January 6, 2013

Guest Post: Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novel

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Historical Tales Vol 1, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic and more. 
Her short online classes for writers intense with plenty of personal feedback. Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing about Magic and Magicians, The Word Loss Diet and more. 
For more information about Rayne Hall go to her website.
Short stories are excellent promotional tools. You can offer free stories to attract new readers. If they like the short, they’ll be hooked and look for more by the same author. Make the story free, and charge for the novel.
What Kind of Story?
The story must appeal to the same readers as the novel. Don’t write children’s stories if you want to promote adult novels. Make the story as similar to the novel as you can. Here are some ideas:
* Same genre. This is important. Paranormal stories promote paranormal novels; horror stories promote horror novels; chicklit stories promote chicklit novels.
* Same mood. If the novel is funny, the story has to be funny too. If the novel is scary, gritty, thought-provoking, tear-jerking or sexy, then the story has to be scary, gritty, thought-provoking, tear-jerking or sexy.
* Same location. Are your novels set in South Carolina or in Hong Kong? Choose the same setting for the story.
* Same period. To promote contemporary novels, you need contemporary stories. If you write historicals, using the same period cuts down on research and has the greatest promotional effect.
* Same characters. Involving the heroine and hero in another story can bring problems, but minor characters are a safe choice. Consider promoting members of the novels’ supporting cast to a starring role in the story.

How to Plot the Story
If you’re new to writing short stories, here are some quick guidelines.
* Keep the story short. 750 – 5,000 words is ideal.
* Give the main character a goal, something they desperately want to achieve. Then give them obstacles they must overcome to reach their goal. The story ends when they have (or haven’t) achieved that goal. The more urgent and important the goal, the more exciting the story.
* Use few characters. Three to five are enough.
* Unlike a novel, a story doesn’t stretch over a long time. Ideally, everything happens in one day, or even in a single hour.
Of course, all the other guidelines for good fiction also apply.
How to Publish Your Free Story
* Upload it on your website, to give your visitors interesting content.
* Upload it on someone else’s website, to give their visitors interesting content, and to reach new readers who hadn’t heard of you before.
* Publish it as a free e-book, to attract new readers – the type who wouldn’t spend money on a book by an author they don’t know, but are keen to try new things if they don’t cost anything. If these readers like your free story, they’ll trust that your novel is worth money. (Note: making an e-book free at Amazon requires some jiggling).
* Submit it to magazine or e-zine, if possible one specialising in your genre. Some zines even pay for the use of stories. However, most editors are inundated with submissions, and you may get many rejections before you get an acceptance.
* Submit it to an anthology (a themed collection of short stories by different authors). Anthologies are even better than zines, because they have a longer shelf-life. An e-anthology will be available forever, and a print anthology will continue to circulate in second-hand bookstores. If you place your story in an anthology, it will continue to promote your writing for years. Genre fans love anthologies. They know that a book filled with stories in their favourite genre will contain at least some gems they’ll enjoy. Most anthology readers pick a favourite story or two, and look for more fiction by those authors. The drawback is that most anthology editors are inundated with submissions.
* Use the story as a giveaway. When you give author interviews or write guest blogs, the hosts may ask you to give a prize to a prize draw, or give away free copies of your book, or something like that. This stimulates interest. However, it’s an old marketing adage never to give away the product you want to sell. If you write a guest blog promoting your book, and offer to give away four free copies, then none of the blog readers may buy the book. If they’re interested, they’ll enter the prize draw, and hope to win it for free. By the time the winner is announced, they’ve already forgotten about your book and bought something else.
Consider promoting your book – and giving away free copies of your short story. This way, you get the benefits without the drawbacks.
* Donate it as a competition prize. There are lots of contests for all kinds of things, always looking for donations of prizes. You may want to favour contests which raise funds for charities, so you’re doing a good deed which doesn’t cost you anything. The best contests are the ones which target your typical reader. For example, a horse-painting contest for teenagers is perfect if your write YA fiction with horse-riding heroines.
* Upload it as free reading at Wattpad. People who like the free story may become fans who buy your books. Wattpad has can give your story exposure to a huge potential audience, and works especially well for YA and Paranormal Romance.
* Upload it at various other sites.
Think about the Rights
When you allow someone to publish your story, you need to know which rights they claim.
Non-exclusive rights”: This means they may publish the story only in this book or on this website. You own all rights and can publish the story elsewhere. This is ideal for promotional stories.
Exclusive rights for a certain period”: This means you can’t publish the story for a year or whatever that period is. This is often the case with magazines and e-zines. If the magazine has many readers, or if the readers are your target audience, it’s worth it.
First serial rights”: This is tricky. It means the publisher wants to be the first. It’s the story’s virginity: you can give it away only once. Some prestigious magazines demand first serial rights. It can be worth it because it gives your story first-class exposure. The editors will probably pay for the story, too. The problem is that this type of magazine has a long response time. You may have to wait for a year before you hear from them, and in the meantime, you can’t use the story anywhere else.
Exclusive rights” or “All rights”: Caution! This means you will never be able to publish the story anywhere else, ever. This is seldom a good idea. Agree to this only if it’s a very prestigious publication and if they offer you a lot of money.
Plan Your Strategy
You can combine several of these actions, but some exclude others.
For example, if you make your book available free on your website, you can’t offer it as a prize or giveaway.
If you submit it to an anthology which demands exclusive rights, you can’t also publish it in a magazine, at Wattpad, or on your website.
When planning your strategy, consider this as your guideline:
How do I get this story read by as many people as possible who are my target audience?”
You may be able to do a lot of things with your story, as long as you do it in the right order.
Here’s the most effective strategy
You may be lucky and a prestigious genre magazine publishes it on a “First rights, exclusive for a certain period” basis. Once that period is over, you get it published in other magazines and anthologies on a non-exclusive basis. At the same time, you offer it as a giveaway for guest blogs, prize draws, and contests. Let a few more months pass, then upload it as free content on your own website, as well as on friends’ websites and Wattpad.
However, this strategy requires luck: Your chance of getting a story accepted by a prestigious magazine may be as small as one in ten thousand. Even the more modest publications are taking months to respond and accept only one in a hundred or one in a thousand. It also requires patience: Some magazines and e-zines keep you waiting for months before they give you a decision. Since most refuse simultaneous submissions, you can only submit to one at a time, which may force you to wait for a decade before the story is published – and in that time, the story could earn its keep in other ways.
Here’s the easiest strategy:
Upload the story at once on your website, at Smashwords, at Wattpad etc, without bothering with magazines, e-zines, anthologies or giveaways. This puts the story to work immediately.
But it limits what you can do with it. Once the story is published, it has lost its virginity and you can never submit it to a “first rights” market, and if it’s free, people won’t value it as a giveaway or contest prize.

Tara Maya

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