Today our study focuses on short stories and novellas and the huge reader marketplace for short reads. The study discusses the marketing concepts, the writing challenges and great opportunity for old and new authors.
The study addresses the way authors are using short stories to market their writings, keep their products in front of their readers and the challenges they face in writing shorty’s.
This post is a summary of answers about short stories I have collected from a group of over 70 outstanding, award-winning authors interviewed at the HBS Author’s Spotlight. All these authors have experience writing short stories and marketing them to their readers.
(To date we have conducted over 600 author interviews and book showcases with over 475,000 views. (Click on the author’s name to view their complete interview.)
This is the general question asked in the author interviews at the HBS Author’s Spotlight blog about their short stories.
You have written several short stories. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work? Do you feel short reads are a product of our email and smart phone age?
Many authors use short stories to market their novels. The following are the experiences from a group of outstanding authors.
Using Samples to Sell Short Stories
Here are the answers from a few authors that use short stories as samples to market their novels.
Author Carolyn Arnold @Carolyn_Arnold writes Mystery & Thrillers and Romance novels including the MADISON KNIGHT series.
I believe that short stories can be utilized as a marketing tool. In fact, I recently made Pearls of Deception, my mystery short, permanently free. It provides the reader with entertainment and gives them a taste of my writing style. I also included excerpts from other published works hoping it will motivate readers to read them, and in turn, buy the books.
Author Jenna Bennett a.k.a. Jennie Bentley @Bennett_Jenna is the NYT and USA International bestselling author of Mystery Novels. Jennie writes the Do-It-Yourself Mystery series and Jenna authors the Savannah Martin Mysteries series.
I write long naturally. I have to really focus to write anything short. But as I’ve been experimenting with it, I’ve realized that it’s possible to tell a complete and satisfying story in a smaller package, too. It just has to be a simpler story. So now I write all different lengths, from very short – just a few thousand words – to around a hundred thousand.
Author Cara Brookins is an Author and Motivational Speaker. Cara is the author of the TimeShifters series.
I had fun writing Treasure Quest because I imagined an entire treasure hunting novel spinning off from it. (I still may write that someday!) Buzz Books used it as a marketing tool by frequently offering it for free download and including the first three chapters of Timeshifters along with it. I love the idea, and I think more authors should offer free short story samples like this…Free short stories and joining with boxed sets is a great way to increase sales.
Author Donna Galanti @DonnaGalanti is the International Thriller Writers Debut Author of the The Element Trilogy.
This collection, THE DARK INSIDE, was created during a writer’s retreat. It was hard for me to leave my characters behind, and this was a way to create new stories of them between books 1 and 2 in my Element Trilogy. It definitely gives folks a sample of my work and also provides readers extra insight into the characters.
Award-winning Author Norah Wilson @norah_wilson is the writer of romantic suspense and paranormal romance novels. She co-writes the laugh-out-loud Dix Dodd Mystery series with Heather Doherty.
It languished for a while until it occurred to me that I could put Needing Nita up for free as a sample of my work, and to try to drive traffic to the Serve and Protect series. I have to say it was a success. By now, I think that little 15K novella has been downloaded over a million times.
While the conversion rate is not high – many people who buy a free novella go on to buy more free novellas, not my full-priced novels – there are always readers who tell me they found my series through the novella.
I must say, writing short is a unique challenge. People who do it well have my lasting admiration. I can do it, but I prefer the long, slow build of a novel.
Rhys Bowen @RhysBowen is the New York Times bestselling writer of the Molly Murphy Mysteries and A Royal Spyness Mystery series.
I love writing short stories as I can explore worlds I wouldn't want to visit for whole novels. I find them a challenge but also satisfying. I have done several short stories that feature the same characters as my book series and of course these are helpful in introducing the books to readers who might not have tried them.
Wendy Cartmell @WendyCartmell is the bestselling author of the Sgt Major Crane Military Crime Thrillers.
To be honest I don’t often write short stories, although that’s what I started writing when I was learning my craft. Who’s Afraid Now was written as a give-away for people joining my mailing list, although it is also for sale on Amazon. It was just a natural way of explaining how Sgt Billy Williams came to be on the train that was hijacked. A number of well-known authors are now doing this and I thought it would be fun to try. So really my short stories are a way of giving readers a sample of my work. However, often short story readers are just that. They prefer that format to full length novels.
Author Leslie Kohler @LeslieKohler is a mystery writer with a Southern border flavor.
Short stories give the reader a sample of one’s writing style and ability. Because you can do various deals on Amazon with them, such as free giveaways, they’re a good marketing tool. I began writing short stories for the youth market when my children were young, as that was a genre I related to as a mother.
Author Kfir Luzzatto @KfirLuzzatto writes Horror, Mystery & Thrillers and Science Fiction & Fantasy plus short stories.
While I think that short stories can be a good way to introduce your writing to new readers, to let them sample your writing without investing too much time, I never write market-driven fiction. I wrote short stories simply because I enjoy the medium, and stopped writing them because they were too distracting and took away the time I needed to write full-length fiction.
Author Meg Mims @megmims is the Award-winning author of western mystery and sweet dog/cat books.
