I honestly don't know how some people can keep track of their sales on huge spread sheets. They must only have like five books published or something. Psh. Novelists.
However I do feel it's important for prospective short story writers to have a realistic understanding of what the market is currently like. And in light of my third year of being published anniversary, it felt as good a time as any to divulge some numbers.
I don't feel like it would be useful at this point to give a breakdown of everything I've sold in the past three years. I'll be honest, I don't move thousands of copies and some months I didn't get paid at all for awhile. What I think would be more helpful is to look at a three month period over the course of three years on two different channels (as opposed to two branches of Amazon) so you can really see the changes.
I first started self-publishing October 2010.
April 2011 I made $4.90
May 2011 I made $4.90
June 2011 I made $13.96
April 2012 I made $16.09
May 2012 I made $33.23
June 2012 I made $24.49
April 2013 I made $79.16
May 2013 I made $40.92
June 2013 I made $39.52
Barnes and Noble:
April 2011 I made $6.80
May 2011 I made $9.20
June 2011 I made $5.20
April 2012 I made $8.80
May 2012 I made $17.54
June 2012 I made $8.00
April 2013 I made $34.86
May 2013 I made $24.92
June 2013 I made $41.51
So all you number conspiracy theorists can take what you will from all of those numbers. The selling season, the channel, etc. And yes, this is chump change compared to some other authors out there. Writing short stories makes me happy so the fact that I make any money at all from them is really just the icing on the cake.
I would say for me the biggest noticeable change is the fact that I've been getting paid every month now. Most channels require a $10 minimum before electronically depositing a payment. As you can see, I didn't always hit that marker some months. I actually didn't hit that marker a lot of months when I first started. Especially during the summer slump season (always a low point when selling books).
For over a year now I've been consistently making it well past that $10 minimum marker on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So I no longer feel like I never sell anything with the occasional fluke months (May 2012, wtf?).
I think at this point I can confidently say that it is possible to make, if not a living, a very healthy side income from writing short stories alone. In two to three more years I could easily see the listed numbers becoming several hundred dollars. And this is coming from someone that started out as a complete no-name (ok I'm still a no-name) with no history at all in the traditional publishing industry. Like, I didn't have a backlist and I'm not famous.
But here are some things to keep in mind as far as short story sales go:
- I publish constantly. As quickly as I am able to produce a quality work. As a short story writer this is my one and only advantage over novel writers.
- My short stories are everywhere now. As many channels as I can get them on. Forget Select and other exclusive programs. So not worth it when moving so few copies already.
- The biggest jumps in income occurred when I branched out in genre and, later, branched out to producing more novelettes set at a higher price point. Writing serials of said novelettes also helped a great deal.
- Find some cover art designers that you like and buy premades. They are cheaper than custom and so so so worth the money. Cover art is a HUGE selling point. Just because it's a 99 cent short story doesn't mean it has to look like a cheap story. It's still a story and it deserves a cover.