Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Short Story Conundrum #amwriting

Artwork by Danielle Fine
My very first post at Spacefreighters Lounge was as a guest on the 14th June 2011, blogging about my inspiration for a short story I'd just self published the month before - The Bones of the Sea. (As a side note, I don't mark that as my debut publication because it was an experiment in all respects). It was the first short story I'd really managed since leaving school (my normal word count at the time was 40K and above). And the only reason I'd self published it was to 1. Test out the whole process of digital self publishing, which was still fairly new in general, and certainly very new to me, and 2. Because even at 3000 words I felt it was too long to publish on my blog for readers.

While I kept my novels and novellas going to small presses (until May of this year, when my main publisher and the third out of the four I've had then closed, and I took the decision to wholly self pub), I self published another three shorts, and had a fourth included in Tales from the SFR Brigade, a self published anthology (in which I helped with the Amazon version and produced a print edition for giveaways).

My sales figures are not huge, and Amazon's frankly cruddy decision to only pay 35% royalties on works under $2.99 (I refuse to charge that for a mere 10K words, though I know plenty who do) means each sale earns a pittance. That said, my second short story Terms & Conditions Apply earned back its editing costs in eighteen months, and paid for edits and artwork on the next two short stories (neither of which have achieved the same payback). Terms was a small but consistent seller.

Scifi Romance Short
Available at...  
Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Oyster

ARe | Smashwords
Until this year. Poor ebook sales are why my main publisher went out of business, and I've seen a very definite drop in sales of my shorts. Going wide and/or experimenting with KU have failed to change that. Right now, my recently re-released novel Keir is my best seller, accounting for over 90% of my sales. The only time any of my shorts have seen movement is when I've done free days (but they did pick up a few new reviews, so I consider that a bonus).

So, the purpose of all this rambling? I've taken the decision not to release any more short stories as separate pieces from next year. The costs in editing and artwork aren't being repaid, and they don't appear to be helping me with exposure by having more titles. The fact that the cover for the short story generally costs the same as one on a novel means the edits can often cost less than the cover, just FYI.

This doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing short stories though. I'm currently working on a space opera short for another anthology call. I also have three more shorts on holiday themes (like Hallow's Eve) almost completed that I'd originally planned to release one at a time during the relevant holiday, with a collection to come. That's still the plan, but with a twist. The collection will include the new shorts, plus some of my current ones, available in digital and possibly print. The new ones will also be available separately, but for a limited time, perhaps until mid 2016. Then only the collection will be available after that. In the future, I will only release short stories as collections, so they'll take as long to release as a novella/novel would.

But this should be a better deal for everyone all round. The planned collection will contain seven titles in all, with three of them being brand new, previously unreleased works. I'll probably price the collection at $2.99 depending on the word count, a bargain since the separate releases would be $1.50. It means those who have already bought some of my short stories will overall have paid a bit more if they buy the new collection as well, (unless you picked them up on my free days. Sorry!) but in all that would be seven shorts for what would have cost $10.50 individually. It also means I should be able to put the collection out in print for those who prefer a paperback to digital, therefore giving new readers access to those shorts that are currently digital only. And a bit more bang for your subscription buck when/if I put them into KU. In the meantime, I get 70% royalties from Amazon instead of the measly 35%.

So what do you think? Do you think that's a fairer deal than the separate shorts, or do you prefer to try out one short before committing to more from the same author? Or would you be cross at having to buy the whole set to get the new stories if you'd already bought the previous shorts? (Bearing in mind that's why I will offer the new shorts individually for a limited time for this collection.)

Status Update
First round edits on the still unamed space opera short went back to my editor on Wednesday, and Reunion at Kasha-Asor (a novella length side story in the Redemption series for Keir) has gone in for first round edits this week. I hope to have a new cover reveal very shortly! Second round edits for Keir's Fall should be back any time. What possessed me to juggle three sets of edits at once, I don't know...

Meanwhile, I've been working on those new shorts for my proposed collection (teaser - it includes an Easter themed SFR, a winter SFR, and a f/f angel story, shhhh!).

It's the second week of Scream! For the Cure. As always, go check out the basket of books coming up for auction this week by going HERE, and remember to come back to bid on Friday. My post on why I'm screaming went up yesterday HERE if you want to know why I'm so devoted to the cause.

This week I'm taking part in Audra Middleton's Villain Visitations on the 7th October. Come meet the oh so creepy Siah-dhu from Keir...if you dare!