I love writing short stories - and yes, I do believe they allow readers a glimpse into an author's style, including descriptions, character development, narrative and dialogue. It's much harder to write short, given the brief page span - as an author, I prefer writing a full novel. But novellas and short stories may help sales of longer works.
Author Cathy Ann Rogers @feywritinggirl writes Mystery, Crime, and Suspense novels. Cathy is the sponsor of Death and Deception in the Desert, Arizona Mystery Con 2016 on June 3-4, 2016 in Phoenix Arizona. (Aquitaine Ltd Publishing)
First, I enjoy creating short stories and consider them an art form in their own right. Similar to telling a story as flash fiction, in less than 100 words or 500 words, I love the challenge of using fewer words to get the story across. On the business side, I track the free downloads of my short stories and get a lot of activity. Some of the previous versions are still online at various website, but I consolidated my previously published shorts into one volume last year, Heavy Mascara. I have had positive feedback about the stories. And yes, short stories provide a taste of what a reader can find in my novels. Besides that, many readers enjoy a quick or fast read.
Author Vincent Zandri @VincentZandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling Amazon Noir Author. Vincent is the writer of the Dick Moonlight Thriller Series, the P.I. Jack Marconi Series and the Chase Baker Thriller Series.
I write short stories and novellas simply because that's what I feel like writing at the time. Or perhaps the story just wants to be told in that particular length. I don't use them as tools to sell my novels, although I suppose they might entice a reader to pick up my longer works.
Using Giveaways to Sell Short Stories
Many authors use short stories as giveaways to get readers to read their work and buy their novels. Here is what they had to offer.
Terry Ambrose @suspense_writer is the author of the McKenna Mystery series and a member of Murder, We Wrote.
I did give away my short story collection, LIFE’S SHORTS. It’s a collection short stories and vignettes that range from funny to very serious. I have a couple of additional free days available left on that and may do another giveaway of that collection again in the near future. But, the full-length books will not go up for free.
They like the idea of expanding their name recognition. The problem is; their name becomes recognized as one of those authors who are willing to give their stuff away. So, readers think, why buy? If the author is good enough, there’s a possibility that they’ll be the exception and get readers hooked.
Author Linton Robinson @LintonRobinson has written many novels, short stories and essays. Linton has created several award winning videos.
I have done a lot of short work, but very little in traditional “short story” form. Much of it walks an odd line between fiction and reporting. I’m not sure how much crossover or “sell up” there is from shorts to novels. But shorts material is excellent grist for the promo mill when given away as samples or “lead bait” or whatever.
Author John Dolan @JohnDolanAuthor is the author of the TIME, BLOOD AND KARMA series.
It's hard to say what impact 'Jim Fosse' has had on sales, though the short story was designed as a free giveaway to introduce folks to my writing. The first chapter of 'Everyone Burns' is included with it and hopefully tempts some people to buy the novel. I think you might term this the 'Drug Dealer Strategy'.
Author Marcy McKay @MarcyMcKayBooks is a new author and creator of Mudpie Writing industry blog.
I love all types of writing: novels, short stories, magazine articles. A Cemetery Plot Worth of Love is the free short story on my website that's the precursor to my novel. It's a thank you to people for signing up for my email list.
Using Collections to Sell Short Stories
Sometimes authors bundle their short stories together to try to increase their audience. For example, I have created a 6-pack of Jonathon Stone short stories called Operation Alpha Dog to gain exposure to my novels.
Eden Baylee @edenbaylee is the author of a psychological mystery/thriller and three collections of erotic novellas and flash fiction.
Before Stranger at Sunset, I wrote flash fiction, short stories, and novellas. I continue to do so and have a collection of shorts with poetry called Hot Flash. Also, one of my shorts is included in an anthology called Allegories of the Tarot. As my shorts are written in multiple genres – thriller, humor, romance, erotica – they do give readers a taste for my writing.
Bestselling Author Darren Sant @Longcroft_Tales writes Mystery & Thrillers, Humor, and Horror novels. He has written the Cirque Du Freak and The Demonata series. Today we feature his book: Shattered Hearts and Broken Glass.
I’ll be honest in saying that my collection of short stories, Dark Voices, does not sell as well as the Longcroft Tales. Dark Voices was more an attempt to put together a body of work that I have worked on in the last few years. It’s well known that story collections do not sell as well as longer fiction, unless you are Stephen King, of course.
Author Eric B. Ruark @ericruark is the author of the Murder Beyond the Milky Way and many short stories.
For the most part my short stories pre-date my novel writing. I basically wrote the short stories to have fun... to explore “what if” scenarios, like can a person be in two places at the same time? (The answer is yes, but only once a year.) The editors at ALFRED HITCHCOCK MYSTERY MAGAZINE have been the most receptive to my work. Recently, I collected my short stories and published eight of them in a volume called THE CARD SHARP and other stories of murder, mystery and mayhem. I now use that as a 99-cent tease to attract readers and lead them to my longer works.
