Publishing Single Short Stories

There are lots and lots of people who buy and read mainly stand alone short stories. Probably because of the speed of life these days. This came as a big surprise to me when I published my first one. There are short story connoisseurs who follow authors who only publish short, and are considered masters of the art. I thought it was a cop out to be honest – a way of publishing something a lot easier than a novel length book, because I thought that anyone can bang out a short story. There’s an art to creating a good short though, so that’s not entirely true. I’ve always enjoyed reading them and have piles of anthologies and singles on my Kindle, written by authors from debuts to Stephen King. A short story must still be a complete tale, with good flow, plot, structure and ending. In some ways getting a great short written can be more of a challenge than when you have much more space and time when writing fifty thousand words or so.

I have quite a few lurking on my computer waiting for polishing and publishing, and for me personally, because there’s so much less time invested in them than my longer books, I allow myself to play with the way I write them. The story I wrote for the Save the Rhino anthology, Nkoninkoni, inspired me to write a whole lot of short tales of Africa and its legends. Other stories I’ve started with the purpose of trying to write in different styles and genres, and then just follow where they choose to go. Writing a bad short story is going to be less heartbreaking than writing a bad book, although you might just surprise yourself when you’re just going with the flow. Writing shorts is good practice, but it has other advantages too.

I’ve always thought that as an Indie, the best way to get a feel for the process is to publish a short story before that novel you’ve been slaving over for a year or two. If you publish your novel green, there will be all sorts of learning curves that you’ll wish you knew before, and without any ideas about marketing it you could end up really disappointed when it just sits there and nobody buys it. There is no shame in publishing a single short story, as long as you put the same effort into its creation that you would a full length book. You’ll be in excellent company, because most bestselling authors publish them too. And if you enrol it in Amazon’s Kindle Select programme you can use it as a free marketing tool when you publish your big boy.

Doing this will take some of the terror away when you do publish your novel – not all of it – I don’t think that ever goes away no matter how many books you put out there. Make a great cover for it, edit it and make sure it’s nicely formatted. Make it the best little book that you can, and then let it loose. Have a marketing campaign on all of your online sites. Have a couple of free days in the hopes of some nice reviews. Set up your Amazon Author page. Join Twitter if you haven’t already, and see how it works. Even if you don’t have many sales to begin with, you’ll have learned a great deal, and your systems and sites will all be in place and ready for you when the time comes to publish your labour of love.


Author: jorobinson176

South African writer.

49 thoughts on “Publishing Single Short Stories”

  1. Practice with a short story first, even if you’re not really into writing shorts. Great idea and excellent advice. Too bad I already let the book lose out there 🙂


    1. It’s no bad thing to have a book out there. 🙂 I was amazed at some of the feedback I got from short story readers though, because I honestly was publishing for practice. There’s a large tribe of them out there, and they truly love their shorts, so regularly publishing these little guys in between novels is a great thing to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a perfect post for me to read, Jo. Having just published another short story on my blog (in two parts) I now have a collection I’ve been sat on the fence for ages about thinking whether I should publish or not? I guess it’s fear of the unknown that is stopping me from going ahead and doing something about it.
    Your post helps and, reading it today, may have just pushed me off that fence. I have a short city break coming up next week and I may just take some time thinking about it all some more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right. There’s a big audience for them these days. I always love it when I find one that’s a brilliant read, and the author keeps more coming. Everyone’s so busy these days, but still like to read. 🙂 X


      1. Where’s the huge audience? I’ve got a small short collection and two other singles on the market. I’ve hardly seen any result despite marketing, cover design, and meticulous editing.
        I’ll always use shorts to keep my skills honed. I was never out to earn anything from them, it was just to start putting my work out there before my novel.


  3. I’ve always like d to read short stories and considered those authors quite skilled to do so much with so few words.
    And I like writing short stories much better than longer pieces/novels.
    Wondered if there was a market or readers who would be interested.
    Thanks for the info.


  4. I have just begun a short story writing course so reading this was very timely. I wouldn’t know where to go to publish, so that is obviously my next learning curve.


  5. Great post!

    Oddly enough, I feel like I kind of did things the wrong way round with writing short stories – as I published two full-length novels first, and THEN began writing short stories!

    I do like novellas and short stories – both reading and writing them. I think they’re a great way to explore certain themes which wouldn’t necessarily suit a full length book.

    Plus, one of the best things about writing them is that I can just start writing and see what happens, whereas with novels, I have to plan and outline, etc to make sure I’m on track.

    I remember reading an interview with a famous author (it may have been Jeffrey Deaver but I can’t quite remember) where he talks about being able to indiscriminately kill characters in short stories because the reader won’t have invested as much time in them and so probably won’t mind. I thought that was great advice, and very true!

    I also completely agree with using short stories as a way of marketing longer material too. I’ve actually got some really good feedback for one short story in particular – which is good for obvious reasons, but also makes me wonder slightly if I’m doing something wrong with the others…!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A short would be great for indiscriminate killing. I pretty much killed off everyone on the planet in one of mine. Good stuff. 🙂 I understand that you wrote novels first. Even though I published a short first, I’d already finished writing my novel, because I thought shorts were of less value. I was also amazed with the feedback, and my favourite one of my own stories will always be one of my shorts. I’m sure you’re doing it all perfectly right.


  7. Gosh I’ve been thinking so much about doing this lately, especially as life has now got in the way of the final book of my trilogy (put away now till new year) but maybe this break, busy as it is, would be a good time to publish a few shorts. Thanks, very timely advice and just the encouragement I needed!


  8. I honestly love to write and read short stories. I do write novels as well, but to really nail down a story in 30 pages or less. That to me says a lot. You can’t skimp or fall flat a bit and then recover like in a novel. That’s why I love short stories. You have to be on the whole time. Nice post. I would love to share one of my short stories with you. Just let me know.


  9. As a novelist I didn’t think much of short stories and their writers. I liked to read good long stories. But then I decided to try my hand at shorts and became amazed at how hard it is to fit everything just right. Short story writing is great training for writers and it’s an art form on its own. You’re so right that many great novelist write short stories that are well known to many readers. I never thought about the people who enjoy them so much. Thanks, Jo. Great post.


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