Short Story Submissions: How To Get Your Stories Published

Jun 27, 2024 | Ghostwriting

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On June 25th, I presented a class to the Writer’s Group at The Garden Home Community Library in Southwest Portland. The subject? Short story submissions.

Here is a video/recording of the full hour and twenty minutes of that class.

Here are some highlights from the course.

Short Story Submission Highlights:

What To Expect From The Class

*An understanding of short story definitions.

*Knowledge on how to read and dissect a magazine/publication listings in order to understand what exactly a publisher is looking for.

*How you as an author should address publisher needs.

*Knowledge of how to write a good query letter.

*An understanding of how the business of a small press publication works.

*Successful mindsets for a long career as a writer.

Why Are Short Stories Important?

*In today’s digital age, short stories are experiencing something of a renaissance. Digital reading means they are more accessible than ever and with shorter attention spans, actually fit reader temperaments. 

*Readers are looking for short, easy to digest content across, evidenced by the explosion of platforms like Kindle Vella, Wattpad, Patreon, Kindle Shorts and others.

*Publishing short stories is a viable way for a new or emerging writer to establish themselves both with a broad range of industry readers and agents who look for new voices in magazines. 

*Short stories can be a vital connection to new readers and audiences.

*Short stories are also appropriate to think of as “IP”, becoming successful movies like “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty”, “Brokeback Mountain” and “Minority Report”

Basic Definitions Of Short Stories

Flash Fiction:

Definition: Extremely brief stories, usually under 1,000 words, that still offer a complete plot or scene.

Micro Fiction:

Definition: A subset of flash fiction, typically fewer than 300 words.

Short Story:

Definition: A complete story typically ranging from 1,500 to 7,500 words.

Novelette:

Definition: A work of fiction longer than a short story but shorter than a novella, usually between 7,500 and 20,000 words.

Novella:Definition: A work of fiction typically between 20,000 and 50,000 words.

Where Are Short Stories Published

*Magazines

Examples of notable literary magazines are The New Yorker, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Sun and Granta. Within every genre there are a range of magazines, from the prestigious and professional to more niche.

*Anthologies

Anthologies are irregularly published as compared to their magazine counterparts. Usually these can be found through events, websites and organizations such as Northwest Independent Writers Association.

*Podcasts

This represents the “new frontier” of publishing short stories and is still establishing itself. Examples of podcasts publishing stories are Drabblecast, Clarkesworld and Escape Pod.

*Your blog

Many successful independent authors publish their short stories directly on their blog. Distribution of the story comes via a mailing list, through social media, and is a viable part of an aggressive content marketing strategy. 

*Amazon

Short stories are commonly published as stand alones on Amazon (for both indie and traditionally published authors). Independent authors use short stories to build mailing lists and as “loss leader” stories, priced for free or as KDP hooks, to bring in new readers. 

*Patreon

For an independent author with a following, a short story based Patreon account can drive a stream of revenue. Many authors prefer Patreon for the easy accessibility, its ability to keep up with an audience, and ease of payment.

What You Should Consider Before Submission

*What kind of author are you seeking to become? Are you an “independent author” or are you seeking a traditional path? Maybe you’re a hybrid author?

*Where are you in your career? Are you new to writing short stories? A more seasoned author? 

*What do you want from the short story?

*Do you actually know the story’s specific genre and subgenre? 

*What does the target market pay? 

*What kind of reputation does the publication have? 

*Does the market nominate stories for genre or literary awards?

What Are Short Story Pay Rates?

Pro Rates:

Defined as $.08 per word and up for a short story; or a $400 flat fee 

Semi-Pro Rates:

Defined as $.01-07 per word and up for a short story; or from $50-300 flat fee 

Token Rates:

Defined as less than $.01 per word for a short story; or $5 to $50 flat fee 

Non-Paying Markets:

Defined as a market that does not pay for publication rights.

Why Consider A Non-Paying Market?

*When you’re just starting out as a writer, a non-paying market can be a great place to get your foot in the door. These magazines, blogs or journals earn you a valuable by-line.

*Non-paying markets are “easier” to get into because they receive far fewer submissions. Most authors, when seeking a market, sort the listings by pay rate.

*Your readers don’t know what the market pays. This means, if you’re working on building up your readership, marketing via a newsletter or social media, any publication is credible.

*Non-paying markets can help establish credentials. Suddenly, instead of having nothing in your publication resume, you have an actual credit.

