How did you become interested in short stories? I became a short-story writer more or less by happenstance, which is how I would guess most people stumble into it. To make a long story short, I spent a summer working on an oil rig, felt very isolated, and began posting on a popular internet forum to unwind. The owner of the forum took notice that people seemed to respond well to my stuff and offered me a chance to post short-stories on a website. Over time, I ended up building a small following. Unfortunately, I found I could no longer continue at that specific venue and left. It was doubly unfortunate because almost no one who read me knew where I'd gone. I did, however, manage to retain a couple hundred core readers who wanted new stuff. So, instead of writing a novel or anything long form, I kept shoveling coal on the fire. I kept putting out new stories for the readers I had left, and expanded organically from there. I'm proud to say I'm back up to more or less what my readership was before the falling out and I hope to keep growing. As an author, do you think writing short stories is worthwhile? Why? I think it's completely a matter of what kind of person you are and what kind of stories you have to tell. For me personally, working in short stories allows me to explore events and ideas in depth without having to worry about whether or not they serve a larger plot. I liken it to television versus film. If you want to write something "episodic" then I think short-stories can be very worthwhile.
What types of short story promotion have worked for you? If I had to guess why people respond well to what I write, I would say it's because I always try to be open and honest. I also write in a variety of different genres so I cast a pretty wide net. I find "gimmicks" tend not to work for me. Some of the most fun I've had getting people to my website, and looking at my work, has had nothing to do with my writing. I think it's important as a writer to remember that people want to interact with you as a person and not as some sort of machine that just "makes stuff." I find it best to be friendly with people, rather than try to to overtly "sell." For example, I once spent $300 sending machetes out to twenty of my female readers in just about every English speaking country in the world. I did it for no other reason than that I thought it would be funny to have them all send in pictures doing random stuff with their machetes. The result, I think, was hilarious. That doesn't directly impact "marketing" and it doesn't have a lot to do with anything in terms of sales, but it does build a sense of community that is enjoyable for both myself and my readers. If I don't enjoy it, I just don't do it. What types of short story promotion have not worked for you? Any time I've sat down and said "I'm going to go out and market what I'm doing" I fall flat on my face. Anything that feels contrived makes something in me rebel. Once, when I first started I tried to get everyone to Digg a story on my birthday. We wound up with 200 digs or something on that scale... but it never got any extra traffic to the site. Plus, I felt like I was following people around like some nasty school teacher making sure they'd done their homework. In other words, no fun. I try to keep my relationship with my readers mutually beneficial. If it ain't entertaining for either of us, I can't expect them to want to have anything to do with it. Do you consider 99 cents to be a fair price for a standalone short story? Why or why not? I think that's a wonderful price for a short story, but to me it then becomes an issue of packaging. While I think $0.99 is a great price for a standalone short story, that still means a writer doing e-publishing is only going to get 30% of the cut because of the way Amazon structures its contract. I think we're going to see a popular form of "Mini-Anthology" emerge out of the eBook business. Yes, $0.99 is a fair price for one short story, so it stands to reason (by way of multiplication) that $2.99 is a fair price for three short stories. At a $2.99 price point, Amazon is going to give you 70% of the profits. So you're making more than double the money, for the same work, just by changing the packaging. I've cynically thought about releasing all my stories as singles for $1.50 just to drive sales to the $2.99 mini-anthologies but... nah. It just makes me feel evil. I know if I consistently provide an entertaining and positive experience for readers then they're going to react positively to me and reward my effort.