Writing stories can be a hard undertaking but getting them published is, sometimes, even more toilsome.
You write your short story, have it proofread, edit it. Job done, right?
No. You’re halfway there. You need to get it published.
But where? And… How?
There are many routes that you can take to get your short stories read by people.
You can choose the hard way, the traditional way―paved with agents and publishing houses. It’s so hard that in the end, you realize that you don’t choose it, it chooses you.
Or, you can submit your short stories to literary magazines or go the indie way and get on amazon kindle and the likes. Perhaps, you can publish your stories for free on sites like Wattpad or your blog.
With most of these ways, success won’t be guaranteed but that’s just part of the game. You just have to make sure that you do your part and research what form of publishing works for you.
Ways to Publish a Short Story
Let’s take a look at some of the routes you can take to get your short stories published.
1. Traditional Publishing
Fancy doing it the old-fashioned way? Success in this category requires sweat and blood—it’s the most difficult route to getting published. You can go directly to publishers or to literary agencies who help you get your work to publishing houses. But as I said, this is the most difficult route because many publishing houses aren’t looking for short works like poems and short stories, an anthology perhaps.
I had to follow the hardest route with the simplest one. Using this way, you can publish short stories on blogs (yours or other people’s blogs). You can also utilize sites like Amazon, Kobo, etc., to publish your short stories in digital and print forms. When you self-publish, you enjoy the liberty of writing whatever you want, on your own schedule and your publishing dates.
You can package your short stories as a book and sell them on book publishing sites or collaborate with other authors to produce anthologies.
3. Online Submission
There are plenty of online mags, writing competitions, and other digital publications to which you can submit your stories.
Online publications offer you routes to getting your short story published. Some publishers introduce online short story contests which result in your story getting published together with other winning stories in their anthologies. Do thorough research because they’re a lot of scammers out there requesting entry fees before disappearing with your stories.
4. Audio Story Podcasts
You can get in touch with popular podcasts which read or perform your work to a large listenership. Writers have found success after their works were read on popular podcasts. There are a couple of storytelling podcasts that are actively receiving submissions and it’d do you no harm if you tried submitting to them.
Things You Should Do to Get Your Story Published
Getting a short story published can be difficult, especially for newbie writers who are just starting on their journey to authorship.
But if you do the things below (and perhaps more), you will be safe.
1. Know Your Market
Planning ahead is always a clever thing, and in this case, you have to research your readership and your targeted publishing routes (even before you write your stories).
You ought to research established and emerging trends on sites like Kindle―the trending genre, preferred word counts, etc. You should also research the dominant trends in the traditional publication field.
2. Follow Guidelines
One of the advantages of researching your target publications is you get to know their guidelines. If you have not researched the publishers, make sure you do and adhere to their guidelines when submitting your short stories.
The publishers set required word counts. For example, if a publisher or a short story contest organizer says the maximum word count is 3,000, then they’re going to reject your short story if it has 3,001.
3. Properly Format Your Work
Your formatting should also follow professional standards. There’s no need for you to use some pretty or attractive format. Nothing says ‘professional’ more than a story formatted using a standard short story manuscript format.
Most of the publications make templates that guide you through your formatting process. Amazon, for example, provides downloadable manuscript templates to help you format print versions of your work.
4. Write a Cover letter
A cover letter for a short story submission needn’t be as complicated as other cover letters. You need to write a simple and concise letter that covers the following or more:
- The title
- word count
- Credentials (if required), i.e., published works, awards, etc.
- Number of submissions (if more than one submissions are allowed).
Use the tone advised in the guidelines. And the things covered may vary depending on the given guidelines.
Rejections: Get Used to Them
For a newbie writer, rejections may seem like something that’d bring down their world. For experienced writers though, rejection comes with the trade. Experienced writers grow thick-skinned and expect rejections or the silence that publishing houses usually respond with.
As a newbie writer, you tend to be selfish and think that the publisher gets no other submissions but yours. In reality, these publishers have big mounds of manuscripts to look at. Those people working there are humans too, they also get tired.
However, you have to know that some of the biggest authors we know today had to deal with countless rejections before getting their work published. Rejections are part of the game.
Acceptance Is an Earned Victory
Having covered the issue of rejections, I’m sure that you now know that to get rejected isn’t the end.
Getting your short story accepted isn’t a matter of luck either. A short story might be way smaller than a novel or a novella but you still have to put in your all.
