Short Stories?

I’ve noticed that a lot of authors fill in the time between their novels with short stories – or in some cases only publish short stories – and I’m curious about other people’s viewpoints on this.

I’ve been a “novelist” since I can remember and I’ve always sort of looked at short stories as the lesser cousin to the “full” story. Though I have submitted a few to various contests, like poetry, I’ve never taken them seriously.  That is, of course, unless it’s in a short story collection. Then, and only then, did I consider them to be lengthy enough to qualify as “something”.  Otherwise, they’re that bit of fluff, that afternoon snack while you’re waiting for dinner.

Regardless, I can’t help but notice the large – and ever growing – number of short stories available at Smashwords and even Amazon. Some authors write nothing but and, rather than publishing them in a collection, they put them up one little story at a time, for $.99 a piece.  The question I have is: Is this actually worth it? As a reader, do you spend your $.99 on a short story when, in some cases, you can get a full length manuscript for that price? As an author if you do this, do you actually make any sales?

As you might guess, I’m asking collective opinions for a reason – three of them to be exact. 1) I’m curious to see other people’s feelings on this. 2) I am working (slowly) on a short story collection, and have contemplated putting them up, one 3,000 word story at a time, until they’re all done when I will then slap them together and 3) I have a LOT of random short stories laying around. Is this cash in the bank I’m not utilizing?Or does publishing a lot of short stories just brand you as a “short story writer”?

I look forward to hearing what you guys think!



23 thoughts on “Short Stories?

  1. Mari Miniatt January 19, 2011 / 9:55 am

    Same boat here. The difference with mine is that I am trying to get them published in magazines. The ones that don’t make the cut, or that I get the rights back to right away will be bound in one volume.
    I thought about doing the 99cent a story. But there is the ISBN question to worry about. I haven’t looked into it, yet. But I am concerned about setting one story up on smashwords, and have to purchase more ISBNs.
    Can you be a novelist and a short story writer? Two words: Ray Bradbury. He started as short story, but has some amazing novels out. Stephan King has great collections of short stories. Terry Pratchett has one or two (most are free through his site or official fan sites 🙂
    My reasons for doing this. Getting my name out there.
    A possible reason for some others. It’s like the music downloads. Easier to purchase a song at 99 cents. then a whole album at $13.00, even though you spend more purchasing the tracks separately.

    • Joleene Naylor January 22, 2011 / 12:01 am

      Thanks for chiming in Mari! Yeah, I post short stories on my blogs and my website, but have only recently considered Smashwords, too. Part of my concern with uploading them is it could create this huge glut of “products” , which I know is supposed to be the goal, but I don’t know how much people want to sift through….. I am definitely doing a collection of the short vampire stories, though, when they’re done 😀

  2. N.M. Martinez January 19, 2011 / 4:06 pm

    This is something I’m wondering as well. As a reader, I think $1 a story might be a bit much, but it also depends on the writer and the stories. If it’s a good story, something I can count on to entertain me, then I might spend a dollar, but how will I know unless I spend that first dollar? That’s where I think freebies can come in handy. A free short story to let me know how the writer works. Because short stories themselves are an art, and personally, I am in love with short stories. I actually prefer short story collections to novels.

    But I think I’d rather get a collection, even if the collection isn’t quite novel length. This is something I’m thinking about doing with my short stories myself.

    As for the novel writer vs. the short story writer, that I don’t really know. I think it’s good to be versatile. Makes me think of Neil Gaiman. He puts out a lot of stuff, and I remember seeing him say one time that all his stuff was different so even if you didn’t like one, you might like something else. And it’s true. I read one book of his and loved it. I tried another and didn’t. That seems like it might be bad branding, doesn’t it? But I think it’s genius. The people who like his work know to expect this and probably like him because of it. Meanwhile people like me can hop in for the good story.

    • Joleene Naylor January 22, 2011 / 12:03 am

      Thanks, N.M. Yeah, the price is what I am stuck on, too. I have one of my full length books at $1.50 right now, so it’s like “for fifty more cents you can get a whole book!” I wish Smashwords had a different pricing option! Though there’s always the “pay what you want” option.

      Freebies are a great idea. I have a bunch on my blogs and websites, just had not considered doing them on Smashwords until now. 🙂

  3. David Knight January 19, 2011 / 6:39 pm

    Hi Joleene, interesting post and I like the viewpoints of Mari and N.M too! I think the idea of the collection of short stories is great Its more strings to your bow.

    That said, there’s no harm in putting a couple of single shorts out there Joleene, see what happens! Nothing to lose and everything to gain. When your mega famous they will be changing hands for $99 let alone .99 cents!

