Short Stories from a Cold-Blooded Business Perspective

Last week, we took a brief look at how the accepted place of short stories in a writer's career path has changed, and highlighted a few of the ways writing short stories could be viewed, now that independent publishing has come of age.

This week, we take a very brief look at writing a short story from a time investment versus returns perspective.

The Cold-Blooded Business Perspective:

From a business point of view, short stories don't seem like much of an investment. For one thing, you're almost certainly not likely to make your money back. If an 8,000-word short story takes a minimum of 8 hours to write (and that's if you do not outline), editing takes around another 2 (and that's only if you write cleanly), and formatting and uploading takes at least another 1 (if you have multiple platforms to publish to), you're looking at a basic minimum of 11 hours of work. At $50 an hour, that's $550 the story has to make back for you - plus the cost of a cover.

If you're looking at selling to a magazine market and can slice off the hour for upload and cost of a cover, you probably still won't make your money back, straight away. Even at 6c/word you're looking at $480 in return. If you're successful on the first submission, you don't fall far short of your cost of production. If you're not, you get to add in the cost of the time to format and submit to each market and try to calculate how much the wait time between responses has cost you in earnings - even if you are filling that time writing, since it is still time that the story has taken to begin its earning journey.

Of course, if you're calculating that against a minimum wage, you have made back your time costs a couple of times over. If you indie publish the story, you're not even guaranteed to do that. In fact, if you don't have strong reader base willing to buy every single thing you produce, and if you don't add to your costs by paying for advertising, you might be lucky to sell even one copy of that short story in the first year you publish it.

From the cold-blooded business stand point, this would mean that writing and individually selling short stories is not the best move towards building an income. But pure cash for time investment, is not the only business return a short story can bring, there are marketing aspects, as well - which is something we'll explore in next week's blog.