First off, I have some good news. Every Day Fiction is going to be printing one of my stories, Dragon Hoard, on July 27 (2015). If you’d like to see it, it’s free–all you have to do is go to everydayfiction.com. Or if you like, you can sign up like I have, to get a new story delivered to your inbox every day. I’m particularly looking forward that email.
Getting an acceptance, instead of the depressingly more common rejection, has energized me to submit more of my short stories. And it occurred to me that there might be some out there who would like to submit as well, only they don’t know how. So I figured I’d walk you through the process.
You can either write your story first, or go to the Submissions Grinder and check markets. Duotrope also has publishers listed, and some writers prefer it, but Submissions Grinder is free and Duotrope isn’t. Certain mags, like Crossed Genres, have a theme every month, so it sometimes makes sense to write with that in mind. I’ve sold a story I wrote for one theme and found another that it fit afterward, so all is not lost if you’re rejected. On the other hand, if you’ve got a story pounding at you, write it and worry about where you’ll submit it later. I’ve done it both ways.
Then you’ll take your story, which you’ve run by a beta reader (really don’t skip this step–I post them online at AbsoluteWrite for the widest critique, but it’s your call), and you’ll check your chosen venue’s submission guidelines. There are a wide array of procedures. Some resources for basic short story formatting are here, although I’ll disagree and say that hardly anyone uses Courier anymore–I always use Times New Roman for submissions. Zanzjan also did a terrific guide at AbsoluteWrite here.
Some mags won’t allow you to send them a word document–there are too many people who delight in spreading viruses. Some take email submissions, others use submittable or some other form of copy-and-paste. Be careful reading guidelines. Some want your name clearly on the top, and others want submissions to be anonymous in the body, with the contact information given separately. Give them whatever they want–you won’t endear yourself to the editors doing otherwise. Show them your uniqueness in your stories, not your submission process.
Science fiction and fantasy seem to be the best markets overall for short fiction. Shorter seems to be easier to sell than longer–I’ve read that many mags technically accept longer stories, but you’d better be an established author if you want to sell them one. I’ve found the biggest market is for flash, but not everyone can write a story that’s under a thousand words. Just under two thousand seems to be another marketable length.
And then you wait for word back. But don’t just drum your fingers by your monitor–write something else. The best way to get published is to have lots of stories out in cyberspace, awaiting word on an editor’s decision.