Writing short fiction can be useful for licensing and self-publishing income, or using them to grow your list and connect with readers. There are many more opportunities for shorts in the digital world and in today’s interview, Matty Dalrymple gives plenty of ideas that you can use in your author business.
In the intro, the UK government scraps 20% VAT on ebooks 7 months ahead of schedule [Publishing Perspectives], how reader behavior is changing in the pandemic [BookBub], growth in European ebook sales [LesEchos], Curtis Brown agent Jonny Geller has advised publishers to see lockdown as a time of change and “experiment” [The Bookseller], and some call for new models of selling direct and subscription [The Bookseller].
Plus I have some Audible US and UK review codes for my London Crime Thriller audiobook boxset. Contact me if you’re interested. Plus, Books and Travel is back and the call to action is for J.F.Penn — the latest episode will transport you to a French vineyard …
Do you want to successfully co-write a book? Do you want to save time, money, and heartache on your co-writing journey? Co-writing can be an amazing experience when two (or more) minds come together to create something new in the world. Or it can be an expensive, painful process that ends in disaster! In this mini-course, bestselling authors J. Thorn and Joanna Penn share tips on how to successfully co-write a book (both fiction and non-fiction) and avoid the pitfalls along the way. Click here to find out more.
Matty Dalrymple is a thriller and suspense author, as well as a nonfiction author and podcaster at TheIndyAuthor.com. Her latest book for authors is Taking the Short Tack: Creating Income and Connecting with Readers Using Short Fiction, co-written with Mark Leslie Lefebvre.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript below.
- What defines a short story
- Reasons to write short
- On the cycle of serials being popular
- How short stories can connect us with our readers and fans of a certain character
- Ideas for how to monetize short fiction
- Joining or creating short fiction anthologies
- Tools for splitting royalties for anthologies
- Options for audiobook versions of short stories
- Co-writing tips and why having a contract in place matters
You can find Marry Dalrymple at TheIndyAuthor.com and on Twitter @TheIndyAuthor
Transcript of Interview with Matty Dalrymple
Joanna: Matty Dalrymple is a thriller and suspense author, as well as a nonfiction author and podcaster at theindyauthor.com. Her latest book for authors is Taking the Short Tack: Creating Income and Connecting with Readers Using Short Fiction, co-written with the lovely Mark Leslie Lefebvre.
Matty: Thank you. I’m very excited to be here.
Joanna: We were just having a chat. We’ve known each other for years. We’ve hung out at Thriller Fest. So it’s great to have you on the show finally.
Joanna: Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Matty: I always had a goal of being a writer, not least because my father was a writer. And in fact, my publishing company, William Kingsfield Publishers, is an homage to my father who wrote under the pen name William Kingsfield. And he had several short stories appropriately, enough for today’s topic, had suffered short stories published back in the ’50s in ‘Collier’s’ and ‘Cosmopolitan’.
Then he turned his eye to novels. And I think he was a short story guy. He wasn’t a novel guy. He never got a novel published and indie publishing wasn’t available to him at the time. But it was always something that I wanted to do.
I wrote some short stories in college and turned them over to my dad who acted as my agent, and he would send them out to publications. And there’s one I recall that I got published. I actually didn’t keep that close track of it. But then I left college and writing fell by the wayside primarily because I just wasn’t coming up with stories that I thought were sufficiently compelling.
Then in 2011, my husband and I were vacationing in Yellowstone National Park and we were staying at the Yellowstone Hotel, and if ever there was going to be a haunted location it would be the Yellowstone Hotel. I started telling him about this scene that I had very specifically imagined in my mind of a woman who was able to sense spirits, who goes to a house on a consulting engagement, and encounters such a terrible sense there because the reader knows, but she does not know that a murder has taken place there.
I said, ‘Oh, I really see it as a movie, but I’m not interested in writing a screenplay.’ And he said, ‘Well, write it down, maybe it’s a book.’ And that night I started writing, and that was five books ago, and half a dozen short stories ago.
Joanna: Fantastic. You’ve already sort of said there about your dad not being a novel guy and writing short stories. So I’m really interested in that. We’ll circle back to that. But let’s start by defining short fiction.
What are we talking about and what are the different types that people might have heard of flash fiction, short stories, novellas.
