One of the questions I receive most often about short fiction is: “How can I sell my short story?”
Sadly, the days when magazines provided a market for your stories is long gone. The simplest and easiest way to sell a short story is to self-publish it.
You’ve written a short story. How do you sell it?
FWIW, here’s what I do:
- I decide on a genre and a theme a for a series of five to ten short stories. For example: romance (genre) Valentine’s Day (theme).
- Immediately I finish each short story in the series I publish it on Amazon KDP;
- When the series is done, I compile the short stories into a collection, and publish that.
BTW, I don’t unpublish any of the short stories after I publish the collection. Moreover, I publish the collection immediately after I publish the final story in the series.
Here’s why I do this: impact — I find that I sell more this way. (Your mileage may vary.)
Let’s look at some easy ways to start a short story.
1. Create a main character: your hero, or heroine
You may be inspired by someone you know, someone in the news, or even by a character in a book.
Alternatively, close your eyes, and see what your imagination tosses at you. Say to yourself: “I need someone to write about…”
An image of a person will appear… and hey presto, you have a character.
2. Start with an emotion, because fiction is all about emotion
When I’m coaching students, I set “emotion” exercises, because a fiction author needs to get comfy manipulating readers’ emotions.
Similarly, you can start a short story with a motive, because if you’re motivated, you’re motivated by an emotion.
What emotions are the most useful as story starters?
Consider the seven deadly sins: wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. You can create many different kinds of stories from these archetypal sins.
Let’s say you’ve chosen wrath: anger.
If you’re writing a children’s story, you could write about a little boy or girl whose parents are divorcing. The upset and angry child acts out.
Who helps the child? Perhaps it’s a teacher, or an aunt or uncle. With this kind of story, the child, and the adults around him, learn a life lesson as a result.
3. Start with a genre
All genres have predominant emotions the readers expect to feel. When you start with a genre, the primary emotion is baked in, so to speak.
The emotions readers expect to feel in:
- Romance: love, lust, happiness, fear etc.
- Mystery: curiosity, empathy, excitement, suspense…
- Thrillers: excitement, suspense, fear…
Sticking with anger for a moment, if you’re writing a romance ask yourself: who’s angry?
Perhaps a young couple is making preparations for marriage. They’re living together, and are discovering different things they dislike about each other.
One of them is angry enough to call off the wedding. What happens? Do they get back together?
The all-important story question: your main character’s goal
Once you’ve got your basic idea and are ready to start your story, ask yourself: whose story is it?
You need a viewpoint character, as well as a main character. Usually they’re the same person, but they may not be.
As with novellas and novels, the main character in your story has a goal. That goal implies the story question: will your hero achieve his goal?
Why give your character a goal?
Your character must have a goal, because:
- He needs motivation.
- Conflict: unless he wants something, and acts to get it, there’s no conflict. Fiction without conflict is boring.
In our children’s story above, we started with an angry kid.
What’s his goal? To keep his parents together.
What stops him achieving this goal? His parents. They’ve split and have no intention of reconciling.
If you’re a beginning short fiction writer, kickstart every short story with emotion
When you do this, readers will respond. Thinking “emotion” first is a wonderful habit to develop.
Happy writing. 🙂
If you write fiction, you may not know this secret…Did you know that short story of 5,000 words can make more money than a 60,000 word novel?
Check out Your Short Fiction Formula: The Easiest-Ever Writing Process (Workshop) to discover a process which makes writing short stories easy and FUN.
If you’re self-publishing, you may be aware that savvy authors use short fiction (short stories and novellas) to generate sales and income quickly.Explore Your Short Fiction Formula: The Easiest-Ever Writing Process now. You’ll be glad you did.
Write more, sell more: become a fiction authorWant to make a full-time income from self-publishing even if you’re a new author? Discover the secrets of writing commercial fiction. If you’re a new author, you’ll get value from this program. On the other hand, if you feel your fiction career could use a boost, this program will help you too. Start your new career today.
If you think you can't outline, you're wrong. You can create wonderful outlines which work for you: write more, and publish more.
More info →
Do you enjoy writing and publishing your books, but find that marketing them is a challenge? You're not sure what works, so your efforts are muddled, half-hearted, and inconsistent.
What if you could market in just 15 minutes daily?More info →
This plotting system works for my students, and it it will work for you. It's the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.
More info →
Your books aren't selling. You've done everything right, but you may have missed an essential element of bestselling fiction...
That element is suspense.More info →
Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.