How to Publish a Short Story: Know Your Markets

You’ve finished your edits to your short story and now it’s ready to to be published. If your a beginning—or even intermediate—writer, the question of where it can be published can be daunting. If you want to sell your story and not waste your time submitting to markets that are not interested in your stories, you have to do your research.

What Kinds of Markets Are There for Short Stories?

Before diving into research, know the types of markets for short fiction:

  • Magazines regularly publish short fiction, ranging from a few stories per year to a dozen stories each month. They may also contain reviews, editorials or articles. Magazines can be broken down into:
    • Printed versions sold in book shops or via subscription. Print magazines vary from high quality productions like Asimov’s to hand-stapled photocopies.
    • Online magazines, like ChiZine and Clarkesworld, publish fiction through a website.
    • Podcasts produce fiction in audio format, such as The Drabblecast and Pseudopod.
  • Anthologies are book containing short stories, usually based on a specific theme. Some anthologies, like the Tesseracts series, are annual while others appear just once.
  • Contests may also publish short fiction as part of the prize. The winner might receive payment and/or simple recognition.

How to Research Short Fiction Markets

What to Look For

You want to find markets whose needs match your genre and story length.

A magazine wanting “hard SF” isn’t interested in sword & sorcery. And some markets are very specific—your near future societal sci-fi story won’t sell to a steampunk magazine. Now, you might be drawn to a market like Asimov’s with its popularity and high pay rates, but unless you have a science fiction story to sell them, don’t bother submitting horror or fantasy. No matter how good your story may be, markets have a specific vision for the fiction they want to publish.

Also, length restrictions must be respected. An anthology accepting up to 2000-word stories won’t consider something 2,500-words long. Some markets may allow you to query for longer works, but understand what a query is: It does not mean to send your entire story with a cover letter asking if it is OK. Rather, summarize the story, your writing credits and the length of the work. A pro market may let Neil Gaiman or Joe Hill have an few extra hundred words. They won’t accept a story that’s one and a half times their maximum length from a beginning writer. Remember, many markets pay by the word, so a longer story affects their budget. And for printed magazines and anthologies, a longer story means they might have to bump someone else, or buy more paper and ink.

Finally, look for specifics restrictions, like writers from a certain region or age. For example, some markets favor writers under 25, those living in New England, or were adopted. If you do not meet their criteria, save yourself some time and don’t bother submitting.

A Note About Contests

While most contests are legitimate, others ask for entry fees for the sole purpose of raising money since the winner has been predetermined. Before submitting to any contest with an entry fee, do your research. How long has the contest been around? Are the judges people you’ve heard of?Is the contest associated with a reputable organization?

Where to Search

To find this information, two of the most popular sites are Duotrope and Ralan, which contain detailed listings of short story markets including magazines, contests, anthologies podcasts and more.

An Internet search for “call for submissions” or “open to submissions,” adding the genre or type of fiction you write to the search, may lead to anthologies looking for submissions. Do the same for “fiction contests.” Setting up a Google Alert for these is a great way to stay up to date on a changing market place.

Read, read and read so more

Once you have some ideas of markets that might publish your story, the best thing you can do is read those markets to make sure what they are publishing matches what you have written. Most magazines will offer free samples of their stories, and website usually provide all of their stories for free.

Unfortunately, this is a step often overlooked by authors and it frustrates editors to no end. “Horror,” for example, can mean anything from mad slasher stories loaded with blood and guts to creepy atmospheric stories like “The Yellow Wallpaper.” If you have a horror story, the only way you can know if your story will have a chance at being published in a “horror” market is to read it.

Make A List

As you are searching and finding markets that might be interested in your story, start making a list of them. Record:

  • The name of the markets
  • The website address of its submission guidelines
  • Its requirements: genre, length, etc.
  • Its payment policy – cents per word, flat rate per story
  • Response time

What Do I Do with this List?

Having a list of markets will help you determine where you send your story first and what market to pick next if you’re rejected. I’ll talk about this more in detail in my next blog post.


1 Response to “How to Publish a Short Story: Know Your Markets”

  1. 1 Never give away work so someone else profits | Matt Moore Trackback on October 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm

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