Matty: We use the science fiction and fantasy writers guideline that anything over 40,000 words is considered a novel, 40,000 words would be a pretty short novel, but that’s what they consider a novel. So we considered anything less than 40,000 words to be short fiction.
But with a couple of exceptions, like micro fiction and flash fiction, the ideas that we have in the book are really applicable regardless of where in that range of word count you fall. Now the tips work as well, for a 5,000-word short story, which is more the area that I’m writing my stories in up to 40,000 words, but that’s the cutoff we use for defining short fiction.
Joanna: It’s interesting because I have written short stories at around 5,000 words and my novellas are probably 25,000. So we’re going to talk about both of these really, aren’t we?
I did want to ask about serials because serials seem to go in waves. I’ve been getting a lot of emails recently about serials. And of course, it took off 8 years ago or something with the Kindle Serials.
What are serials? And are you including serials in there?
Matty: We are. I think that the whole idea of serials has become even more popular with the Serial podcast. I don’t know how far beyond the U.S. that spread. But that’s a very popular podcast from a couple of years ago.
One of the ideas we offer for short fiction is posting a serialized story on your website as a way to attract readers to your website, of course, have a little pop up there asking them to sign up for your email newsletter. And you can monetize that to an extent by using something like Patreon which I know you use, or Buy Me A Coffee which is something that I’m using now.
It’s just a plugin you can put on your website and it enables people to buy you a virtual coffee through PayPal or Stripe by clicking on a button. Which is really nice, if somebody reads through a short story and they get to the end, they really enjoyed it, they can just send you three bucks or four bucks. And it’s a nice way for not only to earn a little money, but also to connect with your readers and to get that satisfaction to see that somebody’s really appreciated enough to take the time to do that.
Joanna: That’s fantastic. We’ll come back to monetization in a minute. I know some people listening will be going, but you can make more money with a novel. And why would I write short fiction?
Give us some of the other reasons we might consider writing shorts.
Matty: I think that the primary reason is all the benefits that the short part of short fiction offers. If you’re looking for a tool to connect with readers, you can certainly connect with readers with a new product much more frequently.
If you’re producing an 8,000 word short story, let’s say, rather than 80,000-word novel, you should be able to write one of those in a 10th of the time, and probably less because you’re not dealing generally with the plot complexities that you might be with a full length novel.
So you can stay front of mind with your readership more easily with short fiction. Another huge benefit over novels is that it enables you to experiment. So you might be established in one genre, and you’re thinking about venturing into a different genre, or you might want to experiment with using a different point of view, you’re used to writing third person you want to try out first person, and you could experiment with that with a novel-length work.
But you could end up investing a year, or 2 years, or 10 years, and get to the end of that experiment and find out that it really wasn’t successful. Whereas if you’re doing that experimentation with a shorter work, then you’re limiting the damage you can do to the time, that might be enough and yet it’s enough of an effort that you are thoroughly exercising whatever that experiment is that you want to do.
Joanna: I’ve written a lot more novels than I’ve written short stories. And it’s funny because I really struggle with short stories because I can’t seem to think of something small enough to fit into that. So for someone like me and people listening, I mean, you said it, coming back to your dad, you said he wasn’t a novel guy, he was a short story guy. I feel more like I’m a novel girl, not a short story, girl.
What are the tips for making short stories appropriate? How can we cut down our ideas?
Matty: I think that ideas can be bucketed out into the it will take 80,000 words or it will take 8,000 words. And what I find is that most of the time when I come up with an idea, I think of a theme and then I build a story around it.
Or as has been the case with a number of my books, I have one scene very clearly in mind and then I have to right up to that scene and right away from that scene to create a novel, which is very, very inefficient, and I’m trying to stop doing that.
But sometimes I just have a what if? And it’s often triggered by a circumstance I find myself in. So as an example, my husband and I went on a cruise last year, thank God we did that last year, and not this year.
Joanna: I was going to say, no cruise industry left now as we record this.
Matty: No cruising anymore for the time being. But we cruised from Hawaii to Vancouver, and we were at sea for five days. And that was an experience I had never had before to be away from land for that long, which was great. I have to say that the five days at sea was my favorite part of that trip, and I got tons of writing done.
I started thinking about what would happen if someone jumped overboard and thinking about it from an author point of view. And it wasn’t enough to hang an entire plot-line on. Although I can imagine down the road, perhaps expanding that into a story that would take place on a cruise ship. That would be fun.
