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Short Stories - Yes, or No?

November 15, 2016

I've been reading a lot about short(er) stories and whether or not their successful on Amazon and elsewhere. Responses are very mixed. Some people are like no, absolutely not, no freaking way. While others are raking in the big bucks. 

So there must be a middle ground somewhere. 

I'd start adding links to the articles that I read, but you can find the just as easily by googling 'Selling Short Stories on Amazon' the way I did. 

Some articles say that short stories are dead, and something that only made money back in the pioneer days when they were printed in magazines. Apparently only literary magazines publish them now, and even then, not many. You wanna make money, you gotta write novels they say. 

Others say that short stories are lucrative. Especially because they're quicker to write. If you're a fast writer, you could potentially tap out a rough draft for a short story in just a day or two, or maybe a week, but definitely much quicker than you could write a full length novel. The ones who are the most successful have dozens of stories, and often bundle them into groups of five or more. So they sell the shorts individually at a low price (usually either $0.99 or $2.99 depending on the genre), then sell the collections at a much higher price, but still one that makes it a good deal for the reader to buy that way. It kinda works like when you buy 50/50 tickets from whatever community group is selling them and it's the usual $2 for one or 3 for $5. 

I have a couple of shorts published, and also have full length novels. Truth be told, the novels sell A LOT better than the shorts. I did have the shorts in Kindle Unlimited for awhile, but I took them out because being exclusive only earned me a few cents each time the story was read because they were so short. There was a time when an author was paid per borrow, instead of per page read. When the payment was per borrow, shorts were more valuable, because you could put out a bunch of shorts, and earn each time someone borrowed them, even if they weren't a long read. Amazon caught on to this, and changed their system to what it is now. That being said, if you had the dozens of shorts that you seem to need to be successful, and people were borrowing them, you'd still be getting plenty of pages read, and might still make some good money in the KU program. 

The biggest problem with new authors, whether self published or not, is that they read the success stories from people who are making the big bucks, and assume that they're going to be the same. Unfortunately, the writing world is similar to the 50/50 draw, very few are going to win the dough. New authors are often discouraged when they're not making 10K a month on their first book. This is because this whole thing takes time. In all honesty, I'm still working a full time job and doing this on the side. 

That being said, there are a lot of writers making a full time living as self published authors. Most of these are not shockingly bestsellers, but rather writers who have done a lot of well, writing, and have a lot of moderately successful books published.

The cool thing about self publishing, is that instead of your book going out of print and disappearing forever if it's not a smashing success, it stays published forever. Print-On-Demand, and ebook publishing has opened doors that were never expected several decades ago. This means that if your book doesn't sell a million copies the  first week, you don't have to freak out. You can go back to your computer, type out a new novel or short story, and publish that. Rinse and repeat. If you're lucky, what will happen is that down the road, a reader will read, say book #4 in your series, get really excited about you, and go back and read the rest of what you've already published. Ka-ching. 

So the issue isn't so much the length of stories, but the quantity of stories. You need to be easy for a new reader to discover. The more items you publish, the better that chance will be. That being said, quality matters because if the first thing a reader finds is crap, they aren't going to seek out more of your stuff... just saying. 

What you need to do is:

Write what excites you

Write what you like to read

Write the length your comfortable writing (though push yourself once in awhile, and try something new - you might be surprised)

There are people who are successful in novels, people who are successful in short stories, and plenty of people who just aren't successful, but in my opinion, publishing more stories, or any length, is the best way to give yourself a chance to be one of the successful ones. 

-- oh, and the image above is a stock photo that I thought was absolutely beautiful, but I have no idea what it says... hopefully not something bad lol. 

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