Short stories are often thought of as the stepping stone to novel writing.
This just seems logical. Once you become familiar with storytelling and prose in short form, you can graduate to the big leagues– and that’s where you’ll start making money.
But this is totally false.
It’s actually possible to write short stories for money, and there’s a surprising number of ways you can turn your creative writing talent into an income source.
If you want to learn how to make money writing short stories and, more importantly, the best places to sell your short stories for money, this is absolutely the post for you.
How To Make Money Writing Short Stories
So you’ve come around to the idea of short stories, but how do you turn your literary work into cash?
Here’s a few different ways you can make money with short stories:
1. Start a Short Story Blog
Out of all the ways to make money writing short stories, starting your own blog is one of the hardest options.
However, blogging also has a lot of potential, and growing an online audience also helps you sell your short stories or other literary works directly to your readers.
Plus, blogging provides an outlet to get feedback on your writing from readers while keeping all of your writing in one place.
Additionally, there are numerous ways to monetize a short story blog besides selling short stories and books to your readers. Options include:
- Selling a short story writing course
- Making money with display advertisements with companies like Google Adsense, Monumetric, and Mediavine
- Affiliate marketing
- Selling sponsored posts
- Funneling readers to another platform you own, like a podcast or YouTube channel
And blogging definitely has a very high earning ceiling. For example, This Online World makes over $20,000 a month from a mix of Mediavine ads and affiliate income:
The tricky part with blogging is that it takes time to grow your traffic, but there are successful short story blogs in genres like:
Ultimately, if you can grow your blogging audience, this is probably one of the best ways to make money writing short stories. And you can even collaborate with other writers in your niche or other niches and create content on each other’s blogs!
2. Write On Medium
Making money writing on Medium is one of the fastest ways to get paid for your writing.
In fact, Tom from This Online World earned $100 in his first 24 hours on Medium and has since earned over $1,000 from the platform!
If you don’t know what Medium is, it’s basically a free blogging platform that has over 150 million monthly readers.
Medium pays you based on how many people are reading your work, so you need to focus on captivating headlines and take the time to build an audience base– once you have that the money will start rolling in.
And, unlike blogging, Medium already has an established reader base, so there’s a lot less leg work you’ll have to do in terms of setting up a site and marketing your stories.
Plus, short stories are surprisingly popular on Medium, and other genres like romance and sci-fi also do well, so you can write about a variety of topics.
For example, you can submit short stories to publications that accept fiction. If your story gets accepted, this means you’re potentially reaching thousands of readers, which results in you getting paid if premium members read your work.
Again, it takes time to grow your Medium following, but this is another option to make money writing short stories that’s ideal if you don’t want to learn how to start your own blog.
And the best part is that one a story begins trending on Medium or you grow your profile, you can basically make money on autopilot as people continue to read your short stories every month.
Extra Reading – The Best Websites Like Medium.
3. Enter Short Story Competitions
Another way to write short stories online for money is to win writing competitions.
There’s actually lots of short story competitions out there, and the prizes for coming first or even within the top few spots can be several hundred or thousands of dollars.
Granted, writing competitions often have small entry fees to make sure you’re serious about writing, but there are tons of cash prizes to be won and contests running year round.
Here are a few short story competitions to get you started:
- Zoetrope Stories 2021: This competition will have 3 winners with a top cash prize of $1,000 and an additional 7 honourable mentions. Entries under 5,000 words from unpublished writers will be considered and the top 10 will be considered for representation by several literary agencies.
- The Masters Review: This platform is centred around emerging writers and their current competition is offering a first place prize of $3000. There’s also second ($300) and third ($200) place prizes, and all winners will receive publication and agency review.
- Narrative Magazine: This narrative contest has a cash prize of $4000 and runs every year with the same deadline of June 15. They’re looking for both fiction and non-fiction submissions of any genre style, up to 15,000 words.
Narrative runs several different contests year round, so it’s worth checking to see if you qualify for their others as well.
If you Google “short story writing competitions” there’s also lots of other opportunities to get paid for your short story.
