Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Can Short Stories be a Promotional Tool?


In my bio I say I’m a mystery author and I draw attention to the books in my series. I guess you’d deduce from the bio that I’m a novelist. Yes, but I also write short stories, from very short flash fiction on up. Since I’m in the midst of four different series, you may wonder why I continue to carve out spaces of my precious time for short fiction. That’s easy—I love it. I love reading and writing it, and short stories come to me more naturally than novels. I also love to write novels, once I get into them and over the dread of beginning a new one. But some short stories can be wrapped up quickly, giving me instant satisfaction.

Why do I keep writing short fiction for publication, since most of it pays very poorly, if at all? At this point, one reason is because I’ve gotten to know the community of short mystery fiction writers, and feel comfortable answering calls for submissions when they comes. (That doesn’t mean all my submissions get accepted—far from it.)

But another big reason is for promotion. I do think short fiction can help promote a novel writer. How? Several ways.

1) They get your name in front of readers. The more times people see your name in a short story anthology or magazine, the more apt they are to remember it and to recognize it when they see your books in the bookstore or online.

2) They make wonderful gifts. I have a free audio short story on my webpage, “Driving out of Dumas.” (http://kayegeorge.com/) (Sometimes there are two of them.) It’s there to thank people for looking me up and visiting my page. It also can give visitors a feel for my one of my voices and my style. If they like it, maybe they’ll plunk down money for a book or two. I also give away my own collection (A PATCHWORK OR STORIES) on occasion.


3) They can promote specific novels. I haven’t done nearly as much of this as I’d like, but, for my Imogene Duckworthy series, I’ve started putting out a few short stories featuring Immy. So far, I’ve written three pre-stories about her early life, as a young child. Since, when the novels start, her father has been dead for a few years (killed when she was eleven), I found it fun to resurrect him and have him live in the shorts.
(“Snatched Potatoes” in KINGS RIVER LIFE AT http://kingsriverlife.com/06/11/snatched-potatoes-fathers-day-mystery-short-story/, “As the Screw Turns” in Mysterical-E Spring-Summer 2012 edition,  and
 “Immy Goes to the Dogs” in UNTREED DETECTIVES.)

There’s a secondary character that I’m fascinated with in my second Cressa Carraway book, which will be out in April 2016, so I explored her a bit further in “Streete Crossing” which will appear in Mysterical-E next spring.

The above, using novel characters, is probably the most direct way to promote the longer fiction.

4) Short stories are the best way for me to stretch myself and to try out new styles and techniques. Answering a call for a themed submission makes me write to a topic that someone else has decided upon. Sometimes that’s hard, sometimes it flows. But the hard ones make me think. When I was asked to do a story about what some characters would do and think if they knew the earth was going to end tomorrow, I got to use a crazy phobia of mine that would never work for anything else. (“The Last Wave” in NIGHTFALLS”)



I haven’t ever done much with closed room mysteries, but a trip my husband took on a Mega Bus gave me an idea, not only for a story, but for an anthology, MURDER ON WHEELS, that came out in April from my Austin writing group, plus a couple of invited Texas writers.



5) Akin to trying out new things, I can do stuff that wouldn’t work in a longer form. For instance, I did a story in second person present tense in ALL THINGS DARK AND DASTARDLY (“You Can Do the Math”).



For Michael Bracken’s publication, TEXAS GARDENER, I did a story entirely in want ads. (“Yellow Roses”) Neither of those styles would work for too many pages! But they make, I hope, a fun short read.

One of my very latest publications is a short story, “Heartbreak at Graceland” in MEMPHIS NOIR. This gave me the opportunity to pull off a murder method that had been on my mind for a while.



Here’s a bit about this anthology:
"A remarkable picture of contemporary Memphis emerges in this Akashic noir volume...Something for everyone."
--Publishers Weekly
Here’s my favorite part of PW’s review:
“One standout, Kaye George’s “Heartbreak at Graceland,” pays the obligatory homage to Memphis’s Elvis Presley heritage, setting a powerful and definitely dark narrative in the late rocker’s home.”

My very most recent story is “This Isn’t the Way” and was used for the cover of FLASH BANG’s January issue. See what you think.



4 comments:

Earl Staggs said...

I agree completely, Kaye. I started with short stories, still love them, and don't intend to stop writing them.

Kaye George said...

Thanks for stopping by, Earl! I've learned a ton about short story writing from you.

kathywaller1.com said...

You're making me want to go out and write short stories. Not that I'm complaining...

Kaye George said...

Then I did some good, Kathy!