May 16

JET alum launches publishing site and contest that pays you for your short stories

Have a short story? Upload it to to earn royalties and the chance of winning a chunk of the $10,000 award pool between May and December!

Have a short story? Upload it to to earn royalties and the chance of winning a chunk of the nearly $10,000 award pool between May and December!

Alan Shelton (Ibaraki-ken, 2000-03) is an Australia-based translator and former CLAIR Tokyo employee.  But more importantly, he has, along with a few other folks including JET alums, created, a pioneering new online publishing site geared specifically to short stories.  And he’s encouraging JETs and JET alumni to contribute their short stories as a way to earn money for their writing.  Read on for more info and to hear Alan’s story.

I trained to be a writer. Japanese was just a class I chose to fill out my first semester schedule. Now, fourteen years later, Japanese is my bread and butter and writing is just a hobby. Feel free to insert your cliché of choice about the unexpected nature of life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I enjoy translation. It pays well; the work is steady; and I get to work at home in my underwear. What’s not to love?

Okay, I used to complain, but my wife eventually called my bluff. “If you want to be a writer, go for it. Take a break from translation, write some stuff and try to sell it.”

“It’s not that simple,” I would whinge. “Nobody buys short stories. That’s what I write, and it doesn’t pay. You give them away for free on the Internet. Maybe if its a long short story you can get it up on Amazon for 99 cents, but no one’s going to pay a buck for six pages.”

“So sell it for 20 cents,” she said.

“There are no websites that sell stories for less than a dollar,” I retorted.

And then I had a eureka moment. I would build that website. I had to build that website. Heck, the movie montage music was already playing in my mind where a team of tireless programmers were working round the clock, overcoming obstacle after obstacle until that moment when my lead programmer – who would bear a striking resemblance to Mark Zuckerberg – leans back in his chair and says, “Alan, it’s finally done.”

Of course, in reality there are no training montages, and my lead IT guy looks more like Steve Jobs, but the site is done, and it’s called Fiction Arcade. I want it to be an oasis in a digital desert for paid short fiction. I want all those time-crunched, former JETs who pay the bills with translation and interpretation but who harbor a frustrated writer inside to discover it and say, “Watch out world. A new literary flower is about to bloom!”

Here’s how Fiction Arcade works. Anyone can upload a short story for free. The author sets the price between one and four tokens (which is equivalent to between 20 and 80 cents). Readers get to preview the first half of the story for free. If they want to read the rest, they purchase tokens and then spend them to download the story.

In an age of ubiquitous social media, good stories get noticed, they get talked about and they get purchased. A dynamite 20 cent story can get hundreds or thousands of downloads. This adds up to serious money and a fan base – a fan base that will be more than happy to download the author’s next offering. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but a good, cheap short story has the potential to earn more than a higher-priced novel. And even if it doesn’t, a writer can knock out a polished short story in a few days and then let it accrue money for her over the span of months or years.

Of course, if Fiction Arcade’s virtual shelves are bare, readers aren’t going to be terribly interested. Which is why Fiction Arcade is running a series of big money story contests between now and December in order to fill those shelves. Each month the overall top author according to reader downloads and ratings will get $250 dollars on top of what their stories earned. Also, the top author in the genre of the month – sci-fi in May – will get $250. In December, the top three authors overall between May and December will get $1,750, $1,250 and $750, respectively. And in each genre, the top author will win $250.

If you’ve ever thought about writing or already have some short stories lying around, now is the time to do something about it. You have nothing to lose and only money, fame and the adulation of the crowd to gain. Come check it out at or find us on Facebook!

Comments are closed.

Page Rank