I grew up loving short stories.
Back when the high point of every Saturday was a bike ride to Tompkins Sundries to load up on comic books, the comics all provided at least three stories for a dime. Superman, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Archie and the gang… all of them gave us stories in small doses, stories with beginnings and middles and endings in the space of a few pages.
When my reading migrated to paperback books, I still picked up the anthologies: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and collections of short works by Isaac Asimov and Damon Knight and so many others.
Of course I read my share of longer works, some of my favorites being the Ace Doubles, a pair of novellas packaged end-to-end with two covers, each “flipped” relative to the other. But even as Stan Lee and Marvel Comics introduced soap opera continuity to the comics and epic series such as Dune and Lord of the Rings set the stage for today’s glorious, generations-spanning sagas packaged in books thick enough to stop a bullet, I’ve clung to my love for short works.
Naturally, I would write a few even though the short form has fallen out of favor and the financial reward from a package of short stories won’t even cover the cost of buying a cover image.
Enter Amazon and their Kindle Unlimited program. For $9.99 a month a person can read as many books in the Kindle Library as their eyeballs can scan. Authors are paid through a socialistic system that would warm the heart of Karl Marx himself: Amazon puts an amount of money into a pot; each book “borrowed” under the KU program gets an equal share; every month the money is divided by the number of shares and each author is paid out based on the number of times his books were borrowed.
One enterprising fellow published his four-year-old’s illustrated book, There Once Was a Panda, in the KU program and earned $1.81 for each download. Bryce made enough money to buy a copy of Plants vs. Zombies for his Playstation. Not bad for a work that in past times would have been relegated to the side of a refrigerator.
The fact that Bryce’s success diminishes the return on adults’ full-length novels points out the bias in the KU system, which obviously favors shorter works. Other writers are posting short stories and novellas and some are even talking about “serializing” novels on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
It seems obvious to me that this system is doomed. Not that it will implode, but it will be modified to give more weight to weightier tomes. Or not. I’ve been wrong about a lot of things in my life.
At any rate, I had enrolled my short story collection, The Murmuring Field and Other Stories, into the KU program. Then I realized that I was being a sap–much better to post the individual stories and pocket a share for each story rather than a single share for the collection. At least, for as long as the system lasts in its current incarnation.
One side effect is that Amazon doesn’t allow a price lower than $0.99, so although I had previously offered the entire collection for $0.99 (an offer which was almost universally ignored), I now have to offer each story for that same amount. That’s a lot to pay for a story that may run only seven pages, but KU subscribers won’t care as they get the stories for “free” with their subscriptions.
Here are the stories enrolled so far.
“The Murmuring Field”: Alien plants arrive on Earth. Is it an invasion… or a seduction?
“The Best Fishing Ever“: I like to call this one “a horror story with no horror, a fish story with no fish.”
“Cassie”: My Cassandra story. Cassie’s visions of the future are never wrong. That is why she screams.
Unfortunately, Amazon requires exclusivity in order to participate in the KU program, but the original collection is still available on paper, here.