Have you ever wondered if you can sell short stories for money?
Lots of us dream of being a published author but assume it is not really realistic that we could make money writing. As Christopher Hitchens said in 1997; “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”
How To Sell Short Stories For Money
What are short stories?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a short story is “a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.”
Short stories can be novellas or fiction limited to a certain number of words. They can normally be read in one sitting, in under 2 hours but most commonly around an hour.
The word count of short stories is usually between 1000 and 20,000 words.
A lot of people like to pick up a book of short stories because they are easier to digest, especially in our society today where we all have short attention spans.
Bear in mind that even though short stories are not as lengthy as big sagas or traditional novels, if you want to sell short stories for money, your storyline needs to be fully developed.
Instead of multiple locations and incidents, a short story normally focuses on just one key even and setting.
The five key elements of your short story are:
- Character (the who)
- Setting (the where)
- Conflict (the why)
- Plot (What happens)
Can I Get Paid For Writing Stories About Anything?
While there probably is a market for every kind of short story, the truth is, some sell much easier than others.
If you have ever spent some time perusing Kindle Unlimited, you will easily be able to get a feel for the types of novels that sell well.
If you really are serious about getting paid to write short stories, you will need to forget about what you want to write about, and write about what the people want to read.
As of writing this article, here are the genres for the top 10 Kindle short stories on Amazon.
- A Beginners Guide To The Stock Market – (Business/Money)
- Breach of Peace (Science fiction/Fantasy)
- Curvy Ride (Romance/Erotica)
- Shotgun’s Bride (Romance/Erotica)
- Tuff Enough (Romance/Erotica)
- The Giving Tree (Children’s fiction)
- In The Heart Of Fire (Thriller/Suspense)
- My Best Friend, My Stalker (Erotica)
- Stalking Her, A Safe Stalker Romance (Erotica)
- The Untold Stories Vol.2 (Erotica)
Aside from the fact that two of the books in the top ten are about stalking, I’m sure something stands out to you:
Erotica is by the the best selling type of short story that sells. No other genre sells like it, and you’re much more likely to make a living selling dirty short stories than clean ones.
Although you can definitely get paid to write other kinds of fiction, if you really want to sell short stories for money, you need to consider erotic fiction as the most lucrative genre.
This is particularly true if you want to self publish and sell your short stories on Amazon.
How much can you get paid for a short story?
First of all, you should be aware that you are not going to write and get paid instantly.
Selling your short stories may not happen right away and this is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
You are unlikely to get offered a $5 million book deal off the back of your short stories.
If you are looking to get paid to write, there are other ways to make money such as freelance writing or creating PLR content to sell.
I consider selling short stories a great option if you love writing and want to make money from your hobby.
So how much can you sell a short story for?
Most publications such as Reader’s Digest and other magazines pay around $100 per published short story.
Many pay nothing so you need to read the guidelines. I have listed 12 paying sites below to get you started.
Kindle books sell for between $1-10 dollars each (normally in the $2-4 range) and Amazon will pay your royalties of up to 70%.
Where To Sell Short Stories For Money
You have two main options when it comes to selling your short stories – self-publish and list them on Amazon or submit them to various publications.
Of course you could do both simultaneously as long as you do not have an exclusivity contract with the publication in question.
Most of the publications I found that pay for articles do ask to be the first to publish unique content.
Where To Submit Short Stories For Money
Here are the 12 best places to submit short stories and get paid when they are published.
Remember that making money selling your writing is a numbers game so the more places you apply to, the more chance you have of your story getting picked up.
Where noted, I have mentioned if the publication charges a submission fee for your work. Some magazines do charge a fee for reading your story which can eat into your profit margin.
You should also make note of the reading times of each publication. Most of them do not accept submissions year-round so that is something to bear in mind.
Ruminate Magazine publishes fiction and non-fiction up to 5500 words. You can also submit poems for publication.
Payment: Ruminate pays $20 per 400 words and there is no submission fee.
Past contributors have been paid up to $200 per article by Skirt. Here are the requirements:
Skirt. is a platform that celebrates women and all angles of life.
- Your article/essay should be no less than 500 words and maximum of 1,000 words
- A high-resolution headshot
- A brief bio about yourself
- High-resolution photos or video of the subject discussed in the article/essay
Payment: Not noted but people have reported being paid up to $200
The Common pays $100 for fiction and non-fiction submissions. They also encourage dispatches (from foreign travel.
There is a $3 submission fee (free for subscribers) and you should stick to around 10,000 maximum. Note that they only read submissions from March 1 – June 1 and September 1 – December 1 each year.
Here are their requirements:
We seek stories, essays, poems, and dispatches that embody a strong sense of place: pieces in which the setting is crucial to character, narrative, mood, and language.
We receive many submissions about traveling in foreign countries and discourage writers from submitting conventional travelogues in which narrators report on experiences abroad without reflecting on larger themes.
