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Writing Process & Programs > Do Short Stories Sell?

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message 1: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Walker (jetplague) | 33 comments So having written a novella of collected short stories and now a small introductory short of a coming book - The Mysterious World Of Professor Darkk And Miss Shadow. I find that I've given away more then I've sold (if at all). I know I shouldn't expect too much from short stories as being money makers....some articles are touting they aren't....but obviously it's hard to watch them do nothing.

Get's a tad drepressing.

I try not to let it get to me, so I'm continuing on with the book....actually a couple of books, and I'm thinking about creating an online 'exlusive to my website only' group of added short stories. Not sure if that's the way to go.

I was thinking of doing like that....then take them off when the book is almost ready, and then tacking them into the Print Only version.

Maybe I'm being too ambitious?


message 2: by Jan (new)

Jan Hurst-Nicholson (janhurst-nicholson) The 'short' answer is - no, not very well. Readers generally like to get their teeth into a story and that means a novel. But there are readers who enjoy short stories, but they are not plentiful.
When I worked in a charity bookshop we found that books of short stories by bestselling authors had to be priced at half the cost of a novel by the same author.
I also have a book of short stories and it certainly is not my bestseller :)


message 3: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Walker (jetplague) | 33 comments Yeah, it's pretty much a dead market for short stories. I like writing them though - easier to write and much more variety.

I'll still go through my process of creating the shorts and the books....maybe - eventually - they will sell.


message 4: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4356 comments Mod
I love short stories and love to write them. I don't find them any "easier". In fact, I would say short stories are much more challenging than novels. They do take less time.

However - as one who has been crowned King of Indie Short Stories I can tell you that, no, they don't sell very well. Some sell okay, many do not. None are making me rich or famous.


message 5: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Sure they do. Take a look at Amazon/Kindle/Short reads.


message 6: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Walker (jetplague) | 33 comments I really do think it's a hit or miss scenario when it comes to the whole Amazon/Kindle thing. I suppose paid advertising would help boost it, but unless you've got that kind of money to burn....you've kinda been pushed to the back of the store.


message 7: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Thatcher (jenna_thatcher) | 132 comments Jeff, I love it when an author has a short story attached to a novel that I read. Sometimes I'll pick up a short story that's free while I wait for their next to come out. For example, Intisar Khanani (indie who got picked up) had a free short called the Bone Knife and I downloaded it for free (it wasn't available in print) because she takes a long time between books. Another was Rosamund Hodge who wrote a stand-alone short about Cinderella based on the world she'd already created for her fairy-tales. Also free (at the time). Sometimes they're 99 cents.
I did find a book of short stories by a favorite author at the thrift store and liked that.
So what this boils down to...
I guess personally I've noticed I like short stories if they're cheap or free. Because of that I either post them free on my blog or the novella I'm finishing up will be 99 cents. I might even send it to blog followers for free at some point, I'll have to see.
In the end, it seems to be more of a marketing tool rather than a money maker.


message 8: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Walker (jetplague) | 33 comments Jenna wrote: "Jeff, I love it when an author has a short story attached to a novel that I read. Sometimes I'll pick up a short story that's free while I wait for their next to come out. For example, Intisar Khan..."

That's what I figured. And thw whole .99¢ thing is what I thought would be more a reasonable. Free giveaways aren't too bad as well...but your main aim is to make some sort of revenue on your hard work.

It's just hard to find the niche for Short Story readers...or have them actually purchase. Guess that's where the full novel comes into it.


message 9: by Noor (new)

Noor Al-Shanti | 148 comments I also haven't had too much success with selling short stories or novellas. When I decided to publish them I thought they would help me get into it, build an audience, etc, so that when the novel set in the same world came out people would want to read it, but now that I'm almost ready to publish the novel I can't say it has gone at all the way I expected. The main gain I've made is that I know how the different distributors I'm on (kdp, google play, and kobo) work a lot better now, so from the experience side of it, it has definitely helped.


message 10: by Robert (new)

Robert Edward | 42 comments I'd wondered this myself. I've just finished a trilogy and I have a few ideas for short stories, mostly side stories of secondary characters who move in and out of the main plot thread. Any thoughts on/experience with short stories tied to larger works?


message 11: by Eileen (new)

Eileen Iciek | 144 comments My first book, Tales of Byzantium, was a collection of 3 short stories. It has sold almost 3000 copies (in truth, at least half of them were when it was free). I'm not making much money on it but it was a great experience putting it together.