*There are also connections to be made through non-paying markets. Publishers of small magazines could move onto bigger markets, so make those connections.

What Rights Are You Selling?

First North American Serial Rights (FNASR):

This grants the publisher the right to be the first to publish the work in North America. After publication, the rights typically revert to the author.

First Serial Rights (FSR):

Similar to FNASR but without the regional restriction. It allows the publisher to be the first to publish the work anywhere in the world.

Second Serial Rights:

These rights allow a publisher to republish a work that has already been published elsewhere.

Anthology Rights:

These rights allow the publisher to include the work in an anthology or collection of works by different authors.

Electronic Rights:

These rights pertain to the publication of the work in electronic or digital formats, such as e-books, websites, and digital databases.

Audio Rights:

These rights allow the publisher to produce and distribute audio recordings of the work, such as audiobooks.

Translation Rights:

These rights allow the publisher to translate the work into other languages and publish it in those translated versions.

Dramatic Rights:

These rights allow the publisher to adapt the work into dramatic formats, such as plays, films, or television shows.

Reprint Rights:

These rights allow the publisher to reprint the work in subsequent editions or formats after the initial publication.

All Rights:

This grants the publisher exclusive rights to the work in all forms and formats for an indefinite period. It typically involves a significant payment to the author.

Non-Exclusive Rights:

This allows the author to retain the right to publish the work elsewhere simultaneously or in the future.

Where Can You Find These Short Story Markets?

Duotrope:

Features/Benefits: Advanced search filters (e.g., genre, pay rate, submission type), market response times, and submission trackers.

Submission Grinder:

Features/Benefits: Searchable database, submission tracking, and market response statistics.

Writer’s Marketplace:

Features/Benefits: Directory of literary magazines with submission guidelines, deadlines, and pay rates.

New Pages:

Features/Benefits: Regular updates on calls for submissions, contests, and upcoming publication deadlines.

Submittable:

Features/Benefits: Searchable listings for open submissions, organized by deadline, genre, and pay rate.

Genre/Market Specific Facebook Groups:

Features/Benefits: Up to the minute, usually created and monitored by authors, live responses from those authors.

Breaking Down A Listing: “Back Into The Ground”

What We’re Looking For In This Horror Anthology: We enjoy a broad array of horror storytelling in all forms. For the purposes of Back Into The Ground we seek spooky stories inspired by place, specifically, our home, the Pacific Northwest. Towering trees and rough seas crashing under gray skies strike us as the ideal settings for a scary story. We define place-inspired horror loosely, so bring us your best work and we’ll talk about fit. Translation: challenge us, please. Do we like vampires, zombies, werewolves and other familiar creatures? Yes… just as long as they’re done right.

What we don’t like, under any circumstances, are stories that are mean spirited, vengeful, exploitative, sexist, etc… Be nice, write well, and tell a story that keeps us up nights in the right way.  

AI Policy: Back Into The Ground Anthology does not accept submissions of any kind that were written, developed or assisted by tools such as ChatGPT. We would consider publishing and reading stories dealing with the repercussions of AI. We would prefer that those stories be written by you, a human being. Any attempt to submit AI-aided work may result in being permanently banned from our magazine.

Submission Standards:We want original, unpublished work. By unpublished, we mean work that has never seen the light of day in another anthology, magazine, your site or social media. Please submit one story in the form of a .DOC, .DOCX or .RTF format attached to an email. 

Email to: caretakerpress@gmail.com

By acceptance, we are acquiring exclusive World Rights to your story for the period of one year. We do not accept reprints. 

We accept simultaneous submissions . Do us a favor though. If your story ends up getting published elsewhere, please let us know so we can offer you a hearty congratulations as well as remove your tale from consideration in this horror anthology. 

Please include a third person bio in your email. Include your publishing credits, if you have them and your connection to the Pacific Northwest. 

Compensation: $40.00 per story. Payment due upon publication.Word Count: Up to 7,500 words Anything longer, please query the editors before sending the manuscript.

Breaking Down A Listing: “Cashmere Sky”

General Submission Guidelines
While we are interested in a wide variety of content, we primarily focus on:

Anthropomorphic (furry) content of any genre

Non-anthropomorphic fiction content of the following genres: Fantasy, Science fiction, Supernatural (vampires, werewolves, etc.)

Non-fiction content which would appeal to people interested in: Animals, Medieval history, Mythology, Adult subcultures

We will consider content for both general (all age) audiences and adult (18+) audiences. Feel free to contact us with questions regarding submission content.

