Saturday, February 19, 2011

Do Readers REALLY like short stories?

The answer to this question would seem obvious, since sales and downloads of short books and free reads are over the top. Lots of stories from 5k to 15k are written, published, and purchased every day. The market would seem to support the idea that readers, and I'll throw reviewers into this mix too, like buying and reading shorter books.

However, reader/reviewer feedback on these stories suggests something different. Most shorter stories and free reads get ratings of 3 or less. Many of the written reviews for these stories mention the reader's disappointment that the book was so short. That the story felt rushed. Or that the reader wished she'd had more time to enjoy the world.

It takes an extremely skilled writer to craft a story that completely satisfies in a very short number of pages. Occasionally it happens, but most of the time the end result, from anecdotal evidence at least, seems to be disappointment. In fact, the better you craft your characters and story, the more likely you are to get the review that says the reader was disappointed when it ended so quickly, because they really liked your characters and your world.

It's an interesting observation...nothing more. I believe that writers will continue to write short. From the readers' perspective, in a tough economy, where most of us work long hours and have lots of responsibilities vying for our time, there is definitely a market for the less expensive or free, quick reads.

Authors like the opportunity to grab readers who might not otherwise buy one of their longer, more expensive works if they hadn't become acquainted with them through the shorter stuff first. And many writers cannot resist the challenge of achieving the near impossible -- writing a book that satisfies in 15k or less. So I believe this market will stay strong and even continue to grow.

I'm just wondering if it will ever be a satisfying endeavor for anyone involved.


Anny Cook said...

As a I don't really care for the shorter books.

As a writer...sometimes that's all the story there is.

Sam Cheever said...

That's true, Anny. I guess I was thinking about stories we have to work and massage to keep short. But I've definitely written stories that, when taken to their logical conclusion, fall within that under 15k limit. Those stories might "feel" more complete than the story that has to be crafted shorter to fit an external parameter. Maybe those are the shorts that actually satisfy the reader. Great point.