1 - I learned a lot about writing doing it.
2 - I learned a lot about putting a book together for printed and kindle versions.
3 - I learned a lot about marketing. Since my book was about the Byzantines, I ended up selling a lot of copies to people in Facebook groups focused on Romans and Byzantines. That was really key.
4 - I learned more about marketing - book advertising sites like Bookbub (which my book didn't qualify for), Fussy Librarian, Read Cheaply, etc.

I'm glad I did that book first, before my novel came out. I would have no idea what to do if that had been first.


message 12: by Felix (new)

Felix Schrodinger | 138 comments I find that I've given away more then I've sold (if at all). I know I shouldn't expect too much from short stories as being money makers....some articles are touting they aren't....but obviously it's hard to watch them do nothing.

I have been writing short stories for over twenty years but only got round to publishing them last year (mainly as a vanity project). I find that writing them down is the only way to get the ideas, on which they are based, out of my head and onto paper. I actually included a short story about writing a short story.


message 13: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Walker (jetplague) | 33 comments Eileen wrote: "My first book, Tales of Byzantium, was a collection of 3 short stories. It has sold almost 3000 copies (in truth, at least half of them were when it was free). I'm not making much money on it but i..."

Got to agree there....it is definately an eye opener. Doing this tends to get a feel for where you should be aiming for and the different places to either self publish or for marketing. I'm still learning, but I'm starting to see the larger picture now.


message 14: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Johnston (katherinejohnstonbooks) | 9 comments Short stories are great writing experience, and a fun way to dabble in different genres without making a novel length commitment. As for marketability I can't speak to that yet, but I am working to publish a short story collection, and have more collections in the works to span the time between my novels. As a reader, I love short stories, and do purchase them from writers I enjoy - expecting, as no doubt my readers will expect, a lower price point, which is only fair. 😀


message 15: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4356 comments Mod
Alexander wrote: "Check out my latest below:"

No links. No bookwhacking. No self-promotion. Please read the rules. Thanks.


message 16: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Walker (jetplague) | 33 comments Alex wrote: "I get the occasional sale of the short story I have released, but I certainly couldn't say it's a money-spinner.
I'm actually considering making it a perma-free (if I can) to see if might drive a f..."



Going the .99¢ route might be the better option. At the very least...it's cheap enough to "maybe" make a sale. But free handouts end up being the one thing to generate some readers.....


message 17: by DJay (new)

DJay (djdjay) | 13 comments I can say that as a person who buys a lot of books from kindle and kobo. If the book is less than 100 pages I tend to look to see if it is KU or free unless I have a few books from the author already and like their writing style. That’s just me. Because I know I read fast and have torn through books that are 50 pages in about 20-30 minutes. I will also buy a book if they have compilation books that exceed 100 pages as well as long as it’s cheaper than buying each book individually. Because I’ve noticed that a lot of the compilation books are the same price as buying each individually. Not trying to be cheap but I tend to spend about 100 easy on books every two weeks and that’s WITH having KU.


message 18: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
I think short stories could work if they are published as a collection while the series is already in progress or done, something that offers an additional look into the story for those interested in it.
Standalone, that could be troublesome.


message 19: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Thatcher (jenna_thatcher) | 132 comments Alex wrote: "Jeff wrote: "Going the .99¢ route might be the better option. At the very least...it's cheap enough to "maybe" make a sale. But free handouts end up being the one thing to generate some readers......."

Alex, I'd love to see how that goes if you try it free for a while.


message 20: by Moronke (new)

Moronke (hotnicey) | 24 comments I love short stories. As a writer, I believe I can derive some revenue from it. Most of the bookshops I patronized are demanding for children story books. I think if you go off line there's a market for it.

Have a great day!


message 21: by Micah (last edited Jul 03, 2018 12:49PM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments The only data I've seen on it (as opposed to anecdotal evidence) seems to indicate that short stories sell less than long form, but they do still sell...ESPECIALLY if you're writing in the Romance (and probably aka erotica) categories. Romance sold more than double all other categories in short fiction.

But the average number of copies sold per day of the top 20 stories in each category were pretty slim.


message 22: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Walker (jetplague) | 33 comments Erotica and Romance are the ones that do well for short stories...(can't imagine why....*he said with a grain of sarcasm*)


message 23: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn McBride (carolynmcbride) | 4 comments I think the marketing of short stories is more challenging than with novels. With novels, it's a little easier to figure out who the readers are and where they are. (I say this tongue-in-cheek because that's not easy at all) But short story readers are really hard to find. Who are they? Where are they? What do they like? What are their expectations?

