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I enjoy writing as a 'side' interest and I have written 10 short stories (which are approximately 1,750 words each). I am publishing them as standalone ebooks (or 'estories' if there is such a term) on Amazon. Each story has its own cover and can be purchased for $0.99. (This is the minimum price I can set on Amazon for the three month exclusive period and I am happy with it - this site helped me very much - see one of the answers here - Thank you!)

I see that a majority of ebooks on Amazon (and other platforms) are bigger than short stories. Some are novellas and others are novels.

I don't intend to write a novel, as I don't have a lot of spare time and, more importantly, I cannot bring myself to it. I just love writing short stories because they are manageable for me and the full plot can be revealed in one sitting/reading.

I may put them in a collection but for the time-being, they are individual pieces. (This is a marketing consideration as I may sell five stories for $4.99 compared to a collection of five stories for (say) $2.99.)

Question: What is the current state of the short-story market, for individual stories and for collections, particularly for ebooks? What are trends in sales, readership, and profit?

In particular, do people still read short stories for writers like me to continue writing in this genre?

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A good answer to this question will provide some data -- survey of what's currently on the market, info from publishers, and the like. Anecdotal answers ("I read short stories all the time" "I read one three years ago" etc) are not really what we're looking for here. Thanks. –  Monica Cellio Jul 4 '13 at 1:55
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I don't think many people buy short stories nowadays, when you can find millions of them on-line for free. While collections from reputable authors may still sell, I don't think $0.99/story from a relatively unknown author would get much audience. Notable exception: Erotica. Quality erotica short stories still sell well. –  SF. Jul 4 '13 at 8:38
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I buy shorts, but only as compendiums from known authors. The only time I read shorts by new authors is in literary magazines like Clarkesword, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine and Interzone. I would say trying to get your shorts published through them may be better. –  CLockeWork Jul 4 '13 at 8:49
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...I am not sure I'm clear on what the question is here. The fact is that a short story market exists. I'm not really sure what meaningful numbers would look like. Average readership? Average profit? What does "has the form declined" mean? And "declined" compared to when - when were short stories "ascendant"? –  Standback Jul 4 '13 at 9:14
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From what I understand about the self-pub market, it's not what you write, it's how well you market yourself. An excellent e-book (short story or a novel, whatever) might not make a single sale, while a mediocre one, where the author had half the internet and their mothers leave a positive review, can sell like crazy. Putting a story among millions of others and then sit and wait for someone to stumble upon it will get you nowhere. Don't waste your time wondering if it sells. Write another 10-15 stories, put up both single and collection to see what sells better, then MARKET THEM TO DEATH. –  Tannalein Jul 4 '13 at 14:37

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Question:

I have a [...] romance short I’m thinking of publishing, but it’s currently about 1,700 words. At that length, do you think it would work better as a free story on my blog? Or should I still try to sell it?

Answer:

I have six different stories at that length up for $2.99. And I also have all six in stand-alone paperbacks for $4.99 through CreateSpace, and one is selling like crazy. Strange, but true.

This is cited from the comments of Dean W. Smith's blog post about "Making a Living with Your Short Fiction".

Smith is writing and selling a lot of short fiction. If you follow his blog and the comment section you will see that there are many other writers making good money with short fiction. So the answer is: Yes, there is market. Yes, people read short stories. And yes, you do not charge enough for your stories.

The whole post is about making money with short stories. I highly recommend it (even if you do not want to sell short stories). But to answer your question, you do not have to read that blog post.

Because it is totally irrelevant if there is some market if you write these stories anyway. And you say you enjoy doing so. So there is no reason to stop what you enjoy. Put them out there where people can find them and if people by them, then you have your market. Maybe a niche market, maybe not, but why should you care if people buy your books?

Sell the single stories, sell them as compilations. Both. More variety gives your readers more options to find you. There is nothing you can lose. Even if the majority do not like reading shorts. It doesn't matter. You only need a few fans to make money.

Write more stories, put them up and repeat. Use as many markets as possible. Amazon is not the only marketplace. Think about paper books. The world is connected. A connected world is open for every niche there is. Wouldn't it be worth it even if you only find one hundred people who buy your stuff, but do it regularly?

There is nothing to lose if you try it. Only experience to gain. And money.

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If I could I would have chosen both answers. Thanks a lot for the insights. They are great. –  Javeer Baker Jul 6 '13 at 7:16

OK, I don't have any specific numbers, so it's going to be more of a subjective answer, I apologize.

Firstly, when self-publishing, you have to keep in mind that you are your own marketer. You sell your own books. Sure, they sell through Amazon, or Smashwords, or Barnes and Nobles, or whichever you choose, but you have to make them sell. I saw people building "platforms" through blogs, facebook, tweeter and other social networking tools before they even put a book on the market, so that when it comes out, the potential readership is already eagerly waiting to read it. If you just put your story among million of others and then sit and wait for people to stumble onto it, odds are you're not going to sell much. A good story has to swim through a pile of garbage to get to the top (yes, when you let people freely submit what ever they want without any quality control a large number of it will be garbage). Separating crap from the good stuff is done through "word-of-mouth" - reviews, recommendations, off-site reviews (book-reviewing sites like BookReporter or BookPage), and it takes a lot of work to get your story reviewed (book-reviewing sites usually don't come to you, you come to them - you need to ask them to do a review, usually in exchange for a free copy).

It's a lot of hard work. Maybe too much for ten short stories, but why not write fifty? Or more? Ten or twenty decent novels could make the same amount of money as a single best-seller - people have tested and confirmed that. The trick in earning money from self publishing is in quantity. Ten low-priced items sell more than one pricey item. So don't waste your time contemplating whether it would sell. Write a ton of short stories, then make them sell. A good place to get some good general info and advice on self-publishing is Joe Konrath's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, but there are also plenty of other blogs out there on the same subject.

After a bit of Googling, I ran into "Kindle Singles". Basically, they're something like "staff picks" on Android Market, they're works typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words that have been reviewed by the editors, so they're guaranteed to have a higher quality than an average self-pub piece. It gives a reader assurance that he's not buying random crap. Also, they're marketed by Amazon, which means less marketing work for you. Amazon has released the sales figures for Singles, and they look pretty good, take a look at Amazon Has Sold Over Two Million Kindle Singles or How Much Do Kindle Singles Authors Make?. Looking at these numbers, I have to say, yes, there is a market for short stories. If you can make yours 5000+ words long, and if they're of good enough quality, trying to get them into "Kindle Singles" category might be worth-while. You can have a look at the Submission Policy.

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