August 22, 2012

Short Story Primer, Part 2: Research the Short Story Market

This post is part of a series:

1. Write and polish a short story.
2. Research the short story market.
3.Make a list of appropriate markets, and begin a submissions record.
4. Submit the story to the first market on the list, and keep submitting. is arguably the easiest place to research the short story market (ETA: Duotrope went behind a pay wall., though, is still a good resource for SF/F markets).  Enter the genre of your story, the wordcount, and payment, and a lists of markets will appear.  Here's a list of terms you'll come across:

Wordcount: The breakdown between flash, short story, novelette, and novella are in Part 1.

Payment: Short stories are most often paid for by the word.  Professional is deemed to be five cents or more per word; semi-pro is more than one cent, but less than five; token is anything less; for-the-love markets don't pay at all.  In general, professional magazines generally have a larger number of readers than semi-pro, and semi-pro generally has more readers than token.

Some markets offer royalties, meaning a percentage of every sale goes to the authors (these are usually anthologies).  Be aware that if a market offers only royalties, you might be paid very little if the magazine/anthology sells poorly. 

SFWA-Qualifying: SFWA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  To be a market that qualifies a writer towards membership, the magazine must pay pro rates, must have been publishing consistently for one year, and have circulation of at least 1,000.  For the fine print, and a list of SFWA-qualifying markets, click here

On Acceptance/On Publication:  Some magazines pay on acceptances (when they tell you they want to publish your story), others pay after the short story has been published.

Response Time: How long the magazine will take to reply after you submit.  Often magazines have an average response time, and a maximum response time.

Query: An e-mail or letter asking a question sent to a publication.  If you haven't heard back from a magazine after their maximum stated response time, it's acceptable to send a short, polite e-mail asking the status of the story.  Sometimes manuscripts do go astray.  If the magazine doesn't have a maximum stated response time, wait at least three months before querying.

Normally, it's completely unnecessary (and annoying to editors) to query for permission to submit a short story.  If you have something outside their stated guidelines -- longer than their upper word count limit, for example -- you could query and see if they're interested in seeing the story anyway.

Multiple Submissions: Submitting more than one story to the same market.  Magazines usually don't allow them.

Simultaneous Submissions: Submitting the same story to multiple markets.  Magazines usually don't allow this, either.

First Rights/No Reprints: Many magazines are looking for "first rights," or the right to be the first person to publish a story.  If you've already thrown a story up on your blog, first rights are gone (sorry!).

Despite all the helpful information on, one of the best ways to research a magazine is to read it.  Does your story fit with what they publish?  Would you be happy to see your story published here?


  1. If you hadn't heard Shimmer Magazine is now also a pro-paying magazine, too. Its not on the SFWA list in the link yet, though.

  2. I did see the news about Shimmer -- hurrah!

    SFWA is a little more stringent than pay rate; the magazine has to professionally publish for a year before qualifying. There are a couple other considerations, too, detailed on the SFWA page. But if/when Shimmer qualifies, the stories published at professional rates retroactively become SFWA-qualifying sales.

  3. Ah, interesting. Good to know that I wasn't the only one wondering why Shimmer wasn't a SFWA publication.