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Novellas and Short Stories–Ebooks Not Just for Novels

| Posted in E-publishing |

31

Back in ye olde days, we could only write stories at lengths publishers were willing to buy. Thanks to the economics of the paper-based book-printing business that meant novels tended to fall into certain word count ranges, and short stories were only sold in anthologies or magazines, where issues were also put together to fall within certain economical lengths.

If you wrote a story between 10,000 and 50,000 words — too long for a short story and too short for all except children’s novels — you were out of luck, because it was going to be a hard sell.

Enter the world of e-publishing and ebooks. While an editor will charge more to proofread a longer work than a short, the cost of creating and delivering an ebook doesn’t change based on word count. In other words, there’s no reason you have to write within certain word-count guidelines any more. And quite a few authors are taking advantage of this. More and more, you can find novellas and even short stories for sale in the Nook and Kindle stores for $1.99 or $0.99.

I’ve actually been surprised by the number of short stories (usually 4,000-8,000 words) selling for $0.99 as I hadn’t considered turning anything that short into an ebook I’d charge for. My Ice Cracker II ebook pictured above is a short story of 6,000 words or so that I give away for free.

I probably won’t sell anything that length for $0.99 myself (my three-story Ice Cracker II anthology is about 17,000 words, and even that feels short to me!) but people are doing it and getting positive reviews and making money, so I wanted to write up this post for other authors who might consider it.

After all, it takes a lot of work to write and edit a novel. A short story, on the other hand, might be the work of a week or two. Even writing a novella can be a less daunting task than creating a whole novel.

Putting out some shorter works in between your novels is a way to keep yourself in your readers’ minds and maybe make some extra money too. The $0.35-$0.40 royalty (your cut when you price your ebook for $0.99 at Amazon or B&N) that seems pretty measly for novel-length fiction might make more sense for a shorter work.

One thing you’ll want to do, however, is make sure to include the word-count (maybe a page count too) in the story blurb. People who purchased an ebook, expecting a novel, probably won’t be pleased when they read it in twenty minutes! You could also label it “short story” or “novella” in the description.

In case you want to see what your fellow authors are doing, here are a couple $0.99 short story ebooks in the Kindle store:

Any thoughts? Do you have short story ebooks out there for $0.99, or are you thinking of publishing some?

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Comments (31)

This is exactly how I was planning to kick off my e-book venture. Thanks for doing the research for me! :)

I put a collection of three SF/F short stories up for 99 cents on Amazon. The way they have the Kindle store set up, you can’t offer things for free anymore. All three stories are free on other sites.

So far, no sales, but I haven’t been pushing it. The stories are getting noticed on other sites and getting good reviews, though.

If you want to check the Kindle version out: http://www.amazon.com/Autumn-Visions-ebook/dp/B004CRSQJE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1298312248&sr=1-1

If you want to read the stories for free: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/30204

It’s all still an experiment. The market is shifting and no one is quite sure where it’s going to end up. (BTW, I downloaded your Icebreakers. It’s in my list to read. Sounds exciting!)

I have a few short stories up on amazon.com and a sf novelette. I think .99 shorts are pretty awesome and enjoy reading them as well. :)

Thanks for the info. I’ve been hearing that putting out shorts between novels is helpful and have been thinking on the idea but have yet to have any ideas strike me that end up small enough.

Yeah that\’s what I\’m tailkng about baby–nice work!

I’m focusing on shorter works this year. I hope to put out at least a couple of novellas.

Good point about putting the word count in the description. I’ve seen complaints on blogs about prices and book lengths not jibing.

Great post, Lindsay! After I had published my novel, I wrote two short stories and struggled with what to do with them. I initially offered one for free through Smashwords and then finally decided to put them both out on Amazon for $0.99. I put both the word count and the term “short story” in the description and have sold several, to my (pleasant) surprise!

By the way – great cover for Icecracker II!

Regards,

Michael

I’m definitely interested in pubbing shorter material.

The more ways for readers to find me!

Thanks for the comments, guys!

Sue, my job here is to research and try everything so you don’t have to. Should I put that in the tag line? :D

Thank you for the insight here! I’ve been throwing around a full-fledged novel for e-book release, but this might help me get my feet wet! :)

Huh. Well, I was going to release an anthology once it got to 60k words, but hey! If they’re selling I’ll sure as hell publish now.

Wow!

With all the intense work pre-promoting my WIP I totally forgot a short story I have on Lulu.com that should get into e-book format.

Thanks!!

also, you said you’d like to be interviewed on my blog–did I miss you sending your answers to my questions??

I see we’ll have legions of short stories hitting the Kindle shelves soon!

