How to use short stories to promote a novel

beyond.jpgI read and enjoyed Deborah’s review of Rayne Hall’s Deep Point of View in October, and when I discovered Hall’s entire series was in Kindle Unlimited I gave several a try. My favorite was Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels, which charged me up to put together a free anthology of paranormal short stories and novellas with some friends. (I hope you’ll check it out — I’m really proud of it. And did I mention it’s FREE?)

Ahem, back to the point. I know everyone’s time is limited, so I wrote up a quick cheat sheet based on Hall’s excellent book. I hope this helps make your own short story attempt a success!

Goal: Your promotional short story needs to represent your novel and brand. So it should:

  • Be in the same genre and subgenre. (My example: Urban fantasy with paranormal romance crossover)
  • Contain many of the same motifs (My example: shifters, spunky heroines, first person POV, romance with low steam level but moderate sexual tension, focus on intrigue/politics/world-building, action and suspense, outsiders finding their place in the world)
  • Elicit the same mood (My example: page-turning, light, romantic, character-driven, action-packed)
  • Appeal to your average reader (My example: forty year old housewife who yearns for adventure and romance)
  • Be set in the same world (My example: modern USA…with werewolves)

Characters:

  • There should be one main character and no more than four side characters. Two side characters is optimal — one who’s pulling the character toward what she should do and one who’s pulling the character toward what she shouldn’t do.
  • Good main characters are your novel’s protagonist (if the story is a prequel) or a side character. Side characters are especially handy for those of you writing straight romance since many readers won’t want to see your novel’s romantic lead in an earlier relationship.
  • Use the same motivation checklist you’d use when writing a novel: Who is she? What does she want? Why? What’s at stake? Is there a ticking clock to ratchet up the tension? What obstacles stand in her way?

Setting:

  • Should match your novel as closely as possible
  • Look for a single location, especially a “closed room” where the characters can’t leave
  • Good settings are unique and atmospheric, matching the mood of the novel

51uBNuIKMfL._UY250_Structure (for a 3,000 word short story):

  • Beginning — This should clearly state the protagonist’s problem
  • First plot event — Something happens, not just the protagonist being lonely or sad
  • Second plot event — Ditto
  • Dilemma, danger, or sacrifice
  • Conclusion — Does she get what she wants…or what she needs?

If you get stuck and need to be walked through the process in a workshop manner, I definitely recommend Rayne Hall’s book, from which I drew this information. It’s 99 cents, or free with Kindle Unlimited. And don’t forget to check out your free copy of Beyond Secret Worlds to see how we took this idea and ran with it. I’m looking forward to seeing your own experiments here soon.

17 thoughts on “How to use short stories to promote a novel

  1. Fabulous post, Aimee! So much info. I am interested, even though I really don’t want to write short stories. Still, it would be a good exercise. And who knows? Tomorrow I might wake up WANTING to write one. And I will most definitely be heading right over to get your anthology. (Great cover, btw!!) Congratulations on yet another feather in your cap!! Hope it goes like gangbusters and draws more readers into your series!

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      • Haha. I’m just the opposite. I LOVE reading them, and have an entire library shelf devoted totally to anthologies. But the stories in my head are just too long for one (so far). Or else, I’m just too wordy (also so far) to try one. But I like reading this style of writing advice, and I plan to get several of Hall’s books, myself. I’m printing this out in the meantime. 🙂

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        • I write really sparse, so it’s not hard for me to keep the word count down. That said, one of my recent short stories turned into a five part serial that’s going to end up clocking in at short novel length. So there is that danger. 🙂

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  2. Glad you found Raine’s books – they are great, aren’t they? I just contributed a short case study to her latest, which I don’t think is quite out yet (Getting Book Reviews).
    Neat, summary, thanks for sharing this one. I wrote my first shorts this year, both for anthologies, and consider them very useful as loss-leaders for my books. I’m not a reader of short stories, but I discovered I like writing them.
    BTW, I checked out your lovely anthology, but free it currently isn’t – you might want to take a look.

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  3. Lovely post, I do love Rayne’s books, they are full of really useful info. Good luck with the book, using it to help promote a longer book is an putting it to very good use. Like the book cover too.

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