A Book is a Book is a… Short Story?

The advent of eBooks has created a bit of a wild west landscape in the world of publishing.  It’s not uncommon to prowl Amazon (or other eBook sites) and find a “Book” selling for “$2.99” or – if you catch it on the right day – for FREE.  That sounds like a huge bargain, especially when the “paperback” price of the same book is listed at, say, $7.99.  You go to the information page, you read the listing, and you are intrigued.  Sexy plot, interesting sounding characters, and a bunch of 4-star reviews.  Hmmm…  I might buy this one.

Then you read the fine print.

The “Book” is about 12 pages long, 30 at most.  Or maybe, if you’re lucky, 50 pages.

If you’re old enough to remember this movie, it’s like that line from, “Crocodile Dundee.”

“That’s not a book.  Now THIS is a book!”

At 12, 20, or 30 pages, or 5,000, 8000, or 12,000 words, that “Book” is a “Short Story” at best.  At 50 to 90 pages it would be a stretch to call it a Novella.  But to call it a “Book” is a little disingenuous.

Sadly, Amazon doesn’t give you a way to differentiate for page length on its search page.  So you don’t know if you’re digging into a novel or a short story until you look at the “book’s” information page and discover you’re about to pay the equivalent of $.25 per page for the author’s labors.  Steve King’s “Under the Dome,” by comparison, clocked in at 1100 pages and, since it cost $14.95 at Costco, it comes out to $.013 cents per page.  And even though Stephen King is a prolific writer and probably produces 5,000 or more words a day, I doubt that 5000 word erotic short story that’s selling for $2.99 took more time to produce and publish than Mr. King’s last novel.

I’m not knocking short story erotica authors.  Some of my best bitches on the Internet are short story authors.  And I’m finding some really, really good writing in the short story class.  And if I tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when I want to lay back, relax, and have a quick fantasy in mind before I pick up my Hitachi, (I call it, “Mr. H”), I’m not reaching for one of my feature-length novels.  My books are erotic, but at 380 pages the erotica is wrapped up in much deeper plot and character development.  You have to remember here to look for the erotica in a novel-sized book.  After all, it can’t be all-sex all-the-time in a novel.

In a short story, though, you know the sex is coming aaany second now.

Gabrielle_Blaine

If I want something quick and sexy, I’m picking a guilty pleasure like Gabrielle Blaine’s, “Friendly Skies.”  She gets into the story quickly, sets just enough background that you “get” the main character, an then things get steamy (and a little dark!) in a hurry.  The sex is graphic, my mind smutted up quickly, and I got wetter with each page turn.  Regrettably, I was at a doctor’s office when I started reading this little story and had to recover with a little “me” time in the loo afterward.

My point is not to denigrate the Short Story as an erotic art form, so much as to say that we have some pricing and “full disclosure” issues to work out when it comes to what we erotic authors all call a “book.”  For example, my own series, “The Chronicles of Staffordshire,” is almost 1800 pages spread over 5 books at a total cost of $25.00.  That works out to – you guessed it – just $.013 per page, just like Stephen King.

Of course I’m not nearly as good as Stephen King, even on his worst day at the keyboard.  So maybe a penny a page isn’t bad for a a newbie?

My point is simply this…  12-page stories are not “Books.”  They are “Short Stories.”  They lack the long-playing arc of a book, the depth of a book, and the scope of a book.  That is, unless they are compiled over time into a larger work, which seems to be the M.O. of some authors who release mini-books in a “series” over time and then collect them together into a “book.”  Why pay $2.99 each for a 7,000 word “short story” when the chances are you can wait a year and buy the entire series for $2.99?

If I was Queen of the World – and thank God I’m not – I would wave my scepter and declare that anything over 100 pages qualifies as a “Book.”  Anything more than 50 pages but under 100 pages is a “Novella” and anything under 50 pages is…

Well…

A “Short Story.”

Okay, children.  That ends my whining and complaining for today.  Now I want each of you to visit your favorite bookstore, download a nasty SHORT STORY or BOOK, and have a nice, wet fantasy!

MuaH!

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