Go Long on the Short Story

I used to think 'e' was just a drug bandied at dance parties in the 80's, but I'm completely wrong.  Looking around today - everything is 'e'!  E-books, e-readers, e-publishing...exciting right? 'E' has a friend too...BFF actually, goes by the letter 'i'.   As in, iPod upon the train, iPad to keep me from being sad, iMac therefore I am.  It's amazing how technology moulds industries...builds, spills, thrills.  If you are quiet - you can hear it...the gentle waves of e-publishing lapping at your trouser hems.  

I have been mulling over short stories since last week, mainly as I have come across a number of online competitions.  Many people have told me that publishers do not like short stories... high cost, zilch return. So, short stories are in fact dead. As a Dodo.... the lady mutters in between the tap-tap-tap of her old typewriter. Worse than dead, ignored.  A number of publishers and agents will not consider looking short stories at all.  This makes me sad for them...the stories.  You see, I think they are a real treat.  One of my favourite books is Ghostwritten by David Mitchell; another is Nine Stories by J.D Salinger.  Crumbs, I was weaned on Katherine Mansfield's collection of short stories.  

Despite views that they will never be cash cows, I wonder with the ever-evolving technology and competition of e-publishing and e-readers.... have my beloved short stories, and novella's been granted a new lease of life?   Should publishers 'go long' on short story positions?  

Here are my top 5 reasons why I think the world needs more short stories.

Short stories and Novellas are:

1.  Perfectly tailored for weekends away, you know in that last minute of frantic packing when you're trying to decide which book to take?  Weighing up the mammoth novel vs. the short stories.  Go on, pick one from your bookshelf and toss it in your lovely monogrammed overnight bag.  See - lightweight, small, fits comfortably between your Jimmy's and your notebook. 

2. Perfect for the lady or gent on the go.  Waiting in airport lounges, on train stations, getting your Mani Pedi done...just the right length. Perfect. 

3.  Perfect for yummy mummy and slummy daddy.  Why? Because anyone with kids knows how little time they have to read!  So a perfectly written tale will provide the much-needed entertainment whilst waiting for little Johnny at the dentist or to while away crusty PTA meetings.  

4.  Perfect for anyone whose date is late...pull out your little sleek book and look busy! An alternative to pretending to talk on your phone whilst avoiding eye contact with the weirdo guy on the nearby barstool.  Psst.wierdo guys at bars can't relate to girls who read, therefore will leave you alone. 

5. Perfect little gems, some sweet, some bitter, others dark, many humorous, and you can lose yourself in their world.  How does this differ from a novel? Well, novels are best savoured at a more leisurely pace, on the beach in a far-flung destination.  You can enjoy a short story in its entirety without interruption.  It's the perfect short break from real life.  

Now, one last thought - take all of the above reasons and convert your book into your chosen e-format, load onto your choice of e-reader.... and add the plethora of e-libraries, just a few clicks away from your perfectly manicured fingertips.  Tell me now...if you were a publisher - in the world full of 'e's and 'i's, wouldn’t you consider going long on your short stories position? 


  1. I agree. I can hear the lapping of e-publishing too, and I open my arms to it! I have an eReader too, and love it, it really works for me, even though I'll never give up buying paper books. I too feel short stories have their place. Oh, how I tire of the stuffy publishing industry telling us what we should and shouldn't buy! I'm currently reading 'The Yellow Wallpaper' again a collection of short stories, and agree with you about Salinger's nine stories - shame words are so heavily influenced by money and subjectivity. Karen.

  2. Hi Karen, I'll have to grab a copy of 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. I do love short stories, really think there is a place for these little gems and the deserve more attention. Maybe we could campaign for them? E-publishing is only getting stronger esp with the competition with the e-readers. I love paperbooks of course and will always buy them but I just wish we could see more short stories in print! ;)

  3. As an ex-teacher, I have to agree. Short stories definitely have their place--I mean, they're the perfect length for homework assignments! And it's always nice to teach classics, but modern short stories are important too!

    And I have a Kindle and I love it. But I switch off between reading on the Kindle and reading actual books. There's just something about turning pages every other time.

  4. Hi Lisa & Laura, you're absolutely right - how did I miss the school assignments? I think that should be reason no 6 - Setting school assignments for young imaginative minds! I agree more Modern short stories please!

    What I like about e-readers is the choice that readers have for interacting with stories. Printed works will always have a place close to our hearts and e-publishing compliments everyones busy lifestyle these days. I see it as a symbiotic relationship...see I was paying attention in biology! ;)

  5. yes, yes and yes! They definitely have their place!

  6. You've made a great case for the short story! I think with the short attention spans of modern readers, it makes sense that eventually short stories will make a popular comeback. But right now, I think the stigma with short stories is that they are more "literary." Maybe that scares people away from reading them.

  7. Hi Christina, Yes!! A thousand times yes! I'm so happy to hear writers passionate about short stories! ;)

  8. Hi Jody, welcome to my humble blog! I would love to see the stigma removed. I think if is possible to tap into what the modern readers wants, then we have a good start. Also, if we want to capture the modern reader, we are likely to find them online which is another reason why no-one can really hold back the tide of e-publishing. ;)


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