Many people dream of being able to quit the day job, open a laptop (or typewriter, if you’re old-school), and write a best-selling novel. But, to be honest, that’s a really tough ask. So, instead many aspiring novelists start writing short stories.
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 short stories. 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.
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.
The trouble is magazines are ever on the decline because of the internet, so the competition is always getting tougher.
Frankly, getting literature published has always been competitive, but submitting a short story to a print or online magazine is still one of the best entry points.
If you’re hoping to make money at all from your stories, then fighting against the odds is something you’ll have to get used regardless.
It’s for this reason that we should point out that you probably shouldn’t be writing short stories for the cash. Really, there are much easier ways to make money (just check out our make money section!) and if your heart isn’t in it, then it’s going to show in your writing.
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.
Places to sell your stories…
Thankfully for those who do love writing, there are numerous magazines that accept subsmissions and run competitions.
Women’s magazines have a lot of short story opportunities. Magazines such as My Weekly, The People’s Friend, Woman’s Weekly and Mslexia 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, as there are lots of other magazines that cater for plenty of genres.
Many on the list cater for a range of stories and others also specialise:
Crimewave focuses on crime (you may have guessed!)
and Albedo One focuses on sci-fi and horror.
You could also consider PenPee. Penpee.com is a platform like Netflix/Airbnb for readers and storytellers to read, write, and get paid for short stories.
Writers get paid for every qualified page of their stories read. With Penpee’s recent introduction of “Read and Rate”, storytellers want readers’ opinions and readers get paid when they write a review and rate stories they read at Penpee.com
How do I write a story that will bring in loads of money?
If you want to earn money for your stories, then you’re going to need to be a competent writer with a good understanding of narrative structure and characterisation.
It can be hard getting an honest opinion, if you’re not sure how good you are at writing. Family and friends will almost certainly tell you you’re the next JK Rowling, so try and get impartial advice. Sign up to a writers’ forum and get feedback on your work.
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 for one that takes 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 in Devon, Shropshire or Yorkshire. You get to surround yourself with beautiful countryside and get lost in your writing 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. However, the courses are supported by the Arts Council of England, and other donors, so you can apply for a grant if you can’t afford the course. In some cases, all the course costs are covered and nine out of ten people get some grant support.
Tips from the professionals
If you’re fairly confident that you can write, then there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting published and earn some cash.
Write in a genre you’re comfortable with. If you usually write fantasy then you may struggle to write a romance story. Choose magazines to submit to that play to your strengths.
But do compromise. While you should write for familiar genres, if you want to make money then you’re going to need to be flexible to appeal to a specific readership. Then, 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!). Make sure you have a good sense of the readership from the articles and adverts in the magazine, as they’re the people you need to be writing for!
If you follow those steps then you’re increasing your chances of getting published.
How much money can I make with my story-writing?
Each magazine offers different rates for submissions.
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 word
For example, Fiction Desk Magazine pays £20 per 1,000 words (as well as a £100 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! Just watch out for their entry fee, which ranges from £3-11.
Shortlisted and longlisted authors get £150 and £50 respectively.
One of the good things about submitting to magazines is 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.