Surprise Kindle Single best-seller a ‘Dakota Christmas’ present for conservative writer

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The program also is an effort to tap into an audience hungry for stories that are longer than a typical magazine article but shorter than a book. Pieces range between 5,000 and 30,000 words and cost between $1 and $5; authors receive royalties between 35 percent and 75 percent, higher than the rate for e-books.

For Mr. Bottum and writers like him, the success of stories such as “Dakota Christmas” could mark the beginning of a revival of long-form narrative journalism, a form of writing popularized by Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion in the 1960s, but increasingly out of place in an Internet news ecosystem dominated by breaking news, smartphone-friendly stories and fire-and-forget blog posts.

The initial inventory of Kindle Singles included original fiction, a diet plan based on financial incentives, a true crime story about a 2009 Swedish bank heist and a detailed report on the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Amazon recently launched a $6 million annual fund that will pay authors and publishers who make their books exclusive to the company’s online store for at least 90 days.

“It’s pretty impressive that the general Kindle Singles best-seller list usually has four or five journalists in the top 10,” Mr. Boog said. “Journalists need to start thinking about the tablet audience. It’s a different kind of reader. Studies show people read more books when they have an e-reader. If you [offer] something that is a little longer and solidly edited and is 99 cents, that’s a sweet price point for readers. It’s an easy, quick decision.”

For his part, Mr. Bottum already is considering writing additional Kindle Singles pieces, including future Christmas stories.

The latter wouldn’t come without irony: In “Dakota Christmas,” Mr. Bottum fondly recalls - and wickedly lampoons - the enormous piles of holiday-themed books that would annually appear under his family’s Christmas tree.

“The Christmas Almanac.” “The Little Big Book of Christmas.” Charles Dickens’ collected Christmas works. And, of course, “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Christmas Collection.”

“By the time you’ve actually gotten the book - and gone to church, and drunk the eggnog, and eaten the dinner, and cleaned up the wrapping paper, and squabbled with your sister, and blown out the candle stubs - Christmas is done for the year,” Mr. Bottum writes. “All those endless seasonal volumes piled like a Mayan step pyramid at the local bookstore: They exist primarily to gin up Christmas spirits of their givers, rather than their receivers.”

A similar fate might await “Dakota Christmas,” its author acknowledged with a laugh … if not for one small detail.

“Nobody is giving my story as a Christmas present,” said Mr. Bottum. “Or if they are, it’s being read before Christmas. You can’t wrap an e-book.”

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