Using Anthology to Sell Short Stories
Related to collections, anthologies are regularly published short stories in a particular genre giving readers a sample of a variety of author’s writings. Many readers read the anthology because one of their favorite authors is included only to find another author they like.
Award-Winning Author Jade Kerrion @JadeKerrion writes the DOUBLE HELIX series. Also, she writes a great blog featuring authors and writing.
The collection of short stories started out as a writing competition…I was one of the authors, and I thought that an anthology would prove an interesting marketing tool, so I took a lead in gathering the stories into an anthology. It’s hard to tell if a sales bump can be attributed to the anthology versus other marketing activities that I’m doing, but it was definitely fun collaborating with other authors to put out a shared piece of work.
Author John A. A. Logan @JohnAALogan writes novels and short stories. Also, he has been a columnist and film reviewer.
I started out by writing short stories. John Fowles and A L Kennedy chose one, which was also an extract from a novel, to be published by the London publisher, Vintage, in a paperback anthology of stories which was sold in most countries of the world. A few years later, another couple of famous British authors, Toby Litt and Ali Smith, chose one of my stories to be published in a Picador anthology called New Writing 13. I published my short story collection, Storm Damage, so it was the sales of the novel as an ebook which helped the sales of the short story collection, to readers who had been waiting for a second book to come out.
Award-winning Author Melodie Campbell @MelodieCampbell is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. Also, she is the author of the THE GODDAUGHTER mob caper series and bestselling Rowena fantasy series.
I actually got my start writing short stories, and had 24 published and six awards before writing my first novel. Many people have found me through short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and have gone on to read my novels. I will always write short stories! I love the clarity and crispness of a good short story.
Alicia Dean @Alicia_Dean_ is the award-winning, bestselling author of the Reapers of Boon Series, The Isle of Fangs Series and The Northland Crime Chronicles.
It is difficult to measure the impact of short stories and novellas on novel sales, so I can't really say. However, that isn't the intention of the shorter works. Yes, they are a style of writing, and sometimes a story can be told in a shorter word count and I feel that if a writer stretches it into a novel, they are probably leaving in a lot of boring parts. I will say, though, that some of my short stories and novellas were created as part of a particular anthology or project with a limited word count.
Pauline Baird Jones @paulinebjones is the award-winning author of the The Lonesome Lawmen and the Project Enterprise series.
I didn’t actually plan to write novellas. Like my other random acts of writing, they happened. It’s hard to assess how much they help. Some readers do like shorter works and some readers tell me they wish they were longer. Most of my short stories were either written by request for anthologies or written during highly stressful times in my life when all I could manage was short bursts of writing. My two collections of romance stories fall into the latter category. I was too stressed to even ramp up the suspense.
Turnaround on thinking
Actually there are some authors who believe the process works in reverse. They feel the sale of their novels drives the sales of their short stories.
Author George Wier @BillTravisWrite is the author of the The Bill Travis Mystery series.
I wouldn't say the shorts have impacted my sales terribly. I'd say it works the opposite direction. A reader of my series is more likely to purchase a short story simply because they trust me. They know I write a story rich in character, location and plot, and when they see I've put out a new short story, many (though not all) snap it up. So far, I've garnered some good reviews. No, for me, short story writing is not a marketing ploy. A story idea will sometimes come along that is too good to pass up. It'll hit me between the eyes and get my attention, and I'll say, “Who the hell are you?
Author Shelley Young @dardiandreshaj is the author of the Dardian Dreshaj novels.
What a good question, because Indies often wonder the same thing. I’m not a fan of flash fiction. I can be, but not at this time. I did the Dali series after a discussion I had with a fan. It was something that she wanted and she asked me to try my hand at it, so I did. I had to pull back from the series, because the more I wrote of it the more the readers wanted! It began to take up too much time.
Has short stories helped me sale my full-length novels? No, but I do believe that flash fiction can do just that. With flash fiction you have to market just as fully as you do your other work. My sales from the Dali series are actually the other way around for me. My fans buy the Dali stories after they enjoy my full-length reads, and they are quick to tell me that they prefer my full-length novels, as the Dali series is far too short and too much of a tease.
Author Jenny Hilborne @JFHilborne is the author of the Jackson Mysteries and Thrillers Series.
False Pretense is loosely based on a real life event. It's very short and carries a powerful message. I think readers have bought the short based on the strength of the novels rather than the other way around. Shorts are a great way to sample an author’s work and perfect for those with a busy schedule.
Bestselling Mystery and Suspense Author Robin Mahle is an author of the Redwood Violet suspense series.
My short story, Long Journey Home, was really my first work of any real length. Prior to that, I wrote articles and moved up to essays and then the short story. I wouldn’t say it’s had much impact on sales of my novels, but I can tell you that since I’ve published the second book in the Redwood Violet series, sales of my short story have increased fairly significantly.
Terry Odell @authorterryo is an author of romance, mystery & romantic suspense novels. She is also a publishing industry blogger and hosts the Booklover’s Bench, a website for readers.
