View Full Version : Short stories and making money

June 6th, 2018, 01:18 PM
I have heard on several occasions that short stories don't make as much money as novels. I'm simply wondering how people tend to calculate this.

I understand that a short story, in terms of sales, will most likely make less money than a novel. However, I want to point out some problems with this mindset.

I write about 2k words per day. That means I can have a first draft 60k word novel, ready in one month.

If I instead wrote short stories, I would have about 10-12 short stories ready in a month.

Each novel and short story will have a certain money making potential, both in terms of individual sales, but also in terms of anthology sales (and one short story could very well be licensed out or sold directly by the author in many different anthologies with different themes), various licenses (films, audiobooks, games etc...) and competition prizes.

I think what would be a much more fair comparison, is to compare all earning potential for one novel, vs the total earning potential of 10 - 12 short stories.

This also does not include the popularity boost that short stories can provide, which in turn could boost novel sales. I excluded this because it's virtually impossible to say how much money was made due to this.

What are your opinions on this? Do we need more perspective when talking about earnings from short stories?

June 6th, 2018, 03:41 PM
Short stories have the potential to be maybe two sales, one for the original periodical/antho, and one for a collection. Maybe 1% have a further pub in a 'best of'. Even collections are not well-marketed or seen as on a level playing field with novels.
People prefer novels because agents and marketers prefer novels. I think it's as simple as that. But there's no comparison money-wise. Novels have a much longer shelf-life.

June 6th, 2018, 10:58 PM
I don't write enough short stories to have a really good set of numbers for comparison, but... my best selling short story has earned me $570 to date. It's 31 pages long (got that from the publisher's site... can't be arsed to go look up how many words it is).

The only reason it sold well, I think, is that it's a sort of postscript to a novel I wrote. That novel has earned me $9 231 to date. It's 240 pages long.

Both stories are pretty old and I think the sales are essentially done for them, so... the short story earned me $18 per page. The novel earned me $38 per page.

And, again, I think the story sold well essentially because it's tied in to the novel. The only other short story I've sold, as I recall (other than a bunch of extras I've self-published that were ALSO tied in to a novel series), earned me a flat fee of $35. So, less than one page's worth of novel writing.

I'm not sure if these numbers are typical, but they're something. And I don't think I know any full-time, making-a-living-from-writing writers who only write short stories. Most of the pro writers I know focus on novels or maybe novellas with the occasional short tossed in.

June 7th, 2018, 03:20 PM
Depends on genre but novels rule the roost. My chapbook/collection has been worth a little over 15k over four years, but the bulk of my writing income comes from journalism. People are starting to desert weird/horror as mystery/suspense sells much better, abandoning the small press for big five. I find that sad but I get it. The average weird publication sells 200 copies. I bet Laird Barron's Blood Standard did that in a couple of hours.
Anthologies sell decently...which is odd. Test Patterns #1 made our goal of 500 sold. Other editors/publishers report similar figures. Genre magazines sell in the low hundreds. Nobody's making a living off of that.