Where do you submit short fiction?
I've never really gotten the hang of submitting short fiction to magazines and anthologies. Where do you guys submit? What has your experience been like?
Book Country Community and Engagement Manager
I started reading national magazines, anthologies, and journals at the library, and finding them in bookstores, and I searched for submission guidelines online for the ones that seemed to carry stories like mine. I spent a couple of years at this, and it never worked for me.
Next I looked for local and regional publications that printed short fiction like mine. I entered writing contests and sent fiction and creative non-fiction to local club journals and area publications. This was a way to build a few publishing credits. I even won a few modest cash prizes in contests, and was paid the odd $100 for short fiction in regional magazines.
I never had a good plan of where to send my stories. I was on the lookout all the time for appropriate publications, and the locals were more responsive.
At a writers' workshop I got a lead on a small traditional publisher with a narrow niche that I could occupy nicely. It didn't hurt that I was able to drop a few names of common acquaintances, or that I knew where he grew up and still has a summer cabin. I sent him a query letter and two stories, and within a couple of days he wanted to read more. He has now published two short story collections which have earned me a little bit of money and some new friends.
This publisher is only interested in a slice of the wider range of stories that I write. I guess that's okay; the lesson is to know what the editor or publisher will use, and search out other markets for the rest.
I wish I had a better answer to your question. For me it was a lot of work, a measure of frustration, and then some good luck. I think it's easier to break into traditional publishing with short fiction than with a novel, especially on a regional level. There's a market there, and no one has to risk a lot of money to print a couple thousand words in a magazine.
I am currently writing about a dozen short pieces a year for local newsletters/journals, which is pretty much a volunteer activity, but keeps my name in front of some of the people who have bought my books, and will be the obvious early readers for my novel.
Back in the olden days (semi-joke--the world has changed a lot since the 1980s) I read the genre magazines, read the guidelines, and started sending in stories. I did not have success at first, but promised myself I'd stick it out until all the bare parts of the walls in this room were covered with rejections. I was also reading Writers Digest at the time, and one day saw a call for submissions to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress III. So I sent a story. Back it came. Sent another and another and another and another. Thanks to the vagaries of the postal service, four rejections arrived on the same day. But one of them had a note saying the last story wasn't bad, and might've been chosen if it had come in earlier, and the only slot left was 1500 words and should be humor. I dithered for 24 hours over whether that was an actual invitation...but finally write the story, got it down to 1497 words, and...it sold. (Didn't hear that for two months, but it sold.)
I did have a strategy from the first, including a chart on the closet door showing where each story had been sent, a prod to turn around the rejections and get them out to another editor.
Meanwhile, the best advice for marketing I've ever had came from Howard Waldrop at a workshop for SF/F run by Writers League of Texas. "Send your stories to editors whose selections you like most." I had done the exact opposite...and failed. First submission under Waldrop's Rules...was accepted at ANALOG.
Until the books sold, I was able to sell short fiction to both ANALOG and F&SF, never to ASIMOV's or AMAZING--that's the difference between editorial tastes. Can't be helped, but there's always an editor somewhere for whom your work will be at least a "Maybe" and maybe a "Yes." Once more people had read my work, I began to get invitations to anthologies. So my best suggestion would be to read whatever periodicals are open to submissions, get a feel for which ones you like best, and send your work there. Then keep an eye out anywhere anthology openings are mentioned (and hang out at appropriate conventions, as well--sometimes someone will announce a new anthology at a convention first.) Notice which publishers put out which kinds of anthologies, and see where your work might fit. Networking really does help.