When Once a Year Is Just Not Enough
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

When Once a Year Is Just Not Enough

On Friday, I blogged a list of questions about self-publishing. Now, slowly, I’m trying to find the answers. One of the questions was this one: “Is it true that publishing a "book-a-year" is no longer enough? Are our readers demanding extra books, even if they are nothing more than long short stories?”
 
I’ve seen several people try to examine the assumptions behind the statement, while other authors are testing the water by issuing small volumes between their longer works or by publishing a short story here and there.  Recently author Lee Child filled a gap in his Jack Reacher series by publishing a short story in Esquire. John Grisham has published a book of short stories, called Ford Country. And Sharan Newman, one of my favorite medieval novelists, now has a book of stories out. In Death before Compline, she explains the origins of these stories, many of which have been published before, and by doing so introduces new readers to her ten Catherine LeVendeur novels.
 
It’s a fairly recent development--made easy and accessible by the proliferation of e-readers and an audience hungry for inexpensive new reading entertainment. I suspect that most authors have had readers finish one book and immediately ask, “When is the next one coming out?” This is one way to answer that demand without lecturing readers on how long it really takes to write a book or resorting to publishing dreck.
 
Once I thought about the issue without breaking into a cold sweat over how long it takes me to write something, I realized that short pieces might be the answer for me as well.  When I first started writing my next book, The Road to Frogmore, I pounded out 50,000 words, and then promptly trashed over 35,000 words because they didn’t have a whole lot to do with the story I wanted to tell.  I even wrote a blog post about it a year or so ago, in which I described “killing my darlings, “ which referred to all the minor characters whose stories I had cut out of the manuscript. Those bits and pieces were still lying around – good stories and interesting characters who simply didn’t fit.  I left them by the side of the road because they didn’t belong in this novel.
 
Until now! In my own attempt to test the idea that readers are eager for new material and will gladly pay small amounts for a quick fix from their favorite characters, I’ve put together a small volume of stories and character sketches, meant to fill the gap between Beyond All Price and The Road to Frogmore.
 
All of these interesting people may some day become main characters in novels of their own. But for now, they serve two purposes. Through their observations and experiences they shed additional light on what life was really like during the Civil War. And more important, they form bridges between the stories I have already told and those that are yet to come. I hope some of you will enjoy Left by the Side of the Road: Characters without a Novel. You can get the e-book free for three days, starting tomorrow, Tuesday, July 24, at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008K32SZ4