And again, you don’t necessarily have to come first for a lot of these competitions, and the chance to win thousands of dollars for a short story is pretty cool!
Extra Reading – How To Become A Freelance Writer.
4. Write Short Stories For Magazines
If you want a steadier way to sell short stories, your best bet is to apply for writing jobs with magazines.
There’s actually numerous magazines that pay writers for short stories, and if you can get a semi-regular feature in the magazine, that’s a steady paycheck for your work!
Plus, some magazines are massive names, so getting a story in them is an excellent way to get your name out there and build your portfolio.
Some magazines where you can make money writing short stories include:
- The New Yorker: This well known magazine has an open door for publication entries, so it could be worth a shot and would give you an insane amount of exposure.
- Reader’s Digest: You can make $100 by submitting a true story about yourself of 100 words or less. Quick and easy cash.
- Slice Magazine: Submit your short fiction, non-fiction, and poetry to Slice Magazine and make up to $400. The magazine loves to support emerging voices, so it’s a good place to start if you’ve never been published.
- Dark Magazine: This publication will pay you $0.06 a word for your horror and dark fantasy fiction. If your writing falls under these categories and you love to develop new stories with unexpected twists and surprises, you’ll easily find an audience here.
Like short story competitions, you can search Google for “magazines that accept short stories” and find even more publications that will pay you for your short stories.
Some magazines don’t state how much they pay per story, but you can find magazines that pay several hundred dollars per story.
And, if you pitch a short story but no magazine accepts it, you can always publish it on your own blog or on Medium so it still gets out there.
5. Write & Sell a Collection of Short Stories
If you’ve churned out a notable amount of short stories or poems, you can group them together into something readers would want to buy.
Printing costs more than selling an ebook online, but may be more appealing to people who prefer the feel of paper.
You can sell these books from an online store you make, at garage sales, or try to get a book publisher to promote your work. You can also go the Amazon route, which I’ll explain more of below as well.
Just be sure your production costs are manageable so you’re not blowing your budget beyond what you can make back.
6. Sell With Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing
One popular way to make money with Amazon is to publish ebooks on the platform.
With Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s easy and free to publish your written work and to make money at the same time.
Plus, with Kindle Direct Publishing, you keep ownership over the final product. You can also choose which categories your short stories appear under and make changes at any time.
Additionally, you set your own price and keep 70% of royalties. There’s also the option to sell in ebook format as well as print.
Overall, Amazon makes selling your short stories very seamless, and you get the advantage of accessing Amazon’s massive existing marketplace.
Plus, you can get your work published in the Kindle store within 24 to 48 hours.
Generating sales still takes time, and there’s immense competition on Amazon. But Amazon also presents immense opportunity due to the audience size.
If you want to learn how to publish short stories on Amazon, I suggest watching this video from Self-Publishing Made Easy on YouTube:
This video covers the steps to publish on Amazon, how long your short stories should be, and some other tips to make money with your short stories.
7. Sell Rights To Film Makers
Short stories are a go-to for indie filmmakers looking for their next source of inspiration. So, unsurprisingly, you can sell the rights to your work and see it brought to life– which is an opportunity not many writers get.
Just note: it’s unlikely you can go right to Hollywood as an unknown writer, pitch a script or story, and get paid.
However, if you’re already involved in smaller, local film festivals or start getting involved, you might be able to partner with a smaller producer to make a low-budget film.
This is probably one of the less-likely ways to make money selling short stories, but hey, if you never ask you never receive!
8. Ghostwrite Short Stories
Another option to make money writing short stories online is to ghostwrite stories for other people.
An advantage of ghostwriting is that you can get reliable, steady income since people are always looking for writing help.
The main downside of ghostwriting is that you don’t build your portfolio and you don’t own the rights to what you create. This means your chances of earning passive income from a short story that sells well is out the window.
But, if you just want to make extra money writing short stories and don’t care if it’s under someone else’s name, ghostwriting is for you!
