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Can I Make Money Writing Short Stories?

Updated on August 19, 2014
Can You Still Make Money Writing Short Fiction?
Can You Still Make Money Writing Short Fiction? | Source

Can You Make Money Writing Short Stories?

There has never been a more superb time, in all of literary history, to make money off of your short stories. With independent e-book publishing, anyone with a little talent, a truckload of ingenuity, and the stubbornness of a donkey can profit from short story writing.

What is a Short Story?

A short story is a low word count literary piece. Within the writing community, the definition of a short story differs, but generally, they are 1,000-40,000 words. However, today, anything over about 10,000 is often classified as a novella. Short stories under 1,000 words are considered flash fiction.

Short stories pack a punch; they are quick and to the point, generally a snip-it in the timeline of a character or a situation. Since they are smaller than a novel, they tend to drive one point, theme or idea, hone.

Why Are Short Stories Popular?

Short stories are short, so they are the perfect form of entertainment for time strapped readers. They can be enjoyed, in their entirety, on the bus home, or on a lunch break. The reader gets a full story in the same time frame as their favorite nightly sitcom.

Short stories are also inexpensive. You can find thousands of them available online for free or just $0.99. With such a small investment, most people don't think twice about buying a story they are interested in, whereas spending $10 on a c-class novel can be disappointing.

Short Stories by Author Jennifer Arnett

Into Her Chambers
Into Her Chambers | Source
The Recluse
The Recluse | Source

The Death of Traditional Printing

Until this recent e-book revolution, selling your short story was a difficult process. It meant sending out hundreds of short stories to literary journals and magazines. Thousands of rejection letters later, you were lucky to sell one $500 story.

Now with Barnes and Noble, Kindle, Kobo, and ibooks, publishing your short story is easier than ever.

Start With Kindle

Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is easier than you think. You sign in with your Amazon account, fill out some additional tax information, and upload your book to their site. Word documents upload very smoothly, so with very minor formatting, you can be up and running in only a couple of minutes.

Amazon has made it really easy for you to figure out their publishing system by creating a very user friendly way of publishing. There is a cover creator workshop, dozens of pages of "how to" guides, and very easy to understand directions. If you can publish a Hub, you can publish a short story to Kindle.

Depending upon the price of your story and which Kindle Programs you choose, your royalty will be either 35% or 70%. Anything priced over $2.99 gets the 70% royalty, so writing longer short stories, or grouping them together can be a good money making strategy.

If you choose Kindle Select, you can offer your books for free for 5 out of the 90 day program, which can be a great way to gain exposure as a new author. Through the Kindle Unlimited program, readers read your work as part of a subscription based

Dean Wesley Smith's Plan

Dean Wesley Smith has created an incredible plan to make a full-time income, writing short stories, in just 6 years, only writing one hour a day. He assumes that if you write for one hour a day, you will produce 50 short stories a year. After 6 years, you will have 300 short stories, all earning you money. His plans assumes that each short story will sell 5 copies a month, across all platforms, and will amass to $40,000 a year by year 6.

It may sound crazy and outlandish, but with that many short stories, finding fans shouldn't be rocket science. If anything, you will be a phenomenal writer by the time you are done.

At the end of the day, those 300 short stories might make you a million bucks, or only enough for a nice streak dinner with your editor, but with that much perseverance, you're bound to have success.

So yes, it is possible to make money off of your short stories, but it will take a little talent, a truckload of endurance, a smidgen of stubbornness, and a whole lot of marketing.

Stephen King on the Short Story

Ways to Make Money Off of Your Short Stories

You might not sell a million copies of your 8 page short story, but that doesn't mean you can't benefit financially from writing them. Short stories are a great way to promote yourself as an author. Giving away a short story and linking to your upcoming novel is the best form of publicity. Once customers on Kindle have purchased your story, even if for free, your other works will likely be recommended to them.

As long as you are not on the Kindle Select program, you can also upload your stories to Kobo, itunes, and Barnes and Noble, for even more exposure.

One idea for making money off of your short story is to write short stories for HubPages. Even though HubPages tends to better reward SEO friendly articles, getting your work put on HubPages exposes your work to other writers, makes you a little money in advertising, and gives you a wonderful platform to promote your work.

One marketing strategy would be to write a 1,000 word short story as a hook, then add links to your other amazon books and short stories. If people like what they read for free, they will be eager to read more of your work, and will be more willing to pay for it.

