Using Exclusive Content to Turn Readers Into Fans: Short Stories

Short Stories

Yeah, yeah, you already know all about short stories. Maybe you’ve already written some and you’re selling them in stores. If that’s working for you, kudos! If not, you might be able to use a short story or two to reinvigorate your mailing list. Why not use those shorter works as exclusives to draw readers in and convert them into fans?

Does the thought of cranking out another update about your personal life or apologizing (again) for missing your release date make you queasy? Some authors find it is easier to write a short story than it is to craft the perfect newsletter. And, bonus! No one will be disappointed if you give them more stories.

Part of Your World

Have an existing property you can attach a short story to? Writing in a world readers are familiar with or writing about characters they already love is an enticing offer. And, as a bonus, you don’t have to give a ton of backstory in a short that’s set in your world. The story is small, and the reader most likely knows who begot whom already.

Not a series writer? Not a problem. Standalones work just fine. Pick a character from a book that readers loved and write a quick short starring them. Or, take some past event in the main character’s life that’s been alluded to and write that story.

Short Hops Between Long Releases

If you’re a fantasy author who writes big, doorstopper novels, or if you’re just a little slower at writing, short stories can keep your readers engaged between releases. They go a long way toward making readers happy while they wait for your next opus.

George R. R. Martin has released a few novellas between books in his Song of Ice and Fire series (aka “Game of Thrones” to some of you), and fans love them. Though, at this point, it feels like we’re fighting for table scraps, and we’ll take whatever we can get.

Give When You Ask

If the only reason you ever email your list is to ask them to buy stuff from you, you could end up with a really short list. Especially if you built your list with free content. Those subscribers might be willing to buy, but they aren’t fans yet, they’re leads. You’ve got to make them love you before the pitch. Give a little, warm them up and make ‘em happy, and then present them with the ask.

Let’s say you had Book 2 in your series coming out in a few weeks. Write a little side story between books 1 and 2 and give that to your list. Send an email with the free story and a little reminder that Book 2 is coming out in a few weeks. When Book 2 launches, email your list again and include that short story one more time.

You’re giving at the same time you’re asking. And, you get engagement with your list in a way that doesn’t always feel like a sell because you’re throwing in a bonus.

It’s Not All About Free

And, just to be clear, we’re not talking about giving everything away for free. A lot of the advice out there is “Write for free and give away all your work, and everyone will love you!” Forget that. Real fans will buy your work, and that’s the goal here. Make real fans, sell more books.

Maybe your mailing list gets the story for free, and then you post it for sale a few months later. Or maybe you offer it to your list for only $.99, and then later publish it for $2.99 or in an anthology. Exclusive doesn’t have to mean every bit of content is exclusive to your list and not for sale anywhere else (though, that’s a great incentive to stay on your list). Exclusive can also mean that your fan club gets access to early bird discounts and short story bonuses that aren’t yet available to anyone else. You own the content. You can always change how you publish it later.

Stay tuned for Part 2. We’re just getting warmed up.

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