Established erotica short fiction writers are making five figures a month, but they don’t promote themselves – they can’t. Amazon’s cracked down on “monster porn”, and there are few venues for erotica writers to promote their offerings.
No, I’m not suggesting that you start writing erotica. 🙂 You can if you like, there’s money in it. However, there are many more genres in which you can make a handsome living if you write short fiction.
I receive endless questions about short stories. Writers still can’t believe they can make money from their imagination. Hard to believe, I know – I used to feel that way myself. Before self-publishing became hot, I would have giggled if anyone suggested you could make money with short stories.
Let’s look at some of the most popular questions I’m asked about writing and selling short stories.
How long are short stories?
Short stories can be as short as you please. Back in the days when I wrote for magazines, I’d sell the occasional “flash” fiction story. They were always shorter than a thousand words.
If you’re selling short stories on Amazon, I suggest that that your ebooks contain over 5,000 words. If you’re writing flash fiction, compile two or three or more stories. This is a suggestion – you can write at whatever length you choose.
Occasionally Amazon will tag authors who publish extremely short material for not providing a “good user experience.” Your mileage will vary. Those of my students who sell erotica, tell me that their stories of eight to ten thousand words sell well.
What kinds of short stories sell?
Erotica, romance, and mystery do well. Choose whatever genre you please. One writer I know sells horror short stories. Initially her stories languished. Then she built up her mailing list and sold bundles, and she’s doing well.
Write whatever you like. Experiment. Who knows, there might be a huge fan base for you.
How do I promote short stories?
The best way to sell your stories is to write more of them, so that you continually appear in Amazon’s New Releases lists. Also, make sure that you create a mailing list.
Can I freelance short stories? Will people hire me to write them?
People will hire you to ghostwrite almost anything. I’m cutting down on my ghostwriting activities. I enjoy it, because I love to write, and anytime anyone gives me a brief, I can’t wait to get started.
However, it doesn’t make economic sense. Your short stories will make money for you for years, if you sell them on Amazon. However, if you’re ghostwriting, you’re selling “work done for hire.” That means that you’re trading hours for dollars; if you need to do this, do it.
The big benefit of ghostwriting is money in your bank account. Build up your own short story publishing catalogue as soon as you can.
You’re writing a novel, and you know that you’ll devote many hours to this project. What if those hours turn out to be a waste of time? Perhaps you won’t finish the project you started with high hopes.
Worse yet… A small part of you is cynical. It’s muttering in your ear: OK, so you’ll finish, but it won’t SELL, dummy…
These are all signs that you’re taking your baby novel much too seriously, and that’s dangerous.
When you take writing a novel too seriously, your creativity dies
Yep. Your cold-hearted, determined, logical self can write. Unfortunately, it’s writing no one wants to read.
To boost your creativity you MUST let your creative self take over. This means no:
Backseat driving from your inner censor/ editor (where are you going with this? Is this supposed to make sense? Etc. and etc…);
Expectations. Having expectations of your first draft while you’re writing your first draft is like teacher asking kindergarten babies to explain their play, and exactly what they meant to achieve with that huge Lego tower…;
Distractions, such as following rules (your own, and others’) while you’re writing.
Your normal logical, anxious and kvetching self will NOT like this. It wants to be in charge, and fears a lack of control.
Remember your school days? Imagine that it’s the height of summer: what can you hear? Stop reading for a moment, and take yourself back to those days in your imagination…
Were you there in your mind? That’s day-dreaming, and it’s the state of mind you need when you’re writing fiction.
Let’s look at some tips to help you to day-dream.
1. Your subconscious mind knows best
When you write a novel, encourage your logical self to take a back seat. Tell it that it can return when you’re revising and editing, but not before.
Expect that it will take time before you can switch to a day-dreaming mind state at will. While you’re getting practice in letting your creative self take charge, if you don’t know “what happens next” in your novel, you can:
Sleep on it. Before you go to sleep, muse about your novel;
Doodle or draw for a few minutes;
Go for a walk, or just move to another room. Not relaxed enough sitting at your desk? Lounge on your living room sofa and write on your phone.
2. Write forwards: towards the midpoint, and then the closing scene
Authors tend to use different expressions for the milestones; some authors call them “beats”, for example. I like the term milestones, because I think of a novel as a journey. You can call the milestones anything you wish.
Once you know your word count, you’ll know where the milestones will be. For example, if you get to the midpoint, and nothing much changes, you know you’d better look lively, otherwise your novel will meander over a cliff.
In your first draft, you’re telling yourself the story. Keep writing forwards — don’t go back.
3. Speed up: stop thinking, keep writing
My favorite acronym, which I’ve used for many years (I used to be the Queen of Overthinking) is: DDT — Do, Don’t Think.
When you’re busily thinking — that is, anxious and worrying — you’re not day-dreaming. Stop thinking. Start day-dreaming.
A word about day-dreaming: don’t try to manage it
Let’s say you’ve trained yourself to achieve the day-dreaming mind state at will.
What happens when your day-dreaming derails? That will happen. So, instead of day-dreaming about your thriller, in which the hero is confronting three large and angry terrorists, you’re imagining your upcoming weekend getaway.
That’s totally fine. You’re day-dreaming, so you’ve got the correct mindset. Gently steer your imagination where you want it to go. Imagine what your hero’s feeling: can you picture the scene in your mind?
On days when you’re especially distracted, switch between imagining your thriller (or whatever genre you’re writing), and free writing.
When you’re writing a novel, day-dreaming is valuable
Most authors are excellent day-dreamers. Unfortunately, at some stage you may have been told that day-dreaming is wrong. Perhaps you were accused of being a “dreamer”, and that blocks you today.
Be gentle with yourself while you’re getting back into the day-dreaming habit. Not only is day-dreaming fun, it’s an essential skill for a novelist.
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels.