Friday, February 1, 2013

101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing -- 003: Write Short Stories

I do have to admit that this "thought" is somewhat self-serving. You see, I love short stories. I love writing them, I love reading them. And I think that while a lot of writers may dabble in them (don't most of us start off with short stories, after all?) they know that what the reading public wants is novel-length fiction.

Up until recently, it looked like the short story was slowly fading from public awareness. No, I don't mean people would forget they ever existed, but when one thought about "reading," one would immediately think about a novel. I understand. Readers like to get caught up in a story, in a world that the author has created. When you've become emotionally tied to a character, you want to be with that character as long as possible. This is why series are so popular.

But there are things you can do with short stories that you cannot (or would not) do with novels. You can be highly experimental, for one. You can take risks knowing that if it doesn't work, the time lost is measured in hours, not in weeks or months. It is also a good way to develop your skills. Writing short stories allows you to write many more different characters and situations than you would if you only wrote novels; you can explore personalities, environments and occurrences. You can dabble in genres that are outside of your comfort zone.

Now, this is all from a writer's perspective. But what about from an economic/publishing perspective? ePublishing has made selling short stories much easier than it was in the past. Even if you were self-published, they are too short to justify the expense of releasing them in print. You'd have to gather a dozen of them together to put out a collection. With that much work, many writers would rather put out a novel, which would most likely be a better seller. And if you didn't self-publish, you had to submit them to fiction magazines, most of which are highly competitive. But now with eBooks, the print costs are completely optional. You can get your short stories out to the public instantly and release them as stand-alone eBooks, as you write them. Just browse Amazon and you will see many short stories, novelettes and novellas being offered up for sale. For one who loves shorter-form fiction (me), this is truly a bonanza.

As a writer, you can use short stories to introduce yourself to the public. I began my career by publishing short stories, and I think it did me a lot of good. "Who the hell is this guy?" people would ask. "I don't know if I want to spend the time and money on a novel from a nobody." They'd scroll through my titles, scowling. "Wait a second," they'd say. "Here is a short story. Ninety-nine cents? I guess I can do that." Twenty minutes later: "That was the greatest thing I've ever read! I'm going to buy all his books and tell all my friends!"

Well, maybe it doesn't happen quite like that, but you get the idea. Just as short stories let you take risks as a writer, they let readers take a risk on you. There is also the idea that the more eBooks you have available, the more channels there are for readers to find you. Half a dozen short stories in addition to your novels will give you a much larger presence in online stores like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. From there, it's very easy for readers to find your other books. It's all about exposure, and despite what that cop in Provo told me, exposure is a good thing. Yes, I know I used that joke before, but it's hilarious, so you're getting it again.

Until Next Time!
Michael K. Rose

P.S.: If you're enjoying the series so far and would like a single page to bookmark, I'll be adding each of my 101 Thoughts on Self-Publishing here

You might also be interested in my eBook, Building a Promotional Package: How to Prepare for Your Successful Book Launch. Details about it can be found here.

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