(How To) Publishing Short Stories

I have found myself in a quandary, and as always, who better to turn to that your good selves.

When I first bought my kindle, I expected to be downloading full books; novels, to read. While I found this to be the case, I also notice that there are a lot of short stories being developed, and uploaded onto site for free or in some cases $0.99. I am talking about stories as low as 7,000 words.

This stuck me as odd, it is clearly a by-product of the Indie publishing revolution, because I cannot recall seeing bookshops carrying 7,000 word books (outside of the children’s fiction that is). What has me confused is where the point is behind it.

I have a host of short stories written, which I have roughly shaped into two anthologies. One is 70k and the other is 60k. Judging by the trend I have seen, I  could easily split this further into 4 anthologies, and then maybe only two or perhaps 1 print edition (ala Books of Blood by Clive Barker – collections I-III and IV-VI)

However, this just doesn’t sit all too comfortably with me. I guess the real confusion for me is if I am holding on to some semi-archaic view on publishing and short stories, or has the self publishing community taken a step too far with this tactic?

I can understand the idea behind giving away short stories, and wouldn’t charge more than 99 cents for mine anyway, but should I be thinking about breaking them down into 4 collections of, say, 30k words? Is that more suitable to the current e-reader market?

I really do not know which way I should turn, and so I am turning the floor over to you, my faithful readers…


24 thoughts on “(How To) Publishing Short Stories

  1. I have a short story linked to my website that complements my novels and serves as a good example of my writing. Funny you bring this up though, I had an idea for a short story while sitting in a diner the other day. You’ve reminded me to go and write it!

    1. The this post has at least acheived its purpose and helped somebody in some way 🙂 Thanks a lot of responding Heather. I am off to check out your site now. I have a short collection that I want to write that fills in some blanks within my trilogy of novels too. I like that idea.

  2. The advantage to giving the first part free is to let the reader see if they like someone before they invest in the writer’s complete book. Especially when one is a self publishing, self editing, unknown. Just a thought, do whatever feels right. That might not matter because I think Amazon lets the reader read the first several pages for free anyway. I think $0.99 is a great way to sell short stories, since like you said book stores normally never do, unless they are collections.

    1. Thank you Cox, and thank you for taking the time to respond. I agree, cheap / free short stories are a great way to promote your writing style. Where do you stand don length? 2 collections of 60k or 4 of 30? Are shorter anthologies better because of the shorter attention span and busier lifestyles of most people in this current day and age?

  3. I don’t see any issue with selling short stories individually for 99c (certainly no more than that) or giving them away free individually, as long as it’s crystal clear in the description that this is only a short story. Many writers provide the word count so there’s no confusion. The problem comes in having to come up with an individual cover for each story, which costs more money if you’re doing it right and hiring a professional. If you collect short stories together, you only need one cover for multiple stories…

  4. I have several short stories of my own that I released as both e-books and as limited edition, hand-made, autographed chapbooks. I also have an anthology I edited, and most of those individual stories are also available as e-books. All the individual short story e-books are priced at $0.99.

    I recommend you sell your collections at $2.99 and each individual short story from the collections at $0.99 each. Just be sure to very clearly inform shopper that the individual short stories are also available in collected editions as well — that way you don’t anger anyone who ends up with duplicate content.

    It’s known that the more content you have available, the more you will sell. A rising tide raises all boats, or something like that. So get as much of your content onto the market as you can, and let the reader decide how they would best like to consume it.

    1. I like your approach Matthew, attack from all angles sort of deal. I like that you mention the importance of advising the reader exactly what it is that they are buying. I have (almost) been caught out the past with the same sortof thing. Thank you for taking the time to drop by and comment. I appreciate it.

  5. I don’t see any issue with selling short stories individually for 99c (certainly no more than that) or giving them away free individually, as long as it’s crystal clear in the description that this is only a short story. Many writers provide the word count so there’s no confusion. The problem comes in having to come up with an individual cover for each story, which costs more money if you’re doing it right and hiring a professional. If you collect short stories together, you only need one cover for multiple stories…

    1. Thank you Richard, you raise a very good point with Cover art. I am lucky as my brother in law creates my covers, but yeah, I’m sure he would not approve of having to make 40 different covers for me, for each individual story. 🙂 I am definitely more a fan of the anthologies than individual shorts.

  6. I have a ton of short stories and this is my two cents. If an 80k word novel is worth 2.99 then a 30k word short is worth .99 cents. Thats just simple math. Less words than that, you might be puishing your luck, but no price is too high for real art. A single page of poetry has sold for millions. Who are we to say that guys ten paragraphs are not worth 3 bucks? I sell a 235k word epic fantasy novel for 2.99 though. Thats like three full novels for under $3

    I give a lot of short stories away. I put a link back to my website at the end. I uploaded one to Wattpad two days ago and it got 300+ reads in 6 hours. It was in Amazon’s KDP Select for the last 90 days where it sold a few dozen copies at .99. It was Free on Amazon for 5 days and was downloaded about 1k times durring those 5 days. It will get the most exposure on Wattpad though. I have stories with 10k reads on Wattpad. Search “MRMathias” there if your interested.

