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First let me say that going to conferences is great because the panels and conversations really get your mind moving. I love those “light bulb” moments. (And I’ll probably be full of post-conference enthusiasm for at least another week.)
Among the things we talked about in a great panel on ebook publishing was using short stories to help build an audience, to introduce characters, and to keep readers interested between novels. The last reason is also on this list of 10 reasons to write short stories.

Ten Reasons to Write Short Stories Even Though the Pay is Peanuts – SFWA