Saturday, 14 May 2011

In Defence Of Short Stories #1: Alain Gomez

I never realised, until I started publishing short stories, how much some people dislike the form. I mean normal, reader-type people, who read novels, but won't sully their minds with anything with a word count under 20k. Where do these people come from? How are they created (for surely they're not natural)?

In all seriousness, I know short stories don't sell as well as novels. And I don't care. They are an art-form in themselves, with their own rules, their own highs and lows. They are not truncated novels, or promotional material for novels. 

Hence the idea of 'In Defence of Short Stories' - a series of semi-regular guest blogs by short story authors. And I can't think of a better person to start with than Alain Gomez. No matter how much you think you like short stories, Alain likes them more. See the excellent blog Book Brouhaha for evidence. Or make any kind of disparaging comment about short stories on Kindleboards, and see how long it is before Alain arrives to argue you into submission... In short, Alain's someone who fights the good fight.

Take it away, Alain....



Short Stories are a Complete Waste of Money. Here are 7 better uses for your $1.

Thanks to the floodgate ebooks have opened up, we are now bombarded with new book length possibilities. The genre that seems to rub the most salt in the wound is the short story. Authors are attempting to get us to pay as much as $0.99 for a story that could be as short as 1,000 words.

This is just about as rock bottom as spending can get. Imagine spending an entire dollar on a story one author spent time putting together. In case you may be tempted to try one of these things, I have compiled a list of much more mainstream (not to mention, socially acceptable) uses for your dollar.

1. N’Sync’s “That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You” on iTunes. Their dulcet tones will go down in music history. I would recommend getting the much more famous “Bye Bye Bye,” but it sells at $1.29 which is slightly out of our budget.

2. A Taco Bell bean burrito. With all the nutritional value of wallpaper and created from just-add-water beans, this is a life investment you should not pass up. Extremely satisfying to eat at 2am.

3. Betty Crocker scented candle in a glass case. These beauties can be found at your local 99 cent store. Set the mood by lighting one and making your home smell like cheap fruit.

4. A small coffee at McDonald’s. Smells alarmingly like melted tires.

5. Two bags of Top Ramen. A college student’s gourmet cuisine. One serving will fulfill your salt allotment for the month. Slightly less nutritional value than a Taco Bell burrito.

6. A tip for a bartender so they don’t poison your drink next time you frequent their establishment. If you fold the bill just right it can look like a lot more

7. Angry Birds on your iPhone. This game is mind improving, right? It teaches us about angles and, you know, stuff.



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And be sure to check out Alain's great new collection of flash fiction 'Flashes of Humour, Glimpses of Life' (UKUS). A collection that shows how great even the shortest of short stories can be.

20 comments:

TC said...

Until I got my kindle I wouldn't have entertained any form of short story or novella, but since I have become far more open to them I have a few on my kindle and think they can be brilliant. One of the main complaints people seem to have about them when purchasing from Amazon is that often it's not obvious that for your money you're "only" getting a short story/novella. Maybe they'd have still purchased but they want to know and make the choice. With so many cheap full length novels price is no guide.

Alain Gomez said...

" In short, Alain's someone who fights the good fight."

No pun intended, right??

I agree with you, TC. While the authors should make an effort to let the customer know what they're getting, this really should be something that Amazon and B&N need to make a priority. Length is relevant factor that can affect a book sale. I have decided not to purchase some books simply because they were too long and I didn't have the time to devote to it.

shana said...

Thank you so much for the advice, Alain.
Now I'll never make the mistake of wasting a dollar on a short story.
Why would I, when I could use that dollar to fulfill an entire MONTH'S salt allotment??

LOL

Loved it!

Shana Hammaker

Edd said...

As a writer of short stories and novellas I applaud this blog and the piece by Alain. Short stories used to be mandatory reading in school, when I was young.

Keith B. Darrell said...

I love the short story art form. Always have, always will. And I say this despite being an author with a new 360-page novel being published in 10 days.

May is National Short Story Month. In celebration of this, I have uploaded 35 short stories as Kindle eBooks, all priced at 99 cents. As Alain has said, 99 cents is an ideal price point. People will spend a dollar on a song download that lasts 3 minutes, on a candy bar that lasts three bites, but balk at spending it on a creative work that will entertain them much longer.

I think Kindle is the ideal format for short stories. Commuters can read them on the train, workers can read them on a coffee break, students can slip their Kindle behind their textbook in class and... uh, skip that last one.

While I support James and Alain 100 percent, I don't think short stories need to be defended. Anyone who has ever taken a literature class has been exposed to the short stories of Hemingway, Poe, O. Henry, D.H. Lawrence, Flannery O'Conner, William Faulkner, Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, J.D. Salinger, Albert Camus, Shirley Jackson, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury... To deprecate the short story is to belittle the work of these and many other great authors. Show me the individual who would do so, and you have shown me not a reader, but an illiterate with a great deal to learn.

James Everington said...

