More and more authors seem to be embracing the publication of short stories, particularly now that the eBook generation allows for such a format to be released with minimal hassle.
Previously, it was practically impossible to have standalone short stories published, as most writers found recognition through magazine publications, and the like.
But, after a few years on the sidelines, the short story is very much alive and kicking. Here are four reasons why every author should consider writing short stories.
Short stories keep readers hooked between novels
I kind of view short stories much like I view singles and albums in the music industry – the short story acts as the single; a sample of some of your finest writing abilities. The novel, therefore, is the album release, where you incorporate all of your best elements to form a much broader representation of your writing.
Short stories are a great way to keep readers hooked between novels. I released Something in the Cellar as a way of thanking my readers for their support in the build up to the launch of What We Saw, and have another short planned for a September release. This way, I can deliver constant content to my readers, at a nice, low cost.
David Gaughran is another author who took the ‘short story first’ approach, and it seems to have worked convincingly for him.
Short stories and the eReader go hand in hand
In truth, the eReader was designed for short stories.
Just think of all the times you spend waiting throughout the day, whether it be stuck in traffic, or twiddling your thumbs as your food cooks. Sure – you could pull out your eReader and carry on with your latest novel, but you’ll probably have to cut yourself from its world the second your oven timer runs down.
With short stories, you can read some of them within the space of ten or fifteen minutes, making them the perfect time-killer. In the dentist’s waiting room? My sympathies. Whack out your Kindle and read a short story to get your mind off things!
If you can enter and exit a story world within the space of ten minutes, then you might just find yourself a little more engrossed, and that tooth pulling won’t seem such a big deal at all… perhaps.
Short stories are a perfect marketing guinea pig
I have a confession to make: whilst Something in the Cellar has received all the care and passion you’d expect from an author, I have used it as a bit of a marketing lab rat.
I’ve tinkered with the price a few times, and seen what works best. I have run giveaways, and a very successful free day. I have enrolled it in KDP Select, after experimenting with Smashwords.
The beauty of the short story is that you can kind of get away with it. Again, not taking anything away from the quality (of which I happen to be really quite proud of, in my own case), but the short is only a ‘minor’ release in the eyes of many readers.
So, mess around at your own will, and see what works for you. You have my permission.
The short story offers more creative freedom
My favourite thing about writing short stories is the sheer freedom they offer. Some people struggle to write in the confines of a few thousand words, but I really do love it.
You can explore individual characters in the sort of detail you’d never be able to in a novel. You can mess with conventions, and write well outside of your niche. I consider myself a literary/thriller writer, but my next short story will be well in the realms of science-fiction (tease!)
Don’t be afraid to reach outside of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself, and you’ll become a better writer for it.
J.M. Tresaugue recently wrote a very comprehensive list of reasons to write short stories, so if you’re interested after reading this piece, then his will certainly help you on your way.
What is your opinion on short stories, from an author or reader perspective? Do you enjoy the shorter form, or prefer to throw all of your attention into a novel?
I used to think short stories weren’t for me. I was more of 50K and up kind of gal. But recently I wrote my first one and loved it. Like you said, they’re perfect for publishing in between books. Readers love them, and they give you the chance to explore your characters and settings more deeply. Or write something new without such a big commitment.
Totally agree, Yesenia. I was initially a little apprehensive about publishing them because of this whole perceived ‘value’ issue with eBooks. But at the end of the day, I think I’ve settled on 79p/99c as a short story price point. Short stories do have an audience, and pricing them any lower just fits into this whole ‘let’s sell our work as cheaply as possible’ mindset that I’m not sure I’m comfortable with.
It’s always cool when you start writing a short and realise there is actually novel potential within. In that respect, they can be classified as a perfect brainstorming tool, too!
I’ve had a novel on the shelf for a decade–long enough that the details I set up long ago have gotten muddled. Writing short stories is allowing me to do some great world-building, and get back into the swing of it. I’d agree with your point that it’s a good marketing tactic too; I’m just getting into e-publishing, and am hoping that a collection of short stories will help get readers interested in my work.
I’d actually planned a post on my own blog about a similar topic; I hope you won’t mind if I link back to this page!
Thanks a lot for the comment! It’s good to hear that writing short stories works for you. A collection of short stories, whilst a little slow on the sales side of things at times, is a great way to capture new readers. I would highly recommend it!
And of course you can, that would be fantastic if you did. 🙂
Thanks again for the comment!
My first published work is a book of short stories and I love it. I really believe it’s my “thang.” Not only because of my short attention span, but because, like you said, it allows me to write outside of my “niche.” I’m working on my first novel, which I’ve been working on for a while now; however, I’ve managed to write three short stories in between (go figure). I’m going to continue chucking away at my novel until it’s done…but kinda dreading it along the way ~to be honest. 🙂
I agree about releasing short stories in the build up to a novel launch. My first release is a couple of shorts too, and I have another one due out soon. 🙂 Writing outside your niche is a lot of fun. It’s great being creative and really pushing ourselves, right? Good luck with the novel! Stay confident and believe in your work. 🙂
I, too, released a few short stories prior to turning my novel loose onto the public. The feedback from them is a good way to test the waters. For some reason I’ve never enjoyed writing them, though, and still find it harder than working on a novel-length manuscript. I think it’s because I’m a panster, and the condensed stories force you to wrap things up in a short time. There’s less soak time. Less time for me, the writer, to get to know my characters.
Regardless, I do recommend it, because it can help build anticipation for your upcoming novel. It also helps to know you can actually finish a story, and not edit/rewrite yourself into an endless circle.
Short stories really do seem like a great way to test the water, don’t they? I think what a lot of people forget is that there is a market for them, and plenty of people would rather just dip in and out of a world in less than an hour.
I know what you mean regarding struggling to write them, though. Sometimes, I feel the ideas could be fleshed out to full-length works, but I guess that option always is there. It is a great confidence booster though, like you say!
I’m glad yr tweet was retweeted so I could read yr article. I love to write and I find myself with too many ideas. Short stories are a great way to get some of those ideas out. Currently I’m rewriting my novel and working on some short story ideas on the side. -Lance @lanceliot
Thanks for the comment Lance! Glad to hear you enjoyed the piece. Short stories are a fantastic way to get all of those ideas down. Realistically, a writer probably only writes 5% of the ideas (probably less) in novel form, so it’s a good way to keep the brain fresh. Good luck with the novel and short story launch! Keep in touch.
One of the things I like most about short stories is the potential to be a sort of serialized story. Not necessarily a once a month cliffhanger kind of deal, but a series of stories that all interconnect somehow.
Having dozens of ideas for quick stories can be a great way to build something like this. Even if they’re not featuring the same themes or characters, you can build a cohesive “world,” and develop your voice. I think it’s especially helpful if you have more ideas than you know what to do with, because, at the very least, you’re getting them on the page.
That sounds a great idea, Tobias. I’ve considered short stories as a way of expanding the world of my novel ideas in the past, so it’s definitely an area to pursue.
It could help to throw out a free short story to accompany your novel as a way of treating your email subscribers, or something like that?
That’s part of the plan, certainly! I’ll have a collection up including one story that I intend to offer separately for free as a ‘teaser.’ Hopefully soon!