I never quite understood why short stories and novellas sell less than novels.
Just think about it.
You are about to read something written by an unfamiliar author. Are you prepared to invest several days of your time into his or her novel? Maybe that writer is great but you didn’t like the first two chapters and gave up. It’d be a shame for both of you: you’d fail to recognise a really good storyteller and the author would lose his new reader.
Another thing is the time taking you to read ten novels you can spend, instead, on reading short stories.
If an author has short fiction in his bibliography, I tend to start with it. To me, short stories and novellas and are the format, which tells you everything about the quality of the author. With short stories writers cannot put in a lot of “water”, lengthy unnecessary description, dump in endless narrative passages just to show how much research was done. Writers have only limited time and space to persuade us, readers, if they are worth of our attention.
And if I liked the short story by X, I’m more likely to read novels written by X.
Now, think about modern society. We all have an attention deficit disorder. We are flooded with so much information, it becomes really hard for creators to attract or hook us to read something. Also, books are now competing with TV, films and computer games.
And, because of that, I think the short fiction format has a bright future.
So why do people still prefer to buy novel rather than short fiction? I can only come up with two complimentary explanations.
The first is that traditionally it’s easier to sell a big volume with one story than one with a collection of small stories or a small story on its own.
The second explanation is that many people like to be invested into big epic stories, rather than to read a lot of one-hour stories, which they’ll forget very soon. It’s the same reason why people watch normal long films, but not short films unless the latter are TV series.
But I’d rather read a well-crafted, brilliant short story than a mediocre novel. I don’t want to flip through the pages; you kind of lose the appreciation for the written word, language, and subtext. When it comes to short fiction, I can read slowly, sip it like a good wine. I’m an advocate for short fiction, concise writing. I value time.
Short non-fiction has been with us for a while, it’s called blogs! And they are massive!
I think the appreciation of short fiction formats will increase too. Many companies started to prepare for this already.
For example, Apple iBooks store has a section of Quick Reads and Amazon has Kindle Singles.
It’s good for readers too. They can buy short stories for a dollar. They can also download a lot of them from a public domain for free. Including the ones by international authors.
I have a strong belief that many people don’t read because they don’t have time for novels, they are more likely to read short stories, especially in the transport (on a bus, in the tube, etc.).
So what do you think about my post? Do you read many short stories? What authors do you like?
I have just created a special page on Facebook called “Short fiction: eBooks and paperbacks” to recommend readers and writers short stories, both contemporary and classical, which I loved. You can post your recommendations there too.
Short fiction is there for you, it’s a hidden literary treasure at your feet, pick it up and cherish these jewels.