By J.J. Clarke
Are you a “Coffee Break” reader? I bet you are! In this world of tweets and texts, where emotions are expressed in emojis, we may all be evolving into “Coffee Break” readers. Most articles written on this topic say that Amazon realized the potential of this new reader in 2015 and developed a corresponding category called a “short read.”
To qualify as a short read, a document can be read within a range of fifteen minutes to two hours. The page count ranges from one to one hundred pages. The document can be in almost any form: a short story, short novel, essay, article, blog, or even a list.
The Adventure Begins
Last year, I googled the book, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu—an interesting choice for an early Sunday morning research project. I remembered the book from a self-defense class I taught when working as a parole officer in rural Missouri.
The first search result for The Art of War was Amazon. I followed the link and The Art of War popped up with a sticker that read “#1 Bestseller in the Hour Self-Help Short Reads Category.” The document was only thirty-six pages long.
The idea of publishing such a brief document fascinated me, so I opened the book with the “look inside” feature. I’d forgotten that two generals get beheaded on the first page. Why did I google this book?
I’ve published two books in the past two years: Dared to Run, first in a mystery series, and Dared to Return, a sequel. Because I promote my books through book clubs and library presentations, I received a great deal of feedback. Readers responded to the two books by asking for a little more—a little more inside scoop, a little more of the story.
My characters spoke to me, as they often do, and whispered that a short read might provide the answers for my readers. I played with the idea of how a short read would fill in the gaps between the two books, then developed a rough outline, and soon the first chapter of a short read was born.
After the first chapter, the name came: Dared to Fly. Do you remember what they say about not naming a stray cat? Once you name it, it’s yours! The same applies to manuscripts. Don’t name a manuscript unless you plan to spend countless hours writing, then rewriting it.
A new slogan linked all three books together: She Ran, She Flew, She Dared to Return.
A Trip down Memory Lane
The idea of a short read led me to hunt for the small book I self-published in 1996—my grandfather’s story about a young boy and the biggest catfish on record. In those days, self-publishers bought books in bulk: the more you purchased, the cheaper they were. I found an editor, an illustrator, a publisher, and plopped down a credit card to purchase three thousand books. I sold them by giving presentations on the topic “Follow Your Dream.”
It was a fun side hustle—a pleasant break from my day job. I sold most of the books, paid off the credit card, checked “writing a book” off my bucket list, and moved on with life. I was publishing short reads before short reads were cool.
From Short Reads to Friends
I continued my research before committing to write another five or six chapters of Dared to Fly. I remembered meeting Katherine Edwins Schumm at my second Book Expo organized by the Writers League of the Villages.
Katherine sold her small book, Fearless, for two dollars. She used the book as a reader magnet, a way for readers to remember her until her full-length novel, Amen: Doorway to China, could be published. The magnet worked. At the next expo, I tracked Katherine down and bought her beautiful book. Last year we had tables next to each other—from short reads to friends.
Research Is Easy if It Lands in Your Lap
I picked up the local Village Neighbors Magazine and read Barbara Rein’s article, “On a Roll: My Addiction to Toilet Paper.” The positive reception of that article by readers led Barbara to publish it on Kindle Direct Publishing in the 15-Minute Humor & Entertainment Short Reads category.
I watched on Amazon as her essay soared to the coveted #1 Best Seller position. This short read is only three pages long. Barbara admitted picking the cover was the most enjoyable part of the process. Search on Amazon for Barbara Rein to find four other essays and her full-length horror anthology, Tales from the Eerie Canal.
While researching information for this article for Hallard Press Gazette, I stumbled onto authors who have used the short reads category to either build their reader audience or keep their fans entertained. In December, I gave a presentation to the Mystery Lovers Book Club on Janet Evanovich’s book, Visions of Sugar Plums. It was published in April 2010 and still holds a #100 Ranking in the Two-Hour Mystery Short Reads Category.
Writers like Evanovich, however, produced these shorter reads long before the category was developed on Amazon.
Dared to Fly
I published Dared to Fly in December 2020 in the One-Hour Mystery, Thriller and Suspense Short Reads Category. Amazon assigned the one-hour designation. The book didn’t hit the #1 Best Seller spot, but it made it to #4 in Domestic Thrillers.
Self-publishing and print on demand are breaking all the rules in the publishing industry. If you have a story that does not fall into the traditional length of a novel or novelette, you might publish it in one of the short read categories. It might be the perfect route for you to . . .
Follow your dream, publish that book!
J.J. Clarke, author of the Kate Anderson mystery series, draws on extensive experience in law enforcement and a degree in psychology to craft compelling characters and stories.
Clarke’s scenes arise from real-life experiences as a bond investigator, parole officer, and district administrator of the largest penitentiary in the state of Missouri.
She knows her stuff and spins a good story with a kick-ass heroine, humor and convincing dialogue.
Clarke lives in Florida and is a member of the Florida Writers’ Association and the Writers League of The Villages. She loves to speak to book clubs and social groups.