The Emerging Marketplace for Eshorts

I’m bullish on eshorts. Here are some reasons why:

I think eshorts open up a whole new space in the still evolving digital marketplace for written content.

There’s a definite need and desire for both fiction and nonfiction that falls somewhere between 5K and 30K words in the ebook format on digital readers. For fiction: something beyond a short story and edging up to the length of a novella. For nonfiction: longer than a magazine article, but shorter than a full-length work. There’s something about this length that just makes sense on a digital reader.

Eshorts are a good opening for writers to publish their own work in the digital space. It’s a good place to explore all the things you’re going to need to know how to do: produce an epub file, understand the retail procedures, environment and opportunities, and market a digital-only product.

The eshort form is inspiring new, exciting companies to enter the publishing space, like the frequently mentioned Byliner and The Atavist.

It’s also inspiring non-publishers to set up publishing operations, such as NBC News and TED.

I personally do not think it’s hard to publish an ebook. But there is a learning curve. Like anything, the only way to get good at it is to do it, over and over and over again. If you are also writing the content of the books, that’s not so easy, because writing a full-length work takes a great deal of time. Eshorts make this proposition a bit simpler. They take less time to write, there is less copy to edit, and the marketplace is a bit narrower in scope. Publishing eshorts, in short, is just a less daunting proposition. It’s an excellent point of entry to the business of publishing.

Writers are never short on longform magazine ideas. But there are very few magazines publishing long-form journalism or short-form fiction these days, and the ones that do are some of the hardest places for a writer to get his or her work published. The eshort marketplace allows a writer to pursue his or her idea and publish it all on their own. And possibly make some decent money.

Let’s face it — sometimes nonficiton full-length published books are padded. The reason for this is because in order to justify a work’s publication as a book (or rather, all the costs associated with bringing the work to the marketplace), it had to hit a certain word count (at least over 50K words). The stretch is obvious, and sometimes painful for readers. The eshort marketplace solves this problem by creating a middle ground.

Eshorts open up possible new revenue streams for newspapers, magazines, and other content producing organizations.

For established authors who fall on the more prolific end of the spectrum, eshorts offer up an opportunity to put even more works into the marketplace. With or without their publisher.

Speed to the marketplace will be improved. Publishers can take well over a year to get a book into the marketplace. Eshorts can be published in less than a week.

Will eshorts help serialization makes a comeback? Haven’t seen anything yet, but certainly this an opportunity for writers/publishers to serialize a work through the eshort channels.

The three main retailers for digital content — Amazon, BN.com, and Apple’s iBookstore — all have solid merchandising programs for eshorts. Amazon leads the pack with its Kindles Singles program, BN has Nook Snaps, and iBookstore has Quick Reads.

And while it’s true that most ebook reading and purchasing is happening through the Kindle, Nook and iPhone/iPad, with purchases for content coming from the companies associated with those devices (Amazon, BN.com, Apple, respectively), it’s possible that producers of niche eshort content may be able to sell direct (if they forgo worrying about DRM).

Eshort pricing — usually falling somewhere between .99 cents and 2.99 — helps establish an overall ebook pricing structure that makes sense. The price of full-length ebooks is currently in flux and one of the key issues for the publishing industry right now. But if an eshort costs $2.99 (at the upper-end), well, then, a full-length ebook at least has to cost more than that. I mention this because some readers feel full-length ebooks should be priced that low. Thinking long term, whatever prices are now for full-length ebooks, they will eventually come down. But eshorts, by inhabiting the lower-end of the pricing spectrum, establish an appropriate bottom.