“Short stories…?” Writers ask. “Why write them? Aren’t they a hobbyist thing?”
Well, yes, hobbyists do write short fiction. But writing short stories and novellas also offers powerful benefits for professional writers.
Write short stories to build your writing career
My theory on why professional writers avoid writing short stories is because the world of writing has changed so quickly. Even just a few years back, people wrote short fiction for literary magazines — for prestige, in other words.
You never expected to make money from them; perish the thought. But you privately hoped that a New York Literary agent might approach you asking whether you were working on a novel.
Of course you were, and when that novel was eventually published, it had a small print run and was remaindered toute de suite. Your consolation prize was the knowledge that you were “published” and had an entrée into academia.
Today, the world of writing’s different, and it can be challenging to keep up. So let’s look at powerful ways in which you can use short stories.
Experiment with your short stories; what works for others may not work for you. Equally, what goes gangbusters for you may be a total bust for someone else.
1. Freebies: everyone loves a freebie (even me and thee)
You can use short stories to build an email list, or lists.
Let’s say that you’re working on a novel, and you’d like to build a mailing list, so that you make a few sales of your new novel on publication day. Those sales nudge Amazon’s algorithm — you appear on people’s “Also Bought” banners, and win more sales.
Your visibility has just gone up, almost painlessly.
2. Marketing: join “visibility collaboration” bundles with other authors
I know of several authors who swear by this strategy. Yes, the sales of bundles have slowed, but joining other authors in a bundle of short stories, which those authors offer to their mailing lists (and sell on Amazon, of course) is another simple way to build your visibility, and sales.
3. Kickstart the sales of older novels you’ve written (and forgot)
You’re an experienced self-publishing author. You’ve published three novels or 33. Inevitably, you focus on what’s next, and are too busy with the novel you’re writing now to pay much attention to older novels.
Write a short story or two, and add an excerpt from the older novel in the back of the ebook. You don’t even need to advertise: you’ll kickstart your older novel’s sales again.
4. Build ghostwriting samples: ghostwriting fiction pays well
Whenever a writer tells me he wants to get into ghostwriting, I suggest that he write a short story to use as a writing sample.
You’ll find projects on the freelance marketplaces for fiction ghostwriters, and these gigs pay well.
5. Enchant your email subscribers, and inspire them to buy your novels
This is closely related to our first “freebies” tip.
Writing short stories and offering them as freebies initially to your email subscribers, or blog readers, keeps people engaged with you and your writing.
Visibility again. When you offer a short story a month (of 1,000 words or so), it’s a simple way to increase subscribers. Some will buy your novels.
6. Boost the sales of a series of novels
Here’s the thing with series. I’ve found that it takes around four novels in a series for that series to start making decent sales. Although it could just be the genres in which I write, I’ve heard the similar stories from other authors.
The more books in a series, if the series is worth reading, the more readers you’ll attract.
So when you’re starting a new series, commit to writing short stories and novellas between releases of novels. It helps.
7. Social media: get more traffic to your blog
Want more blog traffic? Post short stories.
8. Introduce a new pen name and launch a new novel
I like to use pen names for several reasons, the most important ones being reader expectations in a genre, and Amazon’s algorithms. Amazon’s algorithms are useful, but they can also be hugely irritating.
(This is a good reason not to ask your friends and family to buy your books. It messes with the algorithms, so your books never make the sales that they might do.)
So, whenever I want to introduce a pen name, I kick it off with several short stories a couple of months before the new novel’s release.
9. “All-rights” sales to your ghostwriting clients when you need quick cash
I’m not in favor of selling all your rights to anything, no matter who’s buying, whether the buyer is a ghostwriting client, or a huge publishing house.
Nevertheless, short stories sell, both to other authors for marketing and sales, as well as to ghostwriting clients. If you need a quick inflow of cash, selling a story or two can help you to pay the mortgage.
10. Ebooks on Amazon’s KDP Select (but you should write novels too)
I left this way to use short stories way down on the list deliberately, because I know that writers tend to focus on short-term, visible gains, and that’s a mistake.
Some authors still do well with short stories in the erotica and other genres, so by all means, write some stories and toss them into KDP Select. You never know, you might catch a wave of buyers.
It’s back: Story Power: Write and Sell Short Fiction — Short Stories, Serials, and Series
Story Power is for you if you want short story mastery.
It’s our most popular writing class, and it’s a lot of fun. Whether you’re a new author or are an experienced pro, this class will help.
As I point out:
In 2018, NOTHING is more important for authors than building readership. When Amazon lists 100,000 ebooks published in the past 30 days, that’s a lot of ebooks. Discoverability is essential. Short fiction helps your readers to find you.
Check out Story Power.
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.More info →
Today, the opportunities for writers have never been greater. Back in the day a writer who was making six-figures a year seemed a creature of myth. These days, highly successful writers are making six figures a month.More info →
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