New York Times  Bestselling Author

Do You Like those Short Story Prequels? (And a Giveaway)

Dance Begins, TheThree years ago, I decided to write a short story that could serve as a prequel to my soon-to-be-released novel Necessary Lies in the hope the story would whet the my readers’ appetites for the book. I was not a short story writer, having written only one short story in the past, but I took a look at the finished manuscript for Necessary Lies and picked out an event I wanted to know more about (the night Mary Ella gave birth to Baby William, for those of you familiar with Necessary Lies. I loved writing the short story, which I called ‘The First Lie’. It gave me a chance to explore a dramatic event in my characters’ lives that hadn’t fit neatly into the book itself. I was also able to drop a (hopefully) tantalizing hint of what would come in the novel. It was so much fun that I wrote another short story (‘The Broken String’) for my next novel, The Silent Sister.

Since that time, many other authors have started writing prequel short stories. Most readers seem to love these stories now that they’ve caught onto them. At first, some readers were upset that the stories were, well, short and they complained about that fact in their reviews. I’ve tried now to make it very clear that these stories are between forty and fifty pages, about one tenth the length of my novels. They sell for 99¢ in the United States and the equivalent in other countries and are only available in digital format. A few readers also complained that the stories weren’t free. One reader wrote on my Facebook page “I refuse to pay money even for a novella; why should I pay for a short story?” I’m usually quite unflappable on Facebook, but her comment did prompt me to reply “Authors do have to eat!” I mean, really? A two hundred page novella can take many months to write. It takes me close to a month to come up with the idea for a short story and to flesh it out in my mind and another couple of weeks of solid writing to complete it. Then there’s the editing process and the cover creation, etc. All of that is followed, I hope, by the reader’s enjoyment. I think it’s worth 99¢, (though I’d love to know what you think.)

My most recent short story is ‘The Dance Begins’, which is a prequel to my upcoming novel Pretending to Dance. This was a tough one to write because I couldn’t figure out the story that should be the focus. Initially, I had a great idea . . . until I realized it gave away some of the major revelations in the book. As a matter of fact, every idea I came up with gave away something that I wanted to be a surprise for the reader of Pretending to Dance, so I really struggled with my storyline. I read through the book manuscript several times searching for inspiration. Then I noticed one sentence in the book. Fourteen-year-old Molly tells her friend, “I broke my arm on the Hill from Hell…” What if I wrote about the day she broke her arm?
I began thinking about how to flesh out that story. I made Molly six years old and her Dad, Graham, who has become one of my all-time favorite characters, (I picture him looking like a young Jeremy Irons) is coping with Multiple Sclerosis at a far earlier stage than he is in Pretending to Dance. While the book is written from Molly’s point of view, the short story is written from Graham’s and I loved being inside his head for a change. Oh, he’s a complicated man! It was fun to hint at things to come in the novel. I worried,  as I always do, that my readers would not be engaged by the story. When I received my copy-edited manuscript, though, and the copy editor had written ‘Beautiful story!’ at the end, I knew I’d hit the mark.
So far, my readers seem to love ‘The Dance Begins’ and no one has complained that it’s short (47 pages). One reviewer said my short stories are ‘integral to the novels’ without being necessary to them. I love it! That’s exactly my goal.

So how about you? Do you read short story prequels and if so, do you enjoy that early taste of a novel? Saturday morning at 10 EST, I’ll use a random number generator to pick one of you to win a gift certificate to the online bookstore of your choice. Doesn’t matter where you live. Good luck!

89 Comments

  1. Chantal bonin on August 19, 2015 at 10:31 am

    i really like short story prequel It feel like I already know the characters when I read the book!!!

    • B.A. Secrist on August 21, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      I think a short story is a great way to excite your fan base about a new novel, and to find new readers. Of course you should charge for it! Your time should translate to income.I doubt that those who dispute paying for a short story would willingly work over-time for free!

  2. Janette Matthews on August 19, 2015 at 10:39 am

    I really enjoy the short story prequel as a taste for the new book. It introduces the story, usually from a different time or point of view. I like getting to know the characters and it builds up anticipation for publication date! However, I never read pre-released chapters as I think these do spoil reading them for the first time when the book is released. Keep the books coming Diane, you’re an amazing author & natural storeyteller.

  3. Ann Pleass on August 19, 2015 at 10:45 am

    I have never read a prequel to your books or any other books, but it sounds like a good idea yo me.

