Digital Publishing: A Breath of Life for Short Stories

Who among us has not heard this pronouncement?

“Short stories are great and all, but there’s no money in them.”

The curiosity about markets: markets change. There was a long, long period in human history where there was no market for a 300 page book — a novel, if you will — because the middle class did not exist and the wealthy elite buried their noses in epic, expensive tomes.

Digital publishing has created a new market for short stories. Just like the printing press made books cheaper and revolutionized not only who was writing, but who was reading, digital publishing has likewise evolved the market. Amazon is now selling what they call Kindle Singles — short stories sold piecemeal.

Try selling a short story — a single short story — in 1998. You cannot. Not only is time travel a figment of science fiction, but also there is simply no way to physically package a single short story in a way that it can sell at a reasonable price. The story literally could not be worth the paper on which it was printed. And where would it be sold? Pressed into book store shelves, a publication so thin you cannot read the spine? Sold in vending machines? A Red Box for 15-minute literature? Tosh!

But now, with nothing but hard drive space and battery life limiting the publishing world, writers should rejoice. The digital era has reinvented the market for writing. Rejoice not just for the growing ease of self-publishing, rejoice not just because print-on-demand has increased your hopes of finding a publisher willing to risk your work, rejoice not just because you yourself have new galaxies of affordable literature so close to your fingertips they are basically under your fingernails — no, rejoice because your short story might finally earn you some coin.

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