Short Story Markets - Where to Send Them
Getting Into Print
For most people, the thing about writing is that they don't want to just keep it to themselves, they want others to read it, to enjoy it, to be moved, touched, entertained. So if you've written a short story (or several stories) the next thing, is to share your creations with the rest of the world. Which begs two questions:
Okay, well, it depends what you want. Most writers crave publication, some also desire remuneration/reward (chocolate usually does it for me), and a few dream of creating enough of the financial kind of reward to actually make a living from it. (Those of you who've embarked on this route, please continue reading when you've stopped laughing).
There's also another question you might want to consider, but we'll come back to that one...
The Little Presses
Many years ago when I dreamed of being a famous writer, there was no such thing as the Internet, so the only way to find out information about literary magazines (ie places to send my stories and poems) was to go to the library. It was in such a hallowed building that I discovered the existence of the Little Press magazines (also known as little magazines and small press publications).
These were (and still are) small-circulation publications run by enthusiastic writers, artists, photographers and poets as a means of publicising the sort of work those writers, artists, photographers and poets were interested in. Consequently, there were lots of different styles and themes, as well as a wide range of diverse requirements. Some demanded an extraordinarily high standard of writing, while others were more open to experimental, unknown and (particularly in my case), bewildered writers.
One of the challenges of producing such magazines is to attract enough money to keep going, without sacrificing principles. The advent of the Internet has made this process easier and cheaper, although it also means that anyone setting up a new publication can do so without most of the problems that might hold them back if the magazine only existed as hard copy. It's worth noting, while online publications are easier to set up, many promising ones disappear after only a few issues, simply because the business of running a literary journal is hugely time-consuming, whether in print or online.
However, I digress...
Money Vs Kudos
Now we come to the other question I was talking about:
Should I submit only to magazines that pay, or to go for those whose reputations I admire?
Of course, the two aren't mutually exclusive, and there are some damn fine mags that also pay big bucks, however, a lot of very good magazines (I'll say that again) a lot of very good magazines simply cannot afford to pay contributors, so if money is a big motivator for you, you might want to go away and beat yourself up for a while.
One of the ways writers succeed as writers is by building a reputation, a portfolio of published work and, with any luck, a huge fan base at the same time. Whether you simply want people to read your stories, or are more interested in creating a ready market for that series of dark fantasy novels you've been beavering away at for the last seventeen years, doesn't really matter. What matters is getting your stories to people who like them.
I suppose what I'm saying is that if the magazines that matter to you are those that don't pay, that shouldn't stop you submitting to them, but since you can't really expect The New Yorker to publish the very first piece of fiction you churn out, they're also a great place to start, as the criteria is likely to be a little less demanding (though many non-paying mags produce extraordinarily high quality work).
So what you should do (in my modest opinion) is to aim at those mags that reflect:
- the sort of work you write
- the standards you're aiming for
- and the readers you want to attract
and if they pay real money too, that's great.
Make that List
I love lists. Which is handy, since I don't really think you can embark on any enterprise that involves sending out lots of stories to lots of different places without keeping pretty tight tabs on what's going where, when and for how long.
I have two main spreadsheets - one that details all the stories/novels etc that I've sent out, and another that lists all the different magazines/publications etc. Without both of these, I don't think I'd be able to sleep at night.
So the main one currently details about three hundred print and online journals/magazines:
The first one shows the magazine name, URL, whether or not they pay and any details about what they're looking for - style, genre, word count, etc. It also shows which mags I've submitted to and if they were successful.
The next list shows where my submitted stories are - name of story, title of magazine and the relevant dates and acceptances/rejections.
Tailoring Your Lists
Obviously, compiling lists of possible outlets for your work can be time consuming, and to some extend will always be subjective: I add new publications to my list every week (and occasionally delete a few too). The list features magazines I like and would be happy to have publish my stories. It includes print and online magazines mainly from Britain, the US, Canada and Australia, as well as one or two from other countries.
One way to compile this sort of collection for yourself is to go through the various lists that other people (out of the kindness of their hearts) have already assembled. The problem with any list of course, is that unless the originators are exceptionally dedicated (and some are), a few publications will inevitably turn out to be no longer in existence.
You might (for instance), only want to include mags produced in your own country (after all, you know your motherland better than you know the rest of the world). On the other hand, you may be interested in a specific genre, such as existentialist, surreal or absurdist writing. Whatever you're into, it's good to give yourself a few ground rules, or you might find you're spending an awful lot of time writing about magazines, rather than for them.
Searches and Sources
If a literary magazine doesn't have an Internet presence, I tend to assume it's not a serious enterprise. As we all know, the easiest way to promote anything these days is on the net, so inevitably, the best way to find out where these creative people are hiding, is to Google them. Phrases like: short story magazines, literary magazines, short story markets, usually do the trick, however, there are a few good websites that have done some of the donkey work for you already:
Short Stops is a great source for mags based in the UK and Ireland.
Every Writer's Resource lists quite a few that don't seem to be listed elsewhere.
Thresholds is run by the University of Chichester, and has a good list of British and American journals, as has
The Review Review who are really good and boast a helpful ticky-list so you can narrow down your search criteria (they're also very friendly).
The Other Question...
There's one more thing you might want to consider before sending off your precious creations:
Should I write for a specific journal, or write what the hell I like and then look for a magazine that seems to fit the story?
While there are certainly a few magazines that require careful thought in order to secure an acceptance, it's probably fair to say that any single story could suit several different journals. We all want our stories to appear somewhere, and if we don't succeed with our first choice, there's no reason why it can't be sent off somewhere else.
Most of the time I write what I want to write and then look for a market, but there are also good reasons to do it the other way round too. A particular lit mag might appeal for a particular reason - such as a style of writing you maybe haven't tried before - and if it sparks off a creative idea, that has to be a good reason to write it. If you end up with a rejection email, you still have the story and lots of other markets.
The thing that sometimes makes the difference, of course, is wor count. A 6,000 word story is never going to find a place in a mag that only publishes 1,000 word stories. Which prompts that old adage - read the small print!
Yes, I knew there was something else...
I know lots of writers think it's fine to send one story out to several different magazines at the same time, but I don't. Now, I do realise that it increases the chances of publication, but it also complicates things a bit too much for my liking. At the time of writing, I have 16 stories being considered by 16 different magazines and I have a hard enough job keeping track of those without getting into which stories might be with other magazines too.
If you're one of those writers who churns out one tale every six months, then it's maybe not a problem, but for me it's too difficult and anyway, there's something about dual submission that doesn't really feel right.
As always, do what works for you.
Like Mr King Says...
It might seem a bit obvious, but if you're going to submit to literary magazines there's something else you should do first:
Read literary Magazines!
As my Hero Stephen King says (and he should know), if you want to be a writer, you have to do two things - read a lot and write a lot.
And that's about it, except I thought I'd let you in on a few of my current favourites, just to whet your appetites:
- 1,000 Words (UK) - Flash fiction up to 1,000 words
- Brain of Forgetting (UK) - flash fiction - relating to memory, history and heritage
- Don't Do It (UK) - well-crafted realism and avant-garde, formally experimental writing
- Glimmertrain (US) - up to 7,000 words.
- The Grind (UK) - fiction, poetry, prose, experimental writing, photography and visual art by artists in Scotland and Scottish artists across the world.
- Ninth Letter (US) - experiments with form, narrative, and non-traditional subject matter, as well as traditional literary work
- Red Savina Review (US) - stories presenting an authentic investigation into the concept of identity and how it constitutes human experience
- The Stockholm Review of Literature - writing like JD Salinger
One of the things I love about searching for lit mags, is never knowing what you're going to find.