Sunday, July 10, 2011

Going Short

Have you looked at the top selling books on Amazon's romance list lately? Have you noticed the price point on most of them? Uh huh. Anywhere from free to a buck or two. The cheaper something is, the more it sells. When people talk trending in publishing, this topic is sure to come up. In fact, it came up today at my local RWA meeting and it came up on one of my publishers' loops this past week. Short stories, free or low cost, are selling in the thousands and putting author names at the top of best selling digital book lists.

Now, how does one reconcile the buyer's market for short stories against the review sites constant clamor for longer works? Well, you don't. A good author will learn to do both because both are needed.

Longer works are what most publishers want from an author and what sells to agents. They have a higher price point, often based on word count, and they can make an author a lot of money if sales are good. On the other hand, short stories sell quickly and in huge numbers. Short stories, if done right, showcase an author's talent and voice and can be an amazing promotion tool.

When I first decided to work toward becoming published back in 2008, author Mary Winter mentored me and gave me some good advice about writing short stories. She reminded me that within the short word count that I'd given myself, I needed to introduce two characters, get them together, and then end the story in a satisfying manner. All without passive voice, head hopping and too much backstory. It sounds easy, but the reality is that it's a tall order that many writers and published authors fail to fill.

I had a serious wake up call myself with regard to short stories. I have a pair of shorts at Freya's Bower. They are companion stories about twin werewolves. The story of the Beta brother is called Runaways. In it, the Beta meets his mate on a train traveling from Prague to Paris. (Yes, it's a "road trip" story!) This story has sold really well at 1.99. However, it's sales cannot compare with Mating, the story of the Alpha brother.

In Mating, the Alpha brother is concerned about his brother's swift mating so he hires an investigator to check up on the couple. The owner of the investigation agency turns out to be his mate. Mating won a contest and the story is so tight and so darned near perfectly in balance that it's easily sold three or four times what Runaways has sold.

When I wrote Runaways, I thought to enter it in the contest but my beta readers each had some issues with it so I set it aside and wrote Mating which they both loved. Later, I went back to Runaways and fixed it and sent it to the publisher. My editor loved them both, but the buying public has spoken. Mating is by far the better of the two stories.

Mating has a swift opening where the hero and heroine meet for the first time. Both are instantly, in the way of paranormal mates, attracted to one another very strongly. Sex happens pretty much right away. For the hero, it's giving in to his sexual attraction in the way that many men do. The heroine has reservations, because she knows this man is her mate and that he's oblivious to that fact. But she lets her attraction rule and they fall into bed right after meeting. The story fast forwards a week showing both the hero and heroine's concerns about the nature of their relationship. In the end, the heroine's pain that what they have is over because the hero has no idea they are mates is what triggers his awareness of her importance to him. Only then does he understand why he'd felt so reluctant to leave her and they achieve their HEA.

Erotic paranormals are a perfect vehicle for short stories. You can explain the instant attraction and instant action on that attraction to mating science. Friends to lovers and second chances at love also lend themselves well to short stories. If you don't have a good reason for two people to fall into bed together right away, you end up with characters that readers feel are slutty and they then assume your work is erotica rather than erotic romance despite the presence of a HEA.

Because of the popularity of short stories these days and because fans of the Tales of the Darkworld clamored for more about their favorite heroes and heroines in the series, I came up with Five Dark Realms Encounters. Encounters are short stories that feature characters from the Tales series. These characters might be the main characters from one of the books or they could be secondary characters. Either way, readers are given another look at these characters, a sexy second look that features them in a single sexual encounter. Each story is hot and heavy and best of all, short and inexpensive. They're perfect for reading at the doctor's office or on a lunch break. And best of all they are a great companion to the Tales series while doing double duty as a promotional tool. Encounters may reach readers who have never read me before. If they like what they read, they might go in search of the Tales series.

Short stories can be perfect springboards for books that give readers more of the characters and worlds you create. If executed properly, you should not only sell lots of the shorts but you should see an increase in sales of your related backlist books. For an author, that really is the best of both worlds.

Mating and Runaways are available at Freya's Bower, Fictionwise, and All Romance eBooks.

Encounters: Blood Play is available at Pink Petal Books.

The Tales of the Darkworld books are available at Pink Petal Books, Amazon, and All Romance eBooks.


  1. Interesting post, Lex. I enjoyed and learned also. :)

  2. Great post, Lex. Short stories are so not my forte. The idea factory in my head just doesn't think in short form. But the idea that I could write something short about a different period in the lives of my novel characters--backstories, side stories, or even events after the novels HEA--that's exciting. And that they become a promotional tool is better still.

    The mind boggles with possibilities.

  3. Good job on your post, Lex. One thing that wasn't stressed much was price! I personally think the publishers are charing WAY TOO MUCH for the electronic versions of the print books. I have several friends in the $2.99 range and people are willing to buy a newer author in that range.

  4. Lisa - Thanks for coming by!

    Suzie - I wouldn't have thought of it if fans hadn't asked for more of a particular couple. It does give an author to extend the love affair between the reader and a given book though.

    Darcy - I agree. $7.99 for an ebook seems nuts to me especially in the case of Adobe's Secure eBooks whose DRM is so awful that if you lost your hard drive on your computer or broke your ebook, you'd have to buy the book again. Not to mention the fact that Adobe Digital Editions software never seems to work right.

  5. Hi, Lex. You've made some great points in favor of writing short. I've wanted to try my hand at it. I'm inspired to try it for my next project. :) Thanks!