Lifespan of a Short Story eBook.

In my last post (Here) I looked at how the ebook Novella and short story market appears to be overcrowded. I went on to surmise though that maybe it is not as bad as it first looks. Could it be that as most novellas and short stories seem to have a very brief shelf life? Which would mean the author of a new novella would be competing mostly with corpses.

If that is the case then there is some good news.

The good news is that the market is not swamped. Or at least, less swamped than we thought. Sadly though there is some bad news too.


The bad news is that you little Novella will not last long. Enjoy those royalties while you can!

In this post I thought I would try and gauge how long the average Novellas life is likely to be. Sadly I don’t have any data on real life Novellas but I do have some on a short story, published back in 2012. So I’m going to use that. As always this is JUST MY OPINION. This was published a loooong time ago and there were lots of things to distort its sales and marketability but even so, I think the data is quite interesting and maybe still relevant today.

A bit of background.

Eons ago ( well… 6 years) I was planning to get into publishing ebooks as a business.

I had a dastardly cunning plan. Sadly, that plan got trampled over by technological advances. Particularly by Amazon simplifying the production of mobi ebooks. (The Swine!)

Hey Ho. Never mind.

Anyway as part of this dastardly cunning plan I needed to actually produce a couple of ebooks simply to have something to experiment on. As a consequence of this I wrote a (very) short paranormal story.

More by luck than judgment I produced a great front cover (never managed it again!) and a killer title. It had interesting though unspectacular sales. Which was hardly surprising. (No I not putting it up here for you to buy!).

Needless to say beside KDP giveaways I wasn’t really marketing this. It sold itself.

As a result I would surmise that it is actually quite a good benchmark for many (if not most) short stories and novellas. With KDP Reports you can get the data of all sales (including give-aways) back to release date. So I plotted this out.

While it (sort of) proves my idea that short ebooks have a similarly short life, this particular short story seemed to gain life over the first year! Then it peaked and died.

Graph of Life of a short story ebook

I’ve put the graph including giveaways below.

Graph Life of a kindle short story including free copies

Comparing the two I do wonder whether the KDP giveaways (to be fair in 2012) were worthwhile or just cannibalized my potential mediocre sales. Is this typical or just an anomaly? I do not know.

So why did my crappy little story last so long? There are a number of possibilities. One is that in 2012/13 the ebook market was expanding explosively and maybe my crappy little story just rode the boom.

Maybe as well, people today have become less willing to pay for a 20 page story. Even if it was at the lowest price point. As a test I tried another KDP giveaway last month. I shifted 3 copies! Now I cannot even give it away!

But back to my idea that novellas may have a short but spectacular life.

Maybe we need to modify my idea that a novella or short story will immediately peak on release then die a quick death. Sometimes they may pick up speed and peak even a year after release. But after that peak (from this experience) it is down hill all the way.

I know it is all very anecdotal and based on old data, but it seems to stack up.

Inevitably there will be short stories and  novellas that sell for decades. But I would still suspect, (delayed peak or not) that most will be derelict within 18 months of launch.

Maybe it will be worth looking at why some ebooks “wear out” and others do not. But the next post is going to be some analysis on an even worse performing short story. This time it matches what I suspect happens to most 100 page or less stories on Kindle. Then I’m going to give my opinion on what to do with a derelict ebook in the post after that.

Kind Regards


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