It was really just what if a person jumped overboard and now Ann Kinnear has shown up who can communicate with the spirit of this person, and what might that look like? And so that turned out to be a fun story to tell in about 5,000 words, it wouldn’t have needed a lot more meat to tell it as the novel length work.
I think that’s the dividing point for me. Is it a theme which lends itself more to novels? Or is it more a slice of life? Or a slice of fictional life in this case?
Joanna: Ann Kinnear is your main character in your thrillers, right, in your suspense books?
Joanna: Are you suggesting that we write our short fiction using the characters from our longer works, or just do completely different stuff, or both?
Matty: You could do both. And they might serve different purposes. So if you’re writing different characters, it might be more in that experimentation mode, where you want to see how it goes. Perhaps you want to share it out with readers, or share it out with your followers, your email list to get their opinion on it.
When I started writing the Ann Kinnear suspense shorts, it was very specifically triggered by my need to get some Ann Kinnear material out there. Because I published my first Ann Kinnear suspense novel The Sense Of Death, in 2013. And I published the follow on, which was The Sense of Reckoning in 2015.
Then I had an idea that definitely required a novel-length work to explore. But it was one that really didn’t fit into the Ann Kinnear world. And that’s the book that became Rock Paper Scissors, which was my first Lizzy Ballard thriller. And I told my Ann fans, ‘Oh, I have this one book that I need to write, and as soon as I’m done, I’ll get back and as soon as I’m done I’ll get to Ann Kinnear three.’
So I finished Rock Paper Scissors. And then I had an idea that I wanted to pursue about what happened to Lizzy next. So that became Snakes and Ladders. And I continued to tell my Ann Kinnear followers to just, ‘Be patient a little bit longer.’ And then, of course, I had a third idea, I realized it was a trilogy. So I wrote The Iron Ring, which was the third book in the Lizzy Ballard thriller trilogy.
At this point, I really felt like I had to give the Ann Kinnear fans something. And so that’s when I started writing the Ann Kinnear suspense shorts, to tide them over until I really did get to Ann Kinnear three, which I’m working on now. And so it was very important for me to have the same characters. If there was a character they really loved it was important for me to give them a little taste of that character as part of my effort to tide them over.
One of the things I’m interested in is as I see those stories are going out to a wider audience, and I think at some point they’re going to get to the people who aren’t familiar with the novels, I’m going to be interested to see if the response to them is as positive as when it’s been the people who already knew the characters.
Because it’s a little bit different if you’re writing a story, assuming that the person is familiar with the characters, you take a little bit different approach. And so that’s some market research I’m waiting to see how that pans out. But yeah, I think it could be different approaches. And it just depends on what your goal is with that piece of short fiction.
Joanna: I think you’re right, the engaging existing fans. I’m almost in the same position with my ARKANE series. And I actually just got an email before this saying, ‘Have you finished that series, or will there be any more books?’ Because it’s been almost two years, same as you.
I’m writing my ‘Mapwalker’ series. And this is the thing isn’t it, where as creative people, especially when you start a new book, you think it’s only one book and then it turns into three which is typical, but it’s interesting.
Let’s talk about the licensing and making money with short fiction.
Because the only short stories I’ve written have been commissioned. So I’ve actually been paid for those stories upfront, and then got the rights back later and then self-published those.
Matty: Interesting. I see an additional chapter in Taking the Short Tack in a future edition on commissioned works.
Joanna: I had never considered writing short stories. And then got commissioned. In fact, I’ll thank Mark Leslie Lefebvre for that, because it was around Dan Brown’s book Inferno when he was back at KOBO, and we did a project together then. So it’s interesting because that is one way of getting commissioned. What are some of the other ways that people can actually make money from short fiction?
Matty: One of the ways is the one I mentioned, that is putting it out as a standalone ebook. All my Ann Kinnear suspense shorts are available on all the online retail platforms for 99 cents. And you publish them just as you would a novel length work.
The couple of best practices that we call out to make that a financially viable approach are related to how can you make book cover design and editing and proofreading affordable when you’re putting a product out there that you’re only going to be selling for 99 cents.
