Building an Email List: The Value of a Short Story

Short Stories

The Value of Short Stories

For anyone embarking on self-publishing, one of the key things to develop is an email list. There are numerous websites giving advice on how to do this, and in theory they all sound very reasonable. There’s just one problem:

Content Marketing

The vast majority of people who are successful at list building have some sort of freebie or giveaway to entice readers to part with their email address. This may be a ‘How to’ cheat sheet, a leaflet, a short book or even a webinar or podcast. The majority of the time, however, these giveaways are associated with either non-fiction books or further training in the area of interest.

How Does it Work for Fiction?

There are a number of gurus who advise using your first book as a free giveaway to draw people into the rest of your books. While there is logic to this, if you only have one book, or if the book has taken a lot of time / has a word count above about 50,000 words, the chances are you probably don’t want to just ‘Give it away’. Not on a permanent basis anyway.

What Else Could you Give?

Several weeks ago, I joined a webinar (after handing over my email address!) and listened to yet more tricks that can be used to build the list. I was intrigued enough to want to know more and so I emailed the company and asked if you had to have a giveaway before you could sign up for their services (it is a paid service, not free).

The answer I got was this:

If you can crank out a fast short that leads up to book 1 I think this could really help you get going sooner rather than later.

‘Crank out a fast short’! At first I was irritated. It has taken me the best part of six years, and over 300,000 words, to produce the trilogy I now have. “Cranking out’ a short story made it sound as if I was working on a production line. It certainly doesn’t suggest quality and doesn’t sound like the sort of work authors should be producing to promote subsequent works.

When I calmed down and thought about it, however, I realised that I did have a short story in me.

Developing a Short Story from Deleted Scenes

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post about the role of Prologues in books. Book 1 of my trilogy currently has a prologue and at the time I was questioning whether I should keep it.

As it happens, Book 1 has recently come back from an editor and (probably in common with many other writers) there are bits of the story she suggested deleting as they were too much of a backstory ‘dump’. By coincidence, however, the backstory relates directly to the time of the prologue.  Could this text be used to make a standalone short story?

I started experimenting with the information I had and after some additional writing and a lot of revising I think I  have solved all three of my problems in one fell swoop:

  1. The prologue from Book 1 can be deleted without worrying about losing the information
  2. By working the deleted scenes from Book 1 into the prologue it has created a short story
  3. I will (soon) have a free short story to give to people who sign up to my email list

The draft of the short story runs to just over 6,000 words. Because a lot of the research and preparation had already been done, it didn’t take as much effort to produce as I expected. Writing it as a story in its own right has had the added benefit of bringing the story to life and revealed a lot more depth to information I thought I knew already. I now have to have to change parts of Book 1 to fit with the new angle I have taken … but I’m currently editing it anyway and these things happen. It should be worth it.

Once you are happy with your new work it still needs professionally editing. It also needs a good cover with a compelling title. It may only be a short story, but if you want to use it as an advertisement for your future work you can’t afford to be careless. If you neglect these points it could lose you more readers than it attracts.

Have you produced a short story to use as Content Marketing for your fiction work? What inspired you? Please let me know, I’d love to hear your experiences.

If you want to know more about The Ambition & Destiny Trilogy, or receive my monthly newsletter, visit my website here.

Anyone already signed up, will automatically receive their free copy of the short story when it becomes available 🙂

 

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About Val McBeath

Born and raised in Liverpool (UK), I live in Cheshire with husband, youngest daughter, and cat. In addition to family history, interests include rock music and Liverpool Football Club. Prior to writing, I trained as a scientist and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years. In 2012, I set up my own consultancy business and now split my time between business and writing.
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