Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Rise of “Mini-eBooks” (or “Short Stories”, as we usually call them…)

On USA Today yesterday, Craig Wilson published a story about “mini ebooks”, which are “being served up this summer as bite-size appetizers for the main course to follow”. I wasn’t aware that this was particularly news-worthy, having seen plenty of these short stories and prequel minis released over the past couple of years. Also, Amazon’s been releasing it’s Kindle Singles for a long time, so there’s more evidence that it’s not a new idea.

Gerritsen-JohnDoeUKThey are, however, clearly on the rise. Wilson picks up on three – a new Rizzoli & Isles short from Tess Gerritsen (John Doe UK/US), an early Jack Reacher story from Lee Child (Deep Down UK/US) and a new Walt Longmire story from Craig Johnson (Divorce Horse).

I am entirely in agreement with Johnson, who said these eBook shorts were “a good way of providing a bridge between books,” and also Wilson’s support for them:

“[They are] an opportunity to feed a voracious, digitally savvy public no longer willing to wait between books. The public appears willing to plop down a couple of bucks for a teaser before paying $25 for the real deal.”

Child-DeepDownUKEven excusing the impatience-born appeal, I think they really serve best as tasters for new readers – which is why I’ve bought both of Child’s eBook short stories – Deep Down and last year’s Second Son (I’ve never read a Reacher novel, and to this day I have no idea why not…). I’m not sure if I’ll buy Gerritsen’s, as I have the first full-length novel in the Rizzoli & Isles series, and John Doe isn’t a prequel.

In the SFF genre, I’m not aware of too many examples, but off the top of my head T.C. McCarthy’s Somewhere it Snows, Brad Beaulieu & Steve Gaskell’s Strata, Nick Harkaway’s Edie Investigates, Brent Weeks’s Perfect Shadow, and Orbit Books’s Short Fiction initiative, which now has 22 titles (sadly still only available in the US, except for Perfect Shadow).

Weeks-PerfectShadowI would certainly be interested to read more short stories from other authors I already know and like, so I definitely see this as a win-win for eReading fans.

The real issue, I suppose, would be more about whether or not the short fiction should be series prequel, a continuation, or something entirely unrelated to the author’s next full-length release. I personally would like a mix of all three.

How do other people feel about this?


CORRECTION: Orbit Short Fiction initiative HAS rolled out for UK customers! Just go to the website, and each title has a handy list of vendors. Hurrah! This is great news! I really want seven of them…


  1. I've read a few short pieces published this way. Strata, a novella by Jamie Todd Rubin, a novella by Ian Sales.
    I find them good "palate cleansers" between novels.

  2. I like the idea simply because it gives author's more flexibility. I think this is the strength of the ebook format, its adaptability.

    Publishers/Authors in the past have tried to work around the 100,000 novel format to draw in new readers but it seemed novel, bad pun, and didn't catch on such as with Stephen King's Green Mile and Jordan's "From Two Rivers" & "To the Blight".

    I am just excited to see what authors and publishers come up with. The idea of serials and pulp style publications resurfacing is exciting as well. It just helps give authors back more creativity in their use of the medium.

  3. As if they needed any more excuses to take my money ... I love the idea of authors releasing short titles to complement their standard works. I definitely want the two Mira Grant books.