What I did for the Ann Kinnear suspense shorts is that I worked with a cover designer to come up with a template and I would go find royalty-free images or I would purchase an image and then send it to him, and he would be able to apply this template that had my author name and the same font that it appears on the novels, the title in the same font that it appears in the novels and ‘An Ann Kinnear Suspense Short.’
Then I would show him what part of the photograph I wanted to have constitute the cover. And then on that basis, it sounds like something I should be able to do myself, right. But with someone with a designer eye, he was always able to do things like arrange the words in the title slightly differently so they looked much nicer than if you just typed it out in a word processor format. He was able to adjust the image that I provided to make it look appropriate for what I was trying to achieve.
Once we had that template in place, it was very easy and inexpensive for me to just send him the new title, the new picture and he would do five minutes worth of work and pretty soon I would have a cover. So that’s a way you can approach the money making aspect of standalone ebook from an affordable point of view for cover design.
Similarly, you’re going to be paying comparably less for editorial services if they’re only reading 8,000 words, than if they’re reading 80,000 words. So, the editorial costs can be much less.
I’ve had good luck in terms of holding down proofreading costs by soliciting what I call people to look for typo…give them a typo bounty. So I’ll send a solicitation out to a writers group I belong to, I’ll say, ‘I’ll send you this story for free, obviously, and I’ll pay you a bounty of so much per typo up to some limit.’ So that can be an inexpensive way, actually, both for short stories and novels to get that done.
But the one call out that we’d like to make in the book is you can’t allow the short nature of short fiction to…you can’t use it as an excuse for having a lower standard of excellence for it. It still has to be professionally edited, professionally proofread, you have to have a professional-looking cover or it’s going to get lost in the dross of the millions of online books.
But standalone ebook is one. Foreign language market is one that we spend some time on. But we largely point people to Douglas Smith’s Playing the Short Game and Douglas Smith’s website because he has lots of great information about foreign language markets. And it’s something that I think a lot of writers don’t pursue because they think they’re going to have to take on the translation work.
But oftentimes, if you sell an English language piece of short fiction to a foreign language market, they’ll take care of the translations for you.
Patreon support is another way you can monetize. If, for example, you’re putting your short story up on your website, or a password protected area of your website that only the Patreon patrons can get to, then that would be another way of monetizing it. So lots of areas in both the traditional and indie spheres that you can use for the income creation aspect of short fiction.
Joanna: I want to shout out Seanan McGuire on Patreon and also N.K. Jemisin who both have Patreon for their fiction. Seanan McGuire particularly I think she’s making about $11,000 per story.
Matty: Wow. That’s fantastic.
Joanna: Exactly. She’s a traditionally published author and I love her horror as Mira Grant. And she’s just a fantastic writer. So it’s great to see traditionally published authors who have a bigger audience can go indie with this kind of Patreon model, because they’re not even actually publishing it, necessarily.
And then, of course, I’ve seen some of the stories that she writes for her Patreon also end up in anthologies. We’ll come back to anthologies in a minute.
But also just to say Douglas Smith has been on the show before, so I refer people back to his interview. One of the things he talks about is actually submitting to magazines and traditional publishing itself for short stories because there is quite a market for that.
Any thoughts on submitting to magazines?
Matty: One of the things that was an important lesson from Doug and also I believe from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is the idea that if you’re sending out to the traditional publishing market, you might as well start at the top.
I think a lot of self effacing writers will look into the traditional publishing market and think, ‘Oh, this is the big name, I’m not going to go for that. I’m going to go for some small publication where I’m going to receive a copy of the magazine or some other token recognition.’ But if you’re going to go to the traditional route, you might as well start with the big names and all they can do is say no, and work your way down if you need to, and if you want to, but you might as well submit to those big names because you never know.
It was interesting. One of the reasons that I really liked working with Mark on this is that we brought very different background and very different experience. Obviously, Mark is a big indie guy. But from the short fiction point of view, he has much, much more experience with traditional publishing than I do.
After I got the information for the traditional publishing chapter from him, I thought, ‘You know, I’m going to try all the things in this that I can possibly try before the publication date.’ And so I had a story I had already published as a standalone ebook, and I found a publication that took reprints. So I submitted that story as a reprint.
And then the cruise ship story that I mentioned before I wrote as a news story, and I went to a couple of the big names. And I submitted it, I went to their website where they took submissions, and I filled out all the information and I got to the bottom and I hit submit, and I got an error message that made it clear that it wasn’t user error. It was some technical problem.