Ping Pong
Greta and her guests will be sharing their favourite book characters on Thursdays for the next few weeks - come back and see who they love best and why.

This is Pippa Jay signing off...


  1. Hello! Thank you for writing this. It is something that has been on my mind as well. I write shorts too and am currently revamping a cover to one while working on another. They are very short, 3000 words or less. I also write 2000 words or less short stories for QuarterReads. All sell for a pittance and I have debated doing as you are talking about doing: putting them all together in one collection. However...

    I'm not sure what the answer is here, but I do believe there is a market for short fiction. Since ebook sales in general are down, it's hard to know if sales on shorts are down because they are short, or because all ebook sales are down.

    For what it's worth, I'm keeping up hope for the shorts. While I have debated putting all my shorts together in one, I have decided not to do this for the 2 shorts I have book covers for (these are the ones that are at least 3000 words). I don't know...maybe if authors keep a few separate, those will sell eventually. And since they are separate with their own covers already, I don't want to upset people by later putting them in a collection that essentially makes them less. It also cheapens the efforts of other short fiction authors to sell their short stories individually. Don't sell yourself short!

    As for the ones on QuarterReads that are 2000 or less (which only sell for a quarter and do not have covers at all), I will put in a collection only if the stories match somehow. Say, I have two horror stories and two holiday stories. I wouldn't put the horror stories and holiday stories in the same collection. I'd likely write a few more horror stories to round out a horror collection, same with a holiday collection, etc.

    And I'm not sure if I'm an exception, but I do like to try out one short before committing to buy more from an author (if said author has a few shorts for sale in addition to longer works). I know it may be the better deal, but I'm more likely to spend $1.50 on one short rather than $2.99 on a collection (unless the collection matches...like all alien stories or all SFR stories).

    If I had a choice between one short and a collection from a single author, I'd buy the short first (even though it isn't necessarily the better deal). Spending $1.50 is the less investment and if I decide I really like the author, I'll go back and buy the collection for the additional $2.99. Though I'd be pretty upset if I bought the short and then found it was in the collection also. If the author had a couple separate and kept them separate while still having a collection of new short stories, I'd trust him/her more. The new short stories could even be related to the separate shorts. If I liked the separate shorts, I'd be excited to read more short stories in those worlds in a collection.

    That is the conclusion I've come to as a short fiction writer myself. Since the ones with covers started separate, I'll keep them separate with the idea that I keep the trust of the few readers I have while also providing a sampling of how I write as an author with the lowest investment for a potential new reader. In the end, it's up to you. I'm not sure if this method is the best for me or for anyone, but it's something I've thought long and hard about and I know where you're coming from. And, wow, this is the longest comment I believe I've ever left on a blog. Your post really resonated with me!

    1. Hi Kyndra,

      Again, it's something that might work better for some authors than others, and I'm still experimenting. Yes, my shorts will be in collections where they go together, so I plan to leave out Terms since I'm currently working on two more shorts and a novella length story in the same series, so would plan to do them as a separate collection. My non-romantic shorts wouldn't be going in this current collection. So I will have the odd short around that will stay up as individuals for longer than that 2016 deadline. It all depends. But since I already planned to put all the holiday themed ones together anyway, I'm not suddenly doing a change about. The collections will be cheaper than all the stories individually as some compensation to those who have bought some of the shorts already, and Bones will remain as a freebie (along with Imprint whether in the Tales anthology or as a separate title (at some stage there will be a full length novel sequel) I'm trying to come up with the fairest compromise I can while fixing what seems to be a sales issue.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    2. It will be interesting to see what happens. All great ideas. I like that all the holiday themed shorts will be going in the same collection.

      Hopefully none of what I said came across the wrong way. I was just thinking that any shorts that are already out there should be left as is. Since you are continuing some of those with sequels or other shorts in the same universe, then bundling them in the same collection sounds good too.

      Sales issues are certainly the, well, issue. I hope it all works out and I look forward to seeing the results. Please give us an update on your shorts and collections in the future, on what worked, what didn't work, what you'd have done differently, etc.

    3. I will definitely post about how it works out! One thing>> It also cheapens the efforts of other short fiction authors to sell their short stories individually.
      This is a continuing trend added to by similar things like the number of free books. Unfortunately authors need to try out/do these things in the hope of getting noticed. I don't like it but I have to try it. .


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