Ultimate Guide: How To Make Money Writing Short Stories

how to make money writing short stories

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I’m sure this idea isn’t unique. It’s probably occurred to you before – you write well and you wonder if you can sell these stories.

The second thought that comes hot on the heels of the first is that – but who’ll buy them? Who will pay you for your stories, and how much can you make from this passion of yours?

How to make money writing short stories: A quick overview.

First off, it’s important to note that while writing stories can be a fun and fulfilling hobby, it’s not always the most lucrative. According to a survey by the Authors Guild, the median income for full-time writers in the US is just $20,300 per year. However, it’s really a game of numbers.

The more you write, you more money you make.

The more time you use, the more stories you produce, the more you make.

There are plenty of websites and publications that are willing to pay for quality short stories.

It simply boils down to whether you want to make this a side gig, or a profitable full-time income – in which, you’ll be a freelance writer.

Here is also a guide to how much you can charge as a freelance writer.

6 Best Ways On How To Make Money Writing Short Stories

Here are the 6 best ways to make money from your short stories:

One: Submit to Literary Magazines 

Literary magazines are a great place to get your short stories published and make some money. Some of the best literary magazines that pay for short fiction include The Threepenny Review, The Sun Magazine, and Strange Horizons. Just make sure to read their submission guidelines carefully before submitting your work.

how to make money writing short stories - the Sun submission guidelines

The Sun welcomes both new and seasoned writers.

The best part about submitting stories to these publications is that you may even be offered a retainer to write stories on a regular basis. That’ll be one of the best ways to get consistent monthly income!


The Sun offers $200 upwards per essay.
The Threepenny Review pays $400 per essay or article (submission is currently closed until January 1st).

(For more magazines that pay you to write, visit this site).

As a freelance writer, this is a great place to start making money. With every published story, you grow your skills and reputation as a good writer. 

how to make money writing short stories: The Threepenny review submission guidelines

Two: Enter Short Story Contests 

Short story contests are a great way to make some quick cash prizes. New writers can start with smaller contests, while more experienced writers can aim for bigger competitions with larger prizes. Here are some short story contests for both new and seasoned writers:

Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest: This contest is free to join, and runs 4 times a year. Cash prizes are paid out every 3 months. It accepts original science fiction, fantasy, and dark fantasy genres of up to 17,000 words.

Getting top prize will earn you $1,000, and there is even an annual $5,000 grand prize!


Young Lions Fiction Award: Founded by Ethan Hawke, Hannah McFarland, Rick Moody and Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, the Young Lions Fiction Award offers a $10,000 prize each spring to a writer of 35 years of age and below. Every year, 5 young writers are selected as finalists by a reading committee, and a panel of judges decides on the winner.

Young Lions Fiction award

Start a Short Story Blog 

Starting your own blog is one of the best ways to make money writing short stories. It’s hard work, but it has a lot of potential. You can sell your short stories or other literary works directly to your readers and grow an online audience. Plus, you can also write personal essays and blog posts to supplement your income.

Starting a short story blog means writing a blog post that is either SEO-optimized or conversion-optimized. You can write posts that will rank on page 1 of Google and get your seen as an expert. Eventually, with these posts you’ll get more traffic on your page, and you’ll be able to monetize via affiliate links within the ranking posts or ad income. 

This is a longer journey, of course. However, with the right SEO techniques and content, you can grow your blog and make it a real source of passive income. You can even create courses teaching other people how to create short story blogs!

‘This Online World’ blog makes an average of $20,000 per month via affiliate income and media sites. This serves as a great inspiration as to how writing can really help your bank account and make you that much money (if not more).

This Online World writing earnings

True story: I started writing and learning SEO in late 2022. By early 2023, I was guest posting for many companies, and they liked my content so much, I started getting paid to do content writing for them at $200 apiece. It was great extra money and I wrote many different types of articles which grew my confidence and made me a better writer and researcher.

Submit to Online Magazines

An online digital magazine is a great place to submit your short stories and get paid. Some of the best online magazines that pay for short fiction include Daily Science Fiction, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Apex Magazine

how to make money writing short stories: Daily science fiction submission guidelines

The Daily Science Fiction is a science fiction magazine and pays 8 cents per word, while Clarkesworld pays 12 cents per word, up to a 22,000 word limit.

