Sunday, April 28, 2013

When is a Book Not a Book?

Several months ago, a well-known writer (possibly Joe Konrath or Dean Wesley Smith, I can’t remember which) wrote a how-to blog about breaking into self-publishing ebooks. One tip was to start small by publishing short fiction as a way of learning the business, including proper formatting and price points, etc. A number of folks have done exactly this in a variety of genres, however, Amazon recently announced that it’s pulling any ebook that is 2,500 words or less. The reason they give is that the book is proving to be an unsatisfying reading experience for consumers.

So, a couple of things here. If a writer has created a work of fiction that is 2,500 words or less, it is not a book, it is a short story, and should be marketed as such. However, since all electronically published works of fiction and nonfiction, regardless of length, are called e-books, this apparently has created dissatisfaction among consumers who feel cheated by the lack of pages. Hmm.

If the complaint truly is about the length of the work, why aren’t consumers paying more attention to the information about the ebook on its home page? All four of my books state the number of pages and make it clear that the pages are numbered.

So, is there more to Amazon’s decision to pull short fiction? As one writer pointed out on a Kindleboards forum, a sizable percentage of the short fiction in question happens to be erotica. Some writers are wondering if this is Amazon’s way of purging certain content from their inventory?

Amazon’s letter to one author appears in the GalleyCat blog, which you may find of interest at

Whatever Amazon’s reason for the change (Amazon likes to change things up a lot), it’s useful information for those of us who are thinking about publishing original short fiction in ebook formats. I can’t help wondering, though, if Amazon will change the rules to 5,000 words next month, or 10,000 the month after that?


Michael L. Turner said...

Interesting. Thankfully, I myself have trouble keeping a story under 5K and 10K, I'm told is basically a novella.

I shared this on Twitter.

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Thanks for your comments, Michael, and for sharing this on Twitter. I also am working on a novella these days, although it's slow going. Novella's are a better option for ebook selling than the short stories.