There’s a real buzz around NaNoWriMo this year. Maybe it’s because blogging and NaNoWriMo have both become mainstream, or maybe more writers are doing NaNoWriMo this year. Whatever — I’m currently getting more questions about National Novel Writing Month in particular, and about fiction in general, than I am about any other writing topic.
Maybe I need to retitle the blog to: ”Writing Fiction For Love and Money.” 🙂
One writer asked an odd question: “can I write 50K words of short stories for NaNoWriMo? I don’t want to write a novel.”
Writing NaNoWriMo as short fiction: 50,000 words of short stories
I responded to the writer that I had no idea about the rules for NaNoWriMo — best to ask on the NaNoWriMo website.
That said, since I love short stories almost as much as novels, I wondered whether there might be any benefit to writing 50K’s worth of short stories. Here are some tips to make 50K words of short fiction pay. Of course you don’t need to be doing NaNoWriMo to write your 50K words, you can write them at any time.
1. Short fiction gets read: use it to build your name
This is the primary reason to write short stories: the more ebooks you have on the ebook retailers, and the more regularly you publish, the more you will sell.
One writer asked whether writing short stories was somehow “scamming” readers. The short answer is NO. Readers love short fiction; short stories and novellas sell. Do ensure however that you add “short story” to both your title and your description.
On the wider theme of Amazon scams, and Amazon apparently tightening its algorithms to fight those scams, which we discussed in this article on how to increase your ebook sales if your numbers are down, some authors are still affected by weirdness.
One problem seems to be related to a misreporting of pages read, which is perhaps related to Kindle’s new page flip feature. The operative word is “seems”. No one knows for sure.
As I suggested in the article:
If you’re an ebook author who’s seen his sales decimated, or even halved over the past couple of months, you need to develop new strategies. Primarily, look at diversification. One poster on KBoards suggested that when Amazon “cleans house” what you see is the “new normal”. Things won’t go back to the way they were. So you need to diversify.
Writing short fiction is a good way to diversify if you’re writing novels. And of course if you’re writing nonfiction, writing some short stories is a fast way to see whether you’ll get any fiction sales.
2. Charge for your short fiction: keep freebies off Amazon (stick to KDP Select)
Charge for your short fiction. This is vital, in the face of the ongoing weirdness some authors are experiencing:
Be aware that your free titles may be affecting your rankings, as Amazon strives to eliminate fraud. If you read the KBoards thread linked above, you’ll see anecdotes of free ebooks harming an author’s sales.
If you want the benefits of “free”, enroll your ebooks in KDP Select. This makes them free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
3. Got a popular fiction title? Boost it with a prequel or sequel (or other related title), and remember to charge for it
This is a strategy which I’ll be using in 2017. I write genre fiction under a couple of pen names, and some of the novels are doing well. I’ve been pushing them along with promotions, but they’re standalones, and standalone novels never do as well as novels which are part of a series.
So I’ll be giving my standalones a “series” look, by publishing prequels for them in 2017. Traditional publishers have discovered the value of short fiction too. If you check Amazon, you’ll see many bestselling authors using short fiction as an intro to the author’s titles.
If you use this strategy, remember to charge for your short fiction.
4. New to fiction? Test genres with short stories
Perhaps you want to try writing fiction, but the thought of writing a whole novel which may not sell is off-putting. And what if you find that you can’t complete the novel?
Short stories can help. You can use them to test to see whether you’re comfortable writing in a genre, and whether your fiction in that genre will sell. When a friend complained about a sales slump in her current genre, and was nervous about writing a New Adult novel, I suggested that she write a couple of short stories to gauge her comfort level. She did, and the stories sold. She’s now happily writing in the New Adult genre.
When a short story refuses to stay short…
Occasionally your short fiction will get out of hand, and a short story won’t stay short.
Currently I’m working on a project for a ghostwriting client which was meant to be a novella. Huh. I had to send an apologetic message to the client: would he like a novel? Or a serial? The novella just wouldn’t stay a novella.
Luckily he opted for turning his novella into a serial. If he hadn’t, I would have started a new novella for him. Once a piece of fiction takes off, you might as well let it be what it wants to be.
Don’t be surprised if some of your short fiction bolts away from you. This is a good thing.
We’re just a couple of days away from NaNoWriMo, so happy writing to you, whether you’ll be part of NaNoWriMo this year or not. 🙂
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