Would you like to make money writing fiction?
A lot of people dream of being able to quit the day job, get out a laptop (or typewriter if you’re old-school) and write a best-selling novel.
To be honest that’s a really tough ask.
According to the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey, on average writers make around £600 a year.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no money to be made at all in writing fiction. We’ve already told you how you can make money publishing to kindle, but there’s also money to be made in submitting short stories to magazines.
In fact there are competitions that pay out £1,000 to the best short story!
To give you some help, here is our guide to making money writing short stories.
- Where do I begin with my story-writing?
- Places to sell your stories
- How do I write a story that will bring in loads of money?
- Tips from the professionals
- How much money can I make writing stories?
Your first stop is to find out what opportunities are available.
Magazines are by far your best chance of finding a willing publisher for your short story.
That being said there is a growing number of online magazines that you can try.
Frankly, getting fiction published has always been competitive, and submitting a short story is still one of the best entry points.
If you’re hoping to make any money at all from your stories then fighting against the odds is something you’ll have to get used to anyway.
It’s for this reason that we should point out that you probably shouldn’t be writing short stories just to make money. Really there are much easier ways to make money (just check out our make money section!) and if your heart isn’t really in it then it’s going to show in your writing.
Frankly you need to be passionate enough about writing that payment would be a nice bonus rather than a necessity to stand a chance of getting anywhere.
Thankfully for those who do love writing there are lists of magazines which accept subscriptions and which run competitions.
Check out the Booktrust’s breakdown of magazines that accept submissions and this site for regular short story competitions.
Women’s magazines have a lot of short story opportunities. Magazines like:
- My Weekly,
- The People’s Friend
- and Woman’s Weekly
all accept submissions. If you’re a regular reader then you’ll probably have a good idea of what they expect.
Don’t worry if you don’t think the audience of women’s magazines will appreciate your fiction however, as there are magazines catering for all kinds of genres.
Many on the list cater for a range of stories and others specialise,
- for example Crimewave focuses on crime (you might have guessed that)
- and Albedo One focuses on sci-fi and horror.
- If you’re not sure how good you are it can be hard getting an honest opinion – family and friends will almost certainly tell you you’re the next JK Rowling – so try and get impartial advice by signing up to a writers’ forum and getting feedback on your work.
- There are many good writers’ forums out there but you could begin by checking out writingforums.org or The Writers’ Digest forum.
- If you’re not good enough yet there’s a lot of information online that can provide a good foundation for improving your writing such as writersdigest.com and creative-writing-now.com.
If you’re really serious then you could even take a writing course
…although you’ll probably have to pay for a good one. Still, if it’s a hobby and you can afford it then why not?
- There are many writing courses around and finding the right one for you will simply be a matter of searching through a few and seeing if anything catches your fancy.
- Remember to research thoroughly before handing any money over. The Writers’ Academy is a good place to start because you can do online courses with top editors, bestselling authors and established tutors – although you will be looking at paying a few hundred pounds.
- For something a bit special you could check out the Arvon residential creative writing courses. These take place at one of three rural writing houses either in Devon, Shropshire or Yorkshire. You get to surround yourself with beautiful countryside and get lost in your writing with other budding writers for a few days. It is open to people of all ages and of all ability, regardless of experience. As this is residential there is a cost but because the courses are supported by the Arts Council of England and other donors you can apply for a grant if you can’t afford the course. In some cases all the course is covered and nine out of ten people who apply for a grant get some support.
If you’re fairly confident that you can write then there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting published and earning some cash.
- Write a genre you’re comfortable with. If you usually write fantasy then you may struggle to write a romance. Choose magazines to submit to that play to your strengths.
- But do compromise. While you should write for familiar genres, if you want make money then you’re going to need to be flexible – both to appeal to a specific readership and so you can apply for more than one really niche magazine. Plus there’ll be a lot of guidelines you need to follow, speaking of which…
- Stick to the guidelines. Make sure you follow the instructions provided by the site to the letter. Nothing will blow your chances of getting published faster than submitting a 4,000 word story for a competition that allows a maximum of 2,000 words. Some guidelines will specify what shouldn’t be in the story (e.g. explicit sex scenes) while others will go so far as to specify who the main character should be (for example, a women’s magazine may want a female character who their readers can relate to.)
- Do your research. Decide which magazine you’re going to submit to and read it regularly. See what sort of stories they usually publish and if there’s something similar between them, whether it be genre, tone or style, then you’d be wise to do the same (I know this might sound crushing to your creative and original mind but, as said above, you’ll need to compromise to make money. Save your genre defying masterpiece for when you’re a bit more established!) Also make sure you have a good sense of the readership from the articles and adverts in the magazine because they’re the people you need to be writing for!
If you follow those steps then you’re increasing your chances of getting published.
- usually £500 or so for a short story would be the top end
- other magazines don’t pay at all (they might offer recognition and a subscription to their magazine. Up to you if you think it’s worth it).
Some magazines pay you per a certain number of words,
- for example Fictional Desk Magazine pays £15 per 1,000 words (as well as an additional bonus for the best story in each magazine). While this might not sound like a huge amount, if you’re getting paid anything to write fiction then you’re doing something right.
The popular Writers’ Forum offers up to £300 for stories published in their monthly short story contests.
- The stories are a maximum of 3,000 words, so you’d be getting about £100 per 1,000 words which isn’t bad!
Competitions tend to offer greater amounts.
- For example Writer’ Village offers £1,000 top prize in their bi-annual short story content.
- Second and third place get £150 and £50 respectively.
- On top of that, all entrants receive feedback and advice on how they can improve their writing which is something others would charge a lot of cash for.
One of the good things about submitting to magazines is that you very rarely have to give up the copyright so you’re usually free to resell any published stories to magazines in other countries. Imagine how good it would feel making money from the same story multiple times!
Is writing short stories something you’d be interested in? Have you ever made money from fiction? Let us know in the comments section below.