One of the many advantages of eBooks is that they can be any length. Physical books need to be a certain size for binding purposes, neither too thin nor too thick. If you wanted to put a short story on paper, you had to submit it to a magazine, an anthology, or a collection. If you wanted to write a story of intermediate length–either a novelette (7,500 — 17,500 words) or a novella (17,500 — 40,000 words), markets were hard to find. (I know because I had trouble marketing Lyon’s Legacy before self-publishing it.) However, electronic files don’t suffer from paper constraints.
What does this mean for authors? It’s possible to write and publish stories at the length they need to be instead of the length the publisher needs them to be. Yesterday, I was reading reviews for the latest book in a popular urban fantasy series I follow. (I won’t name it since I haven’t read the book in question.) Some of the reviewers mentioned that nothing much happened in this novel that advanced the overall series; in fact, the heroine spent much of her time unable to do anything. A couple of people even said that this novel might have worked better as a short story. Perhaps this author had to fulfill a contract for this series and was counting this book toward that requirement. She might have done better paring this story down to a shorter length. Short stories, novelettes, and novellas can be used to develop secondary characters or explore side stories or settings related to the overall plot or world of a series. Also, by being able to write stories at different lengths, writers can practice various aspects of their craft.
What does easy access to a wide range of stories for readers? It gives them more options to find works that fit their schedules. If you only have a short time to read, you might want to polish off a shorter work instead of starting something you may not be able to get back to for a while. Short works may also serve as a good introduction to a new author, as the reader can invest only a little bit of time into reading before deciding to move on or look for other works by that author.
I would say more–there are pieces of flash fiction longer than this post–but I need to get back to my Season Avatars prequel. It still hasn’t decided if it’s going to be a novella or a short novel. (Forty thousand words would be short for a fantasy novel, but that could be a separate blog post.) In the meantime, I’ll ask you these questions: Do you prefer to read stories of a certain length, or do you read a variety of story lengths? If you have a preference, why?