I think it's the other way around. I notice sales of my short stories after I release a new novel. Also, my short stories are contemporary romance, not mystery or romantic suspense, so there's a different audience. I wrote them so long ago, and they're still with The Wild Rose Press, so I can't really track sales. And, to be honest, I find it very hard to write short stories—I'm long-winded I guess. However I do have a couple of mystery short stories that I'll be releasing some time later this year, I think. One was in an anthology and I'm working to get my rights back to publish it myself along with a couple others featuring the same detective.
Author J.T. Lewis @JTLewis_Books is the bestselling author of the The Adventures of Gabriel Celtic Series and the The Pepper and Longstreet Series.
Many of the short stories are prequels to the Gabriel Celtic series. Currently I offer these for free as an enticement to get people interested in the series…and yes, it has had a dramatic effect on sales of the novels.
“Circles” is the newest of my creations, one that has been rumbling around in my head for quite a while. A sci-fi offering, it is the first of probably ten shorts that this series will have as it stands now. One advantage (to me as a writer) to producing shorts is to start to get the story out.
Think of Readers First
Authors fell short stories are a useful tool to keep their reading audience engaged in their writing.
While Your Readers are Waiting for the Next Novel
Some authors approach the dead period between novels by publishing a continuing stream of short stories while there readers are waiting for the next novel.
Award-winning and bestselling author, Sharon C. Cooper @Sharon_Cooper1 is a Romantic Suspense writer.
Interesting enough, my first short story was written because I first wanted to see if I could write a short story. Once written though, one of my critique partners suggested that I publish it and offer it for FREE. This was to draw readers to my work.
I tried it again, writing another short story, back in October. I wrote Secret Rendezvous mainly because I was behind in my self-inflicted deadline for Rendezvous with Danger and readers were asking about “Quinn’s” story. Not only did the short story appease some readers who were waiting for Quinn’s full-length story, but because it is still a FREE read, it has introduced readers to my Reunited Series – people who might not have ever heard of me. This means now I have a few new followers.
Occult Thriller Author Lisa M. Lilly @lisamlilly is the author of the The Awakening Series.
I shied away from writing short stories until I attended a 5-day writing retreat with author Steve Barnes. He had us write a short story every night and turn it in the next day for critiquing. That cut off my tendency to turn everything into a novel. At the time, I felt cranky about it. I didn’t want to write anything short. But one of those stories became the first fiction I sold to a paying market. Now I enjoy writing short stories when I take breaks from longer projects. My latest is a horror story called Ninevah. It’s about a woman who must decide whether to stay or go when the company where she works is swallowed up by a conglomerate, and the consequences of her choice are more frightening that she ever could have imagined. I published Ninevah exclusively for my email list subscribers. Anyone who signs up gets a link to read the story free.
Author D.R. Ransdell @dr_ransdell writes Mystery, Travel and Romance novels plus short stories.
I haven't seen an impact on sales, but since you're always trying to develop a readership, any kind of writing is useful! Once in a while I have a good idea for a short story and run with it. Most of the time I'm wrapped up in longer projects, so a short story is a nice break.
Author Bernard Schaffer @BernardSchaffer is the author of the Grendel Unit, Way of the Warror and Superbia series.
A good use of short stories can be in keeping an established series going, in between larger projects. Or to flesh out smaller characters in your canon that didn't get enough shine, if you want to. I do not recommend them. Too many writers chomp on short stories like candy, or fast food, when they should be taking the time to measure out their ingredients and chop up the veggies to make a gourmet feast. But I understand. Writing novels is much harder work.
SA Today Bestselling Author Jamie Lee Scott @authorJamie is an Award winning Screenwriter, Producer/Director and the creator of the Gotcha Detective Agency Mysteries series.
The short story was written for fun. I wanted to put something out for the holidays, and give readers a chance to see something different while waiting for the next novel. Tagged was a lot of fun to write, but I can’t say it increased sales of my other books. I’m always game for something new. I’m not a short story writer, but I’m learning the process, and will definitely try a few more when time allows.
Author Nick Stephenson @Nick_Stephenson is the author of the Leopold Blake Series. He writes mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels. Also, he has a book written just for author to help them with Book Marketing.
Each new release has a noticeable effect, and “Paydown” was no different. I was rather surprised; this title sells just as well as the full novels – probably because it’s strongly linked in to the rest of the Leopold Blake series. Considering it only took about 4 weeks to write, I’m definitely considering getting more out there. It gives me something to do while I’m waiting for editing and proofreading to go through!
Author Glenn Trust @GlennTrust writes Thriller and Suspense novels including the Bestselling Hunters Series.
Thanks for asking about the short stories. ‘Lightning in the Clouds’ was one of my favorite projects. I have always been a fan of the short story format. Short works of Bradbury and Hemingway are among my favorites…
‘Lightning in the Clouds’ was written solely because the stories were inside and needed to come out, not so readers could sample, although if they do, great. There are plenty more stories floating around in my head, and I will probably put out another collection in the next couple of years, in between novels. Writing short stories gives me time to recharge the batteries after a long project. The format by nature is compact and requires more conciseness than a major novel.
Author Jami Gray @JamiGrayAuthor writes Science Fiction & Fantasy, Romance, Suspense novels. Jami is the author of The Kyn Kronicles series.
