Skip

I need some advice about publishing my story.
December 2, 2009 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Hive authors: help me publish a sci-fi story!

I've written a science fiction short story (hard sci-fi). I've been told that it's pretty good, so I was thinking about trying to publish it in a periodical of some kind for the fun of it. It's a little over 5000 words. I've never done this before, and I don't read sci-fi magazines very often, so I'm looking for the following:

Suggestions on where to send in the story. How many places?

Warnings, things I should know beforehand or avoid. I'm clueless about copyright, etc.

Estimates of whether or not I can get any money from this. It'd be fine if I didn't, but I'd like to know going in.

Any other advice.

Thanks!
posted by Salvor Hardin to Writing & Language (26 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Strange Horizons is a good place to start. (though they are on a break til the new year).

They also have an excellent list of stories and plots that they DON'T want to see.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:13 PM on December 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've gotten a fair amount of stuff printed in various literary journals (non-sci-fi). The first thing to do when shopping a story around is to read the magazines or journals that you're submitting to beforehand to get a good feeling for the kind of writing they publish (I don't just mean genre, but style, length, even politics, etc.). Be okay with and prepared for lots of rejection, and even if a place accepts your story, they may want some edits-- make sure you'll be okay with that, too, or at least be prepared to know what sorts of changes you will or won't stand for.

Regarding copyright, exact policy varies from publisher to publisher, but for the most part, you'll be giving folks first-printing rights, meaning they can put your story in one issue, and then if you put it in a collection or another magazine or something later you have to mention that they printed it first... but it still counts as yours, and if they want to put it in a 'Best of 2009' special issue later, they'll need to get your permission. Copyright isn't much to worry about, IMO, at least if you're getting printed by not-jackasses.

Many magazine won't accept simultaneous submissions-- they don't want your story being considered by anyone but them at the same time, so make sure you check their submission guidelines (which can almost always be found on their website). Other places are okay with simultaneous submissions as long as you notify them, and let them know if someone else takes your story before they do. Which brings me to maybe the most important thing: Read and follow the submission guidelines. Editors and readers have to go through huge mountains of shitty stories, so anything that allows them to remove a submission from their slushpile will get it removed. Stick to wordcount restrictions, any formatting specifications, etc. Don't think that your special snowflake with be an exception.

Money: Plenty of magazines give you a one-time bit of cash, but not much. I don't know anything particularly about the sci-fi world, but I'm sure they exist. Many, many more won't give you anything, and that's fine, especially if you're just starting out. Getting your name and your work out there is worth a lot more than the $25 you might otherwise get, and you're starting at the bottom anyway.

I can't think of anything else incredibly pertinent right now, but I'll come back if I forgot something blaringly important. Good luck! Be positive! Don't let the fear or even reality of rejection stop you.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:19 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Expect things to happen very slowly f contacting the major SF magazines by post. Things can sit in slush piles for quite a while, and to make matters worse it’s kind of a faux pas to do multiple simultaneous submissions.

You probably want to try the paying markets first, but these days I listen to most of my short SF on podcasts like Escape Pod or StarShipSofa.

If you have a lot of podcast-listening time in your life I would recommend listening through the back catalogue of I Should Be Writing and the now defunct Sofanauts for more tips.

I wouldn't worry so much about people stealing your story - these days they get flooded with so many stories it wouldn't be worth it - but if you wnat to you ould do the poor mans copyright.
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on December 2, 2009


Suggestions on where to send in the story.

A hard-sf story? The best place would be Analog. They're generally the go-to venue for SF with rivets. Your next best bet is probably Asimov's.

How many places?

As many as you want... sequentially. Simultaneous submission is ungood. Wait until you hear back and then submit somewhere else if you get rejected.

Estimates of whether or not I can get any money from this.

If you are accepted for publication? Of course you'll get paid. It won't be a lot: SF stories only pay a couple cents a word. But if you aren't getting paid, you aren't really publishing. Might as well stick it on your website or something.

Warnings, things I should know beforehand or avoid.

