I have become a huge fan of writing shorter fiction over the last 2 years. What initially started out as a palette cleanser between longer projects slowly transformed into a weekly hobby, writing very short fiction every Friday with the guys over at Flash!Friday. There are some really great authors taking part over there, proving week after week that a lower word count doesn’t have to mean less story. I highly recommend popping by to check them out.
One of the major downsides to very short fiction is that it’s still difficult to monetize. Short of sending in a large pile of submissions to magazines or collating a whole lot of shorter stories into a compilation there really isn’t an avenue to earn revenue from these stories. A lot of writers, myself included, use them to engage their audience and bring traffic to their websites, acting as a kind of an appetizer to let people check out your writing style and hopefully drive some of them to purchase the more traditional length stories. I still think this is a valuable use of these shorter stories, but now writers have a new option, called QuarterReads.
So what exactly is QuarterReads? The short version is that it is a website where people can go to read short stories, anything up to 2000 words. Users can see the first 10% of the story for free, and to read the rest they pay $0.25 (hence the name!) The site is aimed at people wanting to read a quick story on their lunch break or commute in to work. Of course there are already lots of free options available for these types of stories online, but why not support a hungry writer in the process?
I decided to test the water by writing an expanded version of one of my recent favourite flash fictions – <GOTO 10> which you can find on QuarterReads here. I took the original 160 word flash fiction and expanded it into a 1300 word short story. Submitting a story was quick and straightforward, but note that it isn’t instant, every story is reviewed by QuarterReads staff to make sure it’s of a minimum quality. In my experience they’ve been pretty quick to turn submissions around, about 24 hours. I had quite a bit of fun doing this, it was exciting to delve deeper into what happened on that fateful journey. There are a couple of my other flash stories I would like to give this treatment to and my current plan is to add at least one new story to QuarterReads every month.
If you’re a writer there are some things worth knowing. Authors get 88% of that initial $0.25 charge, which is a much better royalty than you’ll typically see in the publishing world. The best bit though is that once a reader has unlocked your story they can choose whether or not to ‘tip’ you, either $0.25, $0.50 or $1.00. The author gets 100% of all tips. I got my first tip last night, and I have to say it was a really nice compliment.
The site has just launched this week, so it is still a little rough around the edges, but the stories I have read so far have been top notch. Being able to preview the story helps a lot to determine if someones writing style is to your taste. I’m hoping for a few more community features, for example I would love to know which user left me my tip, and if the site is going to grow there really needs to be an option for users to share their favourite stories with their friends, either on the site itself or via social networks, but I am sure these things and many more will come. The team building the website are very actively engaging their audience, so I have high hopes that QuarterReads will find it’s feet. The $0.25 question is whether or not users will be willing to pay for this content, but if enough people give it a try I’m confident it can find it’s niche. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!