Blog Series: How to publish short stories Part II

Photo courtesy of that same old typewriter I used in Part I

Part II: Where to Submit

Your manuscript is complete. Perfected. Ready to go. Now, there’s just one problem – where do you send it? How do you find a place to publish your short story?

As we discussed in Part I: The Manuscript, you need three primary things to be successful:

  • (Quality) Manuscript: Most important.

  • Market research: Where to submit.

  • Submission plan: Have a repeatable plan.

My focus with this post is market research and discovering where to submit. Finding publications can be a daunting task and it can be frustrating. There are so many things to consider and learn. Remember the old adage; if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Now, follow me; I’ll show you a way to navigate these waters.

 

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Finding a place to submit requires a lot of research and a lot of reading. I’m talking about knowing your market. Do not under-estimate the importance of learning the short story market. If you’re looking for the quick-fix, your path will be littered with disappointment. You have to do the work.

First, let’s define a few terms.

  • Simultaneous Submissions – concurrently submitting a manuscript to more than one publication at a time. If you submit the same manuscript to two (or more) publications at once, then you have submitted your manuscript “simultaneously”.

  • Multiple Submissions – concurrently submitting more than one manuscript to a single publication. If you send two (or more) manuscripts to the same publication before that publication has accepted or rejected either one, then you have submitted “multiple” manuscripts.

  • Response Times – the time it takes a publication to Accept, Reject, or Shortlist your manuscript.

  • Pay Scale – Pro, Semi-Pro, or Token – the levels of pay for a publication. As I mentioned in Part I of this series, you should endeavor to get paid. Understanding a publication’s pay range will help. For the purposes of this blog, I’m not talking about the market position of the publication (though that is important); only the pay scale.

  • Submission Guidelines – every publication will have its own Submission Guidelines. These are instructions on exactly how they want you to submit your manuscript. Not something you want to screw up. We’ll cover Submission Guidelines in more detail in Part III.

Now let’s get to the good stuff – how you find publishers. If you Google where can I submit my short story, you’ll get all kinds of results back about becoming an author, winning money, and various other superfluous crap. You might even find a few legitimate places where you can submit your manuscript.

The problem is, you’re missing 99% of your potential market.

What you need are tools that help you identify and research your target markets and provide information specific to your submission strategy. I’ll give you two places for a solid start in identifying publications for submission.

·      Duotrope

·      The Submission Grinder

Let’s get started!

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The first tool I recommend is Duotrope. I’ve been using Duotrope for years and in my experience, it’s the best tool available. It will cost you about $50.00 a year to subscribe. If you’re serious about the short story market, don’t skimp. Subscribe and pay the $50.00 – it’s worth every dime. Duotrope is easy to use, up to date, and provides a very helpful newsletter that keeps you informed of new markets, closed markets, etc.

Once you’ve subscribed, here’s your home page:

*Note - you can also search for agents if you happen to be querying for a novel. This is new!

*Note - you can also search for agents if you happen to be querying for a novel. This is new!

The most important thing you get with Duotrope – a Search Engine.

You put in your criteria and it returns a list of publications you can submit to. It’s that simple. As an example (I write horror and science fiction), I plug in “Science Fiction” for Genre, “Short Story” for Length. You can then filter based on whether you want only Pro paying markets, only publications that accept Simultaneous Submissions, and a bunch of other valuable information. You hit “Search” and it spits out a list of publications.

Here’s what the search engine looks like:

*Hint - for most searches, you only need Genre, Length, Min. Payment, and Submission Type. If you only want publications that allow Simultaneous Submissions, then you’d check that box.

*Hint - for most searches, you only need Genre, Length, Min. Payment, and Submission Type. If you only want publications that allow Simultaneous Submissions, then you’d check that box.

Here’s an example of my search criteria:

Image-MyInfo.SearchEngine.png

Here’s a sample what the search returns (this is based on my criteria). Clearly, my screenshot doesn’t show all 42 results, but you get the gist of it – I now have 42 places to which I can potentially submit my manuscript:

Image4-DuotropeSearchResults.png

*Notice at the top, it says Always check that your piece is appropriate for a market before submitting. Don’t skip that.

If you click on the publication title, Duotrope takes you to a details page for that publication which displays a lot of important information associated to that publication (Pay Scale, Response Times, Accept to Reject ratio, whether they accept Simultaneous Submissions, etc.). Basically, Duotrope provides a wealth of information for your market research.

On the details page, Duotrope also provides a link to that publication’s website. NEVER submit to a publication before going to their website and reviewing their Submission Guidelines. Following a publication’s Submission Guidelines is critical.

The other thing Duotrope provides is an online Submissions Tracker. This is HUGE. If you plan to submit a lot, then you will need a submissions tracker – one a little more sophisticated than that spreadsheet you keep on your computer. Duotrope’s Submission Tracker keeps track of how long your submission has been out and measures it against the average Response Time for that publication – this gives you a rough idea on when you can expect to hear back from that publication on whether they’ve Accepted, Rejected, or Short-listed your manuscript.

