"Short stories are the loose change in the treasury of fiction."
Those are the words of one J.G. Ballard, a guy who knew a lot about short stories. If you’ve got loose change jangling in your pockets, this article is for you. Here are seven ideas to help you get your short story in front of readers.
1. Submit It to a Short Fiction Market
Though there are fewer of these around than there used to be, there are still many magazines and websites on the internet dedicated to short fiction. Start by sending your story to them!
...Okay, it’s not as simple as that. Each publication has its own style and tone, so it helps to read an issue or two before submitting. Some even create audio podcast versions of short fiction and release them for free. Either way, make sure you consume a few of their stories before submitting yours; that way you’ll know if your story is (or isn’t) a good fit.
Another thing to note: Some markets do not accept simultaneous submissions. That means that after you submit your story, you must wait for a response before submitting elsewhere. That might sound fine—until you discover the reading times for many prestigious short fiction publications are often several months. Though not especially writer-friendly, this policy does make sense for editors; they don’t enjoy making offers on stories only to find out they’ve been accepted elsewhere. Keep that in mind when submitting—and read the guidelines carefully!
2. Use It as a Reader Magnet
No, I’m not trying to imply that readers are made of metal (though who knows, maybe some of them are). A reader magnet is, rather, a free piece of content a writer gives to a reader in exchange for the reader’s email address.
For some, this might sound blasphemous. Why would I give away a story I worked hard on just to get some email addresses?
The truth is, it’s a fair trade. With the mass of messages stuffed into inboxes these days, it’s rare that anybody wants more emails. That’s where the reader magnet comes in. If you create something tantalizing that a reader would normally pay for, they’ll gladly trade their email address instead of cash.
Consider using your short story as a reader magnet, especially if it relates to whatever series you're working on. It could get you more email addresses—and therefore more book sales in the future.
3. Publish Your Short Story to Your Website
Yes, you can give stories away for free on your website. I did so with one of my personal favorites, and it turned out to be one of the most popular posts I ever shared. It was also a great way to demonstrate my writing to potential readers. Now, when anyone comes to my site looking to purchase my fiction, they get a free taste (which they’ll hopefully enjoy enough to buy more).
One important note: If you publish your fiction on your website, you’ll almost certainly preclude it from being published elsewhere. That’s because the vast majority of short fiction sites are looking for original submissions. If it’s been published anywhere before—even on your site, even for free—it’s considered previously published.
4. Create a Kindle Single
Even if you don’t have a full-length book, you can still publish it to Amazon. And the advantages of doing so are clear. Amazon favors new releases in its search algorithms, so for about three months or so your story might enjoy priority status (though paying for ads yields the best results). Also, though those eCommerce platforms I mentioned are relatively easy to configure, Amazon is even easier.
5. Submit It to a Contest
Why submit your short story to a writing contest? There are so many good reasons!
For starters, any reader is impressed by a contest winner. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what the contest is; if you can put that winning tagline in your bio, you’ve got instant credibility.
Furthermore, there’s no better feeling of validation. Imagine you worked really hard on your short story, and that hard work was confirmed with a victorious contest entry. It’s the ultimate way of saying yes, this really was excellent work.
And if there’s a cash prize involved in winning, well, nobody’s going to say no to that.
6. Submit It to an Anthology
Anthologies are collections featuring work from several writers, often unified by theme. They’re great for padding your publications and discovering new readers.
Try websites like Duotrope or good old Google to find anthology opportunities. You might even band together with a few friends to create your own. If you all write mysteries and all have a short story you want to publish, you could create your own anthology with those stories.
7. Create a Short Story Collection of Your Own
Two years ago, I was sitting on a bunch of short stories that I enjoyed and believed were worthwhile. I didn’t know what to do with them—until I noticed a common theme. Each story featured a fantastical monster, whether literal or metaphorical. So I thought, what the heck, why not turn this into a short fiction collection?
So I did. And if you’ve got enough stories, you could do the same. You might package oldies like I did, or you might even write some new ones for the collection based on your theme. Whatever you choose, I highly recommend this path. Short story collections are a refreshing change of pace from novels for both authors and readers alike.
There’s so much one can do with a single short story. I hope I’ve given you some good ideas here, but don’t let them limit you. Get creative with your short story, and see where it takes you. It’s worth so much more than some loose change.