More and more fiction writers are publishing their own material, and most often that means novels or collections of short stories. But do individual short stories still hold a place of importance for today’s fiction writers? You bet they do.
Most of today’s independent authors are finding their best bet for success is in writing novels. For whatever reason, readers tend to prefer novels over short stories. Short stories are a hard sell, individually or as a collection.
This does not mean a writer can’t find success with short stories, just that they are fighting an uphill battle. Many independent authors sell their digital novels for only a few dollars, or even less. And most sites that allow digital publishing will not allow an e-book to be sold for less than 99 cents, which means writers generally have to sell short stories for 99 cents or possibly give them away for free. And, since readers can already purchase novels for 99 cents or a matter of a few dollars, they are less likely to risk their money on individual short stories.
Now, before we go further, let me point out that I am speaking very generally about all of this. Different writers will experience different levels of success with different products and different prices. Also, the publishing world is in constant upheaval nowadays, so what is true tomorrow might not be true in a year or even a month or a week.
But, for the most part, short stories are a difficult sell to today’s readers.
For writers who enjoy penning a short tale from time to time, what can be done?
First, if you are self publishing, go ahead and make available that short story you wrote. Why not? You can give it away for free as an enticement to readers. Or, even if you should put a price on it and even if the short story does not garner very many sales, consider it as part of your marketing plan; even if readers don’t buy your short story, at least there is the chance they will run across the story’s sales page (on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Smashwords or wherever) and that might be enough for the reader to take a look at your writing.
Second, why not go the more traditional route and try to get your short stories published by traditional print magazines or anthologies? Yes, it can take a while to hear back from editors and publishers, but if you are fortunate enough to place a story in a publication, think of the marketing potential that opens up for you, especially if it is a publication with a large following. And then there’s the fact you might make a little money. Better yet, the rights to the story will eventually come back to you (though probably not for a year or more from the date of publication) and then you can self publish the story if you are still so inclined.
Don’t think of short stories as a way to make money (though that’s not impossible), but as one more tool in your marketing campaign as a writer. You never know when a reader might be drawn to you because of a little tale they read in a magazine or online at an e-zine.
You could even consider starting a blog or joining a site where you can post your short stories, either for free or for a little money.
One of the best things to do with short stories is to submit them to anthologies, collections which include stories from a number of writers. This way, you are not alone in promoting your short story, but have a whole bunch of authors out there marketing a book in which your story appears.
It’s all about marketing and thinking ahead.