Now that you’ve finished writing a short story, you’re probably wondering where to send it. There are several strategies for finding magazines to sell your short stories.
Step 1: Gathering your list of literary markets
- Make a list of authors you like, whose work is similar to your own
- Find out where those authors have submitted their work. This information is available either on the copyright page of their short story collections, or on their authors’ web sites.
- Check out anthologies of stories you like, or that you aspire to be accepted in…for example, the Best American Short story anthology, or the Nebula Awards showcase, or other collected works anthologies. Read the copyright page to see where their stories were originally published.
- Include stuff on your list that you read anyway…magazines, podcasts, web sites, etc.
- Go to bookstores and libraries.
- Ask friends and keep an ear out for magazines.
- Go to the web sites of unions, like SFWA, to see what magazines they suggest to qualify for their membership.
Step 2: Preliminary research to refine your list
By now, you probably have a list of hundreds of literary magazines; the next step is to refine your search down to magazines that most interest you. General information about most magazines can be obtained either from their Web site or by signing up for a web service like Duotrope or Writer’s Market. I personally recommend Duotrope. At the time of writing this blog post, membership costs about $5 a month, but it is well worth it because of the huge amount of markets they know about and the kinds of information they collect. Here are kinds of information I look for when doing my preliminary research. (In next week’s post I’ll talk about creating a spreadsheet to keep all of this information organized.)
- Is the magazine still active? If it’s defunct or closed, there isn’t much point in researching further.
- How much does the magazine pay, per word. The more the better.
- Do they accept simultaneous submissions? Since literary magazines usually take a long time to respond (sometimes up to a year), you can save yourself a lot of time by sending your stories to the magazines that accept simultaneous submissions first. NOTE: If your work is accepted anywhere, IMMEDIATELY write to the other markets you submitted to to let them know your work has been accepted.
- Do they accept multiple submissions? Again, this can save you a lot of time because you can send a new story to a magazine before waiting to see if they have responded about your old story.
- Do they accept reprints? This is important to know because you can save submitting to these magazines until after your story has been published somewhere else. If your story was good enough to be published once, it’s probably good enough to be published again, right? NOTE: Make sure you understand what rights you licensed to each magazine you sold your story to. A good resource for figuring this stuff out is the Nolo Copyright Handbook.
- Beware of scams. If it asks you for money as a reading fee, don’t send your stuff there. Any magazine you are going to want to be published in is going to have subscribers.
- What are the word-count limits the magazine accepts? This is helpful to take note of so that you can see whether your story fits their parameters at a glance. If you’ve written a 10,000 word story and the magazine only accepts flash-fiction, than you know not to bother sending your story there.
- What genre does the magazine publish? The reason this is one of the last things I look at is because genre is a pretty fuzzy term. A magazine might claim they only publish literary work, but then they might publish something experimental that hinges on the edge of fantasy, or horror, or romance. The only way to truly understand what the editors like is by actually reading the magazine. And this brings me to the next step….
Step 3: Find the Magazines
As you’ve probably discovered, there are hundreds if not thousands of magazines out there, and some of them can be pretty hard to find copies of. Here are some strategies for finding these magazines (particularly if you are on a budget).
- Look in libraries.
- Look in bookstores. And go shopping with a writer friend so that you can split the cost of the magazines and then swap them once you’re done reading.
- Look online. Some of these magazines might be available for free, or as podcasts.
- Write to the magazine and ask for a sample copy. Most sample copies are available for the cost of postage.
Step 4: Read the Magazines
The funnest step in the research process: Getting to read those magazines, listen to those podcasts, and read those web sites.
- Read the magazine. You’re trying to get a sense of what the magazine publishes, and what the editors like. You can assess whether your work will fit in with what they buy. NOTE: Don’t be too quick to discount yourself. Bigger magazines like GQ and The New Yorker employ people to read slush, so let them decide whether or not you are ready…not the other way around.
- Look at the copyright page and take note of the editorial staff. This will help you know who to address your submission to. This information should also be available on the magazine’s Web site.
Step 5: Keep Writing
Remember: market research should not take the place of writing. Writing new stories should take up the majority of your energy. Market research is a slow process that takes years and you’ll probably be doing it your whole career, so pace yourself. Market research should only take about 10 percent of your time.