Do You Read Short Stories

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How Much Should I Price My Short Stories?

How much you should price your short stories is a heated topic in the writing world, with several differing opinions.

Dean Wesley Smith, on his blog, recommends never charging less than $2.99 for a short story. If the story is exceptionally short, he recommends bundling two thin short stories together, so that the reader feels like he or she is getting a good deal.

Then there is the $0.99 crowd, who believes that most readers won't pay more than a buck for a new author's work. If you don't have a literary reputation, readers take a gamble when they hit purchase. The other theory behind the $0.99 recommendation, is that readers will impulse buy it--after all it's just a buck.

At the very bottom of the stack is the free crowd, who believes that short stories should be offered for free to lure in customers who will want to pay $4.99 to $9.99 for your novels. If you give away thousands of free stories, it will, over time, build a large readership, and bring in more reviews. Once your stories each have 10-20 reviews, then you can start charging.

As you can see, there is no perfect answer. For myself, I have chosen to offer 1-10 page short stories for $0.99, longer short stories for $1.99, and novels for $4.99 and up. As part of the Kindle Select program, I offer each short story for free for 5 days, which brings in readers who will hopefully share my work, write reviews, and purchase my other stories, if they find them useful.

How Can I Be Successful Making Money Writing Short Stories?

10,000,000 Words

The internet is full of get rich schemes and easy outs, but there is no easy way to the top. I repeat: THERE IS NO EASY WAY TO THE TOP. If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, that's at a 1,000 words an hour, 10,000,000 million words you need to write--so get busy!

The Prize Goes to Those Who Persevere

“Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” - Thomas Edison

In all seriousness, it will take years to become a well known author. Sure there are the overnight success stories who show up on Oprah's couch, basking in fame and fortune, but they are one in a million, and not something a young writer should bank on.

From my own experience, and from reading other author's success stories, success starts to show up on your doorstep when you have several hundred hubs, have published 10 books, have 100 blog posts, or are working on their 7th novel. Not only does it take that much writing to become good at the craft, it takes that long to build your platform.

© 2014 Jennifer Arnett

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    • Emese Fromm profile image

      EmeseRéka 2 years ago from The Desert

      This is very informative and useful article. I have written a lot of short stories over the years, but rarely ever tried to publish them or send them anywhere to be published. What you explained here seems easy and attainable. Thank you for sharing this information!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi again Jen, thanks for your enthusiastic congratulations. The anthology is called:"We Go On : A Veterans' Anthology for Charity" composed by Kiki Howell. Yes the story chosen was from one of my hubs "Just a Humble Hero." I am not sure when it will be published. Feels good to be able to call yourself a "published" author even if it isn't your own book.

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 2 years ago from California

      Jodah, that's fantastic! I'm over here in California, doing my happy dance for you. You are a very engaging and talented writer, so it was only a matter of time and perseverance. A published author, let those words sink in! What a great way to start the New Year. You'll have to let us know which anthology it is in. Was it one of the stories you've had up on Hubpages?

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 2 years ago from California

      rjsezack, thanks for stopping by to comment. Just keep writing. Every article or story you write makes you a better writer. Hubpages is an excellent place to start publishing your work and getting it noticed.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Jen, I recently had a short story accepted for non-exclusive (still gives me the right to publish it or sell it elsewhere) publication in an anthology so I am stoked. My first payment for one of my stories, and I get a copy of the anthology plus a free plug.

    • rjsezack profile image

      Robert Wolfe 2 years ago from Ft. Worth, TX

      Your article was very interesting. I have been writing for a while, but am yet unpublished.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for the advice and encouragement Jennifer. I need to stop procrastinating and do something about it.

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 2 years ago from California

      Thanks Jodah. You are brilliant short story writer and I would encourage you to seek publication. Kindle is really easy and you could have a short story up in about an hour. With the new Amazon capsule, you can promote your own books in your hubs. They have made it so easy to get your work out there. Good luck!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wonderful hub, inspiring and full of very sound advice. Thanks for sharing. I hope to publish some short stories or poetry one day soon.

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Writer Fox, I understand the allure of traditional publishing, but you are right, getting published is much more difficult. I'm sitting in a bookstore right now and crossing my fingers that it will still exist next year. Three bookstores in my are already went away. I'll be really sad when people stop buying books completely. There's nothing like a real book in your hand, right?

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      It's much more difficult now for writers to publish their work in magazines and literary journals. There are fewer of these venues than there were 20 years ago and there is much more competition.

