In a previous blog post, I talked about the different types of short fiction markets, how to research them and how to start a list of places you can send your story.
In this post, I’ll talk about what to do with that list.

How to Rank Short Fiction Markets

Now that you have a list of markets—magazine, anthologies, contests—you should rank them in the order you should submit. Let’s face it, some markets are better than others in terms of what they pay and the prestige they offer. You should submit to these markets first.
You won’t get rich selling short fiction, but payment shows your story has value. As well, payment may qualify you for certain writing organizations, like SFWA. So, markets that pay more should be sorted toward the top.
Payment is not the only way to decide where to send your story. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, for example, states “We do not pay much,” but publications in this magazine is a tremendous coup for new and emerging writers. Sometimes, having your story in a well-known market means more than a higher-paying, but less well-known one.
But evaluating prestige can be tricky. The best way to do this is read a lot of short fiction and look for the magazines and anthology editors you see often.
Likelihood of Publication
Balancing against payment and prestige is how likely a market is to buy your story. For beginners, it’s a long shot that a top market will publish you. It could take years of trying all the top markets, and being rejected, before reaching a lower-tier market that buys your story. But what if you sell your story on its first submission to an anthology paying $1 per story? You might wonder if you could have sold it to Analog.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Balance spending a lot of time on submissions to markets you might not be ready for with grasping for that golden ring.
While most magazines accept submissions year round, anthologies and contests only accept submissions for a certain time period. What if an anthology that’s perfect for your story, but only pays $5, is closing to submissions in two weeks? Do you submit to the anthology—better odds of acceptance, lower payment—or to a magazine paying pro rates—longer odds, better payment—but miss the anthology’s deadline?
Balancing this idea are long acceptance windows. Some anthologies may be open to submissions for six months, but will not make acceptance or rejection decisions until after that six-month window (and sometimes several months after the submission window closes). Are you willing to let your story sit for a year under consideration? Again, there is not right answer—it’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Entry Fees
While reputable anthologies and magazines will not charge you for submitting, contests generally charge some form of entry fee. Would you spend $5 at a chance of winning $1,000 and publication in an upcoming anthology? How about spending $10 for the chance of winning $100? For contests, you need to balance the entry fee along with the length of time it will take to judge the contest with the payment and prestige the winner receives.

Rank Order Your List

With everything above in mind—payment, prestige, timing, likelihood of publication—list the markets that might take your story in the order you will submit to them. Having this list handy will help when an inevitable rejection comes in. Rather than starting another search for a new market, you select the next item on the list.

Be Aware of Changes

Even with the list, things change day-to-day. Markets close or increase their payment rates. Anthologies and contests are created and announce calls for submissions. Be sure to keep your list up-to-date.
A good time to update the list is after a rejection. Look at the next market on your list and verify that the specifics—payment, response times—are still accurate. As well, do a quick search for new anthologies or contests that might be suitable for your story. You never know what’s changed since you last submitted your story. You never know if the perfect anthology for your story has opened to submissions.

Track Your Submissions

Having this list of possible markets will be a big help to you in submitting short stories, but you also have to track where and when you’ve submitted your work to prevent a simultaneous submission (sending one story to multiple markets at the same time) or accidentally re-submitting a story to the same market.
I’ll get into this topic more in my next blog post.