You don’t just write a good short story; you need to bleed, edit, then format it with the highest delicacy.
When your short story gets accepted, you shouldn’t deem that a small feat. Your story probably beat thousands of other submissions.
Going the Indie-Way? Here Are Some Tips
1. Connect with Other Self-Published Authors
Going it alone gives you the “hands-on” experience, but established indie writers already know the hurdles and tricks in the self-publishing market.
You don’t need to experience all the difficulties first hand. With the insight from experienced indie writers, publishing your short story becomes an easy undertaking.
2. Format Professionally
When you self-publish, there might be no editor to reject your work because you didn’t format it properly. However, among your readership, there are a lot of learned people, and bad formatting might prove to be the difference between more sales and your book lying in the doldrums.
Make sure your works are professionally edited by you or a hired editor. You never know who’s looking at your work.
3. Market Like Hell
One of the mistakes you can make as an indie writer is believing that all you need to do is put in literary works and they’ll generate sales, organically.
If you want your stories to sell or be widely read for free, you have to advertise them tirelessly. There are hundreds of books being published on a single site, every day. Things like SEO and social media campaigns play a big part in book marketing. If your goal is to reap a financial reward, then you have to invest some resources (money, time, or both).
4. It’s a Game of Numbers and SEO
Publishing one story or collection is rarely enough. The more published works you have, the better the chance of your work being read or selling. Knowing search engine optimization tricks is also vital; if you can get your book to rank on search engines, then you’re setting it up for organic reads and sales.
Does Writing Short Stories Pay?
We have different reasons for writing. Some―very few―write for the love of it. Others write because they want to be famous authors. A majority of writers want to earn money from their writing.
I get asked the same question over and over again.
“Can I make money selling short stories?”
I definitely can’t say ‘No.’ However, if I say ‘Yes’ without accompanying that with some ‘Buts,’ then I’d be giving a partially wrong answer.
Yes, writing short stories pays, but it’s a lot of work and the rewards are not constant. What I’m saying is, you can’t leave your full-time job and hope that short stories will pay your bills.
In rare cases, there are writers hired as full-time contributors and writers for online or print media houses. In this case, we could say that writing short stories could pay your bills; otherwise, take it as a source of extra income.
Where to Submit Short Stories: Sites that Are Looking for Short Stories
1. The New Yorker
You have a better chance of swimming across the Atlantic than getting your work accepted by The New Yorker.
But it isn’t easy. The publication accepts standard short fiction and humorous short fiction. They aren’t any specifications regarding word counts but I advise you to read some of the pieces and come up with a range.
2. One Story
Such a self-explanatory name: One Story is an online mag that puts out only one good short story every three to four weeks.
One story is looking for a captivating short story “that leaves readers feeling satisfied and [is] strong enough to stand alone.”
Their minimum word count is 3,000 and their upper limit is 8,000. Submit your story and stand a chance of winning a cool $500 and 25 contributor copies.
Barrelhouse produces both a print journal and an online issue. The organizers are looking for short stories that blend serious art and pop culture.
They want contemporary stories infused with humor and originality. They also don’t specify word counts but scan their published works to calculate an average word count.
4. Boulevard Magazine
This is a good starting point for amateur writers. The Boulevard Magazine seeks to publish less experienced or unpublished writers who show prodigious promise.
The specified word count is 8,000 words but they don’t allow genres like horror, erotica, science fiction, romance, and westerns. They do charge a submission fee of $3 and they pay $100-$300 when your story is accepted.
5. Flash Fiction Online
Flash Fiction seeks flash stories that are a bit longer. The organizers are into sci-fi and fantasy; however, they are looking for all genres, excluding nonfiction and poetry. They’re also not going to entertain erotica and violence.
The pieces should be between 500 and 1,000 words and you can also submit previously published work, in the reprint category.
The easy way to get your short story published is to self-publish. If you want to monopolize your book sales, you can share and sell them to readers via your website or blog. But if your site is not famous or optimized, you risk condemning your short stories to obscurity.
You could also use established sites to ease the workload of hosting your digital and printing hard copies, but you must be ready to compete with other writers and share your proceeds with the site owners.
And… there’s always that much sought-after route: traditional publishing, which is rewarding but difficult.
Whatever route you choose, just make sure that you do thorough research beforehand.