Wednesday, September 28, 2011

eBook Short Fiction Is Alive and Well

by Deb Baker/Hannah Reed

I got my start writing short stories in the early 1990s, even had a few published in literary magazines. They paid me in copies. Already then the market for short fiction was drying up. After that, I made the leap to long fiction and never looked back. I moved to where the traditional publishers reside and signed contracts promising to deliver 80,000 word novels. So I did. And still do under my pen name Hannah Reed.

But I've started to notice that with our busy lives, with long commutes and a laundry list of obligations to employers and family, finding a block of time to read is getting harder and harder. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this...but sometimes I don't buy a book because it's just too darn long. (On the other hand, I read Atlas Shrugged this summer, so I have it in me.) 

Enter eBooks and the ability for authors to self-publish their own work. We dug out all those wonderful short stories we'd written before we discovered there wasn't a market for them, and we gave them new life as under-a-buck downloads. Some of the recent bestselling authors out there right now are writing shorter, too (like John Locke's amazing Donovan Creed mysteries at around 40,000 words each).

Old habits die hard with this author. So when I (as me-Deb Baker) began writing book 4 in the Gertie Johnson series as an independent eBook author, I still set my sights on a particular length. Halfway through, it dawned on me. I was in charge. No contract. No obligation to write a specific length. In 'The End', Murder Bites the Bullet came in at around 30,000 words.

In some ways, I had to relearn how to write shorter, had to throw out the concept of secondary plots, work with fewer characters. And you know what? The story is tight and direct with a fast, racy pace. Its selling very well at $2.99. Not one reader has complained about the shorter length.

Short fiction includes flash fiction, short stories, novelettes, and novellas, each defined within the parameters of a certain length. Book 4 would be considered a novella. In the future though, I won't pigeonhole my work. The story will be done when the story is done. And since I've always written short rather than long and have found it challenging to stretch out a story, I can assure you I won't be writing tomes.

It goes without saying - the price has to be right. That's why so many really fabulous, shorter stories are selling online as downloads in the $.99 - $2.99 range.

What I really want to do next is write a few stories you can read in sixty minutes. One hour of your time, that's all. Murder Trims the Tree, a short Christmas story, will be out by November 1st with one setting (assisted living facility where Gertie is hoping to leave Grandma behind), one incident (murder, of course), a narrow timeline (less than 24 hours), and maybe even a moral (remember those).

Recently I read that the average reader can do about 250 words per minute. That means Murder Trims the Tree should come in under 15,000 words to meet my promise of a sixty minute story. A piece of cake! Or should I say, a piece of fruitcake?
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