    In actual fact this is the second time in a week that this ‘notion’ has come to me. I have lots of unpublished poetry and bits of stories just sitting in the attic. Believe it is fate….one day gonna put them in a collection too ! Write on! Dave

    • Joleene Naylor January 22, 2011 / 12:05 am

      Dave, you should dig them up and put them out there! I’m slowly getting my mother to publish her poetry on Smashwords. Though she’s got them up as freebies – but hey, at least someone is reading it. After all, the purpose of words are to communicate, and you can’t communicate if you leave them sitting in the attic 😉

  4. Ellen O'Connell January 20, 2011 / 12:07 am

    As a reader, I’m not interested in short stories at any price, and if I accidentally downloaded one thinking it was a book, I’d be aggravated and getting a refund. Same for novellas. There’s a discussion today at Kindle Boards of someone getting a one-star review because the reader didn’t realize it was a novella and thought $.99 was highway robbery, so you have to be careful with shorts.

    • Joleene Naylor January 22, 2011 / 12:07 am

      Thanks for you reply, Ellen! 🙂 The price is where I wobble at, too, since amazon and/or Smashwords won’t go lower than 99 cents. I just got done with a $.99 book sale and it’s like “a whole book for 99 cents or one short story?”

  5. Ruth Ann Nordin January 20, 2011 / 1:29 am

    Well, here’s my opinion, for what it’s worth. There are a wide variety of people out there. Some will buy a 21,000 word novella for $0.99 and claim they’ve been ripped off because it wasn’t a full-length novel. Not kidding. Happened to a popular indie author who got slammed time and time again for not posting a full-length novel for $0.99.

    People are either cheap or they aren’t. And some people could be handed a mansion with a corvette and complain because there isn’t a pool to go with it. This is exactly why I don’t waste time reading reviews. People will gripe about anything. I got a 2 star review for one typo in the whole entire 70,000 word book.

    So do it the way you want to do it and forget about everyone else. People who get ‘you’ will understand what you’re doing and why. People who don’t get ‘you’ can go read someone else’s book.

    As for my personal philosophy… short stories are best free because of exposure opportunity. I read a lot of short stories because they give me a quick view of the author’s work. I can read it in a short time, see if the author has a beginning, middle and end. I can get a feel for the author’s voice and vision for his/her work. I think of it as a sample of food you can find in the grocery store. Test the product and see if it tastes good enough to buy more. I sample music on You Tube, and if I listen to it more than ten times and still want to listen to it, I buy it off iTunes. And I’ve found authors this way as well. For example, I read Randy Noble’s and Robert M. Yelverton’s free short stories off of Smashwords and enjoyed them so much, I kept my eye out for their other stuff. Randy Noble now has a full-length book out, and I’m reading it. I think I paid $2.99, but I would have paid more because he’s proven he’s good via his short stories. I’ll pay more for an author I already know I like than an author I haven’t read. Short stories are a good way of showing people what you got. I don’t write them often because I have a hard time not delving deeper into the story, but when I do, I make them free. Amazon, however, won’t allow ‘free’, so it’s $0.99 and if people want whine and complain, let ’em. While they’re at it, I hope they can convince their electric company they are ‘so special’ and deserve a 100% discount on their bill.

    Okay. Rant over.

    • Joleene Naylor January 22, 2011 / 12:09 am

      Rant on, Ruth 😉 I used to dread short stories because they’re just too, well, short. I have a better time with them if I don’t name any of the characters and do it in first person because then it’s just sort of a little “flip” nothing thing to me. (The psychology of writers, LOL!)

  6. Bakari Akil II, Ph.D. January 20, 2011 / 4:26 am

    I don’t write short stories but I have started to purchase them from Amazon. I actually think that most authors who write novels should charge higher than $.99 and to me $.99 for a short story is fair. I can understand how someone could be upset if they bought a book (‘for cheap’) thinking it was a novel but then it turned out to be a short story or even a novella. But I don’t think it’s reason enough to write a bad review about it.

    As long as the author lets the reader know then they can make a decision to buy with full knowledge.

    • Mari Miniatt January 20, 2011 / 9:58 am

      I charge $2.49 to $2.99 for my novels. And even 99 cents seems pricey to me for short stories. Using the cost of the ebooks.
      I did download a short story from an author, who at the end put a coupon code for another story. So it was buy one get on free. That was a cool idea.

      The hard part about pricing, is that you have to look at what everyone else is charging. When novels range from 99 cents to 15.99 for an ebook. Its hard to find a nice price.

      Too bad we couldn’t ask smashwords to have a 25 cent bin for short stories. Just an idea.

      • N.M. Martinez January 20, 2011 / 4:37 pm

        A friend of mine said the same thing. She wished she could sell some of her short stories for a quarter. Can’t we ask Smashwords for a cheap bin for the short stories? I think it’s a great idea.

