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Short Stories, Serials, and Novellas

In a climate where even traditional publishers are demanding constant content, writers are asked to produce filler to keep readers engaged between book releases.

There are several types of "filler" content utilized in today's marketing regimen. 

A word about length: stories under 7,000 are short stories. Novellas run 20,000 to 50,000 words (100 - 150 pages). Novels are 50,000 - 80,000 (300 to 800 pages).

The Kindle Shorts program was discontinued and all books that were less than 2,500 words were removed from the platform (except for children’s books). Kindle books less than 2,500 words might not be accepted.  You can read more about their expectations here

1. Seasonal Stories

Christmas or other holiday themed short stories and novellas are very popular in Mysteries and Romance series. The reader stays in touch with the characters and story worlds they've come to love. The holiday tie-in is a proven marketing strategy.

An example would be Deanna Raybourn's Christmas novellas related to her Julia Grey series: Silent Night, Midsummer Night, Twelfth Night, and Bonfire Night. 

2. Related Novellas and Short Stories

Providing related novellas and short stories is a way of keeping your readers engaged. Some readers will love them, others not so much.  It's like getting a nibble but not a full meal. Whether traditionally published or self-published, these offerings have become part of the game. You can also utilize the novella to expand a secondary character's story or furnish a primary character's backstory. It could also be used as a prequel or bridge.

Cassandra Clare offers short story collections for her Shadowhunters series: The Bane Chronicles, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and Ghosts of the Shadow Market.

I recently read A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Mass. It is a full length ( 320 page) installment to bridge the gap between the first Trilogy A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the next trilogy in the series not yet published. To be honest, not a lot happens. At first, I expected it to be the beginning of the next trilogy and was mightily annoyed to find it wasn't. The story is split between four POVs, which I also found off-putting. Note: make it very clear in the description that it is a filler, not an installment of a series.

Some fans enjoy spending time in the story world with characters they have come to love. I'd highly suggest providing a satisfying mini story arc to make the investment of time and money worthwhile.

3. Serialized Novellas

The best example I've read is Susan Kaye Quinn's Debt Collector series. In her futuristic society, debt collectors take your life energy and give it to someone more “worthy.” Quinn released nine individual episodes then issued a boxed paperback as Season One featuring protagonist Lirium. Season Two features Wraith as protagonist. Susan has five planned seasons, each from the perspective of a different debt collector.

If you've read other successful serials, leave the titles in the comments.

4. Serialization of a Novel

In the 1900s, a long list of  famous authors' books were published piecemeal by newspapers and journals. Luminaries included Alexandre Dumas, James Thackery, Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskill, and Agatha Christie.

Serializing a novel today can be done through self-publishing platforms such as Medium, or Wattpad.

There are pros and cons with serials. On one hand, you have readers who appreciate the short form. On the other, some readers hate waiting for the next installment. They may even forget to return. Many readers will wait until the installments are finished to read it. For that matter, many readers now wait until a series or trilogy is finished before buying it so they can binge read. 

Whether the benefit is worth the effort is up to you. Will it interrupt or derail your progress on the actual books in your series or will you enjoy the detour?

Related topics:

The Novella Economy: Making Novellas Profitable

The novella: Stepping stone to success or waste of time? Writers and editors weigh in.

Ten Tips for Writing Novellas

The Debt Collector, an Interview with Susan Kaye Quinn

Things You Should Know If You Are Writing A Serial

Serialize Your Novel on Medium

Why Writing Network Startups Are Banking On Serialized Storytelling 

Should You Serialize A Novel on Kindle

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