In my two most recent posts, I discussed tips for writing the short story and how it differs from the novel. Here, I will look at markets for short stories.
Writers who seek to build credibility by getting published will do well to focus on short stories. There are a number of opportunites, from literary journals to university publications to online sites. Writers should start by purchasing the 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, which contains numerous listings for book publishers, literary agents, fiction publications, contests, and more.
Poets & Writers has a listing of publications that accept short stories, which includes genres and submission requirements. Random House has a comprehensive list of literary magazines, including contact information. Duotrope allows users to search for literary magaines by genre, response time, and acceptance rate. It requires a subscription fee of $5 a month, but there is a free trial.
Reading through these lists can overwheilm the writer, especially one who is just starting out. I wouldn’t dream of submitting a short story to the top literary publications like Atlantic, Missouri Review, The New Yorker, Paris Review, Ploughshares, or Virginia Quarterly Review. Okay, I submitted a short story of which I was proud to the Missouri Review and I never received a reply. All of these publications have an acceptance rate of less than one percent.
This begs the question: why submit to these lofty literary journals? It’s best to aim lower, but first the writer must make sure his work is ready for prime time. Novice writers should join a local writer’s group ad submit their work for feedback before submitting it for publication. Or, if a writer’s group doesn’t exist in a writer’s region, find a critique partner.
What about online magazines or self-publishing on Amazon.com? I found a site, Every Writer, that listed the best online literary magazines. This seems like a great resource. It contains a list of criteria they used to compile the list. As for Amazon, it is tantanlizingly easy for a writer to draft a short story and upload it. Viola! The writer is published. However, the most important piece of advice I can give is to resist the temptation to publish your work before it is ready. And the writer is not the best judge of whether his work is ready.
For the writer whose work is ready, the short story is a great route to publication. This is especailly true for writers who have the foresight and technical skill to come up wiht a serial or series that will keep readers buying their work online.
I have not pursued this path myself, but I am interested in learning the experiences of others who have done so.