Anthologies vs. Novels vs. Magazines

hulk thinkLast week, at the bottom of a post announcing a Kickstarter (which you should totally back if you like sword-and-sorcery and especially if you dig my stories)  a number of us started chatting about the strange problem with short stories vs. novels in today’s market place.

Novels simply sell better. Anthologies, even if they’re all about a popular character from, say, a series of novels (like Harry Dresden) don’t sell as well. I’ve often thought that strange; busy as we are these days, with so many distractions, it seems counterintuitive that people aren’t more interested in sitting down with a short story right before bed.

My old friend Paul McNamee pointed out that people have to do more “heavy lifting” with a series of short stories than a single book, especially in a collection full of different writers and different settings. You sort of do it once for the novel, and then you have the characters and sense of setting. It might change and more characters may be added in (or killed off) but it’s still different than having the ground shift under you every time you start a new tale.

Then we can also look at the way magazine sales have fallen off in the last decades, for further evidence.

And yet I don’t think the short story or novella is QUITE dead. Certainly some are still being sold and published. The TOR novella line, online, seems to be doing well, thank you, and some magazines and e-zines have managed to stay in print. If not exactly thriving, they’re alive and seemingly healthy.

What do all of you think is the explanation? And I speak not just as someone who loves short stories, but as someone who has devoted an awful lot of time to getting a new magazine full of them together for the reading public. What do you think I need to watch out for?