Friday, January 6, 2012

Value for Readers

This is a question for writers. And, I guess, for readers, who are after all, the consumers of the writing. Here's the question: What should the pricing structure be for erotica?

As I said below in my "Welcome" post, when I read erotica, particularly hard core erotica that is intended to sexually arouse--which is what I both enjoy reading and writing, I value it based on what I'd call an orgasm scale. As I'm reading, how often do I get excited enough by what is written, and what it spurs in my imagination, to jerk myself off to climax? Or, perhaps even better for those lucky enough to have a partner who will play with them, how often does the party who is reading have their mind aroused to a state that enhances or helps cause an orgasm that is physically delivered by their partner? A third thing that could fit in this metric is how much a particular scene causes a state of arousal which causes the partner who has read the scene to fuck the brains out of the other partner? For simplicity's sake, let's just assume everyone is reading one handed and diddling themselves with the other.

To me (and I've read a few of these free or 99 cent gems), if I've read the whole thing, or even read a sex scene, and it hasn't contained enough eroticism to provoke me to climax, I think there has been very little, if any, value. Keep in mind that I don't expect a scene that is specifically written to build arousal that will pay off in another scene to be something it isn't (I don't expect a lead-in to be an orgasm inducer, though it's cool if it is). The other side of the coin is a book that takes me several days to read because every sex scene is an orgasm inducer. THOSE provide great value, in my opinion. Particularly if I find some scenes so stimulating that I carry them with me... they end up on my personal highlight real even though they're not my personal experience.

The other factor is length (ladies, don't start thinking about girth as well). I noticed that on Smashwords there are people selling ebooks that are around, and even under, 5,000 words. That surprised me. My 99 cent ebooks are all at least 15,000 words.

Do these people provide a hell of a payoff in those 5,000 words? To me, to provide real value in something that short, it would have to rate high on the orgasm scale. The converse of this is an erotic book that contains a lot of words, but no payoff. Who wants to read 20,000 words and have only one or two sections that cause them to masturbate furiously, or have a desire to screw furiously? (Again, I'm talking about harder core erotica, not soft-core romance stories).

So my question is about value, and having that value reflected in pricing. What do you think, as writers and readers of erotica? What should the metric be? 20,000 words containing enough sexy material to cause the reader to orgasm five times is worth what amount of money to a reader? How do you price your work (or value others' work if you are a reader)?

As a writer, one of the joys is thinking about the man or woman reading my book with one hand on their Kindle and the other rubbing themselves until they climax. I want to provide many scenes within each book that provoke that reaction, and perhaps a longer scene or two that cause them to bring themselves off a couple of times before it ends. That makes me feel like I'm providing value to my reader (along with an overall story arch that keeps them interested from sex scene to sex scene, plus I always like to have some humor mixed in).

Please, tell me what you think. How should we value our work, and look for value as readers? How much do we use pricing to build an audience (give it to 'em cheap so they'll try it out), or do we send a negative signal if we price it too low ("this is only 99 cents, how good could it be?")? I'd love to know what people think about this issue.


  1. I do not agree with your assumptions and think the way you’re thinking about the value proposition is flawed. The length of an erotic book is not going to necessarily affect the purchase decision if the price is generally in the area of say $0.99 to $5.99. I'll most likely not tie the buying decision to jacking off or orgasm, or even sharing with a partner, but on a review or comments from other readers on just how good it really is. This would be similar to a video or a magazine purchase of similar genre. If there is a review of a $5.99 book (say 5k words) that reader comments say people had fun with it or enjoyed it vs another book that was $0.99 and had 15K words but no reader comments or review, I bet you'll spend the $5.99 on the 1st book. I think it's a classic quality not quantity value model. And if the same author made another book, you bet I'm trying that too, regardless of $0.99 or $5.99 price if the first one was good and I had fun with it. Tying the # of times you get off on a book to the price plainly simply sounds absurd. Would you pay a higher price to see a comedy movie because it made you laugh 100 times vs one that made you laugh 25 times? No, I think not,

    Just my two cents worth….

  2. Thanks for the comment, pickanasa. I hope you realize I'm just having some fun with the "orgasm scale" thing. I understand the quality vs quantity thing. On the other hand, we are talking about erotica, so quality and what is turning people on is closely linked. On the other hand, poorly written is poorly written and it will doubtlessly achieve neither entertainment or eroticism.

    Your point about good reviews is very interesting. You're definitely right that I'd buy the more expensive, shorter book for a higher price if it had good reviews. Putting reviews on Amazon or B&N or anywhere else that allows reader reviews is one of the things people should do when they read something, especially if they like it. Reward the author for the work. It not only gives the author encouragement, but it helps them in exactly the way you said... people will buy more books, which enables the author to make a living producing the work the reader enjoyed. It's one of the really cool parts of this new evolution of publishing into self-published e-books.

    Thank you again for your comment. I appreciate your point of view.

  3. Thanks Matt. I do realize you were having fun and I suppose I was too! I really believe in making a "brand" for yourself if you know what I mean, hence that's where I was referring to quality. Seriously if the content it's really good stuff (yes I will refer to the "orgasm scale"- let just say multiple!) then I would simply search for more work by that author and honestly not pay too much attention to the price of the work. As a consumer, I definitively read the reactions of other consumers and check out the goods before hand. As an aspiring author, I would hope my stuff is good enough that people will want to comment on it and leave feedback so other people will also enjoy the work. In terms of price, well I think that it is so competitive out there, not only with major publishing companies but also indies that I'd take whatever I could get, even give it away for free at first to get a reader's attention. If the quality is there the loyalty will follow.