Self-Publishing Short Stories (Part 2)

Continuing from yesterday’s post. Just a reminder that there’s not really a submission process for self-publishing, since you make the decision on what you want to publish yourself, so this section mainly focuses on possible publication locations and how they work.

Online Retailers

Most retailers that sell ebooks allow you to upload a short story directly, or you can use a distribution service to upload your story once and have it sent to a variety of different markets. Retailers in this category include:

  • Amazon (KDP)
  • Barnes and Noble (Nook Press)
  • Kobo
  • iTunes
  • Google Play

The largest ebook distributor is Smashwords, though there are others, such as Draft2Digital. Distributors take a single file (often a Word document), convert it into a variety of formats (mobi, epub, PDF, etc.), and then list your book at many of the retailers noted above, as well as other, smaller ones. Smashwords also has some partnerships with various library systems, meaning that libraries can put your book into their system for their patrons to check out.

NOTE: Amazon does not currently allow ebook distributors to list ebooks on their site. If you want your ebook to be available on Kindle, you will need to deal directly with Amazon.

Some retailers may have a minimum word count that you need to meet before you can publish your short story as an ebook. Amazon, for example, recommends that an ebook have at least 2,500 words.

NOTE: If you are doing children’s books, such as picture books, there may be different criteria. Amazon offers a KDP kids program to help create picture and chapter books that will be properly formatted for reading on the Kindle.

When you self-publish through an online retailer, you can set the price of your short story. Most retailers allow you to set the price for free; Amazon requires a $0.99 minimum, but if you have the ebook for free on other retailers, you can get Amazon to match the price.

Pricing is a subject of much debate, but be aware that readers will expect to get their money’s worth out of an ebook. Pricing a 5,000 word story at $4.99 may earn you some bad reviews.

While you can also create POD versions of short stories and sell paperback copies through online retailers, it may be cost prohibitive if your story isn’t closer to novella-length. Many POD services charge a base price based on the size of the book and the number of pages. CreateSpace is one of the most popular POD services as it is associated with Amazon and easy to get your book listed on the mega-retailer.

Short Story Collections

Like individual short stories, you can also self-publish short story collections through online retailers and ebook distributors. The process is much the same. Collections typically have at least three stories, but could have up to a couple dozen, depending on the length of the stories and what your goal with the collection is.

The appeal of doing a collection over an individual short story is that some readers may feel like they’re getting a better value for their money, since they’re getting more than one story for their effort.

Additionally, since collections tend to be longer, they’re a better value if you decide to also sell the collection as a paperback.

(Hey, Squiders, how important do you feel it is to go into an in-depth discussion of POD services? The main point of this book is to explain the submission/publication options and generally how they work, rather than explain all the details, so writers can decide on the best course of action for them and their works, and get started on putting those methods into action. I’m unsure if going into a lot of detail on POD, aside from what it is and how it generally works, is out of scope.)

Questions? Anything confusing? Let me know!

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