Do Short Stories Sell?
I have never bought a short story yet but I have enjoyed quite a few as giveaways. I know a lot others who feel the same way and prefer the longer versions of a story. Yet, there is no smoke without fire. If they are being written with much enthusiasm, there is an audience too. Hence, it piqued my interest and I went about doing my little research.
After reading through readers and authors experience with these digital bite sized stories, I concluded there are two ways to look at the short story reading/selling phenomena.
Direct Sales - Selling Short Stories - Single or series
There are authors who make a living just by writing and selling short stories. Yes, they do. In fact, Amazon has a dedicated page for shorts known as Kindle Singles. That definitely shows that even Amazon has seen the worth in short stories. Single short stories seem to be doing better than series short stories mainly because 10K is too short for a reader to feel satisfied. Single short stories, on the other hand, is a closed loop which can be quite satisfying if well written. Authors on popular Amazon forums have admitted to sales about 1000-1500 copies in couple of months on their short stories.
However, there are two points that have been repeatedly pointed out.
You need to publish more than one short story to see actual sales trickle through. General consensus is to have a consistent flow of short stories, in double digits to see any significant amount of sales. The good part of this is, at the end of the year, you can probably bundle it up and sell it at one go at a higher price. If you have accumulated good reviews by then, there is a higher chance that readers are willing to pay for the bundle. It is all about how you package your product.
The other point that the readers have often pointed out is they appreciate longer book, especially if its part of a series. A series short story is essentially a single book but broken down in to short parts to be sold separately. The general feeling here is that since the characters are the same, it is often a difficult part to leave them after just about 10K words. The urge to know more is strong in this case and though, it might convert in to sales, there is also a chance that the reader drop the series frustrated. This is something you should keep in mind when writing a short story. If you are selling it as series, ensure that the following books are published at short intervals.
Indirect Sales - Short story giveaway
Write a short story and give away for free. This is promotion for your full-length book. Short story is a form of introducing your potential reader to your writing and if he/she like it, then you just increased the probability of one more sale of your novel. I find it a very healthy way of promotion. This gives you an indirect sale. When offered for free, authors have reported downloads in thousands. If your short story is reaching thousands, it is definitely a wonderful exposure for the full length novel as well.
Though Amazon does not allow free shorts, there are scores of websites who do allow free shorts and which can actually turn in to a mine for your books.
If you are specifically looking at selling shorter length books and find full-length books too intimidating, there is a middle path - sell Novellas and Novelettes. Novellas are 20K-30K words and Novelettes are typically 15K-20K words. Novellas sell better than novelettes as the word count gives ample space to make up a good story. It is not too hard and a great way to release series as well.
This is my two pence about selling short stories. What has been your experience?