  4. Lael Braday on August 19, 2015 at 10:47 am

    As much as I love your novels, the prequel short story form bugs the bejeebers out of me. It’s online, so I cannot place it with the book, and I feel that a part is missing. I keep your books. If you printed the short stories (I realize this is likely not cost-effective, and I do know that you like to eat), I would purchase it and put it with the book.

    Having said that, I’m glad that they are succeeding in the way that you envisioned. The short stories are as enchanting as your novels, and I agree that they are like frosting to a cupcake, non-essential, but yummy. So I’m happy for you in your creative endeavor, but I’m always going to feel that something is “out of place.”

  5. Carol Wickham on August 19, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I like finding out a little bit about a book before I spend time reading it!

  6. Carol Danner on August 19, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I am currently reading Necessary Lies and read the short story The first Lie before. Love both of them.

  7. Melissa Adkins on August 19, 2015 at 10:56 am

    I love short stories that connect me to the big story❤️

  8. Kerrie Kelly on August 19, 2015 at 11:08 am

    I love reading the short stories that compliment longer novels. They give you a taste of what’s to come, introduce characters and give you the chance to”hear” the story or hints to the story from another point of view. I am happy to buy these and feel they are priced fairly. I agree with a comment from Janette Mathews, I also dislike reading the early released chapters you often find at the end of other books.
    Please carry on doing what you do so well

  9. Paula Daigle on August 19, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Love the prequels. I’m a picky reader. If the book doesn’t grab me by the 2nd or 3rd (pushing it) chapter I’m not interested in finishing it. It’s so good to know that when I pick up a Diane Chamberlain novel or short story the only question is how can I make more time to read it!

  10. Cindy Moody on August 19, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I think it’s a good idea . Especially if I’ve never read anything by that author!

  11. Laurie Picillo on August 19, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I always read your prequels and most others, so I can get a feel for the characters in the upcoming book. I enjoy the feeling that I can’t wait to see what happens next, though some times the waiting is tough.

  12. Sian Griffiths on August 19, 2015 at 11:40 am

    I really enjoy the short and long stories, always enjoy your books and have read most by now!

  13. Melody B on August 19, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I know it’s supposed to be a prequel, but I’m the type of girl to read the book first and only then, read the short story. 😛 I’d rather get to know the characters in the book, and then learn what happened in their past through the short story.

    Besides, if I read the short story prequel first, there’s no way a could wait until the publication day to read the full length novel. I would go crazy! 😀

  14. Pat on August 19, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I was already planning to get Pretending to Dance, but after reading The Dance Begins, I am even more anxious for it to be out.
    I felt an immediate connection to Graham, and can’t wait to get to know him better.

  15. Donna Cooke on August 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

    I do like the prequel, but wish it could be available just before the book is for sale. I hate that I have to wait for the book after having my appetite wet by the prequel. lol

  16. Kayleigh Wilkes on August 19, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    I do love prequels. I love any story expansions!

  17. Donna Bidle on August 19, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    I do like a prequel to novels, I save them to read just before the book itself. You are one of my three favourite authors that does them! More reading is always a bonus.

  18. Tuscania Ferris on August 19, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    I love all of your stories whether they are short or long! 😉

  19. Jamie on August 19, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Diane- I love all your books! ! I would love to win this prequel.. you’re the best <3

  20. Sharon on August 19, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    I don’t love prequels only because I prefer paper books. Most prequels tend to be on the computer

  21. Raeanne Knull on August 19, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I totally love the prequel! I wait to read it closer to the release of the full book. I get into your character’s so fully that it feels like I know them!!! So reading “up on the book” is awesome for that! I love your books and can’t put them down, however I hate finishing them because it’s sad to say goodbye to them. Your writing gets to the heart of the book so quickly. It’s truly amazing to me how you do that!!

  22. Sheree Gillcrist on August 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    For me it is not about liking the prequel. It’s about who wrote it. Diane you are my go to author where I always know I get a solid thought provoking read. You never disappoint. So put your prequel on line or on cereal box. I’ll find it and read it:)

  23. Nicola Smith on August 19, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    I must admit to not being that bothered about short story prequels, in fact I would be more likely to read it after the full length book if I liked the story. I’ve never been particularly into short stories though.

  24. Marsha Wyble on August 19, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    I love short stories. In most of the books I read, I end up loving those characters so much I can’t seem to get enough.

  25. jessica bryson on August 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    I normally do not read short stories, but I read yours and loved them. Now I may have to try some others.

  26. Karla Alderson on August 19, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    I love prequels, there’s always something about a story that id love to know more about!