Did it all again, filled it all out, hit submit, same error message, sent a message to their customer service organization, never heard back. I got in touch with a friend of mine who has published a lot of short stories and he said, ‘Oh, yeah, they’re kind of known for being a little ditzy on the administrative side. Why don’t you try their sister organization?’
I went to that site’s submission page, filled out all the information, hit submit, same error message, tried to get in touch with them, no word and at this point, in true indie fashion, I thought, ‘You know what? I’m just not going to wait anymore. I’m just going to publish it myself.’
I think it really depends on what you’re looking for. Obviously, there’s a certain cachet and a certain prestige with getting your work into especially a well known traditional short fiction publication. And potentially, a lot of benefit from the point of view of it looks good on the resume, let’s say, but I found that my indieness came through.
Eventually I just lost patience for it. And I just published that one myself. But Mark has had, obviously, a very, very different experience. And it’s really his advice you want to follow in terms of the traditional publishing side.
Joanna: It’s funny, you say you’re indieness, I’ve been the same. When I had Doug on the show, I was all fired up with doing shorts for traditional markets. And then, like you say, you have to identify the markets and there’s some good tools, you have them in the book. I think Duotrope is one of them, and they have these lists of places you can submit to.
And then you just get tired with even looking at this stuff. And in the end, like you say, I end up just publishing myself anyway, which is fine. But another benefit of being in a traditional magazine or a traditionally published anthology, for example, would be marketing. There’s often much more you could be in something next to a really big name in your genre.
So it can be worth it not for the financial reasons, but potentially, for the marketing and association reasons.
As you say, it’s a bit like getting on TV, for example, it doesn’t sell any books but it looks good on your resume.
Matty: I think you definitely get that kind of benefit from from being traditionally published, you also get that kind of benefit from being in an anthology. And this is an area that I know you can speak to.
It seems as if getting into an anthology is one of those things that the idea of networking within the writing and publishing communities is very important, because sometimes those opportunities are published out to the public. But sometimes it’s the sort of thing that you’re sitting next to someone at a conference or you’re on a panel with them and they say, ‘Hey, I’m working on this anthology.’
Mark, gives a good example of sitting with someone in a panel waiting for the panel discussion to begin. And it was someone who was putting two together in an anthology, and didn’t realize that Mark wrote in both science fiction and horror genres. And when he found that out, he was working on an anthology in one of those genres and Mark ended up being included in that.
So it’s a great example of the importance of building those communities, because they’ll open opportunities for you that you’re not going to get if you’re just sitting quietly at home by yourself.
Even in these times, there are plenty of ways to be networking with people being out there and letting people know that you’re interested in those kinds of opportunities is very important.
Joanna: I’ve been in an anthology with Mark, one of the ‘Fiction Rivers’ for WNG publishing, which is a Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and they do those regularly. And as you say, networking is really good. We’re all readers as well as writers.
And in fact, some of the short story collections I’ve bought are because I like the writer, like Seanan McGuire, who I mentioned, I bought anthologies because she’s in them, because I literally love her stuff.
But if you, the listener, are interested in being in an anthology, you have to pay attention to the people who edit the anthologies, because they are the ones…or the ones writing the forwards to them. And then it’s going down a Google rabbit hole, isn’t it? It’s finding like where those people are, who they know.
It’s almost like I wish we had LinkedIn for the author community. To see who knows who. And then back when we’re traveling, it could be going to a conference where they are, or Dean and Kris, for example, run an anthology workshop where they will end up buying some of the short stories from attendees.
Joanna: It’s an investment, but it’s an investment, in your craft, which is going to pay off. Now you’ve done their workshops, haven’t you?
Matty: I have not. No. That’s on my bucket list.
Joanna: Well, hopefully they will run them again. When the world comes back.
Matty: The other thing is you can also look at local opportunities. I have one of my stories in an anthology that was published as part of a fundraising effort for a local library and there was a Noir at the Bar event where the speakers came, there was an admission fee and the admission fees all went to the library.
And then all the readers at that event had their books bundled into an anthology, the proceeds which also go to the library. So you don’t have to be looking at the huge names, the Dean Wesley Smiths and the Kristine Kathryn Ruschs of the world, you can find those opportunities much more locally too.
