Guest post by Erica Verrillo
It is received wisdom that in order to get a book published you should start by placing short stories in literary magazines. Like most received wisdom, this is hogwash. It is easier to get a book published than it is to get a short story placed in any kind of reputable literary magazine. (That being said, there are literary magazines of ill repute, and your stories may wind up sliding down the slippery slope into a few of them.) Not only is it hard to break into the literary magazine scene, it takes forever. Literary magazines are often staffed by underpaid, overworked grad students, who will take a minimum of three months to respond to your submission – if at all. Moreover, their readerships are generally small (1000 subscribers is a lot), their editorial staff quirky, and their requirements absurd. (No simultaneous submissions? Snail mail? Seriously!)
So, why bother? For one thing, some people are really good at writing short stories – much better than they are at writing novels. Short stories are not easy to write. Unlike novels, which allow writers to natter on for hundreds of pages before getting to the point, short stories are an art form that requires fast efficient character development, a plot that moves at the speed of light, and an ending that sticks in your mind like that song you can’t get out of your head. If you can write a good short story, I envy you. Get it published!
Here are the most extensive, and most useful, resources for finding the perfect home for your short story.
1) Poets and Writers
Poets & Writers is always my first stop when I am looking for a short story market. Their list is not comprehensive, but P&W includes a great deal of useful information, such as circulation, length of time for a response, genres, representative authors, reading period, whether they accept electronic submissions, or charge a reading fee. (Don’t submit to magazines that charge a fee. They will take your money and run.) Listings are alphabetical, but you can also do a search by genre and subgenre.
2) Every Writer’s Resource
These people were not overstating their mission when they called their site Every Writer’s Resource. Not only do they feature articles, blogs, publishers, but oh! The lists! The big list has 2000 literary magazines on it, which is enough to make anyone’s hair fall out. To keep you from going bald, they also narrow the field down to a list of the top 50 literary magazines, university magazines, print magazines that take online submissions (bravo!), and genre-specific magazines (horror, fantasy and sci-fi).
3) Random House list
Random House doesn’t do anything half way, and their list proves it. It’s very long. If you are blitzing your way through submissions – and, as an aside, blitzing is a good technique if you don’t have years to waste waiting for replies – this list will enable you to submit to a hundred magazines in a day. There is very little in the way of detailed information, but for sheer convenience, nothing beats the RH list.
4) New Pages
New Pages keeps a well-organized list with new and featured magazines at the top. Best of all they include icons of the magazine covers. Magazine covers are just as important as book covers (by which we make ill-informed, yet somehow completely accurate judgments). You don’t want your short story appearing in a magazine that has cover art drawn by the editor’s six-year-old grandson. The short summaries alongside the cover icons provide the essentials that will enable you to make a fast choice.
5) Duotrope (payment required)
When Duotrope was free I used the site daily. Not only does Duotrope include every literary magazine, you can search magazines by genre, whether they take electronic submissions, response time, and acceptance rate. These last two details are extremely important, and because Duotrope’s figures are based on what writers report, they are fairly accurate. The subscription is $5 a month (7-day free trial). (You can access Duotrope’s basic stats for individual magazines by doing a Google search on “duotrope” and the name of the magazine.)
Erica Verrillo maintains a blog – Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity – designed to help aspiring writers become authors. Erica is the author of three middle reader fantasies: Elissa's Quest, Elissa's Odyssey, and World's End (Random House). She also writes medical reference books.
Read her blog at: http://publishedtodeath.blogspot.com/. Visit her websites at http://www.ericaverrillo.com and at http://www.cfstreatmentguide.com/