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Writer’s Craft #82 For sale… or free?

July 23, 2012
Marcelle Dubé

Marcelle Dubé

Marcelle Dubé’s mystery novels have been published by Carina Press (The Shoeless Kid and On Her Trail) and by Falcon Ridge Publishing (The Tuxedoed Man). As well, under her Emma Faraday pen name, she has three fantasy novels published by Falcon Ridge (Backli’s Ford: Book 1 of the A’lle Chronicles, Obeah and Kirwan’s Son). Her short stories have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies. Find out more about her at www.marcellemdube.com/.


I’m new to the digital revolution. It’s been a steep learning curve, not only from a technical point of view—cover designs, anyone?—but also from a marketing point of view. How do I get readers to notice my stories and buy them?

Some writers undervalue their work and set their prices too low. I sometimes participate in site-wide Smashwords sales—a thank you to the readers—but other than that, I offer my work at what I think is fair value.

And yet, I will sometimes offer a short story for free. I do it to promote a new novel. For example, once I finished my recent novel, The Tuxedoed Man (part of the Mendenhall Mysteries series), I wrote a short story, Night Shift, which featured the same heroine from The Tuxedoed Man. I included the first chapter of The Tuxedoed Man at the end of Night Shift.

Then I put both the novel and the short story up in all the usual digital venues, with Night Shift free for a few months. If readers picked up the short story because it was free, they might then read the first chapter of The Tuxedoed Man and want to buy the novel.

It’s cheap advertising. I plan to do the same for my latest release, Backli’s Ford (under my pen name Emma Faraday). And once I publish a few more novels in the Mendenhall series, I might offer The Tuxedoed Man for free, to entice readers to pick up the rest of the series.

It’s a strategy that seems to work. In the end, however, I think the best long-term strategy is to write the best story I can, publish it, and then write the next one.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lynda Williams permalink
    July 23, 2012 7:27 am

    As I enter the home stretch for my 10-novel Okal Rel saga, something of a lifelong obsession, I am celebrating by serializing some of the associated pieces on my blog. My goal is to have a new chunk of fiction on the Reality Skimming blog (http://okalrel.org/blog/category/story/) every Friday evening through to the end of 2013 as a means of combining celebration, promo and the need to share some of the hidden iceberg of content I’ve hoarded up over the decades which didn’t fit into the novels.

  2. July 23, 2012 9:54 pm

    Your last line says it all … the best marketing strategy isn’t going to go anywhere unless you’ve got a product!

  3. August 18, 2012 10:20 am

    Hey, Marcelle
    nice to see you here! As you know, I follow your marketing advice – write the best story I can, publish it, and then write the next one.
    I went looking for reviews when I published my first novel last year, but now I don’t do it anymore. I just keep putting out my stories and do the Smashwords sales and… readers are tickling in. Might be 1 per month, but enough to keep me happy and… writing!😉
    Best wishes!🙂

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