Actually, shorts are one of the hardest story types for me to write in. As a series writer, I prefer full length novels. WRAPPED IN SHADOWS was my first attempt at shorts, and I was thrilled to have an opportunity to give readers a glimpse into the Kyn world and discover some great writers.
I finally decided that if I could offer a series of short stories that followed the series, ones that would enhance current readers, but also work to lure new ones in, then I could also indulge in sharing what happens to my characters in between the books. Collections like this don’t just make your readers gleeful; they offer writers a chance to share the “off stage” life of their characters.
Author Marcia James @Marcia_James writes comic romantic mystery and suspense novels, as well as humorous contemporary romance.
Writing short can be more challenging than writing a full-length book because you have to fit a lot of character development into a small word count. One thing I like to do is to have the hero and heroine know each other before the novella begins.
Most indie authors believe it's important to have books or novellas come out every one-to-three months. Writing novellas helps authors have new releases more often than if they only wrote books. And hopefully, if a reader enjoys one of your stories, they will want to read them all.
Author PJ Schnyder @pjschnyder writes Paranormal,Sci-Fi Romance,Urban Fantasy and Steampunk novels.
Short stories are great to explore other genres. They are also a way of introducing other readerships to my work. Plus, they provide a nice treat for my existing readers in the midst of waiting for the next novella- or novel-length release.
Introducing New Characters
Other authors use short stories to present new characters or develop secondary characters from their novels to keep their reader’s attention.
Author Victoria Benchley @vbenchley is the author of the Duncan Dewar Mysteries.
I find writing a short story very challenging. A Crime At the Bakery was written to further develop some of my characters in the fictional village of Taye, Scotland. Also, I wanted the readers to know things were happening back in Scotland while Duncan was investigating a case in Spain. A Crime At the Bakery also gave folks something to read in the series while awaiting the next full length novel.
Author Jennifer Chase @JChaseNovelist is the award-winning Mystery writer of the Emily Stone Thriller Series.
Short stories are an interesting aspect of writing. Some people say they are dead in the water as far as sales, while others claim that it is a wonderful way for readers to sample your work. I agree with the later. I have so many ideas that writing a short story is a wonderful project in between novels. I have received many requests that some of my supporting characters should have their own books. What better way to highlight some of these characters in short stories?
M. Louisa Locke @mlouisalocke is the Author of Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits, bestselling Victorian San Francisco Mystery Series.
I wrote Dandy Detects, which featured characters—including a Boston Terrier—from my first novel, primarily as a way to introduce readers to the series. Making this story free for short periods of time did help do this. Then, free books became much more prevalent (as did 99 cent books) and the free or cheap short story became less attractive. Now I write the shorts for my own benefit and to give fans of the series something to read in between books (I am a slow writer). I find it very satisfying to expand on minor characters (which I do with all 3 short stories).
International Bestselling Author Tonya Kappes @tonyakappes11 writes Small Town Southern Mysteries.
I came up with my first short when I wanted to introduce the reader to a new crop of characters. It was sort of a prequel thing. Since I write mystery, I have a tad bit of romance in them. Short stories are great to hit on those romance elements instead of incorporating them in a full novel. It's been very helpful for me and keeps my readers happy between novels.
Author Mimi Sebastian @SebastianMimi is a Fantasy and Historical Fiction writer. Mimi has written the Necromancer Series.
It’s hard to say if they’ve had an impact. It was a story that came to me about one of the minor characters in the Necromancer Books and I decided to make it into a booklet as a giveaway and introduce people to my writing.
Your Readers Asked for More
The best position of all is when readers keep asking for more. The following authors discuss their experience.
Author Tallulah Grace @TallulahSpeaks writes Romantic Suspense Novels with a Paranormal Twist.
My first short-story, Trapped in Spaulding Manor, was simply a story that was rattling around in my head which needed to get out. My latest shorty, An Extraordinary Christmas, was in response to readers wanting to know more about two of my characters. I’ve also placed a few shorts on my website, so that readers can experience my writing style. As for the impact on sales, I think that the shorts are more of an extension to my existing sales, rather than an avenue to find new readers.
Author Jacquie Biggar @JacqBiggar is a Romance, Contemporary and Suspense writer who writes the 'Wounded Hearts' series.
I did the Sheriff because fans were asking for Jack Garrett’s story, a great feeling, by the way! This was my first novella but I gotta say, I like ‘em. Done properly, you still get a full story, it just loses that saggy middle, that most writers struggle with anyway. I know, as a reader, I like novellas; they’re a quick, enjoyable read when I don’t have time for more.
Ideas a Plenty
Many authors have so many ideas floating around in their head the stories just have to come out no matter the size of the writing.
Fuel for Your Short Stories
Back stories and cut chapters can fuel short stories and make great reading for their audience.
Best Selling Mystery Author Lauren Carr @TheMysteryLadie is the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries & the Lovers in Crime Mysteries.
Actually, most of the short stories I have written are left-overs, for lack of a better term. I keep a cut-scenes file for every book, in which I place scenes that have been cut, subplots that didn’t work out, or other “darlings” that I had to kill during my writing process.