The trick is finding the answers to those questions, and then (hopefully), we'll find our readers.


message 24: by L.R. (new)

L.R. Turner | 1 comments Yes, I have a couple of novellas out under a pen name; seems like they sell very little no matter the cover or advertising. Oh well, at least I'm doing something I enjoy (smile).


message 25: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) I think there's a lot of general info here that stands, but the difference between a short story and a collection of short stories is worth noting. Neither sell as well as full length books or series for the obvious reasons: full books are seen as a greater value, more time invested, etc. But I personally feel collections of shorts aren't as likely to sell as a single short, and collections where there are several authors are the bridge mix of the writing world, in that they're often passed over as being too much of a gamble that you might get a raisin when you wanted a peanut.

The tie in seems to be the best seller of the short world and I've got one of those myself. Originally, the plan was to use my prequel short tale to bring in readers who might not be willing to invest in an unknown series. I would max out my kdp free days, but curiously enough, downloads were minimal and rarely led to series reads. Instead, I was finding folks were buying the short after reading the series, so I now tend to market it as just that, a bonus for those who want a bit of background. It still isn't flying off the shelves, but it gets more attention than my standalone tales for sure.


message 26: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) | 52 comments I've been considering doing a collection of my short stories. After reading this, I'll put it to the back of the queue or, instead, add several shorts to my novella as extra material, to get the book over 110 pages.

There's no point in publishing a 100 page book in CreateSpace; it costs just as much as 110 pages, and you can't put the title on the spine until you're at least 110 pages, sometimes 120, depending on whether you do your own cover or not.

[OTOH, the spine doesn't show on-line, and there are no bookstores of any importance, now.]


message 27: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) J. wrote: "I've been considering doing a collection of my short stories. After reading this, I'll put it to the back of the queue or, instead, add several shorts to my novella as extra material, to get the bo..."

Keep in mind that due to unscrupulous people who took advantage of the KU program, Amazon considers any bonus content that runs over 10% of the book's length to be 'stuffing' and may take the book down. If you post it as a collection or as bundled stories, you'll be fine.


message 28: by David (new)

David Humphrey | 16 comments Christina, thank you for your very informed input on Jeff's thread. I'm in a similar situation, thinking having a few short stories 'out there' before the novels in same series come out. I planned to collect them later but not as a priority. They are 12k, 8k, 13k words in length and I have a 3k tale as a permanent freebie. They are on sale on Blurb anyway but I had hoped with people reading on Kindles rather than paperbacks the 'stigma' of a quick read might not be offputting? A series of short stories never did Arthur Conan Doyle any harm after all. I have found it difficult enough to get people to spend an hour of their time reading a short compared to 7 hours or so. I enjoy a good short story as perfect for a commuter read but I now totally get what you say about people seeking them out only after reading the novels : ( Thanks for the advice


message 29: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) | 52 comments Christina wrote: "...Amazon considers any bonus content that runs over 10% of the book's length to be 'stuffing' and may take the book down. If you post it as a collection or as bundled stories, you'll be fine...."

Thanks for the input. If I publish, I'll call it something like "Sherlock and the Twelve Apostles, a Holmesian Collection."


message 30: by Nat (new)

Nat Kennedy | 320 comments I just finished a short story (~11000 words) to be published soon. It's romance, so it fits the genre that seems to sell better. It's an experiment.

Thanks for all of the information. For me, it was a story I wanted to write. I made my own cover. It's not a huge money investment (other than editing) and so I don't see a reason not to publish it, but I'm not expecting it to make bank. I could always try to sell it to an anthology or magazine, but that's a huge challenge I'm not wanting to jump into for this story.


message 31: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) | 52 comments Nat wrote: "I just finished a short story (~11000 words) to be published soon. It's romance, so it fits the genre that seems to sell better. It's an experiment. . . made my own cover. . . "

You're well into novelette territory. Not that that necessarily helps, but I think it's somewhat better than trying to market a short. For romance, sounds favorable. Keep us posted on the result.

I like that you did your own cover. I'm a believer in author-created covers--another opportunity to show your talent and avoids digging a $200 to $600 hole for your novel before you sell any.


message 32: by Nat (new)

Nat Kennedy | 320 comments J. wrote: "Nat wrote: "I just finished a short story (~11000 words) to be published soon. It's romance, so it fits the genre that seems to sell better. It's an experiment. . . made my own cover. . . "

You're..."


