(Edits: I removed the word ‘fair’ from my post and replaced it with ‘reasonable,’ which I think is a better term and doesn’t present such a moral implication, and I added two notes: about DRM and Disclosure.)

Posthuman Studios publishes a few pieces of short fiction via Amazon’s Kindle service (Well, technically one piece—the second one is in the processing queue.) These are short stories that have already appeared (or will appear) in our rulebooks—they’re on the Kindle store to boost awareness of the game’s super-sweet setting and because I like experiments. I didn’t expect to make more than pocket change with them, and with almost no promotion beyond our usual game-related channels, that certainly seems to be holding true in the early stages.

I think that $0.99 is a reasonable price for a digital copy of a short story that has appeared elsewhere. Format agnostic: PDF, ePub, mobi, Kindle, whatever.

Here’s some fun stuff I’ve learned:

  • If you publish via Amazon’s Digital Text Platform, you have two royalty choices: 35% and 70%.
  • If you want 70% royalties, Amazon will deduct an additional service charge per download. In my tests, it was only $0.01 for a relatively small file.
  • If you want 70% royalties, you have to set the desired sale price to $2.99 or greater. If Amazon decides to sell lower than your desired sale price, you get 70% of the actual sale price. If your royalties are 35%, you get 35% of the desired sale price or the actual sale price, whichever is higher.
  • If you price your desired sale price to $0.99, Amazon will honor that price in the USA, but not internationally. It will automatically bump the price up to $2.99 in non-USA markets. If you bump your desired sales price up a little bit, the international price will get bumped, also. (I tried to see if a slightly-higher USA price would convince Amazon’s algorithms to lower the international price, with the USA dollars subsidizing the international costs. No luck.)
  • You get sales reports that include, on a per title basis: units sold, refunded, net units, royalty %, average list price, average file size, average offer price, average delivery charge, royalty total. No other information at all; there are no ways to contact the buyers. These people are not your customers, they are Amazon’s customers.
  • Basic math: One sale of a $0.99 title at the 35% royalty rate is $0.35. One sale of a $2.99 (minimum price!) title at the 70% royalty rate is $2.09 (minus the service charge.)
  • Edit, DRM: You can turn DRM off. Amazon doesn’t promise that this option will stick around forever. Turn DRM off, unless you hate your readers.
  • Edit, Disclosure: The Digital Publication Distribution Agreement forbids you from discussing your sales data and other such stuff. It also forbids you from disclosing the terms of the agreement, even though it’s publicly available!

Open questions:

  • Should we price the Eclipse Phase short fiction at $2.99 at the higher royalty rate and make 6 times more money per sale? I like those numbers, but I don’t think it’s the right thing from a propagation/social point of view.

And finally, have some affiliate links: