05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Free Reads - Short Stories

From an author’s perspective a Free Read is a promotional item. Like the free food samples at grocery stores, given a taste readers will (the author hopes) like the product and want more!

For readers, a Free Read provides the opportunity to discover a new author, sample the writing style prior to a buying decision, or spend more time with favorite characters.

Excerpts are one type of Free Read. As well, there are several free short story approaches to entice readers to put an author’s books on their “to read” lists, including but not limited to the following:

1.    Promote Author’s Voice and Brand

The way authors tell stories is as individual as their personalities. Are the stories light and humorous or gritty and dark? Fast-moving or descriptive? Whether authors write hot, kinky romance or high tension romantic suspense, their free short reads “brand” them as writers in a particular genre. When readers search review sites, the bookshelves at a book store or online book sellers such as Amazon, they’ll expect to find books in the same “voice” and genre that authors promote in the free short stories.

2.    Frame a Series

My free short story The Next Big Thing describes how Angela meets her match but also introduces the heroines of my next two novels: sister Sophie (For Love and Money - romantic suspense) and cousin Lucy (The Lust Factor - romantic comedy). The short story is a frame linking very different tales of three beautiful women who happen to be related.

I wish from the bottom of my heart that those two books were already written and published because it is asking a lot of a reader to wait that long. Lesson learned. When planning a series, authors may consider writing a short story that introduces linked characters. So as not to frustrate readers, they should publish the Free Read only when the first book in the series is available!

3.    Hook with a Prequel

Genre fiction does not allow for detailed backstory. However, many readers are keen to know more about the hero or heroine’s journey to that point.

Consider this example. An author would love to describe the incident years ago when the hero saved his sister from a murderous demon but was left emotionally and physically scarred, knowing the next encounter with the demon would kill him. However, the editor nixes the flashback, and the book opens when the same demon targets the heroine. A Free Read ‘extra’ can provide details of characters' pasts that the author had to cut; i.e., a deleted prologue or flashback scene is converted into a short free read.

4.    Satisfy With a Sequel

Romance readers follow the characters’ trials and tribulations for hours, only to be left at the altar, so to speak. In a short story an author can give readers proof there really is a happily ever after. At the wedding of the hero and heroine does the best man get together with the caterer? Does the bride’s sister fall for the groom’s out-of town college roommate? There may not be enough spin-off story for a full-length novel, but a short sequel gives readers a few more minutes with favorite characters while providing a satisfying story complete in itself.

What type of Free Read do you enjoy most?

Madelle’s Free Read, The Next Big Thing, was downloaded over 100,000 times and won a 'Superstar' award at Ellora’s Cave RomantiCon 2010.


Maggie Jagger said...

I do enjoy knowing more about the characters. Your flashback would be something I'd like to read. If I love an author's voice, I want more and a free read is a great idea.

Paty Jager said...

I've had several free reads available and am now putting those shorts into "duets" that I'm selling for $.99. When I had a Christmas story up for free it was flying off the cyger shelves and it still sells well. I agree a free read is a good way to draw in new readers who may not have picked up one of your books before. Good post!

Madelle Morgan said...


An anthology or duet of short stories is a really good idea. I hadn't thought of that! I like the idea of a themed collection too.

Would readers like to revisit characters from different books in a holiday-themed collection of short reads?

Sarah Raplee said...

Great information, Madelle! Thank you for sharing what you've learned.

I do think Holiday stories of any ilk sell well.


Brenda Gayle said...

I agree with you completely. Free, short reads are a great way for readers to take a chance on a new author. Best of luck, I can't wait to read your series.

Karen Avivi said...

Great advice! The trick is having that whole series ready to go :)

Opal Carew said...


Congratulations on you story being downloaded 100,000 times, and on the Superstar award from Ellora's Cave!!!

Judith Ashley said...

WooHoo! Congratulations on being an Ellora's Cave Superstar!!!!!!

I plan on using short stories I've written about pre and post events in my characters' lives both on the Genre-istas, Free Reads site and on my website or being in the process of dabbling my toes in the e-pub process perhaps doing a duet e-book like Paty Jager mentioned.