If you’re writing short stories, sooner or later you’re going to want to submit them somewhere for publication. There are a great many short story markets that pay anything from a copy of the publication, through token payments, to semi-professional and professional rates.
I tend to submit to the professional rate publications first of all, because why aim low? It can be hit or miss (and you’ll miss more than you hit to start off with), but it’s good practice and if you strike out with the pros, you can still try to sell to the semi-pros, and so on.
Where to start? Well, it depends on the genre. There are a couple of databases out there, where you can search markets based on genre, pay level, story length (is it flash, short story, novella, etc?).
Duotrope is one of these. They list over 7000 publishers and agents, and cover all genres, as well as forms. This is a paid service, so after a week’s trial it will cost you $5 per month (or less if you take out a year’s subscription). If you’re a prolific writer and are constantly looking for the right market for your stories, it’s well worth it for all you get in return.
If you’re a sporadic short story writer, like me – I spend more time working on my novel-length fiction than I do writing short stories – then something like The Submission Grinder
might be more your style. Their database is free of charge to use, as is their submission tracker where you can keep an record where you’ve sent each story, and avoid embarrassing mistakes like sending the same story to the same market twice. I may or may not have done this, once.
So, you’ve found a market, based on the genre and length of your story, you’ve prepared your manuscript using standard manuscript format, and their submission guidelines for any specifics. The next thing you need to check is whether they accept simultaneous submissions. If they do, you’re good to send your story to another venue at the same time. If they don’t, then you’ll need to wait for a response before sending it elsewhere. You can, of course, ignore their guidelines and send the story to several venues at once, but if more than one editor wants to buy the story you have a dilemma, and one of them is likely to be upset if they specified ‘no simultaneous submissions’ and you ignored their submission guidelines.
Some venues will also accept reprints. If they don’t accept reprints, then you can only send them stories that have not been previously published elsewhere. If they do accept reprints, it’s likely that they will pay less than the original market, but hey, you get to sell the story twice, so it might be worth your while. Do be careful that the rights have reverted to you. For example, if you signed a contract for a publication to have sole rights to publish your story for a year, then you can’t sell it elsewhere until the year is up. If you do, you would be in breach of contract.
There are some markets that don’t pay more than a copy of the publication. And that’s fine. If you have exhausted paying markets but still want to try to put your story out there, non-paying markets are worth a try and can be more newbie-friendly. It’s still worth trying the paying markets first, though. What do you have to lose, other than time?
Some markets respond within a few days. Clarkesworld is the fastest I’ve seen, with responses in days, rather than weeks. Others have response times measured in months. Others still, are only open at certain times, so make sure you check that they’re open before submitting.
There are some venues out there that charge a reading fee for submissions. My advice for those would be to avoid them. It’s difficult enough trying to make money out of short story writing, without having to pay an editor to read your work.
My only exception about paying to submit would be for competitions and, even then, it’s worth checking out whether a competition is reputable before entering. Some good ones are The Manchester Fiction Prize. This costs £17.50 to enter but the prize is £10,000. It’s run by Manchester Metropolitan University and is very reputable. The Costa Short Story Award is free to enter and the first prize is £3,000, The Reader’s Digest 100-word story competition is also free to enter and the first prize is £2,000 (which works out at £20 a word!), and last but certainly not least, Mslexia’s competition has a £10 entry fee and a first prize of £5,000, as well as a week’s writing retreat and a day with an editor.
There is a listing of short story competitions here (as well as a sign-up for a newsletter that will remind you of deadlines).
So what are you waiting for? Get those stories submitted!