The last thing I’ll mention about Duotrope is the reporting and analytics. It will track your acceptance ratios compared to the average across the market. Details like that can give you hints into whether you’re doing well, or if you should adjust your strategy.

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The other research tool I recommend is called The Grinder. The Grinder is a very similar tool to Duotrope, except that it doesn’t cost anything to use – it works off of donation. You enter criteria into the search engine and the Grinder then spits out a list of publications you can submit to. Since much of the functionality is the same as Duotrope, I’ll just highlight the difference in look and feel. Often The Grinder will have publications listed that Duotrope doesn’t have on their initial search and vice versa.

Since The Grinder doesn’t cost anything, let’s make this interactive – go ahead and go The Grinder now and follow along!

Here is what The Grinder looks like:

Image5-TheGrinder.png

 Similar to Duotrope, you click on “Search” and it takes you to the Search Engine criteria:

*Hint - there’s a field called “Word Count” and a field called “Story Length”. I only fill in “Story Length” from the dropdown. Not sure what typing in a word count gets you that Story Length doesn’t.

*Hint - there’s a field called “Word Count” and a field called “Story Length”. I only fill in “Story Length” from the dropdown. Not sure what typing in a word count gets you that Story Length doesn’t.

You enter your criteria and it spits back a list like this:

*Note - some of the Market Names above are blue and some are purple. They turn purple after you’ve clicked on them.

*Note - some of the Market Names above are blue and some are purple. They turn purple after you’ve clicked on them.


You simply click on the publication (Market Name column) to learn the details about that publication. Easy-peasy.

I love The Grinder. In my opinion, their search results are more intuitive because they include the pay rates and response times in the initial list. This is valuable. You may only be targeting markets with response times less than 30 days. Or markets that pay .03 cents a word or higher.

The Grinder also has a Submission Tracker. I’ve not used it personally, so I can’t attest to its awesomeness, but I’m sure it’s fine and I’d encourage you to use either Duotrope or The Grinder. You’ll be glad you did.

My personal opinion, Duotrope has a more intuitive user interface, but that’s just me.

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These two tools will accelerate your effort to identify and research your target markets. Duotrope and The Grinder. As I stated before, other tools and websites exist, but I have the most experience with these two and they work well. With them you can now answer that elusive question – where can I submit my work?

Okay, one more topic I want to hit on before I close out Part II is how to do Market Research. How to refine your list and target the most likely publications to Accept your manuscript.

You could just start submitting to the initial list you pulled. You might get lucky. Surely one of them will Accept your story. Right? It’s similar to that old cliché – toss a bunch of spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you could do it.

A better way is to know your market. Who is publishing stories like yours? What’s the name of the editor? Are they fledgling (new) or established? Do they have any specific Submission Guidelines?

Here’s how to do this:

  • Step 1 – pull a list of publications from Duotrope or The Grinder (or both).

  • Step 2 – review the details of each. Are they currently open to submissions? What is their response time? Are they looking for work like yours?

Let’s pause a second and talk about Simultaneous Submissions. This is a point of debate. Some writers refuse to submit to any publication that does not take Simultaneous Submissions due to the time it takes receive a rejection and move on to the next one. If a publication does NOT take Simultaneous Submissions, then you’re basically giving them an exclusive to your work; which means, you cannot submit that work anywhere else until that publication either Rejects or Accepts it. Why on earth would you even submit to places like that?

Here’s why: most publications that do not accept Simultaneous Submissions are Pro markets and/or they are very well established with a large readership. Many of these places are the holy grail of short story publication. Getting published by them means something. I’ve submitted to several and I’ve never been published by any of them. I was short-listed once by Apex Magazine, but didn’t make the final cut.

If you’re debating on where to submit and wondering if you should submit to a Pro market (and one that does not take Simultaneous Submissions), I’d highly recommend starting with a Pro publication as long as their response times are not too ridiculous. My strategy is always to aim big, then work my way down. I start with Pro markets. If I’m rejected, I move on to the Semi-pro and Token markets. Once I’m into the Semi-pro and Token markets, I only target publications that accept Simultaneous Submissions – this allows me to cover more ground in a shorter period of time.

            *Hint – if you’re receiving all rejections and getting no personal feedback, then you may want to stop and evaluate your manuscript. Something might be wrong with it.

  • Step 3 – read a story or two from the publications you wish to submit to. It’ll give you an idea of what that publication likes. This step is the toughest. Who has time to do all of that reading? It’s easy to skip this. We’re all guilty of it. But folks, there’s no other way to get to know a publication than by studying what it publishes.

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Okay, now you have your manuscript ready and a list of publications to submit to. Whew, you’re getting close. Only thing left to do now is actually submit. You’ll need a few things to do this, starting with a Cover Letter.

How do you write a Cover Letter? What is your plan for submitting? Short bursts to test your manuscript… see if you get any bites? Or submit to as many publications as possible coming out of the gate? Start with Pro markets and work your way down to Token?

You need a Submission Plan. In Part III, I’ll show you how to write a Cover Letter and how to put together a solid Submission Plan that allows you to submit efficiently and effectively.

Until then, go sign up with either Duotrope or The Grinder and start building your list of publications!