Submission Fee: $3 (free for subscribers)
Cricket publishes children’s fiction and non-fiction for a variety of age ranges:
- BABYBUG® for ages 6 months – 3 years
- LADYBUG® for ages 3 – 6
- SPIDER® for ages 6 – 9
- CRICKET® for ages 9 – 14
- CLICK® Science and Discovery for ages 3 – 7
- ASK® Science and Discovery for ages 7 – 10
- MUSE® Science and Discovery for ages 9 – 14
- COBBLESTONE™ American History for ages 9 – 14
- FACES™ World Cultures and Geography for ages 9 – 14
The payment for Cricket publications is
- Stories and articles: up to 25¢ per word
- Poems: up to $3.00 per line; $25.00 minimum
SLICE magazine welcomes submissions for short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
The maximum word count for submissions is 5,000 words. You may submit up to: 5 poems, 2 stories, 5 flash fiction pieces, and 2 essays.
Payment: $400 for stories and essays, $150 for flash fiction pieces, and $100 for poems
The Masters Review is a place for new, unpublished authors to submit their short stories. This is a once a year opportunity and only 10 authors are chosen each year.
Previously unpublished works of fiction and narrative nonfiction only
Up to 7000 words
We accept simultaneous submissions as long as work is withdrawn if it is accepted elsewhere
Multiple submissions are allowed
- International English submissions allowed
Emerging Writers Only. Writers must not have published a novel-length work at the time of submission
Payment: $1000 prize
Submission fee: $20.
The Three Penny Review pays well so is a good one to check out. Note that they do not accept submissions between May and December each year.
Word Count Guidelines: Table Talk items must be 1000 words or less, stories and memoirs 4000 words or less, and poetry 100 lines or less.
Payment: $400 per story or article, $200 per poem or Table Talk piece.
Smokelong focuses solely on flash narration up to 1000 words. They are not interested in previously published works although your own blog is ok.
Here are some of the things they look for:
- language that surprises and excites
- narratives that strive toward something other than a final punch line or twist
- pieces that add up to something, often (but not necessarily always) something profound or emotionally resonant
- honest work that feels as if it has far more purpose than a writer wanting to write a story
Payment: $50 per published article via PayPal.
Carve seeks good honest fiction in the form of short stories. I like that they offer feedback on 5-10% of declined submissions.
Submission Fee: $3 but free if submitted by snail mail.
Penpee doesn’t buy stories but they will pay you when your submitted stories are read. It is free to join and submit but the earnings are minimal.
They also have a prime membership that allows you to earn a bit more money:
Membership cost £12.99 every 6 months subscription or £19.99 per annual subscription.
- Post Unlimited short stories.
- Maximum of 12000 words spanning a maximum of 20 pages with a maximum of 600 words per page and a minimum of 400 words unless it is the last page of the story.
- You will earn 70% lifetime revenue on every credit spent reading each page of your story.
- You will also be able to promote your fictional books on Amazon by sharing teasers with our readers.
Vestal Review only accepts very short stories (under 500 words)
Here are their guidelines:
- No longer than 500 words
- We reject pornography, racism, and excessive gore. On the other end of the spectrum, no preachy stories, please.
- Our target audience is over 18, so R-rated content is okay, but not X-rated.
- We accept all genres, and we love humor.
Payment: $50 per published story
Submission Fee: $3
The Iowa Review looks for the best poetry, fiction, and nonfiction being written today and is often pleased to introduce new writers.
The page limit for prose is 25 pages and for poetry is 8 pages
Payment $1.50 per line for poetry ($40 minimum) and $0.08 per word for prose ($100 minimum).
Submission Fee: $4 Fee to submit online
How to sell short stories for money on Amazon?
If submitting your short stories to different publications seems like a lot of work, you can also consider self-publishing on Amazon.
The easiest and cheapest way to do this is via Kindle although of course, there is less earning potential this way.
Advantages of selling your short stories on Amazon Kindle:
- It is completely free (Amazon takes a cut of sales)
- Fast – publishing takes less than 5 minutes and your book appears on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours.
- Earn up to 70% royalty on sales to customers in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and more.
- Keep control of your rights and set your own list prices.
You can publish in digital and print.
One negative I see of published on KDP, is that there are a lot of full-sized books priced at $0.99 which makes it harder to sell short stories and novellas.
It helps to have a following either from Instagram or Reddit before you attempt to make money selling Amazon although it is definitely the least labor-intensive way of selling your short stories for money.
Tips For Making Money Selling Short Stories
Whether you want to submit your short stories online to publications or you are interested in self-publishing, there are few things you can do to ensure success:
Join groups for writers and get to know the lay of the land.
Reddit has many subs about self-publishing and selling short stories for money. R/selfpublish has lots of tips and tricks for new writers.
Facebook is another place to network and grow a following.
Consider submitting your work for free at the beginning.
If you don’t have much luck getting published right away, you might want to see if you can get published for free on sites like Medium and publications that do not pay.
This will help grow your credibility as a writer and also give you practice.
Look at Writing Contests
Many of the publications I listed above also hold annual contests for writers. Winners receive money and also bragging rights which can help to develop your reputation as a quality writer of short stories.
Do Your Research
Take some time to read the publications that you are submitting to so you know what kinds of work they publish. Get to know what they write about and their target audience.
Stick to the guidelines
Make sure to read the guidelines of all publications (they are listed in the submissions forms online). Word count, grammar and spelling is especially important.
How to sell short stories for money – final thoughts
You likely won’t become a millionaire selling your short stories for money but it can be a nice way to turn a hobby into a side income earner.
If you love writing and would like to get paid full-time, consider doing some other money-making activities that involve writing such as:
Becoming a freelance writer and selling content to bloggers or on sites like Fiverr.