New Amazon Short Story service

I think there are a few amature (or maybe professional) fiction writers on this board, so I thought this might be of interest. has started offering a service called Amazon Shorts where you can download short stories for just $0.49 each. It’s a pretty cool idea made better (for consumers, anyway) by the fact that it comes with absolutely no digital rights management whatsoever. You can read an HTML version of your purchase or you can have it e-mailed to you in .pdf format. You own it forever, you can copy it to whatever you want, and you can even download it from your “virtual locker” as many times as you want if you delete it or want to access it from another computer. And 49 cents is pretty darn cheap --cheap enough to impulse buy and not get annoyed if you don’t end up liking some new author you took a cheap chance on.

So while it seems like this would be a dandy service for consumers if Amazon can manage to actually get some good content (an often overlooked detail in the dot com age), it may or may not be a good deal for authors. One writer posted his thoughts and they’re pretty insightful. One ginormous red flag is that authors don’t get paid up front, which is something that most non-desperate writers avoid at all (pardon the pun) costs. A writer’s job is to write and a publisher’s job is to buy the work and publish it. Instead of following this time-honored model, gives authors a cut of each and every sale. So no sale, no payment. Lots of sales, lots of little payments.

To me, this makes sense if you’re either a) a struggling writer who can’t get a piece bought by a magazine or anthology, or b) a big name who thinks he/she can make more by perpetually getting little pieces of many sales than he/she can by outright selling a work once to a publisher. It’s the writers in the middle (a.k.a., “the vast majority of folks”) that I don’t know about.

Another thing that’s not clear is how Amazon accepts writers into the program. It’s not a free-for-all system where any armature can put his story up for Amazon to host and sell. But they’re not saying right now how you get your work stocked on their site. One has to wonder how they’ll deal with this. Open the floodgates and choke the system with poor quality dreck and customers will learn to avoid it. Tighten controls so that only top-tier authors are allowed, and they may have difficulty finding enough takers to provide any kind of selection. Still, I’m glad they’re trying new things, and I’d like to see it work.

It looks like there is some sort of internal discussion system; I would be more than willing to contribute as an author, but the would people really pay for it? Hmm.

— Alan

It looks like they are using established authors - I’m guessing unknowns wouldn’t be warmly greeted by Amazon. I think the idea is to generate sales of an author’s backlist through Amazon rather than provide a platform for new work.

If it’s popular I could see it expanding to include a category for newer writers. I doubt they will waste the digital ink on new writers at this point though.