For a while now, people have been experimenting with different lengths for their ebooks. Because of their digital nature, the length of an ebook matters less than the length of a print book. Since there are no paper costs, they can be as long or as short as the author likes.
One new type of ebook that has come out of this flexibility is the single.
ESingles were touted as a hot publishing trend back in 2011. They are short nonfiction and fiction books, usually between 5,000 and 30,000 words and priced between $0.99 and $2.99, and many authors find great success with them, especially those with bestsellers on Amazon Singles. The top two publishers of esingles in 2011 were Kindle Singles and The Atavist, according to GigaOM. Popular topics were timely news stories and books by well-known authors.
Laura Hazard Owen wrote on GigaOM that esingles are true digital natives in format, and they can usually be read in under an hour, which keeps people’s attention. The reason esingles are popular is because they fill a hole in publishing, according to The Guardian, that exists because due to the costs of printing, binding, warehousing, etc., books under 100 pages are “too expensive for the customer.” Esingles, on the other hand, can be their “natural length.”
So how can indie authors take advantage of the esingle form?
According to The Wall Street Journal, nonfiction titles tend to sell better, and is easier for authors to break in to.
Thin Reads, a company that launched in April 2013 and focuses on reviewing only ebook singles, created a helpful list (though now slightly dated) of the top 8 influential people in ebook single publishing, which includes people from Kindle Singles, Thought Catalogue, and Nook.
Howard Polskin, the CEO and EIC of Thing Reads, gives a list of tips on how to write a nonfiction esingle bestseller. After months of tracking the Kindle Single bestseller lists, he found that topical, personal, funny stories tend to sell the best. If you’re looking for more hints, Polskin also compiled a list of trends, which included TV, movies, and history.
Esingles have a quick turnaround time, which works especially well for news topics. As io9 points out, the shorter length makes it easier to publish more frequently, and it’s also a comparable length to a screenplay.
Other ESingle Ideas
Authors can also use esingles as a way to promote a series, by writing a short prequel, or a spinoff that focuses on some of the minor characters and expands the story world.
Belinda Williams also outlined more ideas, such as writing short serials and researching genres to find the right fit.
On the nonfiction side, authors could write short topics around their main interests or genres. For example, I’m currently working on writing some short, nonfiction ebooks about dinosaurs, based on the paleontologists I’ve been interviewing for my project (a podcast), I Know Dino.
The Cons of ESingles
Not everyone likes the shorter format. Smashwords announced in its 3rd annual survey that readers prefer longer books. And in September 2014, Vook acquired Byliner, a struggling but innovative startup that published esingles.
What do you think? Are there benefits to publishing esingles? Please share in the comments!