Please welcome our regular 3rd Tuesday guest, Terry Odell, with some interesting information on selling short stories in this era of e-publishing.
"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I've written a long one instead." - attributed to Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, Voltaire, and probably others too.
Yet the very first thing I published was a short story. A very short story. 1800 words. In fact, it was really two stories, 900 words each. The completed piece is a simple scene told first from the man's POV, and then repeated in the woman's POV. I wrote both POVs because I couldn't decide which one worked better. I still couldn't decide, so I submitted it with both. That story is still out there.
For me, the hardest part of writing short stories is finishing them. My early mentor was reading my attempts at fan fiction, which is where I started learning the craft of writing, and she said, "Terry, you have a beginning, a middle, and more middle, and more middle. You need to have an end."
In mystery or romance short stories, you've got a "given" for an ending. The crime is solved; the hero and heroine get together.
Eventually, I figured out how to cut to the chase and get rid of the extraneous stuff. In reality, when you're writing a novel, your scenes and chapters also require a beginning, a middle, and an end. The main difference is that in the novel, until you get to that last chapter, the end needs to lead into the next scene.
So, why don't I write more short stories? With the upsurge in indie publishing, there's now a market for works of any length.
Market yes. But profitable? According to Mark Coker, the founder and CEO of Smashwords, the best selling works are longer ones. The average length of the best-selling titles at Smashwords is 110,000 words. My theory? Given the vast amount of full-length novels priced well below print versions, people want the most bang for their buck. If I can buy a novel for 99 cents, or $2.99, and the lowest price anyone can set at the e-stores is 99 cents, I'm not going to fork over the money for a story that might take me half an hour to read, at most.
I collected four short pieces that connect to Randy & Sarah from my Pine Hills Police series. They'd all been published individually by Cerridwen Press, either as short stories or free reads. None did particularly well. In reality, they're not even all true "stories". One's a prologue, one's kind of an epilogue, and one's a tongue-in-cheek look at the life of an author (from the characters' POV). Now that I have the rights back, I decided to bundle them rather than try to sell them individually. Did that help? I don't think so. The bundle is priced at 99 cents and is, overall, my lowest selling title.
Of course, if you're a major player, all bets are off. One noted author published a 6600 word short story, and charged $2.99 for it. People bought it, although judging from reviews, the price was an issue for many.
Terry's short romances are published by The Wild Rose Press. You can find more about them HERE. She's also written two short mysteries, one of which is published by Highland Press in DECEPTION. As for the second … based on the above, she's still deciding what to do with it.
You can find her at her Web site. If you've followed her blog (or want to start!), note that it's moved and is now HERE You can follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.
Posted by Maryann Miller who always enjoys a good short story.