Anthologies have been around since forever. You all remember books of short stories from grade school, I’m sure. They were our first introduction to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe and the stories were assigned by teachers to introduce us to the world’s best authors and to try and light a fire under adolescent tushies to get them to read more than Nancy Drew.
In the literary marketplace, anthologies, historically, have rarely sold well. Unless there was a well-known author or two included, nobody much noticed them. Most short stories were published by way of magazines that featured them like sci-fi magazines or true crime pulp mags and such. Now, however, they are making a comeback. Why?
There are two reasons, mainly, but probably many more smaller ones. First, people have gotten busy and, while novels are still the big draw, novellas and short stories (alone or in anthologies) are becoming more and more popular because they fit into hectic lifestyles. Like the half hour sitcom you can watch while the brownies bake, one can pick up an e-reader and read an interesting story in a short time. According to a comment made by M.S. Jackson on Lindsay Buroker’s Blog, “While I will pick up a longer book, it is these short, easy reads that seem to be what I look for in this crazy modern age. I have an iPad with literally dozens of novels in my ‘to read’ cue, but the short stories are the ones that I devour at any regular rate.”
The second biggest reason is, of course, the increased popularity of the e-book. You can download a copy of an anthology and read one story in the doctor’s office, one at lunch, one in bed while you relax before sleeping. Readers also buy inexpensive copies or download free copies of individual short stories in the cheap or free sections of online bookstores. Topical anthologies seem to sell the best– Christmas stories, sports stories, fantasies, etc.
Why write a short story? Well, aside from the fact that we all probably have bunches of them on our laptops already written with no place to go, they’re a great writing exercise. You can try out a different POV, genre, or style than you usually write. But there is also a big reason that I, frankly, never thought of until researching for this blog and it blew my mind when I contemplated it further. Write a longish short story and publish it on Amazon in their little system, with info at the end to direct the reader to your full length book(s). If you sell a handful of them, or more, for $.99, or even if Amazon includes it in a bundle for free, you have a marketing tool! Who’da thunk it? Someone did, of course, because I found this on Lindsay’s blog, but geez louise, how easy is that?
And remember what I said about selling a few? One commenter on the blog said she pays the rent with the proceeds of her short stories and short novellas.
How can you go wrong if you put up your best one or two short stories with said marketing info at the end? I say, you can’t!