Using Short Stories to Promote Your Novels


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.

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.


* 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 eBook, 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.

When submitting the story to other people for publication, check what rights they require. Some want “first rights” (that is, they want to be the first to publish it), and some want “all rights” (that means, you can’t publish it anywhere else).


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