Short Fiction FAQ – Part Two

Question: Is there a market for erotic flash fiction? Will agents and editors think I can’t write novels if most of my sales are short fiction?

There is not a huge paying market for flash fiction, but there are some markets. I would browse this page regularly.

For publications that don’t specifically mention accepting flash fiction or short-shorts, it rarely hurts to ask. The editor might need something tiny to fill in a gap. I’ve recently sold a couple of flash fiction reprints for that purpose.

I don’t think there’s any danger of being thought incapable of writing a novel unless you never write one. In my opinion, it’s always a plus to have some publication experience.

Question: What are the word count limits of various types of short fiction?

In general, the story should be as long as it needs to be, but I realize that isn’t much help! I always check the specific guidelines of the publication first, as definitions vary. If a story seems really well suited to a particular market, and is close to the right length but a little too short or too long, I might submit anyway, or I might trim or expand it just a little.

Here are some rough length guidelines:

Flash fiction: usually means less than 1,000 words. Sometimes a market will specify a word count. I’ve done “flash fiction” that was only 100 words long.

Short story: from about 1,500 words up to about 7,500 words. Depends on the market, however. Often, longer stories are harder to place because they take up more room in an anthology. Many markets don’t want anything longer than 5,000 words.

Novelette: 7,500-20,000 words in some markets; The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) defines it as 7,500-17,500 words.

Novella: 20-50,000 words by some definitions. SFWA defines it as 17,500-40,000 words, and anything over 40K as a novel. “National Novel Writing Month” says 50K is a novel. In reality, an adult novel shorter than 60K is very rare. Young adult usually runs 40-60K. I’ve noticed that a lot of electronic markets seem to prefer novella length to novel-length.

Related post: Short Fiction FAQ: Part One.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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2 Responses to Short Fiction FAQ – Part Two

  1. annekane says:

    Interesting post. I usually target a specific publisher and go with their word count. I've never managed to write anything shorter than 1,000 words, and most of those I've thought of as teasers.

  2. Victoria Janssen says:

    I usually target a specific publisher and go with their word count.

    That makes better sense, actually.

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