Novel and Novella Submissions
We are interested in all literary works that meet our general content guidelines above. We are only interested in completed works, not concepts or portions of a story. Literature works submitted to us should be between 30,000 and 120,000 words.

What to send for your literature submission:

Query Letter: A few paragraphs introducing yourself as an author and the work you’re submitting

Plot Synopsis: A few pages that review in detail the plot, characters, conflict, and resolution of your story (leave nothing out, include spoilers)

A .doc, .docx, .pdf, or .odt file of the work you would like us to consider

Is The Market Right For Your Story?

*Does the market accept the kinds of stories you’re writing? 

*Do I really understand the genre of your story? What about the sub-genre?

*Is the market currently open to submissions?

*Does the market offer payment that fits where you are with your career?

*What kind of rights are they buying?

*What is their readership and do they market their publication and/or authors?

What Is A Query Letter?

*A query letter is a formal, professional letter sent by a writer to literary agents, publishers, or editors to propose their book, article, or other writing projects. 

*The purpose of a query letter is to spark the recipient’s interest in the manuscript and persuade them to request more material, such as a partial or full manuscript, for further consideration.

What Goes Into A Good Short Story Query Letter

Hook The Reader With A Strong Opening

Tip: Start your query letter with a compelling hook. This could be an intriguing question, a striking statement, or a brief, captivating overview of your story’s premise. 

The goal is to grab the agent’s or editor’s attention right from the start.Example: “What if the last person on earth isn’t alone? In Silent Echoes, a post-apocalyptic thriller, John discovers he’s not the only survivor in a world ravaged by a mysterious pandemic.”

Summarize Your Book Concisely

Tip: Provide a brief summary of your book, focusing on the main plot points, characters, and stakes. The aim here is to convey the essence of your story in a few paragraphs without revealing too much detail or including every subplot.

Example: “When 16-year-old Mia inherits her grandmother’s enchanted locket, she gains the ability to travel through time. But when a malevolent force threatens to erase her family’s history, Mia must team up with a rogue time traveler to save her lineage.”

Showcase Your Credentials

Tip: Mention any relevant writing credentials, awards, previous publications, or professional background that make you a credible author. If you have none, focus on your passion for writing and your connection to the subject matter.Example: “I have an MFA in Creative Writing from XYZ University, and my short stories have appeared in ABC Magazine and DEF Journal. My personal experiences with time travel (through extensive research) have deeply informed the narrative.”

Personalize Your Letter

Tip: Research the agent or publisher you are querying and personalize your letter accordingly. Mention why you have chosen to query them specifically, referencing their interests, previous works they’ve represented, or their professional achievements.Example: “I’m reaching out to you because of your interest in young adult fantasy novels. Your work with Jane Doe’s The Time Weaver series convinced me that you would be the perfect advocate for Silent Echoes.”

Maintain a Professional Tone

Tip: Keep your letter professional, polite, and to the point. Avoid being overly familiar, making jokes, or using slang. Proofread your letter multiple times to ensure it is free of errors and typos.

Example: “Thank you for considering my manuscript. I have included the first ten pages and a synopsis below, as per your submission guidelines. I look forward to the possibility of working with you.”

How To Track Your Short Story Submissions

*It is critical that you track your submissions. Markets take at least thirty days to respond yes or no to submissions; most take upwards of 90 days. 

*You need to track the magazine’s reading period. Note when they’re open.

*You need to track the day you sent the story and the date you received a receipt notification.

*You need to track when you receive word, yes or no.

*Tracking submissions is critical for many reasons. Most important is simultaneous submission. If your story is accepted elsewhere, you need to notify everyone you submitted to. Another is repeat submission policies. Last is to track how well certain stories are performing in the market. Too many rejections may mean it’s time to retire (or rewrite) the story.

*Most magazines/anthologies make their follow up policy clear in the listing. They will request that you don’t inquire (read: bother them) for a period of time while they’re reading. 

*If they don’t list a follow up policy, it’s a good rule of thumb to wait and check in only after 45-60 days have passed since your submission was received.

*You are within your rights at any time, for any reason, to withdraw your submission. Some of those reasons might be a re-write, decision to self-publish, or abandon the idea.

*You absolutely have to follow up with any magazine whenever any simultaneously submitted story is accepted elsewhere.

*Other times to follow up come post publication. When to expect payment. When will you receive contributor copies. When can you talk about your publication.

short story, erick mertz