A couple of readers, who are working on novels, asked about Kindle short stories. Do they sell?
“An indie writer wrote me with this advice: “unless you have a break-out success with a novel, the short story is probably more lucrative as a return on time invested. I can make as much per sale on a ten page short story as on a 120,000 word novel.” And I know many indies who use a short piece as a free download to introduce readers to their work.”
Kindle Unlimited has made short fiction profitable
I began my professional writing career writing romance novels. Although I’d had short stories published in magazines, making a career out of short fiction didn’t appeal to me. I love to immerse myself in my fiction, going deep into character. You can’t do that in a short story.
More to the point, in the early 1980s, short fiction wasn’t profitable. Publishing houses which published commercial fiction weren’t interested in short stories.
Amazon changed all that. Amazon doesn’t care whether you publish a 90,000 word novel, or 9,000 word short story. Ebooks can be any length you choose. That said, until Amazon created its Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscription service, short fiction wasn’t popular with authors. Short stories didn’t sell as well as novels did.
2018 tip: please be aware that if you’re writing short stories, you’ll get the best results when you write longer fiction as well.
Readers enjoy snackable fiction, as long as it’s free, or close to free. If you can write short stories in popular genres, and enroll them in KDP Select, so that they’re available free to KU subscribers, you’ll make sales. Real sales, as well as your share of Amazon’s fund.
Yes, your short story sales are in addition to your share of the KDP Select Global Fund, which is the pot of funds by which Amazon pays you for free reads. Amazon pays you for free reads, as long as a reader reads more than 10% of an ebook. It’s easy for readers to hit the 10% mark in a short story, or novella, even if they don’t finish the ebook.
At first, when my students told me that they were making more real sales of their short fiction which was enrolled in KDP Select, I didn’t believe it. Then I decided to experiment. I switched ALL my short fiction, across several pen names in different genres, to KDP Select. As it turns out, the students were right. Free reads lead to sales.
New author? Write Kindle short stories for practice
You need practice. I started writing fiction at around eight years old. I can still remember sitting under a tree, on our farm, busily scribbling away. I scribbled and scribbled, until I received a typewriter on my fourteenth birthday. Then I typed and typed.
My point? To repeat: you need practice. As I’ve said many times; no word you write is EVER wasted. That’s hard to believe, and you’ll believe it only in retrospect. So tap your fingers to the bone. Keep writing, and reading.
Short stories prepare you to write novels. Of course, if you’re drawn to longer fiction, go for it.
The gift of KU is that you can be paid for your short fiction.
That’s both a good thing, and a very bad thing. It’s good, because you’re paid, and you’re encouraged, even as a new author. It’s bad, because new authors tend to think that practice doesn’t count.
Instead of focusing on writing, publishing, and writing some more, they write and worry about sales. I encourage you, no matter how experienced you are, to let go of expectations.
Just write. Practice. Yes, it’s a challenge. However, if you can develop a mindset of focusing on your writing, rather than the benefits of your writing, you’ll write more, and more easily. Before you know it, you’ll be writing stories which are a huge step forward from your beginning efforts. (And you’ll make more sales.)
Article update: December 3, 2018
Want to sell your fiction? Start here
Start with Story Power: Write and Sell Short Fiction: a complete program which helps you to write and sell short fiction. Coaching is included.
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