Saturday, March 10, 2018

Can You Make a Living Selling Short Fiction? by Patty Jensen

I can't quite put my finger on it, but this essay "Can You Make a Living Selling Short Fiction?" by Patty Jansen doesn't quite ring true for me.  I feel like she's left out a lot of writers.  Writers who started out writing shorts when there was a large market of genre magazines.  Are they doing as well today?  Probably not but they were there in days when you could make a living writing only short stories.  I'm thinking along the lines of writers like Lawrence Block and Stephen King.  They didn't get rich selling shorts but they left us with a treasure chest full of wonderful short stories to savor.

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mike purfield said...

I think her point is her pov of view of short stories her experience. I say this because it sort of mirrors mine. I push mine to the few markets out there (I only do a certain cent per word). And after a while I will collect them and self publish them. Now she's right when you self publish them you should invest in a decent cover, at least fiver level, or they might not sell.

But what does sell well are series short stories or tie-ins to novel series. I know this from experience.

I think that is what she is trying to say and what she has experienced and giving advise for.


sandra seamans said...

You're right that she's talking from her point of view, Mike, but she really looks down her nose at writers who write to "certain" audiences. She dismisses the fact that many romance and erotic writers do make a decent living selling their work. Should it really matter what type of story you write so long as you're making a living?

Leroy B. Vaughn said...

Interesting essay. It's not exactly the same thing, but I found a book published in 1972 titled "The Police Gazette."
The book is about the old tabloid "The National Police Gazette," that was in circulation for over one hundred years.
The reason I bring this up is to show the rate of pay for writers in the Police Gazette, compared to short story writers pay rates today.
During the 1870's, the editor of The Police Gazette would set writers up with a room for the weekend, provide all the booze they wanted, plus meals and the writers would crank out tabloid stories without a by-line for ten dollars.
Ten dollars is the going rate today for a lot of e-zines, without the room, booze or food.

sandra seamans said...

Yes, the pay today hasn't increased with the rest of the world's prices. Payment of ten dollars was more than a week's pay back in 1870 and with room and board supplied that was a great job back then.

mike purfield said...


With your complaint in mind I reread the essay. Is this the part?

"The second type of full-time short story writer is a writer who writes volume to a specific audience. They know this audience well, they know how to deliver the stories this audience is looking for, and they write a lot, like a story every week. The stories never get submitted anywhere, half the time they don’t even get edited very much, it is all about satisfying the readers who are keen to read more of the same. Most of those latter writers are in the genres of hot romance and erotica. The demand for short stories in those genres is quite high."

I'm not sure if that is looking down her nose. To me it reads that the author just knows their reader. But, IDK. If it's something else, I'd like to know :-)

I do have an issue about the line "The stories don't get submitted anywhere." Meaning they are just self-pubbed or usually get accepted the first or second market?

I don't know Patty from a whole in the wall. So...just curious. :-)


sandra seamans said...


I don't know Patty either. And yes, that is the part. You could be right and she doesn't mean it as an insult but for me her piece sounds like an ad for only writing a few stories that get published in high end markets and reselling them any way you can.

While that is all well and good for writers who are also novelists and can make the bulk of their money elsewhere, it's not ideal for a writer who wants to make a living writing short stories. Not everyone with an urge to write has a novel in them so they work at what they do best - writing for a specific audience. And yes, they can branch out and write other genres and good short story writers do. It's not ideal for making a living wage, but then not many writers, novelists included, can make their living writing only one thing,

A good writer just keeps writing and hopes for the best, usually supporting their life style with another job or other types of writing. There is no sure way of making a living by writing down words but we all try.


Mike Purfield said...


I agree with much of what you say, also. Unfortunately we live in a world no where a writer needs a diverse income and diverse creativity to survive or just be satisfied by with what strengths we have. :-)