Apex Magazine pays $0.08 per word, and an additional $0.01 per word (up to 7,500 words) if they podcast your story.

While these payments may not seem like much, it is a good first step in launching your ‘paid’ writing career. You can try writing different genres until you find one that works for you. 

From then on, you’ll be able to write amazing stories and be paid for your own work.

Just remember to always visit each and every magazine’s online portal and check if there is a subscription fee, what their requirements are when it comes to creative writing and follow their submission guidelines.

Write On Medium

Getting paid to write on Medium - guidelines

Writing on Medium can make you money. However, Medium limits its payments to certain countries only. This can be a huge put-off, so the first thing you should do is to check if the country you’re receiving payments at is on Medium’s list or not.

Medium is basically a free platform where writers write. You can find all sorts of genres from different writers from all over the word, from contemporary literary fiction to short stories to musings and poems to journals. 

Medium does offer a paid subscription of $5 monthly if you want to read more than 2 stories a day.

Read more on how you can make money with Medium’s partner program here.

Kindle Direct Publishing

how to make money writing short stories:  Kindle Direct Publishing

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing allows you to self-publish print and digital books, gives you ownership of your own content, and up to 70% royalty of sales made from your books.

With Kindle Unlimited, you can even get paid for every page of your book that is read!

There you go – 6 ways on how to make money writing short stories. If it isn’t just short stories you want to write – then the sky’s the limit. You can write a literary journal, book reviews, your own short stories, science fiction, and more.

The Art of Writing Short Stories

Before you start typing away after all these tips on how to make money writing short stories, let’s talk about the art of writing short stories.

The Magic of Short Fiction

Short stories are magical because they can transport you to another world in just a few pages. They are like a mini-vacation for your brain. When writing short fiction, you have to make every word count. You don’t have the luxury of meandering through pages of exposition. You have to grab the reader’s attention from the first sentence and hold it until the end.

The Power of Personal Essays

Everyone has a story to tell, and personal essays allow you to share your experiences with others. Whether you’re writing about a difficult time in your life or a funny anecdote, personal essays can be cathartic for both the writer and the reader.

The Charm of Science Fiction Stories

Science fiction stories are a popular genre for short fiction because they allow writers to explore the unknown. You can create entire worlds and universes, and the possibilities are endless. From time travel to alien invasions, science fiction stories can be both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Appeal of Flash Fiction Online

Flash fiction writing is a relatively new trend in short fiction, but it’s gaining popularity. Flash fiction is typically less than 1,000 words, and it’s perfect for readers who don’t have a lot of time. Online publications are always looking for fresh content, and flash fiction is a great way to get your foot in the door.

Becoming a Professional Writer

Professional writers get paid better, for sure. The question is, how does a professional make more money versus a new freelancer when writing short stories?

Developing Your Writing Skills

First things first, you need to hone your writing skills. You don’t have to be a master wordsmith to become a professional writer, but you do need to be able to write well. You can improve your writing skills in different ways:

  • Reading: Read books, articles, and stories in your genre to see how other writers craft their work.
  • Writing: Practice writing every day. Set a goal to write a certain number of words or pages each day, and stick to it.
  • Getting feedback: Share your work with others and ask for feedback. Join a writing group or take a writing class to get constructive criticism.
  • Join online courses: Some online courses teach you exactly how to write and reel a reader in, hook, line and sinker. Check out some of the best courses here on Udemy.

Creating Your Unique Writing Style

Once you’ve developed your writing skills, it’s time to create your unique writing style. Your writing style is what sets you apart from other writers and makes your work stand out. It is also the one thing that will differentiate you from other writers, much like your hallmark.

Here are some tips for creating your unique writing style:

  • Write from the heart: Write about what you’re passionate about, and let your personality shine through in your writing.
  • Experiment: Try different writing styles and techniques until you find what works best for you and your clients.
  • Be authentic: Don’t try to copy someone else’s writing style. Be true to yourself and write in your own voice.
  • Avoid the Shiny Object Syndrome: Don’t go signing up for all sorts of courses and losing your own style in the process of trying to follow every other guru’s. 