  27. Susan on August 19, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I love them! I think they really enhance the story to come! I love a sneak peak at the characters and they usually give us a bit of a back story! Keep on writing them, please! (And I don’t mind paying the $0.99 for them!)

  28. Barbara Olechnovich on August 19, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    I usually do not like to read short stories because they leave me wanting to know so much more about the characters, plot, setting and so on. I have never read a prequel before but I did read The Dance Begins prequel and I must say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. It makes me want to know Graham and Molly more and since I know Pretending to Dance is in my future, the anticipation is mounting!

  29. Sue evans on August 19, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Hmm that’s an interesting question! Up until now I have avoided any of your short stories. I love your books, particularly because I enjoy a good moral dilemma and multiple viewpoints, but I like a book I can really “get my teeth into”. I’ve always thought that a) if the contents of the short story were interesting enough they would have been integrated into the full length novel and b) it would act as a “spoiler”. Now, having read your explanation I can see I’m going to have to give one a go. I think I would wait until the publication of the novel and then read the short story either immediately before or after reading the full book. I wouldn’t want my appetite whetted by a tasty hors d’euvre and then to have to wait two months for the main course when I was starving 😉 .

  30. TANYA NOLTI on August 19, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    I really love reading short stories that compliment a larger story. You can learn so much about different characters in the larger book, their back stories, etc. Great contest – thank you!

  31. Stef Buxton on August 19, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I read the first lie before necessary lies and loved both of them, it helped get an insight into the book. I’ve just read the dance begins and can’t wait to read the new book 🙂
    I haven’t read short stories from other authors but I love your books

  32. Tracey Simpson on August 19, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Diane I really enjoy your prequels as it give us a taster while we wait for your book to be released
    Thank you

  33. Barbara Henderson on August 19, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    I really love these short stories. Hope you keep doing them. They give us something to look forward to when waiting for your books to come out. I think you should also write faster so we don’t have to wait so long. I just hate finishing a book I am enjoying. Thanks for the wonderful books you write.
    From a grateful New Zealand fan.

  34. Marsha Paul on August 19, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I enjoy prequels. I’ve rather read the full length version…

  35. Kristy Padilla on August 19, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    I have only read prequels to your books and I love them. Necessary Lies (The First Lie) was my favorite and I sort of felt like I knew the character better. Like I knew a secret. I have also noticed people complain about the $.99 and I think it’s ridiculous, I feel like $.99 is a small price to pay for that extra bit of enjoyment that your prequels offer.

  36. Adele on August 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    I do like a novella whether it’s a standalone story, a prequel or a sequel. However, if it’s a prequel and it’s got me gripped with the story I don’t like to be left hanging on too long to wait for the next instalment. I’m more than happy to pay for a short story, firstly if it’s a new author it’s like a taster price and secondly if you went to buy a loaf of bread if you only wanted to buy a small one you’d expect to pay for it and not have free bread. Free books are good for limited time purchases I.e. Special date recognition but as readers we can’t expect to have freebies all the time.

  37. Gina on August 19, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    I loved the prequel, The Dance Begins. I love short stories anyway. I certainly don’t think 99 cents is too much to pay. I thought it was quite the bargain! I hope the trend continues.

  38. Amy on August 19, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    I love YOUR prequels. You could give lessons to other popular writers on how to write a prequel that’s meaningful yet not necessary to the novel as well as being able to stand on its own as a short story.

  39. Cassi Clarke on August 19, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    I love short stories! & I love anything you write!

  40. Carole Bishop on August 19, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    I loved both The First Lie, and Broken String. I have The Dance Begins to start soon. It’s like watching a trailer for a movie, (which I always do!) I like a sneak peek and introduction to the characters! Thank you, Diane!

  41. Laurie Truesdell on August 19, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    I love the short story prequels, but I read them right before I am reading the book. I can’t stand the wait!

  42. Dawn Geller on August 19, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    I have net read your prequels, but have read several of the books you mentioned. I will have to find them and share with #LadyRangersBookClub. We ❤️ your books!

  43. Kivalina on August 19, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    I love your books.

  44. Barbara Abramowitz on August 19, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    I just love to read, I love novels, short stories and I really enjoy your writing. And who doesn’t love a giveaway?

  45. Sandra Sprouse on August 19, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    I love short stories that connect me to the book, but sometimes I like reading the short story after I read the book. 🙂

  46. Michelle Prevatte on August 19, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    It’s my birthday weekend and I really need something new from you to read this weekend so this would be wonderful

  47. Debbie on August 19, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    I have only read your prequels. I love them. I know they are not ‘necessary’, but love the almost sneaky feeling of knowing more to the story. IF YOU WRITE IT, THEY WILL READ! Lol

  48. Sandy Mason on August 19, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    I just downloaded The Dance Begins!

