When I attended the Southampton Writers Conference in 2009, I wrote a short story that sparked the idea for multiple interconnected stories. I have worked on the collection intermittently over the last five years and happy that the first draft of the entire collection is finished. I am buried in edits right now. (Apologies to many people who have submitted guest post pitches. The delays in my responses will continue in the coming months!)
Listening to a podcast recently about F. Scott Fitzgerald and reading Conversations with John Steinbeck, I was reminded how both of these authors–and others–were able to rely on their short story income at various points in their lives. Short stories, for instance, were Fitzgerald’s “bread and butter.”
Although creating a livelihood today exclusively from short story writing seems impossible to me, I started researching short story markets. Who pays for short stories? I’m not talking in contributor copies or $50 – I mean who really pays? What markets are worth submitting your work – for both monetary and non-financial reasons?
Markets that pay. I have friends who regularly submit to The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, just in a ‘gotta-be-in-it-to-win-it’ mentality. Many other markets generously pay fiction writers: The Sun pays $300-$1,500 per story, Glimmer Train pays $500+ per story (and higher for their fiction contests), Subtropics pays $1,000 per story, and you can find many more.
Piggyback. I frequently remind myself and encourage other writers to enter writing contests that are judged by literary agents or publishers. Although you might not win the contest, you could be approached for publication elsewhere.
Platform. Publishing a short story helps expand your writer platform and reaches an audience you might not have tapped otherwise. If you’re a novelist, this could build exposure for your existing or forthcoming books.
Star quality. Yes, it might be a shot in the dark, but an author could sell a short story’s film rights. Christopher Nolan’s film Memento was developed from a short story “Memento Mori” his brother Jonathan published in Esquire magazine. Although not a short story–remember the movie Coyote Ugly? That was based on an article Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame) published in GQ.
Love. Whether I’m writing a new short story or editing an old one, I absolutely love it. Yes, I love being a full-time writer – but that means most of the time I’m writing non-fiction content and not penning fictional stories that highly intrigue me on a personal level. The content work doesn’t bring me joy. Fiction writing gives me a happy buzz and I’m happy to do it regardless of compensation. I think it is pretty obvious when someone is trying to write to a formula or ride the coattails of a 50-shades-of-teen-vampires trend. The genuine authors stand out.