Once upon a time, there wasn't much market potential for YA short stories. These days, though, digital publishing has made one-off narratives an appealing format for readers and a powerful marketing tool for publishers.
In December, HarperCollins debuted its new digital imprint HarperTeen Impulse, focusing on YA short stories and novellas and publishing between one and four works a month. Among the first releases was "Breathless" by Sophie Jordan, a companion to her bestselling Firelight fantasy series. Additional titles include stories by Sarah Mlynowski, Cynthia Hand and Walter Dean Myers.
The standalone original shorts, priced at 99 cents to $2.99, enable the publisher to quickly deliver content while enticing digi-reluctant teens to buy ebooks.
As a marketing tool, shorts engage teen consumers hungry for more content between releases in a series. "If you loved the first book in a trilogy and it seems like an interminable amount of time until the second book comes out, here's a digital novella to tide you over," says Christina Colangelo, director of integrated marketing at HarperCollins. "Whether they're from a different character's perspective or offering insight into a part of the world that the novel doesn't explore, these are rich pieces. And beyond that, we're hoping [Teen] Impulse will also be a place to introduce new authors to our already-engaged audience."
Short stories are even working their way into publishing contracts. When debut author Lissa Price sold her novel Starters to Random House, the contract included three shorts set in the futuristic world of the book. The plan was for the first to come out just before the book's publication, with subsequent stories to be released before the sequel, each offering a glimpse into secondary characters' perspectives while enriching the novel with new subplots.
Price says that short-form content is an ideal fit for today's readers. "Publishers are looking to reach people using phones and iPads, and short stories lend themselves to being read on these devices." x
Elisa Ludwig is the author of Pretty Crooked, the first of a YA trilogy from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.