Classic novels can be intimidating. Tomes like Charlotte Brontë’s 600-page Jane Eyre or even the source material for all of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones collection may not always be what appeals to you. Sometimes you are in the mood for something shorter. Classics like Fahrenheit 451, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The House on Mango Street come to mind. They are deliciously edited and to the point. You get to immediately immerse yourself in a completely new world where every word counts. Better yet, you do not even need to bother with a bookmark—you’re going to want to read these short books in just one sitting.
Fortunately, there is a revival in short-form reading and She Writes is part of this latest initiative in the industry. Last year, She Writes acquired SheBooks, an e-book only imprint whose focus and mission is to offer a platform to women writers. SheBooks offers authors an innovative “third way” to publish that’s neither traditional publishing nor self-publishing.
These stories are written by women, for women, and designed to be enjoyed in the few precious moments that women get to wholly engage themselves in a story.
Today, Book Club Babble welcomes Brooke Warner, publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress and president of Warner Coaching Inc.
Maribel Garcia: Hi Brooke, thank you so much for joining us today. This sounds like an exciting new venture. Can you tell us a little bit about SheBooks.
Brooke Warner: Yes, thank you so much for the opportunity. She Writes Press acquired SheBooks because it’s a natural extension of what we’re already providing, which is a platform for women writers to get their voices out into the world. We love the idea of adding an e-book only branch of the company because not every story and not all content needs or wants to be a print book. There are good reasons to publish digital-only content, such as testing out your idea on a readership, or publishing something that might not have made it into a longer-form novel. Authors might also have content they’ve written that they’d like to compile into an e-book for the sake of having additional products for sale, to earn some extra money. So we were excited when this opportunity came about to bring these two like-minded companies together, and we see this being an additional offering for women writers to build their platforms and amplify their voices.
MG: What has the acquisitions process been like so far? It must be so exciting, for both the writer looking to publish shorter material and for the publisher to look for projects that are new and different in size and format?
BW: It’s been interesting as we try to sort out what is the best kind of content for an e-book, actually. A lot of writers have brought their full-length book projects, and we’ve had to consider whether it makes sense to do those as digital only content. Even though we acquired the company early last year, we are really just now in full acquisitions mode because it took a while for us to get the backlist moved over to Ingram and to decide the approach we wanted to take with SheBooks. The ideal e-books, to me, will be novellas, short stories, and short memoir pieces, as well as content that coaches or psychologists or other kinds of service providers might want to package for their clients. I think the sweet spot for e-books is between 10,000 and 30,000 words, and that sticking with low price points makes them more a vehicle for exposure and client leads. I think over time we’ll be cultivating and seeing more of those kinds of submissions and I look forward to that.
MG: Some people think that a short story or a novella is not a book, but this isn’t true. What can you tell us about this exciting new trend?
BW: Yes, you’re right. I think e-books are called e-books because they’re seen by readers as books. And the trend right now across book publishing is toward shorter and shorter books, both digitally and in print. This is happening because of readers’ attention spans, but also because printing is getting increasingly expensive, while the price points of books remain relatively steady. So e-books are a different kind of book, a different kind of format, but one that’s popular among readers, and one that’s a really easy impulse buy, especially when the price points are between 99 cents and $4.99.
MG: In the world of traditional print only a few lengths are commercially viable. The writing shouldn’t exceed a certain length, but there is also a too short dictum. There are many readers who feel that the perfect story does not have to be long. As someone who has been in the industry for a while, what can you tell us about this short form revolution in the industry?
BW: What’s true is that there are some publishers who won’t publish books that are too short. The sweet spot for print is 50,000-100,000 words. As such, there’s a real opportunity with e-books in that 30,000 and under space—and that’s still a lot of content. You can tell an amazing story in 10,000 words, for instance, and for some authors it makes a lot of sense to publish that length as an e-book. It’s too long for a blog post but too short for a print book, and I think this is the very reason to have a strong e-book publishing platform that gives writers an opportunity to have these shorter-form projects available on Amazon and other platforms. It gives writers more inventory, and more inventory gives more legitimacy as an author. Publishing e-books is actually a great way to build an author platform.
MG: Short books are the perfect length for readers who do not feel like committing to a lengthier adventure. As your literature states, it’s perfect for on-the-go reading. Do you think that this trend will grow?
BW: I do think this trend will continue. A lot of environmentally conscious writers and readers prefer e-books anyway because they’re more sustainable. The price points are lower, as I mentioned, so this can be quite attractive to readers. And finally, as you mentioned about our “precious few moments,” because people are so pressed for time these days, it’s actually a gift to be able to read something short, and I think a lot of readers are craving shorter-form literature in general. I’d personally love to see this trend continue for all of these good reasons—good for the environment, good for readers, good for writers.
MG: Brooke, thank you so much for joining Book Club Babble today!
About Brooke Warner
Brooke Warner is publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of the forthcoming Write On, Sisters! Voice, Courage, and Claiming Your Place at the Table, as well as five other books on publishing and memoir. Brooke is a TEDx speaker, weekly podcaster (“Write-minded” with co-host Grant Faulkner of NaNoWriMo), and the former Executive Editor of Seal Press. She’s the Board Chair of the Independent Book Publishers Association and writes a monthly column for Publishers Weekly.