Eat My Shorts

by Benjamin Wallace Professional Author

SHORT-STAY-OPI love the short story.

Always have.

The Most Dangerous Game, Lenigan vs. the Ants, The Monkey’s Paw, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, nearly everything in the Illustrated Man; these were some of my first favorite stories. They didn’t have to be long to make their impact felt.

May is Short Story Month so it’s a good time to talk about why the short story is more relevant than it has been in years, and why you should consider writing one.

They’re Short

Sometimes you have an idea that makes your brain itch that you just have to tell. You try and try to turn it into a book but when you’re honest with yourself there is just not enough there. The Short Story is a great way to get that idea out of your head so it will leave you alone. It can be any length and it can still be a great story.

They’re Quick

If you’re looking to get a deeper backlist the Short Story can certainly help. As part of a dare from another author I wrote and published a story to Amazon in under six hours. And you know what? I really liked it. And so did others. Some readers have asked me to turn the concept of home buying in alternate dimensions into a novel. And it just might happen.

It’s Not Asking a Lot

Getting a stranger to read your book is asking them to commit several hours to an unknown product. Ask them to read a short story over their lunch break and you’re not asking quite as much.

They’re Great Promo Tools

This also makes short stories the ideal promotional tool. They make for a great giveaway or freebie. And if you write the story as a prelude to a longer work, it’s a nice invitation for them to continue with the story.

They’re Versatile

Trying to reach more readers? You can tailor the Short Story to a different demo entirely to gain the “introduction.” I wanted to reach more women readers so I wrote a series of short stories called Dumb White Husband. Scoff all you want, it worked. It also helped spread my books out into more genres.

They’re Just Fun

In my mind the Short Story works like a sketch on Saturday Night Live. It’s there for a few big laughs and then it’s over and done. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. With a Short Story, the stakes aren’t as high as a sequel or another book in a series. So play around, experiment and have fun with it.

BenWallaceBenjamin Wallace is the professional author of several best-selling titles including Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors, The Bulletproof Adventures of Damian Stockwell and the Dumb White Husband. If you sign up for his Readers’ Group now you’ll get three free books. Visit his website, follow @BenMWallace on Twitter, and pester him on Facebook.

Readers, have you written a short? What was your experience? Leave a comment and share!

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11 Responses to Eat My Shorts

  1. Kendra May 19, 2015 at 2:55 am #

    Hi Benjamin and Molly, Thank you for the thought provoking post. Until very recently I hadn’t thought about the potential benefits of giving away a short story to promote a longer work. Also, I was completely unaware that you can publish short stories direct to Amazon. So thank you for those tips!
    I have two thoughts on this. The first is, if a short story (or other written material) is posted to an author’s website or given away via their newsletter etc and then later they want to sell it or publish elsewhere, would they still be able to do that? I’m thinking it would be on the author’s own website, so therefore is still their property. But then again, it would have been published online. The other thought I have is that, even though a short story may have fewer words than a novel, and require less investment from a reader, it still must be well crafted to be considered worthwhile!

    • Benjamin Wallace May 19, 2015 at 6:37 am #

      Hi Kendra,

      First. Until you sign away the rights, you can do anything you want with the story. Posting it on your website would not stop you from selling it later.

      Second. Yeah, it can’t suck. Don’t ever write anything that sucks. That’s your name on it and you don’t want it to be associated with things that suck.

  2. Sue Coletta May 19, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    You know, you’re the third person who’s made excellent points about short story writing. Normally they’re not my thing, but I may be doing myself a disservice. Won’t be this month because I’m finishing a new novel, but maybe next month I’ll give it another whirl. Thanks for making a valid argument, Ben! Hi Molly!

    • Ben Wallace May 19, 2015 at 9:15 am #

      I know they can feel like a waste of time, but one thing I’ve done is pull those characters into longer books so there’s a connection.
      In How to Host an Intervention a group of friends confront their friend about his being a prepper. (Their issue is he’s prepping for the collapse of the time stream). I ended up using him as a big character in Knight of the Apocalypse.

      They happen at different time periods but the short story really became a bit of backstory and enriches the fictional world.

      • Molly Greene May 19, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

        Good points, Ben, and Sue, I just finished a novel with an emotional ending and didn’t want to dilute the emotion with a lot of explanation. Some people won’t need the explanation, but for those who do, think I’ll write a short story that includes all that stuff – sort of an epilogue – and offer it as a giveaway for email signups. I’ll probably need to set up a new list just for readers of that novel, and have the link to the story as an auto-responder. Just food for thought!

        • Sue Coletta May 19, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

          Little tip I just learned: in the back of your novel put a link to that short story. Most will buy that too. Good luck! BTW, totally agree with you about not explaining every little detail. Most readers are smart enough to make the connection.

      • Sue Coletta May 19, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

        Now that’s a great way to use a short story. Especially for those who don’t want to wait for book two, if it’s a series.

  3. Lisa Maggiore May 25, 2015 at 5:01 am #

    Sorry I’m a little late to the reply party! I love this post, thank you Molly and Ben. I have also been following Nick Stephenson and am learning a lot about reader magnets (free shorts) = FANS! I plan on putting into action what Nick and Ben are talking about. I have an adult novel that is still in edits but that gives me time to write a short story about a pivotal scene from the book but from a different pov. I will market this as free to funnel readers to sign up for my newsletter and for hopeful purchase of my book. I’ll keep you posted and thanks again, Molly, for the post!

    • Molly Greene May 25, 2015 at 7:02 am #

      Great idea, Lisa, and thanks so much for sharing. I think it’s hugely valuable for all of us to hear what others are doing to spark book sales and increase email subscribers, and you’ve given us more to consider!

    • Ben Wallace May 25, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

      Thanks Lisa.

      I’m drinking Nick and Mark’s Kool Aid as well. I haven’ tried using a short as a magnet yet only novels. But I don’t see why that won’t work.