Joanna: You can also organize them yourself, using services like StoryBundle is one option, but BundleRabbit, Chuck Heintzelman’s service. That’s another way.
What are some of the other ways that you’ve seen indies doing anthologies?
Matty: Those are the two primary ways. I had done a bundle through BundleRabbit not of short fiction, but an ebook box set. I think it was called ‘Sisters of Suspense.’ And it was the first in series from five different authors.
And I used BundleRabbit and was very easy and a really nice way to get an anthology or a bundle out to all the different online retail sites in a very easy way. So that would be the first place I would send people to if they were looking to put together their own anthology of short fiction.
Joanna: I would say that there’s a definite hierarchy within short fiction anthologies within genres as well. So we’ve mentioned that there are paying markets where you’re going to be paid for your story. And first print rights, as you mentioned, are really important for those types of markets. They’re not going to take reprints, but then it goes down in order.
And the indie BundleRabbit ones, I’m not saying anything about the writing, I’m just saying that there are things that people are looking for, awards, for example, the International Thriller Writers we’re both in has an award for the best short story. And that is not going to be pulling from an indie published BundleRabbit anthology, for example.
Matty: Right, you can always look around, and this is another place where community building is important.
If you’re putting together an anthology, you could perhaps look to someone who’s a little bit bigger in the area you’re writing in but is still willing to participate in that and then reward them with a higher percentage of sales of the royalties.
And also I would say it’s very important to enlist all the participants of the anthology to commit to promoting it, because it’s that cross promotion that is going to potentially make that a profitable effort.
Joanna: Definitely. I guess we’ve talked mainly about the ebook version of an anthology. I’ve done an ebook of three of my short stories. A Thousand Fiendish Angels is in ebook, print and audio.
Dean Wesley Smith I think prints his short stories, has a print on demand version, but usually they’re quite short so you can’t really do that. But M.L. Buchman, who’s been on the show, he does print editions of every year he’ll do 12 short stories in an edition. So those are ways that you can do print.
Any other thoughts on print for short fiction?
Matty: I would like to do that for a collection of Ann Kinnear suspense shorts. So my goal is that once I get 12 of them, I’m going to put them together and have a print version of a year of Kinnear. So there’ll be a short story that’s set in each month of the year, it’ll be subtitled ‘A Year of Kinnear.’
That would be available in all those formats you’re talking about. Audio is really interesting. And Mark especially has had great luck with audio. He’s in a nice position because he can narrate and produce his own audio. And he has earned back on all his short fiction audios very quickly.
If audio is something you want to pursue, ACX, which is affiliated with Amazon, is probably not a good option because nobody’s going to pay a credit for a half hour long short story if they can pay the same credit for James Michener.
Joanna: Yeah, like a 45 hour book.
Matty: Findaway Voices is a great option there, and it gives you much more more flexibility in terms of being able to set your own prices and so on. So that’s something that I’m going to be pursuing myself.
You can also use audio on your website. Mark had Free Friday Frights which he’s recently resurrected, I believe, where he would actually use video, he would do a live video feed of him reading one of his short stories. And so that’s one that’s more focused on connecting with readers than creating income, but it’s a really nice way to give the people who are following you a little nice extra dose of you and your work.
Joanna: I’ve narrated all my short stories as well. You should still have them on Audible. You can just do that through Findaway anyway, to put them on Audible. But it is interesting because if you’re going to try self-narration then doing shorts is quite a good way to start.
It’s not a huge commitment in time.
Any other thoughts on the different ways we can use short fiction? Did we miss anything?
Matty: One that I like is getting unstuck. And it’s one that we actually listed under creating income. And the idea is that if you’re working on a larger work, and you’ve just ground to a halt, you can keep banging your head against it, or you can switch your attention to something else.
The danger of switching your attention to another long work is that now you’re splitting your time across two things that you might be banging your head against. But if you switch your attention to something short, a piece of short fiction, it can be a nice break. It can be a good way for you to refresh your mind.
And yet again, you’re not taking that huge time commitment to launch into another huge project. And so we put getting unstuck under creating income because you’re not going to make income with a piece of work that is stuck. And short fiction is often a good way to get past that.
Joanna: Oh, I like that. I think that’s really good. And flash can be a good way to do that. But I think selling flash is even harder than selling short stories because it could be only like 500 words. So, but I think that’s great.
