In its last issue of 2012, Columbia Journalism Review ran a profile of The Atavist and Byliner, two pioneers in what it described as "the e-singles market". While author Michael Meyer provides a good overview of the two companies, he breaks some interesting ground writing about the role of e-singles as part of an comprehensive marketing effort.
Toward the end of the piece, Meyer interviews Molly Barton, global digital director at Penguin, about using shorter content to improve the sales of traditional-length books:
Molly Barton, Penguin’s global digital director, also sees an opportunity for short content to boost the sales of full-length books. “We’ve seen over and over with digital publishing generally that having multiple titles out in the market is helpful,” she says. It turns out that e-singles can be a kind of gateway drug to full-length titles, as well as a way to keep the attention of an author’s fan base between longer works. Barton predicts that for Penguin, at least, “short content will become more tightly coupled with the overall publishing program for an author,” playing an increasing role in how their work is marketed.
While The Atavist and Byliner are looking at options to grow revenues from various sources, Barton's comments suggest that there may be an opportunity to offer free shorter-form content as a teaser to drive longer-form sales. The marketing power of sample chapters is already thought to be significant; it will be interesting to see if short formats become the new black.