Monday, November 24, 2014

Why Write and (Try to) Sell Short Stories?

© by Gerald So | | 6:28 A.M.

As it has seemingly become easier for writers to sell their work directly to the public, a frequent topic of Short Mystery Fiction Society discussion is, "How can writers make more sales?"

Several writers and publishers chimed in with soberingly-low sales figures. I replied, citing Lawrence Block's observation from his writing manuals that novelists need one premise per book while short story writers need as many ideas as they have stories. I write short stories and poetry because my mind is suited to many ideas and many ways of expressing them. I'd prefer to sell them all in print for as much money as possible, but I'm not against electronic form.

Ultimately I sell stories electronically as well as in print because I see no reason not to do so. I do question novelists who sell their books in electronic form for low prices as I think this devalues fiction-for-sale as a whole. I can see the short-term gain for popular authors, but in the long run, it seems to be hurting the market.

There will always be readers who dismiss short stories as inferior to novels. In their eyes, 99-cent stories or collections can't compete with 99-cent novels. I can't say I write for readers in that sense. I write to see how well I can present in words the images and worlds in my mind, and I try to reach just one person who can see them as I do.


Graham Powell said...

I think that if you want to write short stories, you'd better like doing it, because you won't be in it for the money. I myself DO like doing it, so I don't mind coming up with lots of ideas.

Having said that, I'm in the process of editing my first novel, and you can't have just a single idea. You need a whole bunch of them just to have enough going on to fill 60,000 words (or more).

Gerald So said...

Block was speaking in terms of main plot. Both novels and shorts have main plots, but stories see them though rather expeditiously while novels have subplots. Short story writers finish and move on to the next plot while novelists spend more time (and space) developing a single plot.

Graham Powell said...

You know, it's odd how commonly I get an idea... and it just goes nowhere. Then, later, I get another idea, snap the two together like Legos, and presto! A new story!

Bobbi A. Chukran, Author said...

I like Block's comment, and he's right. One reason I like short stories is that I do come up with lots of ideas, but they just don't lend themselves to being stretched with multiple sub-plots. I *can* write novels but I don't enjoy it as well. Right now, I'm experimenting with novellas, but I've heard that readers "want more for their money." Ironically, lots of classic mysteries were novella length.