I did want to ask you, because you actually co-wrote this book, Taking the Short Tack with Mark. And obviously, Mark is fantastic, been on the show lots, personal friend, karaoke friend of mine, but I’ve never co-written with Mark. So I’m very interested.
How was your co-writing experience? Any tips? Because I know it’s challenging.
Matty: It was fantastic. It started because I was listening to the Stark Reflections On Writing and Publishing Podcast, which is Mark’s podcast. And he had just mentioned short fiction in passing, and I had this group of Ann Kinnear suspense shorts that I was trying to decide what to do with.
I sent him a note and I said, ‘Would you be be willing to devote an episode to talking about what you can do with short fiction?’ And because he’s such an obliging guy, he did. And he had an episode, I think it’s 97. It was called ’10 Tips For Marketing and Making Money Off Your Short Fiction.’ And because he always overdelivers, there was actually 13.
When that was over, I wrote him another note, and I said, ‘Thank you so much for doing that. I think there would be a book in this. Would you be interested in co-authoring a book on short fiction with me?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And following are…also your colleague, J. Thorn’s advice about, ‘Go to someone with an offer, not an ask.’
Originally, the idea was that I would do the vast majority of the work and I was hoping to take advantage of Mark’s knowledge in areas that I was not familiar with, like traditional publishing and also obviously, his much wider reach in the industry.
But it actually turned out to be he did much more work than I expected him to do in the beginning. Originally, what I was planning on doing was interviewing him for those parts that I had less familiarity with and then writing up the results and sending it to him and having him correct it.
But he actually wrote most of the sections where he had all the experience, like the traditional publishing market, he did most of the writing on that and then I edited it so that it was a consistent voice through the through the book.
It was great. We not only brought different perspectives, he having more experience…much more experience in the traditional publishing world, and me having relatively more experience, not more experienced than Mark, but more experienced than the traditional publishing world in the…on the indie side, that was great.
The other thing that I thought was really good is that Mark is such a people person, and I’m such a project manager.
Joanna: That’s a good combination.
Matty: It did turn out to be a great combination. And after having spent several decades in the corporate world as a project manager before I left last year to make a go of this full time, I’m all about the checklists and the schedules, and Mark is all about how are we going to help people with this material?
It turned out to be a really great combination from that point of view. In some cases, he was more the idea guy and I was more the execution person. So it really worked out well that we were coming from very different places, and I think it melded in a way that’s going to be great for readers because they’ll have all these different aspects covered.
The other piece of advice that I’d offer, and I know this is something that you’re a big proponent of is make sure you have a contract for this kind of effort. I really love the approach of you don’t sign to contract because you don’t trust each other, you enter into a contract because you do trust each other. And so in the case of me and Mark, that was a two page word document that just outlined the high level approach we were going to take about how we would split royalties, the mechanisms we would use to do that, who would do in general, what type of work.
And since we signed that we’ve actually changed a couple of things. For example, Mark was originally going to narrate the audiobook. And as time went on, it just became apparent that I had more time to devote to that and I’m going to pick that up. I made a couple of decisions about branding to make it not so indie author branded as I’d originally anticipated. So now we just have a one page little addendum that we’re going to sign to formalize those agreements that we’ve already come to. But yeah, it was a great experience.
Joanna: That’s great and definitely complementary skills is fantastic for co-writing. And not just for the writing, but as you say, the experience and also the marketing.
I’m so glad you mentioned the contract there. I just hear so many stories of indie authors who just jump into these things without writing down how it’s going to work. Because basically if you keep that book going, and you keep that book published, basically that can go on beyond your deaths.
Matty: Yes, exactly.
Joanna: It’s a huge commitment. And people just jump into these things without considering the potential of the book. And certainly, I think it’s a great book, very well organized, as you said, You’re a project manager, and I can totally tell that in the book. It’s so well organized.
Matty: Good. I’m glad I was able to bring that to it.
Joanna: Yes, you definitely did. Where can people find you and your podcast and your books and everything you do online?
Matty: They can go for my nonfiction platform to theindyauthor.com and that’s indy. And if they’re interested in learning about my fiction work, they can go to mattydalrymple.com and that’s Matty with a Y, Matty.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Matty. That was great.
Matty: Thanks, Joanna.
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Author: Joanna Penn