Firstly, a little history. Before the launch of Amazon’s Kindle and the ebook revolution, you couldn’t give short stories away. The heyday of the short story was the 1930s to the 1960s.
Once television became entrenched as a source of entertainment, magazines no longer published as many short stories, nor did they pay as much for them. From 1975 onward, short stories appeared in literary magazines, and the authors certainly weren’t paid.
Nowadays, you can sell your short stories on the Kindle — they sell VERY well.
I know of one writer who sells collections of short pieces of erotica. She tells me she makes $15,000 a month, and expects to make more, as she releases more collections… So short stories are goldmines, these days.
Here’s an interesting take on selling short stories as Kindle ebooks from Anne R. Allen.
I visited a critique group not long ago where one writer complimented another with the misguided advice that he shouldn’t “waste” his crisp little story—he should turn it into a novel.
In other words, she was telling the writer that instead of sending a 10,000 word short story to Amazon to sell for 99 cents, he should spend two years turning it into a 100,000 word novel, which he could sell on Amazon for…um, 99 cents. (OK, not all self-pubbed ebooks are priced that low, but even at $4.99, the bottom line news isn’t good for the author. Especially if he puts money into editing and design.)
MarlaB’s a writer who’s doing well with short stories. She shares her results:
3533 books sold
0 stories published in March (was working on a novel)
3338 books sold
4 stories published in April
Readers enjoy short stories, and they don’t take long to write.
Short stories: write them and SELL them.
Genres in which short stories are currently selling well include: erotica, romance, mystery, and science fiction/ fantasy.
Let’s start at the beginning and decide what a short story is.
What is a short story? Here’s PoeWar’s definition:
I define a short story as a brief, focused fictional piece that contains at minimum the following key elements: plot, setting, characterization and some sort of resolution.
I’d add to that a theme — to be fully satisfying to the reader, a short story has a meaning, some sort of lesson. However, meaning is unlikely to appear until you’ve written the first draft of a story. With some short stories I’ve written, I didn’t see the meaning of the story until many years after I wrote the story.
Therefore, when you’re writing your short stories, don’t concern yourself about the meaning until you’ve written the story. And, if the idea of analyzing stories bugs you, don’t worry about the meaning at all. You’re writing entertainment. As long as you entertain, your readers will pay for, and enjoy, your stories.
According to our definition of a short story, we need:
- A plot
- A setting
- A resolution
Your Short Story’s Plot…
Here’s a simple way to plot your short story (or novel): something happens to your character, and it changes him.
Therefore, you’ll need to include:
- Your character in his everyday life. What he’s like;
- An incident which has a big effect on him;
- A dark moment/ climax;
- Loose ends tied up, falling action;
- Winding up.
Talking about writing short stories takes longer than writing them. Think of a character, and a situation, and start writing. Once you’ve finished writing, you can edit your story.
Aim to write a story somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 words. Check MarlaB’s strategy for pricing.
Writing short stories is a lot of fun. They don’t take much time, and they can be very profitable.
So – what are you waiting for? Start writing.
This article updated on June 3, 2014
I wrote this article almost a year ago. I thought I’d need to make changes, but the information is fundamental. Short stories are short stories. Once you have the knack of writing them, you’ll find that they’re super-easy both to write, and to publish.
A tip: think in series. As I said in Quick Fiction Tips: More Series Secrets (Make One Free):
Offer the first ebook in your series free as soon as you publish the THIRD ebook. Some of your readers will buy books 2 and 3, and your next ebooks. Your free ebook builds your readership.
Have fun writing short stories.
Want more? Check out our Complete Fiction Writing Package.
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