Today, we’re going to explore the various forms of short fiction publishers are looking for and how the market drives what they will buy. Each publication only buys work they think will appeal to their readers, and each serves a different segment of the reading public.
We are looking for markets that will pay you for your work. They are difficult to get into, but once you are in, you will be offered more opportunities.
If you are writing science fiction, you most likely dream of having your work published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. They are seeking work that is strictly science-based, because that is what their readers expect.
You might also want to submit to Uncanny, as they publish both sci-fi and fantasy. Their readers are more eclectic.
Apex Magazine publishes work that pushes the limits, and that is what their readers expect.
Fantasy & Science Fiction is one of the most respected publications in the business. They have published some of the industry’s most famous and award-winning short fiction. But they are highly selective as to what they will accept, so read their magazine and see what sort of work they buy.
Galaxy’s Edge publishes science fiction but is currently closed to new submissions. Keep checking to see when they will reopen.
One of the best resources for authors trying to sell their work is Reedsy. They have assembled a list of 58 reputable publishers seeking a variety of works in all genres and lengths:
58 Top Short Story Book Publishers in 2023 | Reedsy
Reedsy is a fabulous resource for writers, as well as for editors who are seeking clients. This is a good place to start if you are looking for an editor. As always, when you are looking to hire a professional, be sure to check their references.
Writing Tips Oasis also has an excellent list of publishers who pay well.
Many contests and publications use the Submittable platform to accept and review the large volume of manuscripts they receive from writers. When a publisher uses this platform, it’s great for us as authors. We can use their app to track what we have submitted and where it currently is in the process.
But what kind of work are these publishers seeking?
First, they want stories with strong plots and good character arcs. They want believable settings and well-developed themes.
Second, they want work that shows us a world we might find familiar but from a new and different angle.
Third, they want work that looks professional, as if the author read their submission guidelines for formatting the manuscript and followed them. Publishers have specific, standardized formatting they want you to use, and these guidelines are posted on their websites.
When a call for submissions goes out, their editors will have no time to deal with poorly formatted manuscripts. If you don’t follow their guidelines, they will assume you aren’t a professional and won’t read your work.
What are the formatting guidelines? Each publication has its own, but most follow this standard:
- Times New Roman or Courier .12 font
- Aligned left
- 1 in. margins
- Has formatted indented paragraphs (see my previous post, The Business Side of the Business – managing submissions)
What goes on the first page? Your first page should include the following:
- The story’s title.
- The word count. Some will want an approximation, and others will expect accuracy.
- In the upper left, your contact details should be formatted in the same font and size as the manuscript font. (See the image below.)
For the most part, the requirements are basically the same from company to company, with minor differences. To ensure your work conforms to the intended recipient’s requirements, go to the publication’s website and read the standards they have laid out.
We know that selling our work to anthologies and magazines is the best way for an indie to build a reputation as an author. Remember, we’re competing with many other authors, some of them famous, and all of them as creative and talented as you are. Take the time to make your work look as professional as possible, and you will have an edge.
When we finish writing a story, an article, or a novel, we feel a rush of pride. The urge to immediately send it to a magazine or contest is strong, but the wise author must overcome it. Don’t even show it to your writing group at this stage because you are too involved in it, and there may be some awkward flaws that were introduced into the narrative during the rush of creation.
Set your manuscript aside for a week or so, then return to it. This will give you a more critical eye. You should look for
- Dropped or missing words.
- Words that spell check won’t find because they are spelled correctly but are wrong: They went their for breakfast.
- Extra spaces in odd places and after sentences. Editors want one (1) space after each sentence.
- Use the Read Aloud function or a narrator app to have the story read back to you.
While we all agree that only submitting work of the highest quality is critical, one thing is clear: the greatest hurdle Indie authors face is getting our work in front of readers’ eyes.
Don’t be discouraged by rejection. Rejection happens far more frequently than acceptance, even to famous authors. Don’t let fear of rejection keep you from writing pieces you’re emotionally invested in.
I always say this, but it is true: how you handle criticism and rejection tells editors what kind of person you are. Rejection gives you the chance to cross the invisible line between amateur and professional. Always take the high ground.
- If an editor has sent you a detailed rejection, respond with a simple “thank you for your time.”
- If it’s a form letter rejection, don’t reply.
When you receive that email of acceptance, do that happy dance, and don’t be shy about it.
There is no better feeling than knowing someone you respect liked your work enough to publish it.
Good luck and keep submitting no matter how many rejections you receive, whether you are trying to be published in a magazine or hoping to publish a novel.
Remember, 18 publishers thought a story about a seagull was ridiculous before Richard Bach’s novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was finally picked up by MacMillan – and even they didn’t give it any real support.
Yet that novella is one that many people, myself included, consider a watershed moment in their reading lives. Keep writing, and may 2023 be a good year for us all.