I have often wondered what determines the optimal length (number of words) of an effective short story.

I am asking the above in the context of epublishing e.g. Amazon kindle.

In the era of epublishing, I think length is often associated with price. For example, I think it is reasonable to expect a story needs to be bigger and better i.e. complex plot if it is to be sold at $0.99 compared to $0.49.

So how do I determine the length of a short story?

  • I think it depends on the publisher. Try to check if Amazon has specific limits for short stories. Jun 6, 2013 at 8:41

2 Answers 2


About your question, I like what Wikipedia has to say ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_story ):

Short stories have no set length. In terms of word count there is no official demarcation between an anecdote, a short story, and a novel. Rather, the form's parameters are given by the rhetorical and practical context in which a given story is produced and considered, so that what constitutes a short story may differ between genres, countries, eras, and commentators.[3] Like the novel, the short story's predominant shape reflects the demands of the available markets for publication, and the evolution of the form seems closely tied to the evolution of the publishing industry and the submission guidelines of its constituent houses.

I guess the answer is that. Common sense rules what's the length of a short story. I have seen shorties with 30 pages, I also have seen with 10. Of course, most of times, such small short stories will most likely be published in a book with other short stories.

Put yourself into readers place. Do you - as reader - think it's a short story or more like a chronicle? Would you pay $0.99 for it would only $0.49. I guess the answer likes with common sense and how the customer will see your story.

Just a small edit: please check "Do I still need to follow the arbitrary word count limits" (Self publishing: Do I still need to follow the arbitrary word count limits?). Steven Drennon made a nice answer that shows, in pratice, what I mean about users reactions to book sizes.

  • 2
    "Would you pay $0.99 or only $0.49" I would rather pay $1 for a ten-page good story than a 30-page bad story. Quality is much harder to measure objectively, but if a short "short story" has good reviews that make it sound interesting, I'd gladly pay $1 (if Amazon or whoever lets me, which is another issue entirely). If it has poor reviews that point out issues I'd likely agree with, it's doubtful I'd pay $0.50 regardless of the story's length.
    – user
    Jun 6, 2013 at 11:35
  • Yes, I know. That's not what I meant. The point is: you don't know how good is a story until you read it, so you buy it based on looks. Size, cover, summary counts a lot. In that context - based only in first impressions - I asked how much would you be willing to pay for a 10 pages story. Jun 6, 2013 at 12:01
  • I don't know how representative I am of the greater population, but I tend to pay a lot of attention to reviews.
    – user
    Jun 6, 2013 at 20:15
  • So do I but, I see a lot of short stories in Amazon (specially in Portuguese, my mother language) with one or no review at all. Sometimes I just have to guide myself based in what I see. For me... Well... I'll take in consideration the number of pages. Jun 6, 2013 at 21:55

There are many different defenitions of this, and many major awards like the Hugo have their own, but using averages:

Generally a story longer than the 500-1000 word range of a flash fiction, and shorter than the 7,500 minimum length of a novelette, would count as a short story.




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