After retiring as Chicago magazine editor in March, Dick Babcock came across a story he’d written over 20 years ago and was never able to get published.
“I thought it might find an audience on the web, so I got in touch with David Blum,” the editor of Kindle Singles. (The two had worked together at New York magazine in the 1980s.) “He was very enthusiastic about it,” says Babcock, but there’s a 5,000-word minimum Kindle Singles, and his piece was only 3,500 words.
Blum suggested how the author might add to his story, about a husband “driven to extremes” by his wife repeating the same anecdotal story endlessly.
“At first I thought it was impossible,” Babcock says, “but once I started tinkering with it, a couple of new scenes popped up, and I do think the story ended up being a bit better, richer.”
Blum tells me: “Dick ended up re-shaping the story significantly, and the revised version was just right.”
“My Wife’s Story” debuted as a Kindle Single in mid-November, “and right away it popped very close to the top.” It eventually hit #1 on the Singles bestsellers list and stayed there for several weeks.
Babcock credits a “terrific” cover illustration and Amazon.com’s marketing for the story’s success. Amazon alerted its mystery-loving customers — “including the half-dozen people who bought my previous novels” — to Babcock’s Single, which has had over 24,000 downloads so far.
“It’s sold a lot better than any of my novels.”
(Blum says: “The cover design, by Adil Dara Kim, was terrific, and perfectly captured the Single’s serio-comic tone, but Dick is being modest — he owes his success to his talents as a writer.”)
Babcock is now thinking about digging up other old manuscripts and pitching them as Kindle Singles. “I’ve got a couple other things floating around.”
“Not so terribly long ago, a whole portfolio of national magazines published smart, lively short fiction—entertainments. Good writers could make solid livings doing that kind of work. Perhaps my experience suggests a market still exists.”