Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Three Reasons to Write Barn Burner Short Stories

Traditional publishing wisdom from groups like 20Booksto50k is that you need to churn out a massive backlist of novels to make it as an author. They believe that pumping out novel after novel will create a momentum you can ride on. I know this has worked for a lot of authors, but there is a downside to this mentality as well. It becomes this massive barrier to entry. Writing a book is an extremely time consuming and costly adventure, and to choose to pump them out quick, can be draining. For myself, I prefer the smaller route at the moment. A quick flash in the pan story. Lot of excitement without much filler. These are often called barn burner stories. I may switch things later on, but these short stories are at the center of what I want to do. Here are three reasons why I love to write those barn burner short stories.

Reason 1: Finish Quicker

It’s completely feasible to go from writing very little to writing a short story. It doesn’t take a lot of research, crafting, and planning. Novels, especially those in serials, take a massive amount of planning. That’s one of the nice things about a short story. You can go from idea to complete in just a day or two. 

Reason 2: Useful in other ways

Short stories may not be great sellers, but they can help with exposure in a variety of ways. In addition, if you can leverage those small books, you can get some great momentum very quickly. One common method to leverage is to provide books for free, so that people sign up to your mailing list. Once they are on your mailing list, you can sell them a compendium of the short stories. True, they may already have 1-2 of these for free. However, if they liked those 1-2 stories, they might be more inclined to “re-buy” that short story if the compendium is a good enough deal.

Reason 3: Cheaper

One of the things I love about short stories is the lack of investment they require. To build a quick one hour audiobook requires a lot less capital than building a series of 10 hour audiobooks. You would think that these may not sell very well, and you would be right, except when you compile them all together. That’s one of the great things about the smaller stories. You can do quick runs and have more completion points than if you were working on a larger book.

There are some downsides to writing short stories. The biggest is that they require different work to market. People who tend to write full novels may use different tactics. In addition, it can be frustrating to feel like your stories don’t match up to the longer ones. You simply can’t cram in the depth and character progression in a shorter story. That can be a benefit, though, as your book will have a lot less filler for the reader. Many books like to wander quite awhile before settling on a central theme. 

Another downside to a short story is that you may want to write more about a character. You might find a particular theme or plot line fascinating, but it’s over all too soon in a short story. I personally think that’s okay, as the short story could always be used to sell a much longer novel. A lot of authors use these smaller versions as prequels to the larger novel. This gives their audience a way to try out the story without having to commit to the longer amount of time. Whatever you choose, the best thing is to just keep writing!


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