Toni Anderson @toniannanderson is a New York Times and USA Today international bestselling author who writes dark, gritty Romantic Suspense.
I’ve written one novella and I’m also writing some extra scenes for certain characters. Short is not my preferred style of writing, I prefer big stories with complex plots. I wrote the novella (HER LAST CHANCE) because during the editing process of HER SANCTUARY I deleted an entire love story between two secondary characters. While I couldn’t fit an entire novel around these characters, I could give them a HEA with their own novella and give readers an update on life on the ranch that they’d been demanding…Frankly, I’m just happy that people are reading!
Author DV Berkom @dvberkom is the bestselling author of two award-winning thriller series (Leine Basso and Kate Jones).
My first published book was Bad Spirits, a novella and the first installment in the Kate Jones thriller series. I wrote it specifically for an online publisher who had read Touring for Death and requested I write the back story for the character, Kate, to publish as a serial. I decided to combine the novellas into a box set (Volume 1) for release. Readers can still buy them separately, but I priced the box set lower than the sum of the novellas together, so most buy the set.
Introduce Yourself to Readers
Short stories can be a way to introduce your writings to a new audience.
Author Paul Levine is the award-winning, bestselling Mystery & Thrillers author of the JAKE LASSITER and SOLOMON vs. LORD series.
I’m giving away “The Road to Hell” as a sort of introduction to my work. Same with “Solomon and Lord Sink or Swim.” They’re both free ebooks on Amazon, and they’ve led readers to my regular ebooks and paperbacks that are very reasonably priced, too. In terms of future work, I don’t envision more short stories. Novels are my format of choice.
Author Margo Bond Collins @MargoBondCollin is the author of the A Night Shift Series.
My novellas are all parts of a larger body of work. Taming the Country Star was designed to introduce my contemporary romance series. Bound by Blood is a sequel to Sanguinary—it and Siren's Kiss (as well as a few other forthcoming novellas) will all tie together to create a complete story, even though every book will also stand on its own.
Short stories are not a slam dunk adventure. They come with their own problems and challenges.
Problems and Challenges Ahead
The following authors share their experiences of a not so rosy venture.
Author Colin F. Barnes @ColinFBarnes is a Hybrid writer of dark fiction & Technothriller novels.
I definitely like short stories for their own right, and so far I’ve not written any to funnel readers into my novels. I did try that, but I end up going to long and writing novellas instead! In terms of sales, they’re disastrous and I’ve stopped publishing short stories. I think there’s an opportunity for perhaps a collection once I have a bigger following, but for now my focus with short stories is to try and sell them to pro markets to help raise my profile and introduce readers to my work that way. Trying to sell short stories as a self-published is a really hard deal in my experience.
Author Cynthia St-Pierre @stpierrecynthia is an award-winning Mystery writer.
Authors don’t get as much feedback as one might think. Also you ask, does a free short story impact sales? Who knows, but I sure like writing them. They are absolutely not just for sample purposes. In fact, I wish there were a larger audience for short stories. Agents and editors swear they can’t sell short story anthologies in general.
Author Giacomo Giammatteo @JimGiammatteo writes Mystery and Suspense novels in which many of the scenes are taken from real-life experiences.
I never intended to write a novella, but after A Bullet For Carlos came out, I received a lot of emails asking about one of the secondary characters in the book--Dominic Mangini. I decided to write a novella that tells the story of his background. It can function on its own, but it works best if someone has read Bullet first. I tried using it as a sample of the other writing, but it didn't work as planned. I gave away a few thousand copies, but what I ended up with were people who didn't know anything about my writing in general or Bullet in particular. I think it caused more confusion than anything. It did give me an idea to publish a list of the order I think the books should be read.
Author Michelle Medhat @theconnected1 is the Author of the 5 star novel Connected: The Call, a genre-busting, fast-paced, surreal spy thriller.
Moving from one form of writing to another is demanding, in that you have to take yourself out of one creative zone and go into another. Being someone who can write captivating short stories doesn't automatically mean you can develop and write a full book, nor a business article. I have known poets who wouldn't even consider writing a book or article, and authors who would run a mile if someone said compose a poem.
The Audience is Changing
A flag is being raised slowly over the publishing industry. Reading time is shrinking. People are reading short reads on their tablets and ipads more and more.
Eden Baylee @edenbaylee is the author of a psychological mystery/thriller and three collections of erotic novellas and flash fiction.
I believe some readers’ attention spans are shorter, but avid readers will still read lengthy novels, even on their smart phones. It’s apples and oranges really. Despite that flash fiction and short stories have a lower word count than novels; they are not necessarily easier to write. If anything, they are sometimes more difficult because the author needs to be economical with words and still be able to tell a complete story.
Author Lindsay Buroker is author of the The Emperor's Edge, Swords & Salt, Rust & Relics and Dragon Blood series.
I’ve heard a lot about how readers supposedly have shorter attention spans these days and are consuming content on their phones, and I know Wattpad has acquired a large audience by serving up stories a chapter or chunk at a time, but my readers really seem to prefer the full-length novels, the longer the better, they say!
