Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Short Story Boom is Bogus

So says Salon.

From the post...

It is true that many online outlets are now selling short fiction to readers on a per-story basis; Kaufman mentions Amazon’s Kindle Singles program and Byliner, a company with which the Times launched an e-books publication program late last year. In the past, these outlets have been lauded as a new way to purvey long-form journalism: reported articles too long for many magazines but not quite as substantial as a traditional book. As a reviewer, I can attest that many nonfiction books read like padded magazine articles, and if writers can make a fair return on their investment of time, research expenses and expertise from these leaner, less expensive pieces (a big “if”), this is indeed a promising innovation. But at the moment, it’s not clear that they can.

Similarly, digital publishing could theoretically help the novella — a work of fiction somewhere between a short story and a novel in length — out of an awkward, between-bar-stools market gap; novellas are usually too short to publish economically as stand-alone print books but an ungainly fit in a story collection. The notably creative small press Melville House publishes a novella series to which readers can subscribe, receiving two titles per month in either digital or print form. (These are, however, novellas by well-known, usually long-dead authors like Joseph Conrad and Willa Cather, and presumably most are in the public domain.)

Still, the idea that such programs have led to renewed general interest in reading short stories is, like much of the Times article, speculative and fueled by wishful thinking. “The single-serving quality of a short narrative is the perfect art form for the digital age,” says one hopeful author, Amber Dermont, whose short story “A Splendid Wife” current ranks at No. 30,849 in the Kindle store. (Her novel, the recipient of a glowing front-page review in the New York Times Book Review last year, is at 14,880.)

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