More than one traditional publishing house has decided to experiment with meeting the needs of the reading consumer in a time-strapped and financially weakened economy. Publishers are bringing more short story content to publishing markets everywhere and they are relying on the popularity of digital reading to make it possible.
Both Penguin Group and Random House have initiated their own short story digital publishing platforms and, while the programs do meet the needs of customers in terms of a low price-point and a shorter format than novels, the real gain to be made is not just in terms of bringing back readers’ demands for a historically-loved format.
The benefit to these programs and to distribution channels like Kindle Singles is the time to market for the work has been dramatically reduced. Whereas a full-length work can easily take as much as two years to reach bookstore shelves under a traditional publishing model, ebook-only marketing of shorter works means that time can be as little as a few months. This is especially important for world event topics and other time sensitive books.
“We came up with the idea because one of the frustrations we find as publishers is we have an editorial meeting every week, where we discuss things which are going on – news events which would make wonderful books. The great frustration is that by the time the author has written 100,000 words, and we’ve edited it, and worked with retailers’ advance schedules, you can’t get it out until a year after the event, by which time it’s no longer newsworthy,” said Venetia Butterfield, creator of Penguin Shorts and director of Penguin’s imprint Viking, in an interview with Alison Flood for The Guardian.
As for short stories, many only see publication once they are collected into a publishable anthology; with this type of format, there is no waiting game necessary for putting a compelling short story on the market. Publishers hope to bring back the enjoyment of short stories and essays with this tactic, as well as reach new fans by soliciting shorter works from established authors.