Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Theory: Use separate pen names for short stories

I am a short story writer.  I'm also something of an anomaly in that I exclusively write short fiction.  No novels for me just yet.  I'm having too much fun with the short stuff.  But you know what I was thinking?  IF (big if) I did attempt a novel, I would probably write it under a completely different pen name.

Why?

Two facts come to mind:

1)  Novels sell better than short stories.  They just do.  They're more mainstream and, frankly, there are more people out there that want to curl up and be lost in a book for hours than there are people who want to savor and contemplate.

2)  A large part of a short story writer's success is branding and expectations.  People go IN to an Edgar Allen Poe story expecting it to be shorter.

It's impossible for a short story writer to completely avoid those scathing "too short" 1-star reviews.  They happen.  But the reason why they happen is because of reader expectations.  The buyer wanted a long book, they got a short story.  1 star.

I see many authors sell a mix of short stories and novels.  Even famous ones do this.  But I'm not sure this is a smart business move.  Put all the description and page count numbers you want, if your fans became a fan because of novels, there is a good chance they will be disappointed by a short story.  People can't help it.  They want more of the same.  They don't want a sappy, romantic Clive Cussler.  They want action-packed Clive Cussler.

When someone buys one of my novelettes and then a few days later buys the rest of the stories in the series, I know I don't have to worry about getting "too short" reviews.  They've already read book 1 and they want more of the same.  Therefore, if I put more novelettes out under that same name, people learn to associate that with this author they are getting this length of a reading experience.  Reader expectations have been made.

Which is why I would probably start a new pen name for any future novels.  I want a clean set of expectations.

2 comments:

  1. An interesting idea and certainly a smart business move. I'm not sure I would do that for myself but I understand the logic behind it. Then again, not being published myself, I can't really say.

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    1. Haha. Well I need more data so get cracking!

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