Before I get to the main point of this post, I thought I’d share a fun story. I think most of you have seen me post about Courtney Cole on the blog or talk about her on Twitter. It’s no secret that she’s my crit partner (and author of Every Last Kiss, a time travel story with a cool twist. It’s only $.99. You should do yourself a favor and check it out, it has amazing reviews). But I’m not sure anyone knows how we know each other.
Back in early February I posted an ad on Natalie Whipple’s blog looking for a crit partner or two. I had a few responses and we exchanged pleasantries, but things didn’t work out for one reason or another. But I started talking to this crazy girl, Court. We hit it off right away and I knew that we were destined to be friends. (editor’s note: Courtney is not actually crazy.)
We exchanged a bunch of emails (that hasn’t changed, I think our daily email average is around 12 and that doesn’t include texts) and during the small talk I mentioned I was from a tiny town in Kansas. “No way”, she said, “I’m from a tiny town in Kansas too! Where is it?”
I assured her that there’s no way she’s ever heard of it. It’s got a population of like 30 people, but I told her the name of the town and she responded, “No way!!!!!!!! I’m from there too!!!!!!” At this point I was confused because I couldn’t place the name so my first thought was that she was probably like 60 years old or something, LOL! (editor’s note: Courtney is not actually 60.)
Well, as it happened she *was* a couple of years older and married now, durr. We compared people we knew and it turned out that I was in class with her younger sister and she was in classes with my older cousin and the girl who used to live in my house before we moved there. We marveled over the odds of the two of us coming from a tiny town like that and becoming writers who just happened to find each other randomly on the internet and further happened to write the same genre. If ever there was a friendship meant to be, this is it.
I was thinking about that this morning when I had the idea to blog about short stories being awesome promotional tools. She’s been organizing a short story anthology between us and a few other YA paranormal writers. When she brought up the idea, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Let me tell you why.
1) Short stories are a relatively short time commitment. You can write several in the amount of time it takes to write a full novel.
2) They are really handy to have around. Once you’ve written a short story or two you can use them for all kinds of things. They pad your backlist numbers, can be included in an anthology with other authors, or given away for free.
I’m actually thinking that I’d like to have a short story I’m working on right now printed up into mini booklets that I can sign and give away free at promotional events. It’s a collectible and it serves a real use as an introduction to my writing. I’m also thinking that when I release the Witches of Desire trilogy as an omnibus, I might throw in a couple of unpublished short stories set in that world to sweeten the pot a little bit.
3) Putting a short story into an anthology with other authors is a fantastic way to gain new readers. People who love Courtney will buy our anthology for her story and might decide they liked mine enough to give I Wish… a try. And, of course, the same for my fans finding her. We both win and so do the readers.
4a) You can explore different aspects of the world and characters that there’s no room for in the novels. I have plans to delve into the back stories of a few non-Thistle characters soon and I think that my universe will only be stronger for that.
4b) You can share all that awesome world building without an info dump in your novels. This is actually a lot like the last one. Serious world builders know what I’m talking about though. I have spent hours making up rules about the magic my characters use and how their politics work. And I got to share maybe a quarter of that. Sharing any more was running the risk of slowing down the story to molasses. So you bet I’m going to jump on any chance to write more about that.
5) It’s such an unintimidating way for a new reader to connect with you. Short stories are generally priced really cheap and the word count is really small. It’s maybe an hour or two of commitment at most. Most people will give you that much time, especially if the story is free or tucked in an anthology.
So here’s what I suggest.
Write short stories. Write lots of them. Publish them on their own and gather them into collections and sell them that way too. Submit to every anthology you come across (provided you think you’ll be a good fit).
Start your own anthologies. Find a friend or ten that write in a similar genre as you do, pick a theme and a word count and write for that. You don’t even have to do any extra promotion. Every time a reader buys that book, they are being exposed to all the other authors and people WILL buy it if you write about your popular series.
See, that’s the real key to success, I think. I’d strongly recommend having the stories you write tie in with a series you already write. They might like your story no matter what you write about, but it won’t drive them to your series the way it would if they loved your short story about one of the characters.
Do you have any tips to add? Any success stories about how short stories helped your sales? Please share with us!