Today an email came saying that my long story (or short novel) “The Interpreter’s Tale” has been accepted into the Amazon Shorts program. The Shorts are “are never-before-seen short works from a wide variety of well-known authors, available only on Amazon.com.” They are only distributed electronically although you are welcome to print them. And they all sell for $.49.
Since I self-published my first novel, hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble, it drew neither acceptance (nor rejection) letters. An acceptance letter turns out to be more gratifying than I would have thought, quite possibly because I’m the son of two oft-published writers and the spirits of our house ebbed and flowed with acceptance and rejection letters not to mention that we ate (or didn’t) based on royalties.
Authors get a whopping 40% royalty for Shorts; much more than the standard 6% my parents got. But, of course, their books sold for a lot more than $.49. This is most likely not a road to riches but it is two different experiments for me.
The author experiment is the open-ended question: what can fiction look like if we don’t worry about the printed media called books and magazines? Can we find new, interesting ways to tell a story? This is a continuation of the experiment that started with publishing hackoff.com as a blook.
In the old days of non-electronic distribution, there was usually a clear line between short stories, which had to fit in magazines, and novels, which had to fill the form factor of a book. A very well-know author could stretch this some with a novella or a long short story serialized but generally the story had to fit the medium it was distributed in.
I have a story to tell in bits and pieces, a mosaic of little mysteries that may knit into the tapestry of an adventure. Some pieces are long like hackoff.com; some are much shorter like “The Interpreter’s Tale”. All are likely to contain links to online pictures, maps, and who knows what else. I am writing for the electronic editions, not paper, although I know from experience with hackoff.com that many of you will choose to print and read. One of the things I like about the Amazon Shorts program is that you retain the right to view or download the electronic edition forever. Even if you read primarily paper, you can go back and click through any links that you want to follow.
As a web guy, I’m interested in distribution and how content creators connect with content consumers. How do content creators make a living meeting the need of content consumers? Part of the answer is that prices go down because a lot of middlemen disappear and much of the physical cost of distribution goes down. But another part of the answer has to be some sort of marketplace or substitute for a marketplace where sellers find their buyers and vice versa.
My experience with hackoff.com was that about ten to twenty thousand readers read all or a substantial part of the blook online or listed to the podcasts (all free). These readers found the blook mainly by word of blog and a small amount of planned promotion. However, this online interest did NOT make the eventual hardcover edition a hit by any means. It still sells; people still read the online version. But there is no efficient way to promote either of them in isolation and I don’t have a list of other books to sell along with them. Thanks to traditional Amazon, however, the book isn’t doomed to disappear and become inaccessible.
Amazon Shorts and other forms of electronic distribution like Mobipocket.com, which I’m also experimenting with, may be part of the answer. They are places where people who like to read go (don’t know how many). The fact that content costs money through these channels means that the channel has a reason to promote. I suspect that channel promotion will remain important to authors – even those authors who don’t need to make a direct living from their books.
Speaking of promotion: I’m only going to tell you a tiny bit about “The Interpreter’s Tale” now. It takes place in Barcelona; Dom Montain, super-hacker from the last novel, is back; Larry Lazard, who died in the last novel, is not; there are no stock brokers or IPOs in the story.
Mary says I’m not allowed to say more until there is an Amazon Shorts URL for the story to link to; you know, that call to action thing.