Short Stories – Guest Post by Terry Compton

Authors want their names down in history; I want to keep the smoke coming out of the chimney.

Mickey Spillane

I need to do my disclaimer first.  I’m not a huge selling author with lots of books on the market.  I’ve never been traditionally published.  I’m just a newbie that self-published my first ebook in November 2010.  I don’t want anyone to think that I’m like Joe, a friend of mine that was giving out lots of free advice when I first started racing stock cars.  Joe did have a few trophies from trophy dashes and thought he knew everything.  He insisted you needed more motor or bigger motor and lots of horsepower.  On the other hand I found John.  He didn’t say too much but the car he was helping with was always in front or close to the front during the main.  He said, “Get your set up right first and then try to find the horsepower as you have the money.”  I went over to John’s shop one day for something and I was amazed at the number of trophies he had.  They covered shelves he had in a small office and extended out on a shelf near the ceiling that lined two walls of his shop.  These trophies weren’t just from trophy dashes but most of them were from the mains.  That’s what you strive for.  Winning the trophy dash is nice, but the main is where you make your money.  I figured out right quick who I needed to listen to.

I have been emailing Joleene Naylor about a cover for my new upcoming novel and a collection of short stories.  When I told her that I had one short story “The Sunset of Big Oil” on Smashwords that had over 2000 page views in two days and sold one copy with a review in less than two hours, she suggested I needed to tell about it.  One of my other short stories “The Leprechaun’s Gift” sold two copies in two days.  I don’t consider that a big success but it is getting things started.  How did I get started writing short stories?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

I’ve been reading several blogs and forums about how to write, what to write and how to publicize.  One is Self Published Author’s Lounge, another is JA Konrath’s blog and two that really caught my eye are Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith.  Dean and Kristine both have been saying not to worry about doing a lot of promoting.  They say the best promotion is to have more books.  I looked on Smashwords for Dean Wesley Smith and saw that he had 69 short stories, collections or novels there under just his name.  He writes under several pen names, too.  Kristine is his wife and I think I saw one time that they have over 700 books and short stories between them.  They have won several awards over the years so I figured they might be like John and worth listening to.  Dean says write more short stories, publish them and then put them into collections of five or ten.  I decided to try it and currently have six published short stories and another that will come out the third week in August.

When I saw “The Sunset of Big Oil” generate over 2000 hits in two days and a sale with a good review in less than two hours on Smashwords, I was thinking move over Amanda Hocking here I come.  Then the next day however, the graph tracked across the bottom of the chart.  I’m still getting a few hits per day but when the top is set to 1250 and you only get 4 or 5 hits a day, they don’t even make a bump.  However, one thing I did see was that I was getting more page views on all my books on Smashwords and more free sample downloads.  So far, the sales haven’t followed but sales on Kindle have picked up.  Does one drive the other?  I don’t know.  Why did the one short story get so many page views?  If someone has an idea, I’d like to hear it because I’d like to see if I could duplicate it on future short stories and novels.  I suspect that a lot of the interest was because gas prices are so high and people were looking for a legal way to stick it to the Big Oil companies or hoped that I had.

I have received three major benefits from doing the short stories:

  1. I have more books out there for someone to find.  The more that are there, the  better your chances of being seen.  Dean Wesley Smith talks a lot about this and even has figures to back it up.
  2.  Writing the short stories gives me a chance to practice the craft of writing.  I can    switch genres to try some different things.  I can try different techniques.  I can  polish my writing without taking months to complete a project.  I have also been doing some of my own covers.  They don’t measure up to Joleene’s yet but maybe one of these days after I get all the right tools I need. (grin)  I don’t like to read short stories because most of the time, it seems like they leave you hanging in the middle of the story.  I have been having fun writing these stories though and I have worked to get them to come to a conclusion.  I know this will help later in my novels.  I want to keep learning and improving.  Doing the short stories in different genres also gives different search words when someone is looking for a particular thing.
  3. One thing I do with the short stories is to work up stories from things I’ve heard    on the news or from what people are talking about.  The Sunset of Big Oil came from a news story about the super tankers that were lined up in some harbor.  The crude oil tanks were full and they couldn’t off load.  What if that became   permanent?  What if???  Dean Wesley Smith talks about writing from a list of    book titles.  He has two different lists and takes part of a title from one and the rest from the other.  So far, I need to have an idea first but maybe with a lot more practice, his way will work for me as well.

One other thing I’ve learned is how global Smashwords and Kindle truly are.  My review for “The Sunset of Big Oil” was from Australia.  You hear about people from all over the globe buying ebooks but until one buys from you, sometimes it doesn’t really sink in.

Are short stories the answer for everyone?  I can’t answer that.  I don’t have enough data.  I know its working for me and I’m going to continue to write short stories as well as the novels.  Are my results spectacular?  Not for everyone but they did look impressive for me for two days.  Ask me in a year or five how they have worked, because I think this is going to take some time to build and polish.  Like the quote at the top of the article says, I just want to keep the smoke coming out of the chimney.  I doubt that I will ever have any of my novels become required reading in high school but I do hope that one day if I continue to improve, they will become “Hey, man, you’ve got to read this.”

Terry Compton

7 thoughts on “Short Stories – Guest Post by Terry Compton

  1. Rob Loughran August 14, 2011 / 7:58 am

    Good points. Good questions. I honestly don’t know, but I know that when I miss a writing shift in my new novel because I’m blogging or tweeting I’m doing too much blogging and tweeting.

    Now it’s time for a writing stint…

    Rob Loughran

    • Joleene Naylor August 14, 2011 / 9:35 pm

      I know the “not enough writing” feeling 😉

  2. Ruth Ann Nordin August 14, 2011 / 5:20 pm

    I clicked on your link and came up with a “page not found” message, so I’m putting in the full url for others reading your post to click on: I think the http part threw the system off, but you know, it could have just been my browser that had this problem. 🙂

    As for the post, I think doing short stories is an excellent way to branch out and get your name out there because you are increasing the chances someone will find you. Personally, I think the story about oil you wrote attracted a lot of people because I notice you included the economy in the description. Given the economic climate and the Middle East upheaval (when is it stable over there?) which leads people to wonder about the future of oil and energy, I think the story spiked because it hit a cord that a lot of people can relate to. You’d have to be asleep to not notice all the changes going on, in my opinion. So writing a timely topic is a great marketing tool. (BTW, it’s something I hadn’t considered until I read your post. I didn’t realize how picking the right topic to write on could work to an author’s advantage in such a great way. Thanks for sharing your experience and numbers to give us a good view of what’s going on.)

    • Terry Compton August 14, 2011 / 8:26 pm

      Thanks, Ruth Ann. Things have to be real in my mind for me to write about them. That’s why all the current events. It has to feel right or the story’s not right.

    • Joleene Naylor August 14, 2011 / 9:37 pm

      I fixed the link in the post (added the http) – just wanted to make a note of it so future readers were not like “eh? what is she talking about?!” LOL!

  3. Barb August 25, 2011 / 9:27 am

    Terry, you and me follow the same blogs! 😉
    Me-think I have one of your books on the TBR pile as well… 😉
    Blame it on Miss Jo! 😀

Comments are closed.