Plus, there are numerous freelance marketplaces where people hire ghostwriters to write short stories for them.
This is honestly on the lower side of what you can make with this side hustle, but if you’re new to writing, Fiverr is a decent way to build up your portfolio so you can charge more and land higher-paying clients.
Now, if you’re an experienced writer, I suggest selling short stories with Upwork instead.
Some of the top short story writers on Upwork charge $40 to $50 per hour, so you can make hundreds or thousands of dollars if you get the right client.
Just remember: starting on these platforms is tough since you don’t have testimonials, so you usually have to accept lower pay rates until you establish yourself in the community. You’ll also be subject to stricter guidelines and writing styles since these are ghostwriting projects.
The upside? You have more control over the projects you accept and once you’ve proven yourself on the platform you can set your rates accordingly.
Extra Reading – Easy Upwork Jobs For Beginners.
Why Sell Short Stories For Money?
There are numerous reasons why writing short stories for money is a lucrative side hustle idea, including:
- Flexible Categories: So many different types of writing fall under the short story umbrella, so write whatever you want! You can create poems, mini-sagas, Novelettes, Flash Fiction, and you can even have your work included in an anthology.
- Faster To Write: Faster writing means more writing, which is important because online retailers lean towards authors with more titles. You’re more likely to be picked up by someone interested in selling your work if you have a long list of titles attached to your name.
- Keep Fans Engaged: If you’re in between novels, this is a great way to keep your readers on the line. You can write short stories based on the main characters of your current project. This will give your readers their fill and could also help you down the line when it comes to the real thing.
- Worth More Than You Think: There’s platforms that sell short stories for the same price as e-books, which means that short stories will make you more money per word.
Overall, if you want to make money online and enjoy writing, selling short stories is definitely worth pursuing!
Can You Make A Lot Of Money Selling Short Stories?
Starting a profitable career in writing can take some time, but the most important part is that you’re producing content and getting it out there.
The more your name is out there, the more likely you are to get picked up by a big name publisher that stumbles across your work.
Contests are the best for getting visibility from publications and agencies, but obviously you have to win in order to get the money and the spotlight.
The benefit to many of the other options above is that you can make good money for producing short pieces of content.
Many sites and blogs that will use your writing will pay you a few hundred dollars for short stories, you just have to find the ones that align best with your genre and writing style– then you can focus on building a relationship and cashing your check.
If you work hard and put time towards any of these choices, you can definitely turn your short story writing into profit.
Just note that if you need money fast, this probably isn’t the best side hustle idea to start since it can take time to get your first sale or build an online readership.
Pros & Cons Of Selling Short Stories For Money
If you’re still wondering how to make money writing short stories or if this side hustle is right for you, consider the following pros and cons:
- You can turn writing into a career
- Massive publications or blogs might publish your work
- You can earn passive income through royalties
- There are lots of high-paying short story writing competitions
- You don’t have a guaranteed paycheck
- It can take a long time for your first short story to sell
- It might take several weeks or months to create new stories depending on how fast you write
But, you can always write short stories in your spare time and gauge how much income potential there is before putting more time into writing.
Extra Reading – How To Make Money With A Laptop.
There are so many places and avenues for short story publications, the hardest part is deciding which is best for you.
You can keep your writing muscles working and your creative juices flowing, all while making some extra money on the side.
Don’t be afraid to try out different things to see what sticks.
You might even find it more engaging to try out multiple avenues and challenge yourself and your writing– plus more publications means more ways for money to come in.
The best part about short story writing for money is that if you do decide you want to write your breakout novel, you have tons of solid ideas and stories to jump off of.
So get to writing and put your content out wherever you think it fits– there is no right way to start your career as an author, so do what feels best for you.
Thanks for reading, and best of luck with your writing!
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Selena Fulham knows how valuable having a side hustle can be. She’s a freelance content writer with a focus on SaaS, B2B technology, social media, and the art of making money online. Currently based in Montreal, Quebec, Selena can usually be found either drinking coffee, hiking up a mountain, or snowboarding down it.