There are lots and lots of people who buy and read mainly stand alone short stories. Probably because of the speed of life these days. This came as a big surprise to me when I published my first one. There are short story connoisseurs who follow authors who only publish short, and are considered masters of the art. I thought it was a cop out to be honest – a way of publishing something a lot easier than a novel length book, because I thought that anyone can bang out a short story. There’s an art to creating a good short though, so that’s not entirely true. I’ve always enjoyed reading them and have piles of anthologies and singles on my Kindle, written by authors from debuts to Stephen King. A short story must still be a complete tale, with good flow, plot, structure and ending. In some ways getting a great short written can be more of a challenge than when you have much more space and time when writing fifty thousand words or so.
I have quite a few lurking on my computer waiting for polishing and publishing, and for me personally, because there’s so much less time invested in them than my longer books, I allow myself to play with the way I write them. The story I wrote for the Save the Rhino anthology, Nkoninkoni, inspired me to write a whole lot of short tales of Africa and its legends. Other stories I’ve started with the purpose of trying to write in different styles and genres, and then just follow where they choose to go. Writing a bad short story is going to be less heartbreaking than writing a bad book, although you might just surprise yourself when you’re just going with the flow. Writing shorts is good practice, but it has other advantages too.
I’ve always thought that as an Indie, the best way to get a feel for the process is to publish a short story before that novel you’ve been slaving over for a year or two. If you publish your novel green, there will be all sorts of learning curves that you’ll wish you knew before, and without any ideas about marketing it you could end up really disappointed when it just sits there and nobody buys it. There is no shame in publishing a single short story, as long as you put the same effort into its creation that you would a full length book. You’ll be in excellent company, because most bestselling authors publish them too. And if you enrol it in Amazon’s Kindle Select programme you can use it as a free marketing tool when you publish your big boy.
Doing this will take some of the terror away when you do publish your novel – not all of it – I don’t think that ever goes away no matter how many books you put out there. Make a great cover for it, edit it and make sure it’s nicely formatted. Make it the best little book that you can, and then let it loose. Have a marketing campaign on all of your online sites. Have a couple of free days in the hopes of some nice reviews. Set up your Amazon Author page. Join Twitter if you haven’t already, and see how it works. Even if you don’t have many sales to begin with, you’ll have learned a great deal, and your systems and sites will all be in place and ready for you when the time comes to publish your labour of love.