Thinking about writing short stories? I get queries about self-publishing short fiction every week, so let’s look at the most common questions.
And yes, you can make money with short stories, for the first time in decades. As I said in Make Money Writing Short Fiction: Short Stories Sell:
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.
Writing and self-publishing short stories: short fiction sells, BUT…
I admit, the fact that short stories sell today surprises me still.
However, there’s a “but…”
It’s this. While there may be some writers in genres like erotica who write short fiction only, and make a living from it, it’s not a strategy I’d suggest. Amazon trounced the various erotica categories years ago, locking them away in the “dungeon.” This means that erotica generally won’t come up in Amazon searches, and you run the risk of falling afoul of Amazon’s unwritten rules. Plus, promoting these stories is difficult.
So, avoid erotica if you can. The challenges outweigh the benefits for most authors.
Short stories work most effectively when they’re part of an overall fiction publishing strategy.
Now let’s look at the questions.
1. How long “should” short stories be?
Short reads are popular with readers. Amazon helps you out too, with its various Short Reads categories. Here’s Amazon’s Bestsellers in Short Reads.
If you look at the left sidebar of the page, you’ll see how Amazon categorizes the Short Reads. “15 minutes — 1 to 11 pages” etc. Please be aware that you can’t add your short stories to the Short Reads categories yourself. Amazon does that automatically.
I suggest that you keep your short fiction at over 2,500 words. You’re less likely to get comments from Amazon — and readers — if you do this.
- Add “short story” to your book’s title;
- Add “short story” to the book’s description as well;
- Promote your short fiction as short fiction: it’s essential that readers know what they’re buying.
2. How do you promote short fiction?
I’ve seen authors have the most success with adding short stories to KDP Select. This means that your stories are free to Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscribers; you can do well with Pages Read.
In essence tossing short stories into KDP Select is easy promotion for all your fiction.
Other marketing strategies:
- Before you publish a short story, offer it free to your blog’s readers for a limited time. If you offer a “free short story a month” or whatever schedule you choose, it gives you a boost in readers — and increases sales of your other fiction. Important: REMOVE your short stories from your blog before you offer them in Select as an Amazon exclusive, otherwise you’ll annoy Amazon;
- Offer a free short story to people who subscribe to your mailing list;
- Surprise your mailing list with the occasional exclusive-to-subscribers short story.
3. How do you price short stories?
This is a challenge, because it may take courage. 🙂 The best advice I’ve heard from authors I respect is to price at $2.99, no matter the length. Your short stories are available to KU subscribers for free, and it may surprise you that you do get sales at $2.99.
You can create bundles of short stories too. Price those at $7.99; this price point means that you can afford paid promotions.
Write short stories as prequels and sequels
You may get the best results from your short fiction when the fiction references your full length novels in some way. Set your short stories in the milieu of your novels: in the same town or city; in the same era; using characters from your novels.
When you do this, you can use your short stories as direct advertising for your novels.
Have fun with your short stories. 🙂
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Updated: February 5, 2018
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