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How to Publish A Short Story AKA Where Do I Sell My Stories

Updated on September 29, 2010

It all begins with something we want to share

So, you wrote a short story and you want to share it with the world. I honor and respect you for that, but first, it might be a good idea to get your house in order before running off to market your goods. After all, you want to make a good first impression, right?

Before you start searching for a market to publish your story, you need to go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Check it for spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and story logic. Make certain this is the best you can do before marketing your story, or you could regret it later. After all, if it's not ready to be published, then it probably will be rejected. Worse yet, it could be accepted, glaring mistakes and all, making you look foolish in front of many readers.

Read it, reread it, then allow a few trusted friends to read it. Then (and only then) should you consider the next step – finding someone to publish your work.

Online, there are many directories that list places that are looking for new stories. Avoid the cons by going with a reputable site. Do I know of one? Absolutely!

2009 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market
2009 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market
Another great source for finding short story writing markets. It's not free, but it does contain some names you might not find otherwise.
 

Disclaimer

I do not work for this website, nor do I advertise for them or receive any compensation for doing so. I recommend them because they are a free resource available to all authors.

With what little a starting author makes from his works he needs all the free help that is available to get started on the right foot.


A sample of a search

This is an actual search I performed, looking for a pro paying market for a sci-fi story.
This is an actual search I performed, looking for a pro paying market for a sci-fi story.

What is duotrope?

Simply said, it's a one-stop shopping mall for finding places to sell your short stories. It's free (no hidden costs) and it lists everyone from Azimov to Zeotrope (as well as a few names that don't fit in-between). The interface on the site allows you to easily find places to market your stories and they have tracking available as well – allowing you to watch over your submissions (I use this feature to keep myself from accidentally submitting my story to the same place twice – a real no-no in the writing biz.)

Once you find several places that interest you, I recommend going to their websites and looking at the type of stories they are already marketing. Ask yourself … does my story fit in well with these? If so, then score them down as someone you want to approach and skim through the website through their guidelines.

Guidelines? What are guidelines?

Guidelines are the rules for submitting to any publisher. Obey them, and you stand a chance at selling your story – ignore them, and you might as well not bother submitting, as these guidelines are typically written in stone and are non-negotiable. Also, be certain to see how much they pay for a story. Some places pay by the word, while others pay by the story – it's important to know, so you can make an informed decision. Finally, check the word count to be certain your story fits into what they are looking for. If they are asking for less than 5000 words, don't send them 5500 – move onto another possibility, or consider cutting down your story to meet their size requirement.

What are my odds?

I was selling stories online when I was a totally unknown writer, so it is possible for anyone to sell their story. However, possible and probable are two different things. Be prepared to submit to many different places and consider revising your story if you're seeing nothing but rejections. You also need to know when to quit with a story … Sometimes you can write a fantastic story only to find it won't sell … Why? Because the market is flooded with that story type and reader interest has waned. On the other hand, sometimes a mediocre story will sell, just because the topic is hot at the time.

You can never gauge the sellability of a story until you put it out there, so it's worth taking the chance. Many of the publishers accept email submissions, which pushes the cost to submit down to zero, so it's worth taking the chance to see what happens.

Why do some places publish without paying you anything?

Ah yes, the 'for the love' markets. As a new writer, this might be your only option to start out with. The bigger the publisher is, the higher the talent pool they will demand. You might be that one in a million that gets published in a big magazine on your first try, but if you are like most of us writers … you'll need to pay your dues.

By submitting to the 'for the love' or 'no pay' markets, you place your work out there to get noticed. Some of these no-pay magazines have very large readerships, so you can gain fans really quick, depending on the quality of the writing you produce. If you think your work is truly spectacular and no one is paying you to publish it, then I recommend giving a few away in this manner to bolster your resume, as well as your fanbase. After all, fans drive the market, and if you garner enough of them, those high paying markets will be waiting for a turn at your next great offering.

Anything else I need to know?

Yes … there are no short story millionaires (to my knowledge). If you intend on investing a lot of time in short stories then do it for the love of writing and let whatever profits might come your way be your own personal encouragement that your fans are willing to pay for your work.

Now, if you really find yourself with a lot of fans, then you might consider writing a novel. The market is a lot tougher, but the chances for a considerable profit are better, and if you are already known well for your short stories it will be easier to secure an agent (a necessity for selling larger works and not finding yourself raked over the coals).

You also need to know that great writers are not a dying species. The competition is fierce and readers change their taste on a daily basis. As such, you want to keep offering something that tastes a little different from the previous meals you offered. By providing a variety of fresh new ideas, you can cultivate a strong following that will wait on pins and needles for that next short story,

So, what are you writing for? Get out there and write!

Oh, and if you're in the market to sell a novel, let me know ... Imight write up a hub for that as well. It so happens I know a great free site that will help you do that to!

Enjoy!

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