Being a writer: Step 1- Write. Step 2- ???
November 12, 2010 3:59 PM   Subscribe

What steps do I take to get some fiction that I wrote published in a magazine? What magazines should I submit to, and how? etc etc within

I have found myself producing quite a bit of fiction. I have no idea how to get it into a magazine, but I think some of it might be good enough. So:

1- What magazines accept fiction subscriptions? I know of a few, but I'm sure you know of more. Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, none of the above, high-brow, low-brow, whatever you've got, I'd like to know about it. For the sake of this question, let's assume I know of zero such publications at this time.

2- How are these types of things submitted? Paper through to mail, or emailed pdfs or other? Cover letter, or no? Pre-submission introduction letter? Other?

3- Is there any harm in submitting? If I submit something to a certain publication, and they think it stinks, will that tarnish future submissions, or will each be evaluated more independently?

4- If I submit the same story to a few places and more than one of them accepts it (dream on!) then what?

5- Is there anything that a submitting writer ought to know about that someone who reads fiction in magazines probably wouldn't?
posted by Work Related MeFi to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Get a subscription to Writer's Market. Online is the most up to date. This will be where you can do the research to answer all of your questions. I'd also suggest finding an active writers' forum. This comes off as a kind of "Do my homework for me" question. I'm not saying this to be snarky, but Googling some of your questions is going to be your friend.

You're asking a lot of questions, and I get that you're just starting out on this, but take the time to do the research and it will serve you much better in the long run in your endeavors than a bunch of internet people giving you snippets.

If you aim to become a published writer, you need to know this, and how to research effectively too.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:08 PM on November 12, 2010

I suggest looking around Duotrope's Digest, a site where you can browse publishers of fiction or search for ones that meet your criteria for a particular story.

Each publication will have its own set submission guidelines, which include things like whether you should submit by mail or electronically, and whether they allow simultaneous submissions or require exclusivity while they consider your piece. If you submit to several publications that allow that, and one of them accepts your work, you would then notify the other publications that you are publishing elsewhere.

There is no harm in submitting. The only potential harm would be in submitting unprofessionally (e.g. pestering them repeatedly about why they have not replied yet, sending submissions in a genre they explicitly do not publish, etc.). As long as you follow their guidelines and are polite in your communications, you will not damage the chances of your future submissions - in fact, some editors may let you know that while they aren't accepting a particular piece, they are interested in seeing more of you work and encourage you to submit again. Good luck!
posted by unsub at 4:09 PM on November 12, 2010 is a great help with all of this stuff, as are Writer's Market and Duotrope.

The rule for submitting fiction is the same rule as for every other professional endeavor--research guidelines first, then don't be a jerk when you submit.

Good luck.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:32 PM on November 12, 2010

1- In addition to Duotrope, I like Ralan's Webstravaganza for listings for sf, fantasy, and horror. For the print zines, it might help you to go to a local library and/or a bookstore to see what kind of stories publications print.

2- Each publication usually has its own submission guidelines. If they take email submissions, they'll say so. You might be asked for an RTF attachment, tor to paste your submission in the body of your email (IBOE). Or you might be sent to a place on the website to upload your file.

Some magazines still prefer mailed submissions. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) unless you aren't required to do so.

I wouldn't do a cover letter unless the guidelines say to do it. Don't give your plot away unless the guidelines require it. (When I read slush it really annoyed me to get cover letters that spoiled the story).

3- Submitting won't hurt you. Just be aware that the submission process is quite an endurance marathon for some writers. It may take years for your work to find its place.

4- Take your favorite offer.

5- Don't send out one story to multiple magazines unless the publications explicitly accept such submissions. It can make editors irritable to find the story they want to buy just sold to a rival.

Also, it may surprise readers to know that a lot of writers don't make buckets of money at selling stories! You'd be fantastically lucky to get 10 cents a word in a lot of places.

If you haven't heard back from a place within the time range specified by the guidelines, send a friendly query within a few weeks of the past due date. Don't wait around 9 months, because it may turn out that your submission never hit the slush pile.

Good luck!
posted by dragonplayer at 4:50 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Follow up to #5--I meant don't send out simultaneous subs unless the editors involved OK it.

If a story gets rejected, you should send it back out to the next publication on your list. Then the next one, if need be.
posted by dragonplayer at 4:54 PM on November 12, 2010

I wouldn't do a cover letter unless the guidelines say to do it. Don't give your plot away unless the guidelines require it. (When I read slush it really annoyed me to get cover letters that spoiled the story).

What? Always send a cover letter. Just dumping a letter in either an envelope or an email (or online form) is really pretty rude. However, don't send a cover letter that makes you sound crazy or goes into too much detail. Something really brief should be sufficiently professional. Like this:
Dear Mr./Ms. Editor's last name [Get that from the masthead]:

I'm writing to submit my x-word short story, "Story name," to your magazine. It's attached [or pasted, or whatever] according to your submission guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Author Name
Once you get some credits under your belt, you can add a paragraph like this:
I have fiction in Fancy Fiction Review and forthcoming in The Genre Fic Times.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:23 PM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

For the sake of this question, let's assume I know of zero such publications at this time.

Also, start reading them. There are a ton of good genre magazines--Strange Horizons, Fantasy, Ideomancer, Shimmer, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, are just a few--available for free online. You'll be a better submitter and a better writer for having done so.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:27 PM on November 12, 2010

Seconding PhoBWanKenobi--the best way to write short stories that get accepted by magazines is to read magazines that publish short stories. It's a conversation.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:54 PM on November 12, 2010

In other words, step one is "Read." Step two is "Write."
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:55 PM on November 12, 2010

Step one is "Read." Step two is "Write."

I can't second this strongly enough. The answer to "Is there anything that a submitting writer ought to know about that someone who reads fiction in magazines probably wouldn't?" is... you should fix that.

Most of your questions can be answered by the websites or introduction pages of magazines--and I can promise you, they all vary! A number of magazines have JUST moved to online submission recently (amazingly late, in my opinion) and one thing you may want to do is go ahead and open an account with Submishmash, as a number of small literary journals are using that system. And no, there is no harm in submitting.

In answer to #3: the people who get published are the people who 1. follow the guidelines and 2. submit regularly and with good intentions. But just like with a job application, if you do NOT follow ALL the guidelines, you will mostly likely be immediately bounced. That being said: active submitters get published. Squeaky wheels, grease, etc.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:35 AM on November 13, 2010

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