August 29, 2012

Short Story Primer, Part 3: Make a List

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.

After you've read up on markets for short stories, make a list of markets that buy stories of your genre and wordcount.  Put what you consider the best market at the top of the list, and end with the last place you'd be happy to submit to.  What's "best"?

I can't tell you that.  Maybe there's a magazine you love and have always wanted to be published in.  Maybe you want that short response time, because waiting three months sounds like torture.  Many writers start with pro-paying markets both for the pay and the wider exposure.

Once you've made a list, you need a way to keep track of your submissions.  Unless a magazine asks for a revision, the etiquette is to only submit a story once.  Record keeping is also important to avoid an accidental multiple or simultaneous submission.

I, at least, can't keep track of this in my head -- especially not for a dozen short stories.  There are a variety of ways to keep track of submissions (, I believe, has a tracking method online), but I just use Excel:

Date Sent
Date Expected/
Word Count
Story Title
Market 1
Potential Market A
Market 2

Potential Market B
Market 3
2nd round; R

Potential Market C
Market 4

Market 5
2nd round; R

Market 6
Personal R

Market 7

 I changed all of these from actual market names, of course, but this is essentially how I keep submission records.  Under the story title, I list markets that the story could be sent to if the current market rejects it.  This makes turning a story around fairly easy.  I italicize any potential markets I have another story out at, so I don't accidentally send a multiple submission.  I bold the market a story's currently at, so it's easy to find.  It's also nice to have a quick reference of the date I should query if I haven't heard back from the market yet.

During this process of submitting, I occasionally check the listings again.  Sometimes a magazine that was closed for submissions will open.  Anthologies also crop up.

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?

August 14, 2012

Short Story Primer, Part 1: Write a Short Story

I recently had someone ask me a bunch of questions about how to submit short stories.  This is old hat for a lot of people I know, but I thought a series on the subject would be helpful for someone looking for straightforward information.  There's more than will fit neatly in one post, so here's the points I'll be covering:

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.

Write a short story.  Really, it's the most important part.  So...what's a short story?  In a general sense, "short story" means prose fiction that's shorter than a novel.  But in that wide range of word count, there are a number of divisions:

     Flash Fiction: Usually defined as less than 1,000 words
     Short Story: less than 7,500 words
     Novelette: between 7,500 and 17,499 words;
     Novella: between 17,500 and 39,999 words

There are markets for all of these lengths of fictions, though it's generally easier to find markets for the shorter lengths.  Back in the days of typewriters, there was a complicated process for estimating the word count of a story, but today the word count generated by whatever word processor you use works great.

But first drafts are rarely ready to send out as-is.  There's a multitude of advice on how to polish a short story, and plenty of disagreement.  I'm a big fan of critiquing and blogged at some length about it last year (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Why not just throw the first draft out and hope it sticks? Unless a market specifically asks for a rewrite, they don't want to see any given story twice.  If you submit a sloppy rendition, you don't get another chance.  Also, if you're trying to use editors as first readers, you're likely to re-revise the story after every rejection and waste a lot of time.


August 8, 2012

Results: Twitter & Politics Survey

I recently participated in a survey on politics and Twitter from Emily's Reading Room.  The questions were:

1. Which of the following describe you: reader, author, blogger, teacher/librarian, publishing professional?

2.Does it bother you when an author tweets about or retweets a link that is political/partisan?

3.Have you ever not read a book by an author because of a political comment made on twitter?

4. Have you ever unfollowed an author because of a political comment made on twitter?

An interesting set of questions.  Some hundred people from Twitter participated, and the results are up on Emily's Reading Room here.  When I took the survey, questions #2-4 seemed so similar as to be almost redundant, but it was interesting to see how the answers fluctuated.  There's some portion of people who state that political tweets don't bother them, but that political tweets have, in fact, caused them not to read an author's books.

Any thoughts from all the reader, author, blogger, teacher/librarian, and publishing professional out there?