketh away. Yes, this business requires luck–but I prefer relying on the kind of luck that looks a lot like hard work, and relying on goals rather than dreams (a topic I discuss in unreasonable depth in Domesticate Your Badgers.)

Having short stories exclusively on my bookstore lets me price them at $1.99. I think that’s a fair price. After fees I make about $1.60 on each sale, which beats the heck out of Amazon’s ~$0.65 for a $1.99 tale. I no longer lose a full day on the publishing/unpublishing cycle. I’ll still publish full-length books everywhere that offers a reasonable contract, but the short stories will stay with me for now.

The new story’s on my bookstore. Imagine Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, but it’s weird modern fantasy. I have almost enough of these tales to Kickstart a collection, but many of them are sitting in various trad pub channels awaiting rejection.

  1. For several decades full-length novels were 30,000 words or more, with 20,000-30,000 words being “short novels.” Go grab some pulp magazines and count for yourself. The financial pressures that led to gradually increasing the Standard Novel Length no longer apply with modern manufacturing technology.

2 Replies to “Why My Short Fiction Is Exclusively In My Store”

  1. Michael, as an author who agrees Amazon’s self-serving limits on pricing are ridiculous and would prefer to price his standalone short stories at $1.99, is there any reason why you don’t distribute them widely at that price point everywhere but Amazon? I.e. Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and all the other stores reached by Draft2Digital and other aggregators.

    To my knowledge no other stores include similar pricing limits, and while they may not have the reach of Amazon, perhaps it might help send a message once people start noticing that other stores feature content Amazon lacks due to their manipulative pricing policy.

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