Friday, 13 December 2013

Kindle Singles


Many dedicated book lovers use e-readers with the greatest reluctance if at all. A print book, after all, is a pleasure to hold. Feeling its weight and texture, leafing through its pages and inhaling the pleasant vanilla like scent, evokes feelings of comfort and adventure. Besides, while an e-reader might contain a library of a hundred or more books – it doesn't look nearly as impressive as a wall of bookcases crammed full of tomes of all colours and sizes, the gleaming print on the spines beckoning the reader to enter the diverse worlds their covers enfold.

I love my bookshelves and I love my books. Even so, I have succumbed and bought a Kindle and then an IPad in recent years.

However, in this article, I’m not going to present the advantages of using an E-reader. Rather, I want to talk about something I only I stumbled upon some weeks ago (thanks to a fellow student in the post-grad writing course I’m taking) – the Kindle Single.

Now I’m sure some of your already know about this format – but, for those who don’t, I think it’s worth mentioning. I’m excited about it because I believe it has advantages for both the reader and the author.

What is the Kindle Single?


Kindle Singles (KS) were launched by the big e-book seller Amazon in January 2011 with a strong emphasis on non-fiction, particularly long form journalism, but fiction titles are also included. Kindle Singles are shorter works with original content on diverse subjects, both non-fiction and fiction, that have been curated by Amazon. Prices vary (between $0.99 to $4.99), though the average is about $1.99.  While some are published exclusively in Amazon’s Kindle store, others can be published across platforms. They can also be borrowed as part of the Kindle Library.

Kindle says:

We're looking for compelling ideas expressed at their natural length--writing that doesn't easily fall into the conventional space limitations of magazines or print books. Kindle Singles are typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words.

A Kindle Single can be on any topic. So far we've posted fiction, essays, memoirs, reporting, personal narratives, and profiles, and we're expanding our selection every week. We're looking for high-quality writing, fresh and original ideas, and well-executed stories in all genres and subjects.

Sections include Arts & Entertainment, Essays & Ideas, Fiction, History, Humor, Memoirs, Page-turning Narratives, Profiles, Reporting, Society, The Sciences, The World Stage and Kindle Singles en EspaƱol. Many Singles fall in a number of the sections e.g. a title could appear in essays & ideas, history and page-turning narratives.

So far, KS have published over 400 works – including from authors such as Stephen King, Lee Child, Judy Picoult, Kathy Reichs, Terry Brooks and others. From a base of zero, Kindle Singles have sold over 5 million copies in two years (Gough, 2013). Some authors have done very well – previously unknown author Mishka Shubaly has published 4 non-fiction novella sized memoirs as Kindle Singles, selling over 129,000 copies (Deahl, 2013). Others will have just covered the costs of cover design, etc. but consider this worthwhile as a way to connect with new readers (Warner, 2013).

What does the Kindle Single have to offer?


For the Reader


Kindles Singles are short reads on diverse subjects. They give a chance to dip into a subject or to sample an author without too great a commitment of time and resources. Some stories or essays are best told in shorter length. Besides, many readers enjoy reading novella sized works and Singles are great for a single-sitting read.

Because Singles are curated (i.e. selected, edited and promoted by Kindle) there is a greater guarantee of quality.  Many Kindle Singles have different e-formats and are not restricted to the Kindle reader.

For the author


Kindle Singles provide another chance to be published and a chance to publish shorter works – both creative non-fiction and fiction. Authors retain full rights to their work and have access to generous royalties. Moreover, Singles receive extra promotional support from Amazon.

As Singles increase in popularity, the chance of an unknown author being accepted and then rising to the top becomes more difficult – but that chance is still there. At the very least, it gives an author a publishing credit (if accepted) and it provides an opportunity for potential fans to sample his/her work. A number of big-brand authors have published a work with Kindle Singles for this reason. 

What does this mean for the Christian market?


So far, KS don’t have an inspirational section and editorial policy concerning such content is unknown. However, last week (following the 50th anniversary of Lewis’ death) The Mystery of C. S. Lewis by A. N. Wilson ranked a 65 out of the 100 most popular Singles. Well written cross-over novella length fiction, memoirs or non-fiction pieces on well known events or people may well qualify for KS.

While in a smaller way, other publishers (Byliner, Atavist) and booksellers (Nook, Kobo) have followed the idea of Literary Singles or bookeens that showcase an author's work. Perhaps, this is a concept that may in the future be taken up by Christian publishers.

For myself, I am going to check out a few titles to read over Christmas but I’m also considering submitting some shorter works – a 10,000 word fantasy fiction piece Aidan’s Honor as well a piece I’m working on for my current Post-grad unit – a braided memoir/historical piece on my family’s experience of Africa and Apartheid in the 1960s & 70s.

It occurs to me that one possibility is submitting seasonal novellas, a longer short story or non-fiction pieces some 8-12 weeks before the occasion - though a bit late for Christmas, there may be time to submit for Easter.

What about you – have you heard of Kindle Singles before? Is it something you already used as reader or author? Or is it something you might consider exploring?

Jeanette O’Hagan

Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series. She is actively involved in a caring Christian community. You can find her at http://jennysthread.com,  http://www.facebook.com/JeanetteOHaganAuthorAndSpeaker and http://jeanetteohagan.com

Further Reading:


Amazon, Kindle Singles Submission Policy, http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000700491


Gough, J  (2013) The big short – why Amazon's Kindle Singles are the future, The Guardian UK, September 5 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/sep/05/amazon-kindle-singles-short

Hoffelder, N., (2013) Kindle Singles: Amazon’s Stealth Publishing Imprint in Digital Reader, http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2013/04/23/kindle-singles-amazons-stealth-publishing-imprint/#.Uqm9LCdB-So

Warner, B., (2013) Kindle Singles and Why You Want One in She Writes Press, http://shewritespress.com/kindle-singles-and-why-you-want-one/


8 comments:

  1. I see the Kindle Singles advertised every time I open the Amazon Store on my Kindle, but I never actually found out what they were - so thank you for answering the unasked question.

    Now I know what they are, I could see myself buying and reading them - especially if there were some Christian ones.

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    1. I'm hoping that there will be more Christian titles as the label expands. I'm certainly tempted by the Kindle Single on C S Lewis.

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  2. Jeanette, thanks for the info. I hadn't heard of Kindle Singles although I knew Amazon had a traditional publishing arm. They purchased Avalon Books a few years ago and published the Avalon back list and new titles under the Montlake Romance imprint. I can definitely see advantages for indie authors with shorter works. They can get the editorial seal of approval for quality while keeping the benefits of indie publishing eg. 70% royalty.

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    1. Exactly Narelle. One of the problems with Indie publishing is separating the chaff from the wheat. There are many excellent Indie titles but a great many not so good ones. Having a Kindle Single to one's name is one way to indicating quality.

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  3. This is the first time I too have heard of this. I do have a couple of short stories from the years before I sold my first novel. Mmm... Definitely something to consider in the future. Will have to keep an eye out for them having a religious section though.

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    1. It would be great to see your short stories as Kindle Singles Mary. I would love to know what their editorial policy is on religious/inspirational fiction.

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  4. Fascinating reading, Jeanette. Thanks for that.

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