It's my first cover and fairly simple, but I don't think it's bad (obviously, or I wouldn't use it). I will keep everyone involved, assuming something happens. From when I was looking into it a year or so ago, most places don't let you really market anything under 100 pages, so not free book deals, etc. But hey, I'll figure something out when the time comes.


message 33: by David (new)

David Humphrey | 16 comments Well done Nat, best of luck with your bok. Your process sounds similar to my first story; 12,000 word short, did my own cover (I'm really a graphic designer by day), got it proofed by respected colleagues and brought to market for only £35 total. Wouldn't complain if it was a bestseller but I wrote it because I wanted to write it and thats the best way.
I don't know much about the romance genre, but I did notice at my local library there is a Western section and they are all skinny little books which always seemd odd


message 34: by J. (new)

J. (jguenther) | 52 comments Nat wrote: "J. wrote: "Nat wrote: "I just finished a short story (~11000 words) to be published soon. It's romance, so it fits the genre that seems to sell better. It's an experiment. . . made my own cover. . From when I was looking into it a year or so ago, most places don't let you really market anything under 100 pages, ..."

I'm a little unsure what you mean by "most places." Ebooks can be marketed at any length via Amazon. I even published a 52-page non-fiction thing a while ago, in hard copy and Kindle. A book of 100 pages is still novella length; not many publishers buy that length manuscript, unless your name is James Patterson or Alan Bennett.

FWIW, covers can be run past the cover thread here on Goodreads.


message 35: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Nat wrote: "I published a short story via Amazon two years ago called The Short Lives of Lobsters and just published a novella on July 22 (Warp), both character-based fantasy fiction. It's a tough market for s..."

No link please.
Thanks


message 36: by Haru (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments By the way, is there a low limit on how many pages an e-book needs to be?
I'm doing an illustrated compendium of angelic powers (related to my novel) as art practice and I thought, why the heck not gather it in a book and offer it as promotional material, perma-free or often free? But it will only add up to about 15 pages.


message 37: by Nat (new)

Nat Kennedy | 320 comments David wrote: "Well done Nat, best of luck with your bok. Your process sounds similar to my first story; 12,000 word short, did my own cover (I'm really a graphic designer by day), got it proofed by respected col..."

Thanks! Glad to find fellow 'write it cause I love it' people to cheer each other on. I don't expect mine to get in a library/book store, mainly only aimed at e, but it's awesome that they do carry smaller works.


message 38: by Nat (last edited Jul 29, 2018 07:34PM) (new)

Nat Kennedy | 320 comments J. wrote: "Nat wrote: "J. wrote: "Nat wrote: "I just finished a short story (~11000 words) to be published soon. It's romance, so it fits the genre that seems to sell better. It's an experiment. . . made my o..."

Well, my data is out of date, but the promo places, like you have them on free for a while, or even just promoting a 99c, they don't want shorter works. This might have changed. I wasn't talking about putting it on Amazon advertising or anything like that.

And thanks for reminding me about the cover thread. I might just get some thoughts from everyone. Vet it to make sure it isn't too rough (it's certainly not super fancy.)


message 39: by Haru (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments V.M. wrote: "That is on the absolute bare minimum side for Amazons customer satisfaction. It should be set at permafree. Be sure to clearly state both the page count and its tie-in status in the description. It..."
Thank you, V.M.!


message 40: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
Haru, if you plan to have it as perma-free bonus content...
If you have your own website, then maybe it'd be better to put up as a download there.

There is no limit to length technically as when it comes to file size but Amazon (or any other distributor) can put their own limitations.


message 41: by Dwimirnani (new)

Dwimirnani (moxi) | 5 comments This is a very interesting discussion. I've been considering to publish my collection of short stories, but now I need to re-think about it.

To think about it, I'd rather buy a novel than short stories. But I know some friends who love it better than novels. Maybe it'd give better sales when combined with either the full-story novel or, say, illustrations?


message 42: by David (new)

David Humphrey | 16 comments While we're mentioning Perma-free books, I have a micro story (3000w) as a free taster, I understand Amazon aren't keen on freebie books so I have listed it on Samshwords for free and also on Tablo website. I thought it might be a good 'gateway read' but the collective wisdom of this thread seems to warn that it isn't.
While these points are all valid and predict your short story or anthology won't sell many copies, I guarantee that if if you don't publish your short story will never sell a single copy so it is worth a shot. I like reading short stories so there must be others out there.
It has never been easier to publish a manuscript, it has never been harder to be noticed by potential readers


message 43: by Jeff (last edited Jul 30, 2018 05:33AM) (new)

Jeff Walker (jetplague) | 33 comments Putri wrote: "This is a very interesting discussion. I've been considering to publish my collection of short stories, but now I need to re-think about it.