Author Carmen DeSousa @Author_Carmen is the Author of the Southern Suspense Series.
My first short story was a blog exercise. I wrote 500 words and then asked readers to give me suggestions, and then every week I’d add exactly 500 words to the story. IT WAS A HIT, and out of it, ‘The Pit Stop’ and ‘The Depot’ came about, but then something happened… As much as readers loved the stories, almost every one of them screamed for more.
Author Jess C Scott @jesscscott is the author of the Wilde Twins and the Seven Deadly Sins Series.
My erotic novellas certainly helped sell the anthologies. I enjoy writing novellas and short stories because they require a different approach as compared to writing a novel. They can be a good form to "try out" too before working on a longer project in a similar genre. I think short attention spans are a product of our email and smart phone age. I've taken this to mean that people enjoy things that are easily digestible.
Author Douglas Dorow @DougDorow is a mystery and thrillers writer.
I'm committed to writing at least a series of 3 novellas in the FBI HRT Critical Incident series. If it finds a following, I'll keep it up. The novella series to me is more like a television series, each alone is entertaining, while the compilation tells the bigger story and character development. I believe some readers are looking for the shorter book, one that can be read in one sitting, maybe on their smartphone.
Author John W. Mefford @jwmefford writes Mystery, Suspense, and Thriller novels. John is the author of the Alex Troutt Series, BOOKER Series, and the GREED Series.
And, long story short (no pun intended), I wrote up a novella full of sass and suspense that allowed me to use Joe's characters and my characters from the Booker series. It was a blast to write. I think some readers are always looking for shorter pieces of work to determine if they want to invest more time.
Short Stories can be a Learning Experience
Short stories can be a learning experience for new authors when they start their writing careers.
Troy Blackford @TBlackford3 is a Paranormal Action-Adventure, Short Stories Author and Editorial Consultant.
That's exactly the truth! My first stories that people responded well to were the shorts and not the novels. The first novels are more like learning opportunities for you as a writer than they are likely to be examples of your best work.
What I had wished I had known when I started? How much I loved this! I would have been doing it far earlier!
Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling Author Susan M. Boyer @susanmboyer is the author of the Liz Talbot romantic mystery series.
I don’t think the short stories have impacted the sales of the novels. They were all published years before the novels. Honestly, I wrote the short stories when I was learning the business of publishing and someone had told me I needed to get a few short stories published before I tried to sell my first novel. I’ve since learned this isn’t necessarily true for commercial fiction, but more helpful if one writes literary fiction. It was part of my learning process.
Brent Hartinger is the author of The Russel Middlebrook series. The movie version of his novel: Geography Club was released in 2013.
…short stories are a great way to get your feet wet, to learn the process of putting words down on paper -- and to experience the act of completing something, and getting feedback, in a class or a critique group or whatever.
Award-Winning and Pushcart-Prize nominated author Gary Ponzo @AuthorPonzo is the author of the Nick Bracco series of thrillers.
I began writing short stories because I figured I'd get all my mistake out of the way in the short form. If I wrote a lousy short story I only wasted a week or two of my time. If I wrote a lousy novel, well, I've wasted a year or more. Once I began getting published and receiving nominations for Pushcart Prizes, it gave me the confidence to move on to the long form.
Author DV Berkom @dvberkom is the bestselling author of two award-winning thriller series (Leine Basso and Kate Jones).
Learning how to write novellas was like boot camp for writing lean—to strip out all but the most essential information. This has two purposes: one, you don’t waste the reader’s time with unnecessary fluff; and two, it allows the reader to become more deeply involved in the story by using their imagination to fill in more details. I still apply these same principles for my longer works—my main rule is to NEVER bore the reader.
Author Ian Walkley @ianjwalkley is a Thriller writer, property marketer and author of action thriller No Remorse.
Several established authors and writing teachers suggested that I should try writing short stories as a way of practicing creative techniques. I tried it but I'm not a huge fan of short stories, so I don't think I've really had the motivation. There is an increasing trend for writers to pen short stories as a way to keep a series protagonist in front of their fans.
Author JT Brannan @JTBrannan_ is a Political Thriller and Sci-Fi Action author who writes the Mark Cole Thriller series.
I’ve always wanted to have a go at writing a short story, and my editor at Headline asked me to write one in the build-up to the release of EXTINCTION. I leapt at the chance and – although it’s not normally the genre I write in – I decided to do a sci-fi action tale, as I feel science fiction lends itself very well to the short story dynamic. I’m not actually sure what effect it had on sales of my novels, but I definitely had fun writing it, and might well write more in the future.
Author Madison Johns @madisonjohns11 is the Author of the Amazon bestselling Agnes Barton senior sleuth mystery series.
I did a short story collection and it was the first sample of my work, but since then I went another way. My novella Pretty and Pregnant is good example of a way to test out the waters in another genre for me.
Author Nicole Wolverton @nicolewolverton is a YA/adult author and the short fiction writer of the THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS.
I wrote short stories long before I tackled novel-writing. It's definitely a different kind of writing and plotting--my published shorts are all adult, either horror or literary, while my novels are primarily young adult horror and thrillers or adult thrillers. I think it's hard to tell if my published shorts have had an impact on novel sales. I'd like to think author discovery works that way, though!