Becoming a Freelance Writer

creating your writer's portfolio on Journo Portfolio

Now that you’ve developed your writing skills and created your unique writing style, it’s time to start making money as a writer. One way to do this is to become a freelance writer. As a freelance writer, you can write for magazines, websites, and other publications. Here’s how to get started:

  • Build a portfolio: Create a portfolio of your best writing samples to showcase your skills. Great places to build your portfolio AND get potential clients include Clippings.me, Medium, and Journo Portfolio.
  • Network: Reach out to other writers, editors, and publishers to make connections and find work. A good idea is to check out Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and follow each other on social media.
  • Check out job boards: There are literally over 50 job boards you can find writing jobs and get paid. Some are content mills (requiring you to write 2-3 ‘examples’ for free, or paying only a few cents per word) so try to stay away from those. Some great job boards include Freelance Writing, Blogging Pro and Solidgigs.  

Get the full list of writing job boards here.

Finding the Best Places to Publish

So, you’ve written a short story and now you’re wondering where to send it. Don’t worry, there are plenty of options out there. Here are some of the best places to publish your short stories:

Literary Magazines for New Writers

If you’re just starting out, literary magazines can be a great place to submit your work. They often publish emerging writers and can help you get your foot in the door. Some of the best literary magazines for new writers include:

  • AGNI: This literary magazine specializes in publishing emerging authors. They accept poetry, short contemporary fiction, and some critical essays or other nonfiction.
  • The First Line: This literary magazine publishes short stories that begin with a specific first line. It’s a great way to challenge yourself as a writer and get your work published.
  • Boulevard Magazine: This literary magazine publishes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction that is “well-crafted and intellectually and emotionally complex.” They are looking for work that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Online Platforms for Short Story Submissions

If you’re looking for a wider audience, online platforms can be a great option. There are plenty of websites out there that accept short story submissions. Here are some of the best:

  • Submittable: This website offers many opportunities for creatives, including short story writers. You can use it to browse a marketplace packed with thousands of opportunities for grants, fellowships, writing contests, and residencies.
  • Kindle Vella: This is Amazon’s new platform for serialized fiction. You can publish your short stories in episodes and readers can buy and read them one at a time.
  • Medium: This is a popular platform for writers of all kinds. You can publish your short stories on Medium and potentially reach a large audience.

The Power of Social Media

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of social media. You can use platforms like Twitter and Instagram to connect with other writers, find submission opportunities, and promote your work. Here are some tips:

  • Follow literary magazines and publishers on Twitter. They often tweet about submission opportunities and writing contests.
  • Use hashtags like #amwriting and #shortstories to connect with other writers and potentially find submission opportunities.
  • Share your work on Instagram. You can post snippets of your short stories and use hashtags to reach a wider audience.

Remember, there are plenty of places to publish your short stories. Don’t be afraid to try different options and see what works best for you.

How To Make Money Writing Short Stories: Cashing in on Short Story Contests

The Thrill of Cash Prizes

One of the biggest draws of short story contests is the possibility of winning cash prizes. Some contests offer only a few hundred dollars, while others can offer thousands. Of course, the more prestigious the contest, the more competition you’ll face, but the potential rewards can be well worth the effort.

To increase your chances of winning, make sure to read and follow the contest guidelines carefully. Many contests have strict maximum word count, formatting requirements, and other rules that you must adhere to in order to be considered. Don’t disqualify yourself by failing to follow the rules!

Speculative Fiction and Other Genres

Many short story contests are open to all genres, but if you’re a fan of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.), you may have even more opportunities to win. There are many contests specifically for these genres, and the judges often have a particular interest in them.

If you’re not a fan of speculative fiction, don’t worry! There are plenty of contests for other genres as well. Some are even open to multiple genres, so you can submit whatever type of story you like best.

In addition to cash prizes, winning a short story contest can also be a great way to get your name out there and potentially attract the attention of publishers or agents. So why not give it a try? You never know what might happen!

The Power of Self-Publishing

If you want to make money writing short stories, self-publishing is a powerful way to get your work out there. With platforms like Amazon Kindle and others, you can easily publish your work and start earning money.

