In a video that I was linked to a couple of days ago, world-famous author Stephen King discusses why he thinks people don’t tend to read short stories anymore. Since I’ve been writing so much short fiction recently, and since I plan to write a lot more of it over the next year, I found this really interesting.
So, are readers “too lazy” to reinvest their attention in a new story every 10 or 20 pages? Or is there some other reason why short stories are so much less popular than novels?
For my own part, I think short stories are really well suited to the interest levels and attention spans of today’s reader, especially online. Short videos, in the 3- to 5-minute range, are super popular on the internet. I see no reason why stories that take 10- to 15-minutes to read shouldn’t be, as well.
When comparing novels to short stories, marketing and publicity play a pretty important role. When someone wants to find a new novel, they go to a bookstore, or a bookseller’s website. But where do you go to find short stories to read? In my experience, you have to search harder to find quality short fiction. If you know where to look, you can find hundreds of online magazines publishing short stories, but the number of high quality, “flagship” short story publishers is not very high.
I think, also, that novels tend to be more marketable because they can be spun into other formats more easily. So many movies, and even TV shows, are based on novels, and that drives up interest in those novels. Then bookstores harness the movie hype to promote other, similar novels. When’s the last time you saw that type of publicity chain working in favour of a short story?
What do you think? Do you agree with my reasoning? Are there other reasons why short stories don’t enjoy the same popularity that novels do? I’ve been getting some interesting opinions on Twitter and Facebook, but I’m interested in what my blog readers have to say about it. Let me know in the comments!