Making Short Stories Work for You

Marketing Self-Publishing

Short stories used to be more widely loved. They’ve been a bit misunderstood of late, but I’m confident they’re making a comeback. As an author, short stories can actually be a brilliant part of your marketing plan. Here are a few ideas for making short stories work for you.

(Note: for the purposes of this article, we’re considering any complete story between 1,500 and 10,000 words to be a short story. Below that and you’re into flash fiction. Above it and you’re in novella territory.)

Short Stories for Newsletter Subscribers

Sharing a short story as a newsletter subscriber opt-in incentive is probably the best-known use of a short story for marketing. And rightly so!

If you’re trying to catch a reader, it’s a great idea to bait your hook with free reading material!

Write a short story that is indicative of your genre or writing style. Make sure it’s something that readers will find satisfying and will whet their appetite for more of your work. Save it as an ePub, Mobi, and PDF. Upload it to cloud storage such as Dropbox (referral link) or Google Drive, and get a shareable link to the files.

Optional extra step: if you’d like to keep track of how many times people click through to download your story, enter those shareable link(s) at It’s a link shortener that will track how many times the shortened link was clicked.

Add a nice note with the shortened download link(s) to your newsletter signup “Thank You” page or email. If your newsletter signup is double opt-in (which it should be!) be sure these links go into the very last email of the signup process—after they’ve confirmed their subscription and are actually on your list.

Now, make some graphics promoting this perk of signing up for your newsletter (and be sure to offer a copy to your previous subscribers so they don’t feel left out!)


Perma-Free Short Stories That Market Your Novel or Series

So you have a series or a standalone novel that needs marketing. Your friends and a small fanbase love it, but you’d like to broaden your readership. While it’s not the only thing you should be doing to broaden readership, using permanently free short stories can be a great strategy.

It bears repeating:

If you’re trying to catch a reader, it’s a great idea to bait your hook with free reading material!

Can you write a short prequel? What about a side-character’s view of a piece of the plot? What about a happily ever after for a beloved sidekick?

Take a page from Pixar’s (brilliant) book and try showing what a character is going through during their absence from the main plotline:

Always make sure the story will satisfy readers and make them want to read more. And always include endmatter featuring at least the cover(s) and blurb(s) of your book or series.

Upload your short story and an eye-catching cover to KDP and someplace like Draft2Digital. On KDP, set the price to $0.99 (since you cannot set a book to perma-free on KDP). On D2D, set the price to free. When the book has published on most, if not all platforms, email KDP through their “Contact” link. Provide the ASIN or link of the short story and a link or two to where it’s free on other platforms (iBooks and Barnes and Noble, for example). Ask them nicely to price match.

Within a few days, your book should be perma-free on Kindle as well. No, you won’t make any royalties when people read your short story, but you’ll likely gain new, interested readers.


Short Stories as Appreciation Gifts for Loyal Fans

Do you have a Facebook group of insiders? A street team? A core group of highly engaged newsletter subscribers? (Your mailing provider stats will tell you this.) Make it a FABULOUS thing to be your biggest fan. Show your appreciation by sending them a short story that you’ve never released anywhere else. Something exclusive that you thought up just for this group! (Of course, you can share it with the world later on if you’d like.)


Short Stories for Anthologies

If you have networked with other authors in the same genre, try working together on a free anthology of short stories. Think of it as a sampler pack. Everyone contributes a story, everyone helps spread the word, everyone gains new readers!

Fellowship of Fantasy has done a great job putting out quality anthologies.


Short Stories on Your Blog

If part of your marketing and networking plan includes your blog, definitely consider posting short stories from time to time. It’s a great way to capture the casual blog-reader’s interest, and gives just another publicly available way to demonstrate just how read-worthy your work is!

What are some other ways you’ve used short stories?

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