(From my forthcoming 2nd Edition to Publishing and Marketing Realities for the Emerging Author)
Duotrope lists virtually every market for short stories and provides a handy submission tracking device. I truly can’t recommend Duotrope highly enough. You can research markets by genre, pay, story length, and more. As you research, you can save particular markets to your favorites list if they stand out or you could add them to your ignore list if they are something you’d never do, like religious fiction, for example.
Their Calendar is a huge source of inspiration. It’s a place where themed journal issues and anthologies are chronicled by deadline. You can even filter the Calendar by pay level (any, token, semi, or pro), type (fiction, nonfiction, or poetry), genre, and medium (print, audio, or online).
Here is an example of what the Calendar looks like filtered for pro-payment for February and March 2013 deadlines:
Each market is listed on the left along with the theme and deadline. Just a click takes you to that market’s page where you can find what they’re looking for, submission guidelines, response times, etc. There will be a direct link to their website, which you absolutely must follow and read their submission guidelines, at least. Whether you’re finding a market from the Calendar or through your own search, go to the market’s website.
Read their submission guidelines. Follow them TO THE LETTER.
If they say no italics, underline, then ensure your manuscript reflects that. If they say no cover letter, don’t send one. If they say they want it in Courier font rather than Times. Make it happen.
Most of them will want your short story formatted in Standard Story Format. Google it. Then, do it. It’s not rocket science. Follow the rules. Don’t give them a reason to reject your story before they even read it.
You’ll get enough rejections on your own.
As for cover letters, KISS.This is all it has to say:
Please consider my 3600-word Steampunk short story “Of Aether and Aeon” for publication.
Thank you for your consideration.
O. M. Grey
If they ask for a short bio, send one. Copy/paste from what you’ve written during the previous exercise. If they ask for publication credits, send them, but keep it short. Your story will speak for itself.Short stores are a great way to break into the business of publishing. You can write them relatively quickly, compared to a novel, and you can use them to work on your weaknesses as a writer and truly hone your craft without investing a year of your life. Besides, who knows, you might even attract an agent or a publisher through this method.
You will get lots and lots of rejections. Have I mentioned? Instead of feeling disappointed or rejected, look at it as one less place you have to try. Be happy you got a response! Sometimes, they just leave you hanging for months, or forever! When you get a rejection, update your submission tracker in Duotrope. Then submit it to the next market on your list, following their specific submission guidelines, which might be different from the last.
Don’t ever respond to a rejection letter. The only exception to this rule is when the editor sent you a very personal rejection with notes on how to improve your story, which almost never happens. In this instance, just a simple “Thank you for your time and advice” will suffice.
Don’t argue. Don’t rage. Don’t tell them that they just passed up on the next Great American Novelist. Please.
Check out Duotrope.com; it’s no longer free to register because too many authors were taking advantage of the free service without donating the suggested $10. Now it costs $50 to register, and it’s worth every penny.
Come back next week for a post on Duotrope Strategy.
Get a copy of the first edition, soon to be out-of-print, for just $7.50. That’s 50% the cover price, PLUS you’ll get a FREE PDF of all the pertinent changes in the 2nd edition when you buy direct from the publisher via PayPal.
If you’re a member of a writing group or club or guild, contact me to see how to get FREE copies of the first edition for your group!