So you’re pretty sure the novelette you’ve got sitting on your hard drive is a phenomenon waiting to happen. Thanks to the Internet, there are more ways than ever to get your mini-masterpiece out there, but you could waste a lot of time wading through search results without a proper guide. That’s where this week’s guest blogger, former cop and successful novelette writer Wayne Zurl, comes in.
Resourcefulness 101: Marketing Your Novelettes
By Wayne Zurl
What the hell can you do with a novelette?
Practically speaking, not much—unless you get creative. Wikipedia and other Internet sources define novelette as a story ranging between 7,500 and 17,500 words. Try and sell one sometime. They’re too long for those who publish short stories, and too short for a publisher who’s looking for a novella or full-length novel.
After I finished my first Sam Jenkins mystery novel, A New Prospect, and while peddling it to agents and publishers, I wrote stories for practice. Each was based on an actual incident I encountered while working as a cop in New York. And each ended up longer than the accepted short story ceiling of 7,500 words. But while the memories were fresh and my creative juices were flowing, I ended up with a bunch. So, I tried to flog them, too.
I hit a few of the mainstream mystery magazines and walked away disappointed. Each got rejected, but one acquisitions editor was kind enough to explain why. Basically, he said, “The story is good, but it’s too long.”
“Look, everybody writes stuff this length,” he continued, “but we can only publish one a year. So, if James Patterson sends me one and you send one, who do you think I’m going to accept?”
Nuts, I thought, aced out by someone who didn’t need the exposure or the money. So, I began to scour the Internet for a publisher who might like longer, more detailed and developed stories—real cop fiction—a series featuring the same cast as in my novel.
I found a relatively new company whose sole mission was to produce one-hour audio books and simultaneously publish them as eBooks. Coincidentally, stories from between 8,000 and 11,000 words (those in the novelette range) translate to fifty-five to seventy minute audios—not unlike the old time one-hour radio dramas to which my mother used to listen while ironing or cooking.
I submitted what I thought was the pick of the litter and crossed my fingers. Then I received an email. I hadn’t opened a piece of correspondence with such trepidation since I found that letter from my local draft board back in 1967. But, ha, success! She (the publisher) wanted the novelette called A Labor Day Murder.
From there, we built a good relationship and she published eighteen more novelettes. I worked with her editors and a professional actor who read my work. I felt like I (almost) had my own TV series. Not exactly on one of the networks, or even on cable, but I had an audience, and they liked the adventures of the boys and girls of Prospect PD.
Then, years later, after she had accepted three more new pieces and I was waiting for the promised contracts, I received an unexpected email. “Sorry,” she said. “For personal reasons, I must stop publishing new material. I won’t be sending the contracts. I’m not going out of business, but just won’t be producing anything new.”
I was back to my old dilemma: What do I do with three really good novelettes (I liked those a lot) plus the two more I had sitting in the hopper ready to send in? Head to the Internet.
After an exhaustive search—for me, because when it comes to computers, I’m only a step above clueless—I found Melange Books, LLC. They would accept submissions of novelettes and consider them for publication as eBooks. Okay, my “show” had been cancelled, but eBooks would be better than nothing.
I sent Melange a serial killer story called Angel of the Lord. The publisher liked it and asked if I had any others. I thought: Wow, a match made in heaven.
“Sure,” said I. “I just happen to have four more that have never seen a publisher’s contract.”
“Great,” said she. “Send them and we’ll see about putting them into an anthology and publish it in print and eBook.”
“Yahoo,” I said.
Well, not really. But I did send them, and in April of 2015 they released From New York to the Smokies.
So, what’s my point? If Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, or The Strand aren’t interested in your very long stories, they can find a home. I did it the traditional way. But if you’re more computer savvy than I am, and you have the ambition to self-publish, you can create audio books, eBooks, and nifty anthologies from your novelette length stories and people will buy them… thousands of them.
Now, here’s a bit of logistical reality. With audio books, MP3 downloads sell MUCH better than compact discs. I never incurred the expense of producing the CDs, but know it was considerable. So, if you’re producing your own audio books, stick with a downloadable version. You’ll find more distributors to handle it/them.
And always back up your audio with a published eBook. They sell even more copies. You’ve already paid for the cover image, so use it on a second product. Then, after your series takes off, offer package deals or “bundles” of several episodes at a discount price.
Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators.
He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College, and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara—not far from Prospect PD.
Learn more about Wayne at http://www.waynezurlbooks.net/
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