One of the best marketing strategies for book authors is to publish excerpts in literary magazines. It’s a great way to generate interest, build an audience, and show literary agents the true potential of your story! But before you can get excerpts published, you have to create an excerpt that will wow editors. Where do you start? Which chapter should you use? Should you write something completely new that’s based on part of your novel? The experts at Writer’s Relief have some excellent tips for creating must-read excerpts from your book.
How To Create Buzzworthy Excerpts From Your Book
Consider the first chapter. If there is immediate tension or action in the first chapter that will spark a reader’s interest, it may make a good excerpt. However, avoid using the first chapter if it is dedicated mostly to backstory or setting the scene.
Look for places of conflict or action. Take a look at the other chapters that might have enough character, conflict, or action to stand alone as a short story. Slice-of-life moments or character sketches can also be great places to start. Keep it simple and compelling, and make sure you aren’t devoting precious space to long explanations of plot or backstory.
Review your subplots. Many novels contain subplots that will make great excerpts! These supporting stories may or may not intersect with the main narrative, but usually influence the overall story arc. Look for moments of drama or character development.
Don’t take the excerpt word-for-word from your book. You can add details, remove some, or rearrange events so the excerpt works as a stand-alone short story. Even with some variations, your story will still be considered an excerpt from your book. And when creating your excerpt, keep in mind that the greatest number of literary journals accept short stories under 3,500 words.
Create a spin-off. Do you have deleted scenes that didn’t make it into the final draft of your book? Is there a character who lives in this universe, but doesn’t appear in the story? These are perfect opportunities for your excerpt! Even though it isn’t directly cut from your book, the goal of this short story is to generate interest in the work that inspired it. Maintain the integrity of the characters and stay true to the overall theme of your novel (or memoir).
Choose the right ending. A good ending doesn’t always mean everything in the story is tied up in a neat bow and resolved. As long as your excerpt finds some resolution, or a stopping point that hints at resolution, you’re fine.
Remember that an excerpt is supposed to be a complete, stand-alone piece, just like a typical short story. Literary journal editors are not interested in whether the story is an excerpt from your book. They want a good short story.
However, literary agents will be very interested in the fact that your book excerpt was published—and this information should go into your query letter. Publishing excerpts from your book shows there’s existing interest in the story and your writing, since editors found your work compelling enough to include in literary journals.
Question: What do you find most difficult about excerpting a book?