The Reality of Publishing Short Stories

I’m going to flat out say it: short stories are not a quick and easy way to make money.

In fact, if you have an interest in only writing short fiction, it will take you longer to establish yourself as a writer unless you happen to already have a built-in reader base.  Yes, you will be able to produce work more quickly but the short story audience is much, much smaller than the novel audience.

A single short story will never sell like a novel.  When a novel is published you can reasonably expect to sell a single copy to 100 different people.  Short stories don’t work like that.  You have to find that ONE reader that is willing to buy 100 different stories that you wrote.  No easy task.

Just like writing novels in a timely manner, you must have a consistent writing schedule in order to have a steady writing output.  In order to have that one reader buy 100 stories you must first write *gasp!* 100 different stories.

And once you go through all that effort there is an almost 100% chance that you are going to get reviews from people that say: “Good story, but too short.”  Or people that are angry because they didn’t bother to read the description and thought they were buying a novel.  Or people that feel anything under X number of words is not worth the reading time.

So why bother?

Short stories are a unique experience.  When you read them they make you think about things a novel could not.  When you write them you become a better writer.  You learn what it really takes to tell a story.  How much description is really needed and what it is about characters that makes you connect to them.  Often times it’s the little details that make a character seem real and not the pages of dialogue.

In the end the short story should always be created for itself, not with the intention of making fast money.  An incomplete novel is not a short story.  A short story should always be a complete experience even if it is only a few pages long.


5 thoughts on “The Reality of Publishing Short Stories

    • Plus persistance. Short stories don’t really start to generate money until you have 20 or 30 stories out. Many authors publish one and then get discouraged when it doesn’t sell immediately.

      • Definitely. As a short fiction writer you’re often competing on two fronts. Not only is short fiction hard to sell but it’s likely you’re earning less from it than a novel. It’s a good job it’s a joy to write, or nobody would bother.

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