  49. Samantha Shamrock on August 19, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    I love short stories, especially when hey come from you! Often times while I’m reading a book, I find myself wondering about different experiences mentioned in the book. I love that the prequels give more insite. I think 99 cents is well worth it! It takes time to plan out a story, no matter how short. The least we can do is appreciate the author sharing this extended story with us.

  50. Michelle on August 20, 2015 at 1:44 am

    I love short stories as a prequel to a novel. My favourite books, like yours, are ones where you become do involved in the characters lives that they begin to feel like family members. Short stories as prequels help with this they give background to the characters and make them feel more real.

  51. Helen on August 20, 2015 at 2:35 am

    I like short story prequels, but I do prefer to buy physical books so if they were available as a physical copy I would buy them to keep with my books. I don’t mind reading them on my phone so much as they are shorter and I can finish them in one go. I usually like to keep them to read just before I start the main book, but I read The Dance Begins pretty much straight away…

  52. Sarah Johnson on August 20, 2015 at 2:39 am

    I love your books Diane, but don’t enjoy any short stories, as I find that I get so engrossed in a good book that it comes to an end far too quickly!!

    I’d rather wait for the full length one and savour every minute!

  53. Emily Mizen on August 20, 2015 at 6:14 am

    I love anything that lets me spend longer with the characters. I also like getting the greater insight into them that the short story prequels provide. However, I generally wait until the novel is out as well before I read them so that I can read them straight after each other, as otherwise I just want to know more NOW!

  54. Diane Cunningham on August 20, 2015 at 7:09 am

    I do love your prequels, but they do leave me wanting more,so I buy it ready to read just before the book comes out then I don’t have a long wait.

  55. Cathy Alesbrook on August 20, 2015 at 8:01 am

    I absolutely love the short stories. They keep me going in between the novels, they give me something to look forward to and even though they are short the price is a steal! I don’t mind paying 99p for a short story that I know is going to be an incredible teaser and give me a glimpse into what is to come. Although it does leave me wanting the full length novel NOW!

  56. Martha O'Quinn on August 20, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Good morning Diane. I have read the prequel to your new book along with the teaser for the book which was tacked on at the end. I would have paid $1.99 for the prequel! I have a close friend who is in the end stages with MS. I shall patiently await publication in October!

  57. Susan Aspin on August 20, 2015 at 9:00 am

    I have just read The dance begins and can’t wait for the full story (which I had already pre – ordered from Amazon.) I like the characters of Graham and Molly & enjoyed the little hits of revelations to come. I love your stories Diane. Have read 14 of them in the last 2 months.

  58. Judy Sescil on August 20, 2015 at 9:32 am

    I love the prequels! At 99 cents I can’t really complain, the only thing better would be free to get you hooked into buying book 🙂

  59. Patti on August 20, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Love love love your short stories! They really get me interested in the book!

  60. Ellie Marson on August 20, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Love the prequels because they give an insight into the novels.
    I have enjoyed all your books so far and am impatient to read anything of yours the moment I hear about it. Thanks Diane for all the pleasure you give.

  61. Melissa Crawford on August 20, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    I love prequels and would (and have paid) pay for them. Occasionally, I didn’t find the prequel until after reading the book. What a nice surprise! I was able to make the book … and characters last a bit longer.

  62. Kerrie irish on August 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    I love short story prequels. It’s so fun to learn what the characters were doing before you first originally met them.

  63. Sue Crane on August 20, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Pro: Love the prequel – I, too, find Graham to be a fascinating character.
    Con: the long, anticipatory wait to hear the rest of the story.

    But I’m sure it’s going to be worth the wait!

  64. Janet on August 20, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    I consider them a bit of a nuisance. I’d rather they were just part of the book. I wouldn’t have to make a separate purchase or have another book listed to add to the already massive Amazon book list. I enjoy the stories and I get them, I just don’t like the extra bother of it. If all authors did this, my book list would be twice as long…YIKES!!!

    • Diane Chamberlain on August 20, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      I’m trying to stay out of the conversation here, but I’d like to respond to your comment, Janet. To me, the cool thing about a prequel, at least the ones I write, is that you don’t have to read them to enjoy the novel. They truly are just a bonus. The reason they’re not part of the book is that a) I haven’t thought of the idea for them until months after the book is written and 2) they don’t fit into the novels. For example, The Dance Begins is in Graham’s point of view, which wouldn’t work in the novel at all. At any rate, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

  65. Sharon on August 20, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    Honestly, it depends on the short story. I know that doesn’t exactly answer your question but there have been some that have been really good and some not (I’m talking all the prequels out there, not just yours). But if a story is good, then it’s good.