Avoid simultaneous submission and read and follow the submission guidelines and you'll be fine. Any deviation from the guidelines probably results in your story being rejected unread.
posted by Justinian at 2:20 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Go to duotrope.com and run a search for science fiction markets currently accepting sci-fi of that length. Some markets don't let you simultaneously submit (send to more than one place at once); this will be specified on any market's "submissions" page along with any other submissions details. E-mail or mail your submission, along with a brief cover letter, to the market's fiction editors; their name can be usually found on the masthead.

Oh, and do take a look at the magazines--IE, read them? It's a really, really good idea to know your market and your audience. You'll only learn that through reading them.

Don't expect to get paid much. In fact, I'd expect to get paid nothing and be pleasantly surprised if you do. Payment rates will be on duotrope and a magazine's webpage.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:24 PM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Money: Plenty of magazines give you a one-time bit of cash, but not much. I don't know anything particularly about the sci-fi world, but I'm sure they exist. Many, many more won't give you anything, and that's fine, especially if you're just starting out. Getting your name and your work out there is worth a lot more than the $25 you might otherwise get, and you're starting at the bottom anyway.

Uh, maybe things are different in the literary world but that's not really how it works in SF. Hell, a venue paying $25 doesn't even make it on to SFWAs qualifying venues list as the minimum is, I believe, $50.

OP: SFWA has a pretty comprehensive list of markets you could check out and submit to.

SFWAs list of professional short fiction markets for SF.
posted by Justinian at 2:25 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you are accepted for publication? Of course you'll get paid. It won't be a lot: SF stories only pay a couple cents a word. But if you aren't getting paid, you aren't really publishing. Might as well stick it on your website or something.

There are unpaid SF publications, and I wouldn't say that being included in them "isn't really publishing." Sending stuff out to these markets helps writers build publication credits and reach a wider audience.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:25 PM on December 2, 2009


Great - thanks so much for the answers so far - just what I was looking for!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:26 PM on December 2, 2009


Interzone might be another place to look.
posted by Artw at 2:26 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Above all do not pay someone to publish you - that is really not how it should work.
posted by Artw at 2:28 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


PhoBWanKenobi: I should have been more specific. Unpaid publications don't count as professional publications. Whether or not you consider non-professional publication as the same as professional publication is, of course, an exercise for the reader.
posted by Justinian at 2:28 PM on December 2, 2009


Justinian, SFWA's list is pretty short, especially for work of that length. There are plenty of decent spec-fic mags that, because of payment issues, don't make the list--if OP can't hit any of those markets, most of which are very competitive, top-tier type places, I'd definitely encourage him to look into markets that aren't paying or pay less.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:28 PM on December 2, 2009


Note that Asimov's and Analog pay 6-8 cents per word. That's higher than I thought and is pretty decent. A 5000 word story would net you in the neighborhood of $350.
posted by Justinian at 2:31 PM on December 2, 2009


PhoBWanKenobi: If the OP just wants to see his name in a byline then I agree. But if he's asking for advice on AskMe I assumed he was shooting for some kind of professional publication. He doesn't need our advice to find places that will publish for nothing. But I think we've hashed this out: it just depends on if the OP is interested in professional publication or not. If he's not, a quick google would find him plenty of places to submit to.
posted by Justinian at 2:33 PM on December 2, 2009


Oh, and if you can edit the story down below 5,000 words, many more markets will be open to you; something to consider.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:34 PM on December 2, 2009


Justinian: Uh, maybe things are different in the literary world but that's not really how it works in SF. Hell, a venue paying $25 doesn't even make it on to SFWAs qualifying venues list as the minimum is, I believe, $50.

Like PhoBWanKenobi says, I'm not sure that the OP is specifically interested in SFWA membership. Limiting a writer's first publication possibilities to the 50 or so magazines listed on that site seems like a good way to discourage that writer and keep her from getting published 'for the fun of it,' as stated.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2009


Justinian, to be fair, he did say he was looking to publish them "for the fun of it," not necessarily for SFWA membership. And it's not like writers are born knowing the etiquette of even unpaid publications (or that he'd have guaranteed inclusion in them just because they're unpaid); he'd still need to be mindful of submissions guidelines and other submitting etiquette.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:38 PM on December 2, 2009


Futurismic specifically seeks realistic near-future hard SF (http://futurismic.com/guidelines/) and is looking for submissions right now: http://futurismic.com/2009/12/01/futurismic-fiction-hiatus/.