      Publishing ebooks makes a lot of sense for many people, provided they have some way of marketing their products.

      I enjoyed reading about your experience with the Kindle Select program. Congratulations on your achievements there. Voted up and useful!

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      That's a great idea. Flash fiction is gaining speed. Let me know when you publish it.

    • deathwalk60 profile image

      Larry Sells 3 years ago from Decorah, IA

      Thanks. I working on a small book containing storing 50 words or less. A couple of years a ago I read a couple of anthologies of fiction contain stories that were fifty words. I'll be publishing that book.

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      deathwalk, I don't believe that Kindle has a minimum word count. They have a category for books that take less than 15 minutes to read. The only issue is that the cheapest you can sell your boo for, besides making it free, is $0.99, so you have to make your work long enough to satisfy the reader, in terms of value. $0.99 is common for short stories that are around 4000 words. If you are selling flash fiction or really short pamphlets, you can bundle them together.

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Thanks! Good luck turning your words into dollars. Work hard and luck will be on your side.

    • deathwalk60 profile image

      Larry Sells 3 years ago from Decorah, IA

      What's Kindle's minimum word count or page limit that they will receive for short stories

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 3 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Excellent advice...Have been looking for ways of monetizing my writing...

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Welcome back to the game, Robin. Hubpages is a great place to try your hand at creative writing.

    • Robin Marie profile image

      Robin 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing this helpful information. I stepped away from my creative writing several years ago and am interested in getting back into the game.

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      I haven't tried CreateSpace yet. Sounds like you're building your platform well. That takes a lot of bravery to do readings and signings. Great marketing plan!

    • deathwalk60 profile image

      Larry Sells 3 years ago from Decorah, IA

      I go the CreateSpace route. I write poetry and short story anthologies, novellas, and personal essays. In the past, I did the iUniverse thing a couple of times, the Lulu thing. I'm currently transferring my Lulu publications to CreateSpace. It's cheaper for me to purchase copies of my books, so I can turn around and sell them at conferences, book signings, and readings. I have two books on Kindle, haven't decided on if I'm going to publish more books there or not.

    • Lowdown0 profile image

      Robbie Newport 3 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      This information helps, thanks Availiassvison, this is something I'm going to try for by the winter. Glad you are doing well.

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Yes, for Kindle Singles you have to submit your work for Kindle's review. I believe that you get extra perks, like amazon advertising for the singles. With Kindle direct, the way I have been publishing, you just upload your document, set the price, and click publish. Then there's Kindle Select, which is part of the direct publishing, same process. You can offer promotions on your work, so long as you agree to exclusively publish that book with kindle, for a period of 90 days. After that, you can upload your story to Smashwords. I recommend new authors doing the selection program because it gets your work into reader's hands. You will also get a chunk of the 2 million dollar pot that makes up the Kindle Unlimited plan. They take the money and divide it by how many times your work was read through the program. Hope this helps, and good luck! I hope to see your work up there.

    • Lowdown0 profile image

      Robbie Newport 3 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      So, my question is, what is the Kindle Singles? Is that the same thing as Kindle Direct. From what I read on the Kindle Singles, they wanted me to submit a story and then 6 weeks later I would hear from them to see if I could publish it? Kindle Direct sounds different, can you clarify? Thanks for the article.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I'll be one of those that keeps on trying, but I am a long way from making much money with writing short stories.

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Thanks Bill. I'm hoping for hundreds of published short stories and novels during my writing career. It's so much fun, it doesn't feel like work.

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Thanks deathwalk, what types of writing do you publish?

    • Availiasvision profile image
      Author

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Sharonlee, I'm so glad that you found this so helpful. Wow, you are a writing jack-of-all-trades! I hope you fins success.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Without a doubt, ebooks have opened up a whole new market in writing. I see no reason to think that short stories can't succeed at this time. Long ago, dime novels made it, and they were little more than a series of short stories sold in stores....if this is your direction then I wish you good luck.

    • deathwalk60 profile image

      Larry Sells 3 years ago from Decorah, IA

      I have been writing since I was eight years old. I've been publishing since I've been 37 years old. I'm now 54 am still enjoying myself. I enjoyed your article.

    • Sharonlee G profile image

      Sharon Lee Goodhand 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you!

      I found this quite inspiring; writing has been my 'hobby' for 30 years. I write every day, poetry, prose , short stories, flash fiction.

      I'm going to re-read this and start applying it to my daily writing routine.