    In this age of easily available media the short story, and now flash fiction have a real place. The subway riders might like something they can finish in a day. I read flash at the doctors office on my Kindle, or even on my phone. Bookstores are full of dead trees. Trying to compare modern media to old novels is like comparing cars to wagons. Its fun, but pointless. There isn’t AC in that carriage.

    1. Thank you Michael, your answer is great. I have read several of your stories on Wattpad and love them all. I am certainly not averse to charging 99cents for the collection, or even giving it away. I have a few flash pieces on wattpad, but have not uploaded much recently. I will need to get back to it. I need to finish editing these collections first.

      I agree with you that a modern approach and modern mindset is needed for a modern era, and to live in the past will not get us as far or in as much comfort. Who wants to be in a carriage on a road as bumpy as the one we writers travel.

      I am leaning towards shorter ebooks and larger print editions. It feels nice, and also gives me the best of both worlds in a way.

  7. I think you are likely to see more and more of this. One of the great revolutions that is going on in writing right now is that with ebooks there is no “standard” size. I’ve seen short stories of three thousand words and fantasy novels that top three hundred thousand.
    I think it’s great. Writers should write until the story has been told to their satisfaction, not a word more or a word less. If it’s a short story, sell it for 99 cents. If it’s a novella charge 1.99 or 2.99. More if it’s a full novel.
    From a reader’s point of view you need to keep in mind that people read ebooks on a wide variety of devices and in a wide variety of places. You probably don’t want to read War and Peace on your phone while waiting at the DMV, but a short story might be perfect for the occasion.

    1. Indeed, creative license not extends beyond the content itself and no includes length and publishing prferences too. It is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think individual short stories are for me. Unless I have a cracking on that hovers between Novella and short story.

      I will split the collections I have into 4, and maybe add a few extra stories as I go, then I’ll combine them all for one print edition.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Have a great day!

  8. I’ve never been a big fan of short stories because I love long, meaty reads but since getting my kindle I’ve found myself reading more short stories during those odd moments when you have a few minutes to kill and don’t want to become totally engrossed in your latest big story. So I agree with M.R.Mathias – it’s a different world out there now and if an old fogey like me can change my reading habits then that says a lot!

    Just a suggestion – why not theme your anthologies and publish the odd ones out as singles? That way you get all of your work out there without overlaps. And from a marketing perspective the more coverage you have the better in terms of reader recognition.

    1. Thanks Andrea, indeed, if you can change anybody can…. oh wait, that was the speech from Rocky IV.

      I think I will split them into 4 smaller ebook anthologies and then one large print book. I have no real recurring theme currently. These were all different stories and different approaches etc. I have a few themed antholgoies coming up that I want to write.

      Have a great day

  9. I think the beauty of the short story is greatly underestimated, a perfect vignette for the commute, and it does serve as a taster for the more involving works – have you seen the story vending machines at stations in Germany – a wonderful idea that we should bring to the UK

    1. That is true. I love writing both novels and short stories, but never really thought about the value of the commute. Especially with ereaders. A perfect advertising spot. See the advert, but the book 60 seconds later, you’re reading.

  10. Some short story writers release them as they finish them, and later on bundle them together when they have enough. Others do it to promote or because they like to have multiple items available.

  11. I have published 3 “singles” and have another releasing in September and no anthologies yet. But I do plan to publish collections of the “singles” when I have enough to bundle them together in groups of maybe 4 or 5 stories each. I don’t price books/stories based on word count (or buy/read on that basis, either) and I don’t pay attention to the word count when I’m creating the story unless I’ve got a word limit from a publisher of some sort — I write the story and then it is as long or short as it is. Usually, my singles end up around 10,000 words, give or take. My singles are $1.99 or free. I’ve never had a reader complain about the pricing, although I’ve had readers complain that they’d like a longer story! In your shoes, Alex (and may I say what a positive problem you have there with all that content waiting to be released into the world!), I’d divide the stories into several products in some way that makes sense to you and will make you some money.

    1. Thank you for contributing Diane, it’s nice to hear from someone who has published ‘singles’. I guess it’s like the music industry, put out some singles, then release the entire album. I defiintely have enough for 3 or 4 ebook collections, smaller size and perfect for a low cost item, and then for print I’ll just go for one or two, combining them.

  12. Firstly, I do love short stories because I love the format and the intimacy of it – it’s like a neighbor relaying a story to you – it doesn’t go on for days, it usually starts and finishes in one sitting. I am a finicky reader and there is nothing worse for me than getting 4 chapters into a book and then tossing it aside, realizing I don’t like the writer’s style or where the story was going. I’ve always read short story collections though, and have not yet gone into buying ‘singles’. But I would not be averse to this especially when checking out new writers. I would say use story ‘singles’ to build a clientele of paying customers, then hit them with a collection of new or previously unreleased material.

    1. Short stories are a great way to get to know an author. I have read a few books where I just didn’t like the style of writing and every page was a chore. It is a disappointing feeling indeed. Thank you for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.

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