“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.”
– Neil Gaiman
Short stories are often given rather short shrift in the writing community, and become neglected as we pursue a career. This is rarely through lack of inspiration. Most of us have an abundance of abandoned manuscripts gathering virtual dust on our hard drives. The reason most people stop writing short fiction is the mistaken belief that they are wasting their time.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Of course, it depends how you quantify success. Being published in the right places undoubtedly brings plaudits, pushes your career to the next level, and looks good on your resume. But for arguments sake, let’s focus on how short fiction can help fill out your bank balance.
The first thing to realize is, far from being a dying art form, there are literally thousands of magazines, journals, websites, ezines and anthologies that publish short stories, and cover every genre and sub-genre you can think of, and then some. All are seeking good material and most offer fertile ground for savvy freelance writers seeking an extra revenue stream. Beware, however, that not all offer monetary compensation, providing ‘exposure’ as payment instead. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be ignoring FTL (For The Love) markets.
So how do you find outlets?
Use a search engine. The Internet has made the process incredibly easy. You’ll find a short list with this article to get you started but, ultimately, it won’t beat spending an hour or so surfing the Net and seeing what options suit your needs. Bookmark any interesting sites.
When you have your list of potential markets, there are a number of ways to proceed. If you are lucky, you’ll be able to tweak an existing piece to suit a particular publication or you might be inspired to start a new story from scratch. Whatever you do, make sure you familiarize yourself with the publication you intend contributing to. It is imperative you know what kind of material they publish.
As with any other kind of submission, use your common sense. For example, no matter how good it is, you’d be wasting your time sending your urban fantasy story to a market that only publishes hard science fiction. Likewise, don’t send an 8,000 word piece somewhere whose upper limit is 7,000. If you want sales, it is up to you to adapt your work to fit the editor’s vision, not the other way around. Don’t assume your story will be the one that breaks the mold and forces said publication to change their requirements through sheer literary brilliance on your part. It won’t happen.
Use a spreadsheet to keep track of your submissions and make sure you read the contributor guidelines (invariably found on the publication’s website), and follow them to the letter. This sounds obvious but you’ll be surprised how many writers don’t bother. It’s not just the genre. There are technicalities to consider. Some markets encourage multiple submissions (sending more than one piece to the same market), or simultaneous submissions (sending the same piece to other markets), while others don’t. Likewise, not all accept reprints. Some markets put out themed issues, or are open to submissions only during pre-determined ‘windows.’ Added to all this, an increasing number have stylistic requirements. For example, they might only accept submissions in 12 pt double-spaced courier font. Often, this is a ploy to gauge how closely you read those guidelines.
It might be time to brush off some of those old short story manuscripts, and find them homes!
Here are some sample markets for Short Fiction.
The Capilano Review ($.20/word)
Science Fiction & Fantasy:
Daily Science Fiction ($.08/word)
Gafencu Men ($.13/word)
Gumshoe Review ($.05/word)
Funny Times ($.20/word)
Strange Horizons ($.08/word)
Shine Brightly ($.03/word)
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C.M. Saunders is a freelance writer and editor. His fiction and non-fiction has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide, and his books have been both traditionally and independently published. He is represented by Media Bitch literary agency.
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