Recently, however, an author whose fantasy novel I had edited decided to write companion short stories to give her readers some background on the main characters in her published book. The shorts, which range from 30 to 40 pages in length, will be made available to readers who want to know a bit of the back story that led up to the moment where the book started. It was an interesting idea to me, and I found myself quite taken with the history and events that shaped her characters into the beings that populated her novel.
The more I read, the more I saw the value in these peeks into a character’s past—particularly in the case of life forms from alien worlds. Having said that, I believe such pieces could also be great marketing tools for books in a variety of genres. Those who might never choose our work in an online or brick-and-mortar store might well be intrigued enough to buy it by reading a compelling short that hooked them into wanting to know what happened next. But is such an e-format-only deviation from our typical novel writing a shot in the dark?
British author Lee Child, who is published by Delacorte Press (part of Random House), wrote such a short about the teenage years of his enduring Jack Reacher character. Now he is planning a second short in response to his publisher’s urging. To learn more about this and other marketing strategies being employed in the increasingly competitive book sales market, you can read a very informative New York Times article. See also Amazon.com for an example of what another writer did.
The world of book sales is changing dramatically. Old strategies no longer produce the desired results, and new ones challenge us to think outside that proverbial box. Creating short stories (which might cost 99¢) to captivate potential readers sufficiently to sell our more expensive long ones adds another element to book writing (as if we don’t have enough to do already). However, we’re not starting from scratch. We know our characters and plot very well, so the “development” process has been completed. Also, we typically will be focusing on one character and one point of view. In other words, a complex novel with multiple POVs can be promoted by a simple, single-POV prequel.
Hmmm. It’s an intriguing idea, don’t you think?
Linda Lane focuses on teaching writers to write well, a skill that will enhance a lifelong writing career. Read about her professional team and her work at www.denvereditor.com.