  66. Kathy LaMaster on August 20, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    I love prequels! I am a bibliophile through and through!

  67. Anne Kennedy on August 20, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    Yours are the only prequels I have read. I didn’t even know that other authors are doing this! Normally I don’t read short stories because I would rather read a whole book and really get into it. But I will read anything you write, as some others have said, and I loved the three prequels you have written. It is interesting to read from another character’s point of view, and It feels like getting a sneak preview! Just wish I didn’t have to wait so long for the book! It was well worth $.99 to me. Thanks and keep up the great writing!

  68. Melissa Edwards on August 20, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    I love short story prequels! I love anything that is written by you so be it big or small, I’m going to read it 🙂

  69. dawn lee on August 21, 2015 at 1:59 am

    ty I love reading ur books and am slowly getting through them all love the prequel xx

  70. Karie | Girl Going Country on August 21, 2015 at 7:49 am

    I’ve read your short stories and have enjoyed them in their own right. I do appreciate getting a little more insight into a character that we don’t get in the main story.

  71. HC on August 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Yes! The more you write the better. Love your work.

  72. Stephanie S. on August 21, 2015 at 10:00 am

    I do love the short stories! They are a great way to give us a readers a taste of your upcoming book. In my case it is a great way to tide me over until your new book comes out. Your books are always a must read for me and so are your short stories!

  73. Jami Birnbaum on August 21, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    I do like short stories, especially if they are tied in to an upcoming new release. But since I use my library for the majority of my books, they very rarely purchase short stories or novellas, even the ebook versions.

  74. Bonnie Franks on August 21, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    I think a prequel is good in some cases. I do not like a chapter being released early and would never read one. I think your prequels would be great. Your type of story lends itself to that format. By that I mean your writing and your characters are awesome.

  75. Harriet Love on August 21, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    I like to read short story prequels because you get to know more about the characters and story.

  76. Christine on August 21, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Boo to the people that say your books aren’t for free! Do they do services for free?
    I love your stories, free or not! Keep up the good job!!!!

  77. Betty Escobar on August 21, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Id rather not read them , I like to read the book all in one

  78. Karen Shipman on August 21, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    I am not a fan of prequels but I am a fan of your books.

  79. Samara Holton on August 21, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    The only time I’ve read a prequel was actually post book and it explained the story and I had a better clarification of the characters. I would have loved to have read it before hand but I didn’t find it until afterwards. I would love the opportunity to actually read one before the book as that is what it is intended.

  80. Dorena Bunetic on August 22, 2015 at 12:09 am

    I generally don’t care for short stories but if I know they’ll be followed up with a great book, that’s different! Great idea!

  81. Teresa on August 22, 2015 at 12:21 am

    Yes!! I really just love everything you write 🙂 I always look forward to everything and try to read them as soon as I can 🙂 You are for sure one of my top authors!

  82. Jessica on August 22, 2015 at 1:25 am

    I love everything you write. Prequels are a fabulous idea. Love love love.

  83. Nicole Spivey on August 22, 2015 at 7:58 am

    I really like the prequels because I feel like it gives me a litte more background information to the main story. I don’t like to read them until I have the novel ready to read immediately after. A few weeks ago I read The Broken String with plans to read The Silent Sister next. I was positive that I had a copy of The Silent Sister so when I opened the cabinet to look for it, it was not there. I still have not been able to locate a copy of The Silent Sister (in book format). From now on when I read a prequel I will make sure I have the novel because I want to know what happnes..

  84. Diane Chamberlain on August 22, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Melissa Edwards is the winner of the bookstore gift certificate. Congratulations Melissa! You’ll be receiving an email from me. Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a comment. I learned so much from you all!

  85. Jessica Martin on August 4, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Yes, I like short stories, because of Excitement will be increase while reading short stories, For long story we should have full of patience to get excited.

  86. Robin Roth on April 16, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    I didn’t know you wrote prequels to some of your books, but I’d like to read them. How do I get copies of them?

    • Diane Chamberlain on July 28, 2018 at 9:05 pm

      Robin, there are three of them and they are only available as ebooks (for 99cents each). There is one for Necessary Lies, Pretending to Dance and The Silent Sister and you can find them wherever you buy ebooks. Hope you enjoy them!

Leave a Comment