For writers who are looking to make the transition from selling retail products or living in their mother's basement while working part-time in the stockroom to a full-time career in creative writing, short stories can
be the foot that gets you in the door. Short stories often don't have
to be pre-submitted or pre-approved by a magazine before you write them, and
because they're so short, they don't take much time to write. Short
stories are an excellent starting place for building a reputation and helping
you build one with as little anguish as possible. We've prepared these
tips on submitting short stories for publication.
Know Your Genre
Knowing which genre of storytelling your short story falls into will drastically
increase your chances of sending your story to the magazine that will say "yes."
Researching your specific genre before you submit is like a salesman using network
marketing leads. It helps you to save time and money by allowing you to target
your approach. Most short stories fall under one of these genres: action adventure,
mystery, horror, fantasy, science fiction, romance, or literary fiction. If
you can't detect any defining strains of mystery, action, fantasy, science
or love in your story, it falls under literary fiction.
Most magazines publish only in a certain genre, and sending them stories that
don't belong to it is useless. Ladybug Magazine publishes only stories
for young girls. Asimov's magazine looks for serious character-based science
fiction. Meanwhile, Fantasy and Science Fiction publishes both fantasy and sci-fi.
A lot of university fiction magazines, such as the Antigonish Review or Carousel,
publish literary fiction with emphasis on certain themes or styles preferred
by the editor. Can you guess which would be the best choice for a story called
Swords and Shields, for example? If you said Fantasy and
Science Fiction, you're catching on.
Respect Length Guidelines
Another major stumbling block for writers submitting their stories are magazine
guidelines for length. Most magazines have a limit of 6,000 to 8,000 words for
short fiction, though some go up to 10,000 or 20,000 if they accept novellas.
Surpassing the maximum word length the magazine has laid out for stories will
get you rejected out of hand. Publishers only have a certain number to work with and simply cannot exceed their quota. Therefore if you've
got a certain magazine in mind and you're over their word budget, take
time for some self-editing before you submit.
Small Versus Large Publications
One thing that can help a new writer to get published quicker is submitting
to smaller, less well-known magazines like Neo-Opsis instead of the huge blockbuster
ones like Asimovs. While smaller ones won't be able to pay you as much
and won't reach as many people, they're also more likely to say
"yes" to new writers than blockbuster ones that favor established
writers in order to keep their readership up. And getting them to say "yes"
is what it's all about if you want to stop selling retail
and move on already.