I’m a big fan of short fiction. If you’re a new author, publishing short stories gives you a boost in confidence.
Myths about short fiction abound. “Readers won’t read short stories,” my students tell me.
Not so. Many readers love short material. Readers are willing to pay and invest 30 minutes in a story, but will baulk at investing hours in a novel by someone they don’t know.
New fiction author? Try writing short stories
If you want to write fiction, start with short stories. Here’s why:
- You’ll teach yourself to write. I wrote short stories for many years. They’re great practice for writing novels. So, even though I was unpublished, I quickly got a publishing contract on a book proposal. It’s extremely unusual for a new novelist to get a contract on a proposal; I’m certain my story-writing practice helped. Try it yourself;
- Stories are easy to expand into longer works: a novel, or a serial. Many famous novelists like Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse developed series’ characters from their short stories;
- Stories sell. Writers enroll them in Amazon’s KDP Select where they’re paid for the pages readers read. Then they can compile five or ten stories into a themed collection.
Consider these tips if you’d like to write short fiction.
1. Experiment: if a story sells, write more about those characters, or in that genre
Are you inclined to procrastination? Short fiction gets you into the habit of finishing what you start. Do readers respond? Wonderful: write more stories in a similar setting, or with the same characters.
2. Publish regularly. Amazon’s algorithm rewards it
“New” sells. Amazon gives new books a boost. Unfortunately, once your stories drop out of the New category, they sink. Readers are unlikely to find them, unless you publish new stories regularly.
3. Avoid obsessing over your covers, but edit carefully
Buying covers for several short stories a month can be expensive. Consider using Amazon’s free Cover Creator tool so you can focus on revision and editing, rather than cover images.
When you’re writing a novel, you can wander off on tangents; not so with a short story. In revision, think about your story question. (The point of your story.) Ideally, you’ll present the story question in first few hundred words. Once you’ve answered the question, the story is over.
4. Charge for your stories: it’s inexpensive entertainment
New authors question whether you can charge for a short story. Indeed you can. Moreover, you should.
Think about the price of a good cup of coffee. Your short story provides great entertainment your reader can enjoy; it lasts longer than a coffee too.
5. Stop flogging a dead horse: if something doesn’t sell, move on
Sometimes a story sells. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Look on short fiction as your own personal test lab. In my ghostwriting practice, when a client asks me to write in a particular genre, I test the waters with short fiction. If that sells, we’re good to go. No sales? I encourage the client to consider another genre, or another ghostwriter.
6. Collaborate with other authors to create themed collections
It’s a real challenge to get readers if you’re a new author.
Short stories help. Check out groups devoted to your genre. You’ll often find authors banding together to create a collection. Join in. You’ll find new readers. So will all the authors who’ve contributed to the collection.
7. Avoid Cinderella syndrome: keep writing and publishing
I’ve been guilty of waiting for my fairy godmother to show up and smack me with her wand too.
While it’s tempting to want to be “discovered”, that probably won’t happen. Keep writing and publishing. Not only will your writing improve with every story, you’ll build your readership too.
Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.