Thanks for all your comments guys - nice to know this series is of interest to people (and thanks for Alain for kicking if off so well).

Keith - "not a reader, but an illiterate with a great deal to learn". Great line. I may use it in times of stress.

Next week's author for 'In Defence of Short Stories' is already lined up - the great Neil Schiller.

elijahjoon said...

Literary agent "superstar" Jeff Kleinman is on record for hating short stories both artistically and commercially.

The short story has always been and still is an important literary form that has sadly been going the way of the do-do in terms of commercial marketability. Artistically, it is still strong. Zoetrope, Best American Short Stories, etc. all attest to that.

BTW, I invite everyone to read my short story free here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/59171

or here: http://www.feedbooks.com/userbook/20657/austrian-accented-action-guy

It's poppin' with style and shows that short stories can be well-written and entertaining as hell, like any "minisode" or action scene.

Alain Gomez said...

"The short story has always been and still is an important literary form that has sadly been going the way of the do-do in terms of commercial marketability. Artistically, it is still strong. Zoetrope, Best American Short Stories, etc. all attest to that."

Five years ago I would have agreed they were going the way of the do-do. But ereaders are changing that.

As James said, some people won't touch anything under 20,000 words. To me, that's about as narrow minded as limiting how short a song should be. Can you compare Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juilet" to Frank Sinatra's much shorter "Witchcraft"?

The effect ereaders/ebooks will have on the public will be similar to what itunes did for music. I'm a classical musician and 10 years ago, a MAJOR topic was concern over the declining interest in classic music. Concert attendance was down, no one bought classical music albums, etc. ITunes and the iPod appeared and all of the sudden there's an explosion of interest in music again. It was the tool needed to help people cross genres and discover new sounds.

Stacey said...

I like short stories, always have, always will. In a bookstore, or in hardcopy, you always know when you're getting a short story, because of the page count or a quick visual.

But if I pay for a piece of digital fiction, and end up getting 1000 words (which takes me about 2 minutes to read,) I'm going to be a little ticked off, no matter how much I adore the short story format.

Keith's example above is an excellent one, but one to which I would add, why not (since you have published 35 of these stories,) also publish a single collection containing all of them? If someone really likes your work, don't you think it's much more likely that they will buy a collection of 35 stories, than to pay for more than a handful of them individually?

Some of the most brilliant writing I've ever been privileged to read was in short story form. Most of my favorite authors were discovered by encountering a short story in an anthology.

Andrew said...

I have always read a wide variety of stories - from short to mega-epic bookstoppers. Of late I have found that my reading (and writing) style is much more geared towards the shorter form - whether short stories, novelettes or novellas. Who has time for a ten book, 1000 page per book epic, most of which is just padding?

Keep it short and sweet.

Promotional Products said...

Nice story about form. Thanks for sharing.

Alain Gomez said...

"Who has time for a ten book, 1000 page per book epic, most of which is just padding?"

As I write more, I've been reading a lot with the intention of seeing how the author gets from point A to point B.

I have noticed the padding thing a LOT. It's actually a really interesting study. Next time you read, just make mental notes whenever there's a portion of dialog that just rehashes what was already done/said or a scene description that really doesn't add anything other than words.

James Everington said...

Thanks for the comments, in particular that from 'Promotional Products'

Oh but Alain - Angry Birds *is* cool...

Aleta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaleta Clegg said...

(I hate having several Google identities. I never remember which one is signed in. urg.)

Plants vs. Zombies is more entertaining than angry birds, but it costs a little more. Big mac, rather than burrito.

There's an idea, we could make a story length rating based on fast food. Wait, I have too many short stories to finish to spend time on that.

I love playing with short stories. They are more like a date instead of a marriage. Not nearly as much commitment needed to enjoy them. I read them and write them.

Alain Gomez said...

I love Angry Birds. My boyfriend and I scream at those annoying little pigs almost every night. But I have the iPad version which is $1.99.

Keith B. Darrell said...

"Keith's example above is an excellent one, but one to which I would add, why not (since you have published 35 of these stories,) also publish a single collection containing all of them? If someone really likes your work, don't you think it's much more likely that they will buy a collection of 35 stories, than to pay for more than a handful of them individually?"

Oh Jeez, Stacey, you're making this far too easy for me to make a shameless plug for "Shards", my 542 page short story collection coming out this summer (cover and details on my blog at keithbdarrell.com.

Personally, I love anthologies, but I agree with Alain's point that e-readers will make the short story format more viable to readers.

timctaylor said...

eReader devices fit beautifully with short stories, and will bring novelettes and novellas out of the dark recesses of literature.

Deborah Walker said...

I love the short story. For years, I've gobbled down the year's best, science fiction and horror and just about any other anthology or collection I could get my hands on.

I know a lot of authors putting up indie collections of their reprints. Word is they don't sell as well as novels. Why is that?

James Everington said...

Wish I knew why Deborah..! Personally, if I'm checking out a new author and they have a short story collection out, I'll normally pick that to try first. And like you I'm very much into my end of year anthologies...