Short vs. Long: Reasons and Resources for Writing and Selling Short Form Fiction and Nonfiction as eBooks

Short vs. Long: Reasons and Resources for Writing and Selling Short Form Fiction and Nonfiction as eBooks

Short vs. Long: Reasons and Resources for Writing and Selling Short Form Fiction and Nonfiction eBooksA couple years ago there was great hope and expectation for an explosion in short form eBooks. It was a natural extension for eBook publishing and new marketplaces sprang up to sell (generally) 5,000 to 30,000 word “eBooks.” Small reading screens were becoming ubiquitous and writers, publishers and investors were rushing to fill them*.

Fast forward to today and we see the realities of marketing shorter-than-book-length content. Byliner has sold itself to Vook, The Atavist announced the closure of Atavist Books, and Amazon continues to attract writers by simply putting a name and/or business model around a category of writing. (Kindle Singles is a quasi-publisher and Kindle Short Reads is nothing more than a category.)

Does that mean this format for eBook publishing is dead? Absolutely not! Like the deflated expectations for enhanced eBooks, this category might not justify a standalone eBookstore but that doesn’t mean readers prefer longer form writing over short form. As always, it comes down to marketing, which is matching product with the audience for that product. It also helps to have other things to sell the audience you attract (hence a reason why Vook** bought Byliner and Smashwords operates its own store).

7 Reasons why short-form eBooks continue to be viable

  1. Natural length. As my editor friend Peter is fond of saying: “that book should have been a long article.” Some stories or ideas are best kept short.
  2. Faster to write and market. A talented writer with lots of ideas can produce lots of “product” in this manner.
  3. Test marketing. Sometimes you want to get the idea out there and see how your readers respond, or to help you flesh out a story. Fitzgerald suggested as much referring to his “Winter Dreams” story as the precursor to The Great Gatsby. (Perhaps not intentionally, but Howey's Wool also started as a short story and based on reader reaction grew into a mega-selling series.)
  4. Reader’s time investment. There is no question that attention spans are getting shorter. Many readers find the 80,000 word book just too much of a time commitment.
  5. Small screens. Perhaps related to the above, and despite the trend to phablet-size phones, it still takes a lot of flipping to get through those long novels on the morning commute.
  6. As a marketing tool. It is much more palatable for an author to give away a short eBook for free than a full-length book, and everyone knows the power of “free” to build readership. This works as well for fiction as it does non-fiction.
  7. RPW: Revenue per Word. There are many other factors to consider but it is worth doing the math. You can make roughly twice as much money selling a 10,000 word eBook for $1.99 as you can selling a 50,000 eBook for $4.99.

Outlets and resources for short form eBooks

As I said at the outset, the dedicated short-form eBookstore as a standalone business seems to be challenged but there are still lots of opportunities to sell short-form writing when you step outside the Amazon bubble. To get an idea of some of those pay a visit to Duotrope. It is a subscription-based marketplace connecting writers and publishers.  (free trial and then $5/month.)

Here is my collection of non-Big Five (Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google and Kobo) marketplaces worthy of your consideration. They differ based on self-service vs. editorial approval, fiction vs. non-fiction, and length. Also, their requirement for eBook formatting may vary. But each has a loyal audience and I wouldn't be surprised if the readers you find here don't spend a lot of time in the Big Five stores.

If you know of others please drop them in the comment box below the list. Here they are in alpha order:

* Also see my Slideshare presentation: Why Barry Diller, NBC & Google are Investing in eBook Publishing

Related and Getting Started

How Argo’s Writer Repurposed Coronado High Story for Multiple Streams of Income

Ready to write that short story? Check out Jerry Jenkin's How to Write a Short Story That Captivates Your Reader

**Vook has since changed its name to Pronoun, and then sold itself to to Macmillan in 2016.

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

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