Alexander, I just sent an email. Sorry about the delay getting back to you!

Hey Lindsay- great post! Thanks for these tips; I’ll have to keep this in mind!

Hi Lindsay. Spotted your web addy on a comment you left on Joe Konraths blog so I thought I’d have a nosey at your blog!!

The first thing I noticed when I hopped over to here was the artwork! Your book covers are fabulous!!

I’m very new to writing so have no experience (good or bad) of the publishing world but have already made the decision (mainly thanks to what I’ve read on Joes blog) to publish via Kindle. I’ve been working on a novel but have been curious about short stories too, so have decided to start off with a few of those!

I’ve set up a blog so I can keep track of progress and have a record of time spent on various aspects of my first attempts to get published.

The address is http://mykindlejourney.blogspot.com/

There’s nothing on the as yet (other than one of my all time favourite quotes!!) but as today is the start of things as far as the short stories are concerned I will be making that first post!

Thank you for posting such useful and informative material Lindsay.

Happy Writing! :o) xx MoJo

Thanks, Jennifer!

Mo James, thanks for visiting. Looks like you’re off to a good start! :)

Excellent post, Lindsay. I am releasing a 35K word thriller soon for 99 cents, to add to my $2.99 novel. I am going to call it a mini-novel and mention the word count as well.

I wrote this book knowing it would be an ebook only. It’s a good price point and it also provides the opportunity to try something out without having to write a whole novel. If it works, I have the idea for two sequels already, potentially full novels. If not, I have a lot less into it than a novel.

Great post! I think a lot of wannabe indie authors haven’t realized this stuff yet.

I plan on releasing a novella (at least I hope it will be at least 15,000 words in length) for the Kindle once I’ve finished writing it. I’m also toying with the idea of doing a Kindle only anthology, but right now I don’t want to saddle myself with reading a bunch of manuscripts when I need to be writing my own stuff.

Great blog and great posts. Keep ‘em coming!

This is a good post. Sometimes I wonder if I should have done things differently, as I started ePublishing with short stories, which I eventually gathered into one big collection. Even though all those stories are in the collection, I’m surprised by how many of the individuals I sell.

P.S. Thanks for linking to Call of the Selkie. :)

Thanks for this great article! It really opened my eyes to the possibility of writing shorter fiction to get things going on my indie writing career! I think things like Kindle books open the doors to more possibilities to interact with your audience. Imagine if you wrote 3 stories, and told your audience that the one that sold the most copies in a month would be the one you write the sequel to, or some other sort of way to allow readers to impact your writing? Lots of possibilities here

There isn’t a word count or page count minimum is there? I can’t seem to find any info on one. Thanks.

Great post! I’ve included it in my Saturday blog roundup: http://www.smreine.com/2011/04/saturday-round-up.html

[...] Buroker writes: As we’ve discussed before, there are no rules about minimum word count when it comes to ebooks. You can publish a 150,000-word novel or you can publish a 5,000-word short story, and anything [...]

I am preparing to offer a short story ebook for free, but I like the idea you gave about mentioning in the book description area that it is a story, so readers do not get disappointed.
I think that is important to maintain reader trust.
Thanks a lot.
Esther Jno-Charles
Author: The Talking Palm

Yes! I have written a novella that is 27,000 words and it sounds like e-publishing is the most realistic option. Thanks for this excellent article.

I do have a question: Can you recommend a site where I could get some feedback on my book? Obviously, I would be willing to read someone else’s work and give my opinion, if that’s how it works.

Hi Adam,

If it’s SciFi, Fantasy, or Horror, you could try critters.org. I’ve also heard of critiquecircle.com (I think they handle all genres), though I’ve not tried them personally. You also might be able to find an in-personal local group through a site such as Meetup.com. Yup, they’re usually set up so that you give others critiques and they critique your work in turn. Both are good learning experiences.

Good luck!

Groovy. Thank you so much, Lindsay.

I have multiple short stories up for $0.99, of about 2.5k–4k words. I don’t sell many, but I clearly mark their word counts and that they’re short stories.

Nobody’s complained about the price. :)

I dipped my toes in the self-publishing waters with two collections of short stories (one contains three retold fairy tales, the other has two thematically-related fantasy shorts). Both are priced at 0.99, though my plan is to raise the price to 1.99.

My big mistake was pricing low at Smashwords, which distributes to Kobo, Diesel, etc. I raised the price of one collection to $1.99 two weeks ago and Kobo is still showing at the old price. I can’t raise prices at Amazon until the change goes through everywhere else. Ah well. Lesson learned. :D

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