Short Stories to Support a Cause
Many authors publish short stories to benefit special causes.
Bestselling Thriller author M.A. Comley @Melcom1 is the author of The Justice series.
I started to release the short stories as a means to support a charity close to my heart. All the proceeds of Merry Widow and It's A Dog's Life (both connected to the Justice series) go to P.U.P.S. the charity I got my rescue dog, Henry, from, he's 13 now. The lady who runs the charity has saved over 1500 dogs and was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for her work. I always promised her that one day I would contribute to the dogs she saves, this is my way of doing that.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller @ZimblerMiller is an author of Mystery & Thrillers. Also, she is a Web marketer and writer of several book industry publications.
I do not think the short stories I have written have had any impact on the sales of my novel. I did not write these to give readers a sample of my work -- I use Amazon's KDP Select for that. I wrote SOLOMON'S JUSTICE because of my long-standing interest in helping to spread information to veterans about PTSD.
Author Lorna Dounaeva @LornaDounaeva is the author of sizzling psychological thriller, Fry. It was one of IndieReader.com's Best Indie Books of 2013.
So far my short stories have just been a fun little side project, more of a hobby, really. For instance, Vampire Driving School is part of a charity anthology about Vampires called In Vein, and The Snowpersons is part of a writers’ anthology called A World of Joy. Neither of these are in my usual genre, Crime Fiction, so they don’t necessarily have the same audience. I think short stories are a interesting way to hook in readers, but ideally, the stories need to be in the same genre you write in, and ideally linked to other stories and books.
Author Marcia James @Marcia_James writes comic romantic mystery and suspense novels, as well as humorous contemporary romance.
"Love Unleashed" is my shortest story (12,000 words), and I wrote it originally for an American Heart Association fundraiser that asked for short stories. "Heating Up the Holidays" is a standard-sized novella (22,000 words). Writing short can be more challenging than writing a full-length book because you have to fit a lot of character development into a small word count. One thing I like to do is to have the hero and heroine know each other before the novella begins. This means, I can develop the romance along one of several plot themes -- reunited lovers, friends-to-lovers, and enemies-to-lovers, for example.
Other Things to Consider
Here are some other special items authors expressed in our study.
Author Kathi Daley @kathidaley is the author of the Zoe Donovan cozy Mystery Series, TJ Jensen Paradise Lake Mystery series, Whales and Tails Cozy Mystery Series, and Seacliff High Mystery Series.
I definitely think that novellas have a place in my overall portfolio. I personally enjoy reading a shorter story if I have an hour or so that I can devote to a book but I know that I most likely won’t get back to it for a week or more due to my schedule. I like to publish often in order to keep the reader engaged with the characters in each of my series…
Author Richard C Hale @Richard_C_Hale is thriller and paranormal writer and author of the Near Death Series.
I love the short story. It’s a fun and challenging art form and if done well, can have a big impact for the small amount of words that go into them. As far as impacting sales, I don’t believe they’ve made much of a difference. They do not sell as well as novels, and for that reason, I mainly use mine now as little teasers. I give the electronic ones away free so new readers can get a taste of my writing and style and then decide if I’m a good fit for them.
Author Marla Madison @MarlaAMadison is the bestselling author of She's Not There. She writes Suspense and Mystery & Thriller novels.
When I first started writing and had more time, I was active on a sight called Fanstory. It’s a great place for writers to post their work, enter contests, and get feedback from other writers and readers.
Award-winning author Christine Nolfi @christinenolfi is a Mystery & Thrillers and Romance author. Christine writes the Heavenscribe Series,The Lei Crime Series and Liberty Series.
The Kindle Worlds novellas weren't part of a marketing strategy although they've certainly helped expand my reader base. Author Toby Neal was given a World by Amazon, and asked if I'd write one of the debut stories. I've known Toby for a long time, and was delighted by the offer.
Author Lorhainne Eckhart @Leckhart is the Author of Kindle Bestseller THE FORGOTTEN CHILD.
Many of my readers enjoy the bridge short stories, and these short stories have contributed to the sales of my novels. I do enjoy writing short stories within a series, taking my characters on a side trip. And it does give new readers a sample of your writing style. For myself, I enjoy reading short stories from other Authors and I’ve discovered many new authors this way.
Author Geoffrey West @GeoffreyDWest is an editor, proofreader and author of the Jack Lockwood Mysteries.
I did the Jack Lockwood Diaries as a result of my blog The Jack Lockwood Diaries, where I added a short story every week or so, and took these off the blog and into the book. I still do this blog, but have been doing the Jamie Dark stories more recently.
Marketing short stories is a challenge. Whether you’re offering a sample of your work, keeping your readers engaged between novels or introducing new characters, you need a strategy to make your effort worthwhile.
Example of a Collections of Short Stories x James Moushon
Example of a Collections of Short Stories x James Moushon
A 6-pack of Jonathon Stone short stories called Operation Alpha Dog.
Claude Bouchard - Book Marketing using Book Bundles with Other Authors
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