That said, be aware that your friends and family (who've told you it's "pretty good") are generally not the best judge of whether your work is publishable. Your post gives the impression that you believe that getting your story published "as a lark" is a mere matter of sending it off to various publications that you self-admittedly don't read and aren't familiar with. I'd encourage you to familiarize yourself with the content and tone of the publications you're targeting, honestly assess whether your piece is appropriate to the magazine or website you're targeting, and enter this process with realistic expectations.
posted by tigerbelly at 2:57 PM on December 2, 2009


I would be content to get my story published even without pay - it would be fun to see it in print, and motivating to work on other pieces I've been writing. But I would be even happier to get some money for it! It's just not my primary concern - I don't need to do it for the money.

I don't plan on making a career out of writing (though goodness knows I've spent enough time daydreaming about it), but if this works out, I'll probably try submitting other stories.

Anyhow, thanks a lot for all the in-depth advice! I have a lot to look over.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:01 PM on December 2, 2009


Your post gives the impression that you believe that getting your story published "as a lark" is a mere matter of sending it off to various publications that you self-admittedly don't read and aren't familiar with.

I wouldn't necessarily say it's on a lark, though I'm not doing this professionally, or with any particular sense of gravity. I never got into regularly reading sci-fi magazines (though I do read a friend's copies of Asimov occasionally). I LOVE reading sci-fi short story anthologies, but I'm under the impression that you have to be an pretty well-established author to get a story in an anthology.

And I totally hear you about the realistic expectations - I'm prepared to look into whatever publications I submit my story to, and am fully braced for rejection. But to be fair to my poor little story, a well-known sci-fi author who taught a short-story writing class at my university told me it was publishable.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:09 PM on December 2, 2009


I can't believe I'm the first person to recommend Ralan.com and Duotrope.com as great places to research markets for your work, but it appears I am.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:11 PM on December 2, 2009


But to be fair to my poor little story, a well-known sci-fi author who taught a short-story writing class at my university told me it was publishable.

This is the plot of Gentlemen Broncos, isn't it?

Seriously, go for it. The $$ is nominal at best for short stories, alas--people get paid pretty much the same today as they were in the 1930s in non-adjusted dollars. It must have been a lot more awesome to get $25 for a story when that was a month's rent, rather than a light evening's drinking.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:13 PM on December 2, 2009


Check your library for Writer's Market (2010 ed.) or Novel and Short Story Writer's Market (2010 ed.).
posted by bentley at 3:59 PM on December 2, 2009


SIdhedevil ftw with markets. I came here to recommend both, with a side of preditors and editors.

(Sorry if this link doesn't work -- I'm on an iBook, an unfamiliar machine to me, and it isn't showing me the usual widgets for link-making.)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:52 PM on December 2, 2009


but I'm under the impression that you have to be an pretty well-established author to get a story in an anthology.

Not necessarily. My early short story sales were mainly to theme anthologies. A lot of these do keep it under the radar and solicit stories from known authors, but a lot of them will open it up to anyone who cares to submit. Of course the downside is that you need to write a story specifically to the theme, and if it doesn't sell there, it's probably not going to sell anywhere else. (Editors at the major mags always know what theme anthos are open because they get a rash of pirate ghost stories, or stories about talking dinosaurs, or whatever.

Check Ralan.com for a pretty comprehensive list of markets, broken out by pro, semi-pro, and yes, anthologies.
posted by Naberius at 9:45 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Poor Man's Copyright is basically a lie. Your story is protected by copyright from the moment you write it, and if you actually want to pursue a copyright case in court, you'll need an actual registration with the Copyright Office; having sent it to yourself in a letter won't be of any use.
posted by sinfony at 10:48 PM on December 2, 2009


« Older What is the, ugh, I hate to ev...   |  PA-DSS Credit Card Certificati... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post