To think about it, I'd rather buy a novel than short st..."


I don't really think it would matter about that, but if you have enough there to keep the reader interested it should be fine. There are acually very many people like like to read short stories or even collections of them. However, the vast majority of some readers....not all mind you....are looking for the "free" angle. And that's fine to a certain point. As long as reviews are the exchange for that and maybe a little help in promotion help on their part - that would be great.
Even if it were a full novel and full of illustrations....people want free stuff and if they can get it for nothing, well....they will try. That's why most writers have agents/publishers, they handle all that stuff and trying to stop the "free rides" everyone leeches off of you. Self-publishing is agent/publisher free....so you've got to do the best you can to peddle your goods to people without being too generous and throwing out tons of free samples.
I agree that this is a labour of love....and you love to write and don't care about the fact that they won't make money like you hoped - then keep going and build it up.

The best thing to do with them is combine, repackage and give it extra stuff that's only available in the printed book or Ebook.....heck maybe even do it as fulll Audiobook collection. If the story is good, it will sell....if it looks enticing with more bells and whistles....it sell I say do it more for yourself then others....get it out there, gain some exposure and build on your publishing experience.


message 44: by J.N. (new)

J.N. Bedout (jndebedout) | 115 comments I'd have a hard time spending $0.99 for a story of 4k words or less.

But, I agree that using a short, a collection of shorts, or a novella as a perma-free lead-in to a full-blown series seems like a good idea. It's a li'll something to wet the beak...


message 45: by Micah (new)

Micah Genest | 12 comments I’d be careful with only taking short stories (or even novels) into just print editions. I find short stories excellent for digital devices as they are the ones I would be more apt to read on a quick bus ride to work and if I already have my phone out, it’s less work to bring a story up for a short reading session (compared to the lazy grab into my bag for a book).


message 46: by Haru (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments Thank you, Tomas. I don't plan to have a website until I can pay it with money from sales.


message 47: by David (new)

David Humphrey | 16 comments J.N. wrote: "I'd have a hard time spending $0.99 for a story of 4k words or less.

But, I agree that using a short, a collection of shorts, or a novella as a perma-free lead-in to a full-blown series seems like..."


Pricing of short stories is a good point J.N., I'm not sure where the lines should be drawn. I've a 3k very short story that is and always was designed to be a perma-free taster, and a 12k word novella/novelette for 99 pence/cents/euros. Although prices vary greatly, I guess I expect to pay £2-£4 for a self pubbed novel, £5 or £6 for a signed pro author. novel. These prices do not relate to how much time or effort an author invests in his work but are more a reflection of what the market dictates. A quick check shows that Goldfinger and Harry Potter ebooks are £6 today so that should be as high as they go. I refused to pay £10 for the 'new' Bond ebook, Forever and a Day at its launch as that seemed too high -- especially as the physical paperback was several quid cheaper. Length seems to be no indication of price as 931 electronic pages of A Clash of Kings will set you back a mere £4.99 and don't forget, many classic novels are below the 50,000 word threshold of what many consider to be a novel.


message 48: by Shabana (new)

Shabana Mukhtar (shabanamukhtarofficial) And I thought only my short stories aren't selling. Well, they are selling but not as well as I had hoped.
I love reading short stories, and write it also comes quite naturally. But I guess it is time to try my hands on writing a novel.
Naïve question but how do we make it perma-free?


message 49: by David (new)

David Humphrey | 16 comments Shabana wrote: "And I thought only my short stories aren't selling. Well, they are selling but not as well as I had hoped.
I love reading short stories, and write it also comes quite naturally. But I guess it is t..."


Hi Shabana, I think Amazon isn't keen on listing books for free (it is a business afeter all) but they have to price match and if you have a book listed on say, Smashwords for free, they should match. That's the theory


message 50: by Tom (new)

Tom Julian | 35 comments I list my short story for free (matching on Smash Words) as a teaser to my full novel. I think it drives a lot of sales and interest.


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