Short Stories, Revisions, and Advertising

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I’m currently working on a series of short stories that go along with my novels in the Arcana Revived series. I currently have about fourteen short stories written and in various stages of revision. One of them, Radiance, is already published as an ebook that you can download for Amazon Kindle. My plan for this summer, in between getting my first novel ready for publication, is to make some progress revising these stories.

Publishing short stories, however, is a relatively new and uncertain process. A few years ago, the idea of self-publishing a short story was one most people probably wouldn’t have considered. After all, before the ebook revolution, there wouldn’t have been much of a market for individual short stories. You can get short stories published in various literary journals and magazines, or as part of a collection with works from other authors, but that used to be it. A lot of this probably has to do with how impractical it would be to publish and print a hard copy of a 3000-10000 word story. Ebooks make this a whole different game, however, since an electronic copy of a short piece is more practical when it comes to publishing and distribution. You cut out the costs of the physical printing and mailing, which would otherwise make distribution of just a single story impractical and unprofitable.

A lot of authors I know have short works out as ebooks right now. My friend Elisa Knuckle has several short stories available for sale, including a sci fi story about virtual reality and death, and a fantasy story about the dangers of following magical wisps into the woods. I just downloaded these today and recommend checking them out. Drew Chial also has an ebook and audiobook called Terms and Conditions about the dangers of clicking “I agree” without checking first to make sure the fine print doesn’t say anything about losing your soul in the bargain.

Thinking about short stories like this makes me stop to think about what will happen to my current works after revisions are complete. At least one of my current shorts, Belladonna, is just about ready to be released into the world. But getting ready to send it out there makes me wonder how it will be received, and what I can do to try to make some money off my writing. I already have a bunch of free stories available on my blog, but publishing one as an ebook is an entirely different process.

First off, a published short story demands a lot more from me, as the writer. The short stories posted here on the blog don’t go through as rigorous of a revision process. I wrote them and revised them until I was satisfied, then put them online. The short stories I’m publishing for sale, however, go through critiques from my peers so that I can address any issues they might raise. A published story also needs more than just the story itself; the book needs to be formatted properly, including front matter, a title page, and cover art. All in all, it’s a longer and more complex process.

Then there’s marketing and advertising to consider. I mentioned awhile ago that I was experimenting with online advertisements for my short stories. At the time, I estimated that for my advertisements on Project Wonderful, in order to sell 1 ebook I needed to get about 80 “clicks” by people considering it, which took about 24,000 visitors to the advertising sites, and about 120,000 views from all of those visitors. This breakdown is an example of the sales funnel, which is a marketing concept that basically says you need to spread awareness of your product to a wide audience in order to get a smaller percentage of those people interested, then a percentage of those to give actual consideration to a purchase, then a percentage of those to actually make the purchase. In my case, this funnel represents online views leading to clicks leading to sales.

I recently started a new surge of online advertising. In the past two weeks, ads for Radiance have been displayed on hundreds of websites through Project Wonderful. The sites the ads have run on have garnered about 1.5 million views during that time (of course, there’s no guarantee that all 1.5 million of those views included someone looking at the ad on the sidebar instead of just at the website’s contents, but it’s a good number to start with). Those views have led to 171 clicks, which in turn have led to 2 sales. This is fairly consistent with my earlier results; about 1 out of every 80 people who take a look at the sales page decide to make a purchase.

In the future, I hope to continue with more extensive advertising campaigns, especially when my novel is released later this year. When the novel is out, I’ll most likely begin looking into some form of paid advertisements, instead of the free ads available through Project Wonderful. If free ads can lead to a couple hundred people seeing my short story for sale, I’ve got a pretty good idea what to expect in order to get the novel out there to be seen by thousands.

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