Why You Should Be Writing Short Fiction

Why You Should Be Writing Short Fiction

By Leigh Holland.

The novel. It’s such a massive project. There’s outlining, character arcs, pacing, setting, and am I the only person who’s ever taken days to pick the perfect names for characters? How do we find the time to work, take care of our homes and yards and kids, have a social life, and still find time to write a novel? Sometimes it can seem like a slogging chore instead of the passion fruit of our joyful, inspired labor. We want that gleaming, finished product of our imagination to be ready now rather than later.

I’m not saying to stop writing your novel. Keep at it, by all means! But you don’t have to wait until your novel is complete to create and publish another project. Sure, people want novels.  But I love picking up a short read that can entertain me through my lunch break. I’m not alone. There’s a market out there for short stories.

Short fiction helps readers discover you. How does that work? For Amazon, the more published works you have available, the more likely it is that someone will find one of your books. If they like it, they may buy more. This leads to your books showing up more often in Amazon’s recommendation queue, which in turn leads to even more work being found by readers.

It’s helpful if at least one of your short fiction tales sells for .99 cents. You’ll make .30 cents on each copy, but most people will spend .99 cents on anything that looks interesting. You want to eliminate their reason to not buy one (or more) of your books. It helps get your book in front of the reader and if they enjoy it, they’ll buy other works from you. Once you’re ready to publish your novel, this will help you sell the novel because you’ve established a base of readers who already enjoy your work.

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How much should you charge for short fiction? Most people would consider it fair to charge .99 cents to $1.99 for a story under 10,000 words. Most short stories run around 5,000 words. Let’s say you write 2 short stories per month. After one year, you have published 24 short stories at an average price point of 1.50 per copy, of which you’d keep about .45 cents. Even if you sold one copy of each book per day the following year, that’s over $3,500 you’d earn from those stories in one year. Now, I’m not saying money should be the focus when you write books- I’m saying that those short stories can have added financial benefits. Once you’ve published several stories in a genre, pull them together into a larger collection. Price the collection at less than the sum of the individual stories.

Additionally, run giveaways once every three to six months. Offering stories for free helps build up your readership. This can also be helpful in trying to obtain honest reviews from readers.

Apart from marketing, platform building, and sales strategies, there are artistic benefits to writing short fiction regularly. If you want to expand on a minor character from one of your published novels, a short story is a wonderful way to do that. If you loved the world you created in a novel but felt you didn’t have a chance to explore it further, short fiction is another way to expand and explore that fictional world. Want to write the prequel for your hero, but there’s not enough material for a novel? Are you worried it’s still too much for a short story? Try writing a novella. The lengths for different types of fiction can be found at Ironclad Ways To Increase Your Word Count.

Suffering from writer’s block as you work on your main novel? After trying these tips, check out some writing prompts. Find one that inspires you and write a short story or piece of flash fiction (under 2,000 words, flash fiction is typically about 500 words). It can help break you out of that cycle and get you back to writing productively.

Happy writing!

Some Sites Where You Can Sell Short Fiction (Check Their Submission Guidelines)

May and September Only: AGNI

American Short Fiction

Asimov’s

Clarkes’ World Magazine

Daily Science Fiction

Devilfish Review

Flash Fiction Online

Giganotosaurus

Glimmertrain

Strange Horizons

Vestal Review

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7 Comments

  1. I started to write a short story a while back. I got inspired so figured I’d submit something to a genre specific site. Two weeks later, I had a 47 page Word document that wasn’t even possible to pair down to the genre I had originally intended. I’ve become somewhat overwhelmed with the story at this point and have had to set that project aside for a bit. I plan on getting back to it sometime this fall when the day job isn’t so crazy and I can get back to it. At this point, I’d like it to still be a novel, but I could definitely see some benefit to a couple of short story prequels that could further establish backstories that I have alluded to already.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wayne, sometimes I find myself getting sidetracked when something short I’m working on develops into something bigger than I expected. This happened to me quite recently, so I can definitely relate. While work is so crazy, now would be a great time to write some flash fiction or short story prequels for your characters. It’ll help you write them more realistically once you get back to your larger novel. I look forward to seeing some of your work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great advice. I love writing short stories. There’s just something about finishing a project that you can get is greater supply when you write short stories, or better yet, flash! Also, there are so many short fiction publications out there. Getting published is a great way of certifying your skills and boosting your brand for wary readers. I was aware of most of those publishers on your list, but not American Short Fiction. So thanks for that.

    Liked by 1 person

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