Oh my, how this answer has changed. It used to be your story had to be at least 60,000 words, or 200 printed pages, then any multiple that was divisible by four. That’s because in the pre-Amazon and off-set printer publisher days, your book pages were printed in “signatures” or a giant piece of paper printed on both sides, then folded and cut to the proper page size. If you’ve seen books that have several blank pages in the back, that’s why.
Print-on-Demand has changed that to a minimum of 25 pages, and e-books have no minimum. Today, your story can be as long or short as it needs to be.
Amazon capitalized on this with Kindle Singles (like a music album has “singles”). Short fiction and non-fiction are now possible and encouraged. Typically low cost, but sometimes you get 15 pages for 99 cents, and sometimes a single page.
So, what does that leave us?
- Flash Fiction/Dribble/Drabble/Microfiction – Stories from a single word to fewer than 1000 words. Brevity is key and expect a twist.
- Short Stories – There is no cut and dried word count, but the idea is it can be read in a single sitting (my dad called them One-Flush Stories). Difficult to write because you must balance brevity with character, setting, and plot, so each tends to be sparse.
- Novellas – Short novels, not necessarily a single-sitting story, but not a full novel, either. 6,000 to 20,000 words, give or take a few thousand. Enough time to tell a tight, focused story with full character development.
Let’s talk about publishing them. Amazon Single is a good way to go, and this doesn’t prevent you from gathering them together in an e-book or in a printed collection when you have several.
Personally, I’ve always struggled with short story collections. The right way to do it is read one and let it digest before going onto the next story, but I tend to read them straight through. There is also a weird psychology to multiple beginning-middle-end cycles in a book.
Having said that, I always enjoyed the flip-book concept, with two novellas. Read the first, then flip the book over and read the second. They’re longer reads, so picking up and putting down isn’t a problem.
I don’t believe Amazon does the POD flip-book, but my next fiction book will be two novellas of time travel. At least that’s the plan. Novellas tend to turn into epics for me.
What’s your flavor?