        But I like the idea of including a coupon at the end of one short story for another. That’s a great way to hook people into getting two stories at least.

        • Ruth Ann Nordin January 20, 2011 / 6:02 pm

          I’ve often wished we could go lower than $0.99, esp. on the short stuff. I think more people would buy a story for a quarter than a dollar. The coupon is a good idea as well. I’ll have to use that in the future.

          • Joleene Naylor January 22, 2011 / 12:14 am

            Yeah, a quarter is a good idea. I don’t think they can go that low, though because of the transaction fee is 99 cents – I think. the problems with digital, sometimes! Though, if you used the coupon codes, or bundled four stories together, it would work out a quarter a story…

            • Ruth Ann Nordin January 22, 2011 / 1:12 am

              Good point. I hadn’t considered that.

    • Joleene Naylor January 22, 2011 / 12:13 am

      Thanks for chiming in, Bakari! Yeah, I think they should be clearly labeled as a short, to avoid confusion. I know Smashwords has the word count right on the page, though I don’t think Amazon does this.

  7. Barb January 20, 2011 / 8:12 pm

    I started writing short stories (looooooong time ago! 😉 that became serialized that became novels that became sagas! I now write mostly novels, sometimes a short-story “filler” (prelude or sequel to a novel). I plan on putting most out on Smashwords (I have only a 12K novella at the moment, but plan on issuing a lot more this year), probably in collections (maybe one or two free, the rest in the collection?). My pricing will be based on lenght: up to 10K free, 10 to 20K 0,99, 20 to 60K 2,99 (won’t have much of these – unless it’s a collection!), 60 tp 100k 4,99… we’ll see what happens! 😉

    • Joleene Naylor January 22, 2011 / 12:16 am

      Thanks for chiming in Barb! I know what you mean, you start writing something short, and soon the characters are demanding more space! Selfish characters! I’ve started seeing several different authors pricing per length, and I suspect this may be the way that ebooks go. Good luck, and let us know how it goes! 😀

  8. Leslie Ramey January 21, 2011 / 6:33 am

    I recently started to write short stories in between editing/ rewriting/ finishing my full length manuscripts. The goal being to develop a platform or fan base. I met a young author who got an agent and signed to a three book contract based on her fan base form short stories. Yes, writing the short stories takes from my other project but if in the end I can gain fans and finish a good manuscript at the same time it’s worth the extra effort. I sell my stories fro .99 on Amazon I think that fee is reasonable and air considering magazines cost up to 5 bucks now. I have had a few returns but over all I have had great reviews and good sales that I am more than satisfied with. I guess I will have to see how how my next short story sells once it’s released next month to analyse if my ultimate goal of gaining fans is working.

    • Joleene Naylor January 22, 2011 / 12:18 am

      Thanks for stopping in, Leslie! yeah, that’s what I’m doing now with the vampire shorts. I’m actually in a blog group where we post something weekly, so I’m killing two birds with one stone; writing the story for the blog, meanwhile I’m working on my third novel. I think if, especially if someone is as sllooooow as me, that you have to keep doing something in the public eye to keep yourself relevant.

      Good luck, and let us know how it goes! 🙂

  9. Epoch Awareness. Writer, J.D. Hughes February 14, 2011 / 6:08 am

    I cant say anything about marketing specifics, or the pricing for the sale of short stories .

    As far as the value of short stories as a form of fiction, I can say that short stories offer the writer and the reader an entirely different set of mechanics for conveying the central themes of their designs. The short story allows for both a captivating, subtle, episodic, non linear– limitless potential for storytelling within a reasonably immortal span of text.
    It may seem like little space to tell your story, and unlike vast forms such as the epic or the novel, they have the advantage and the disadvantage of forcing both writer and reader into a relative time-frame (you only have so many words, often under 10, 000), and that can actually be used to the advantage of you the writer.
    Realizing that when you offer readers a reasonably digestible length allows you to craft the small intervals of storytelling you are allowed to fill with even greater significance and precision. Every word, every punctuation mark, every line becomes an essential tool when you and your expressions are confined by the limits of an artistic form; short stories, poetry, and free verse, are merely variations on the limits of a unified form, but just as genres in music vary to accentuate different instruments, keys, and meters, so too does the short story accentuate entirely different variations of written expression.

    So yes.

    Look to: Poe, Lovecraft, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Gogol, Phillip K Dick, Bowles,Asimov, Bradbury, Vonnegut, Bierce, and there are many many many more quality artists

    Its not a fad, its a form of art at this point.

    So yes, write more short stories!

    • Ruth Ann Nordin February 17, 2011 / 12:23 am

      Excellent points. It takes a great writer to make a story in under 10,000 words.

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