Amazon Kindle and Other Platforms

As mentioned prior, Amazon Kindle is a great platform for self-publishing short stories. You can easily upload your work and start selling it to readers all over the world. Plus, Amazon offers a royalty rate of up to 70%, so you can earn a good amount of money for each sale.

But Amazon Kindle isn’t the only platform out there. There are many other platforms you can use to self-publish your short stories, including Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and more. Each platform has its own pros and cons, so be sure to do your research before deciding which one to use.

Building Your Own Audience

One of the biggest advantages of self-publishing is that you can build your own audience. By publishing your work on a platform like Amazon Kindle, you can start to attract readers who are interested in your writing. Over time, you can build a loyal following of readers who will eagerly await your next release.

To build your own audience, it’s important to promote your work on social media, your blog, and other channels. You can also offer free samples of your work to entice readers to give your stories a try.

Self-publishing isn’t easy, but it can be a powerful way to make money writing short stories. With the right approach, you can build a successful career as a self-published author and earn a good living doing what you love.

Once you have an existing audience who has bought from you before, you can launch your next collection of short stories to them – this is another way on how to make money writing short stories.

The Financial Side of Writing Short Stories

Creating Passive Income Streams

One of the best things about writing short stories is that they can generate passive income for years to come. Once you’ve written and published a story, you can continue to earn royalties every time someone buys or reads it. And the more stories you write, the more passive income streams you can create.

These are awesome ways on how to make money writing short stories, but…don’t quit your day job just yet. While it’s possible to make a decent living from writing short stories, it’s not easy. You’ll need to write a lot, publish often, and build up a loyal fan base to really see the money roll in.

Understanding Submission Fees and Other Costs

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to the financial side of writing short stories is submission fees and other costs. Many literary magazines and online publications charge submission fees, which can range from a few dollars to $50 or more per submission. While paying these fees can be frustrating, it’s important to remember that they help cover the costs of running the publication and paying writers.

In addition to submission fees, there may be other costs associated with writing short stories. For example, you may need to pay for editing, cover design, or marketing services to help promote your work. These costs can add up quickly, so it’s important to budget accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you turn your short stories into a profitable business?

Ah, the million-dollar question! Well, maybe not quite a million, but still a good one. Turning your short stories into a profitable business takes time, effort, and patience. First, you need to hone your craft and develop your writing skills. Then, you need to build a platform and audience for your work. Finally, you need to monetize your writing through various channels, such as self-publishing, freelancing, or submitting to paying markets. It’s not easy, but with persistence and determination, you can make it happen.

What are some creative ways to monetize your writing?

There are many creative ways to monetize your writing beyond traditional publishing or freelancing. For example, you can create a blog, a podcast, or a YouTube channel based on your short stories. You can also offer writing coaching, editing services, or online courses. Additionally, you can sell merchandise, such as T-shirts, mugs, or posters, featuring your stories or characters. The possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Where can you find paying markets for short stories?

Finding paying markets for short stories can be challenging, but not impossible. You can start by researching literary magazines, anthologies, and online publications that accept unsolicited submissions. You can also join writing communities, attend writing conferences, or network with other writers to discover new opportunities. Some popular resources for finding paying markets include Duotrope, Submittable, and Writer’s Market.

Are there any contests or grants for short story writers?

Yes, there are many contests and grants for short story writers that offer cash prizes, publication opportunities, and exposure. Some of the most prestigious ones include the O. Henry Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. You can also search for local or niche-specific contests and grants that align with your interests and goals.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when trying to make money from writing?

One common mistake to avoid is underestimating the value of your work and selling yourself short. Another mistake is neglecting the business side of writing, such as marketing, branding, and financial management. Additionally, you should avoid submitting your work to non-paying or scammy markets that exploit writers. Finally, you should avoid comparing yourself to other writers and focusing on your own unique voice and style.

Can writing short stories actually make you rich?

Well, let’s put it this way: if you’re looking to become a millionaire overnight, writing short stories probably isn’t the best career choice. However, if you’re passionate about writing and willing to put in the time and effort, you can certainly make a decent living from it. Many successful writers started with short stories and went on to publish novels, screenplays, or non-fiction books. So, don’t give up on your dreams of becoming a rich and famous author, but also don’t expect it to happen overnight.

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