Publishing Your Short Stories
There are two important things you can do to improve your chances of getting your stories published. First, make sure to find a magazine that publishes the kinds of stories you write. Second, send in a good submission packet, including a cover letter.
Finding the Right Magazine for your Story
Different magazines like to publish different kinds of stories. You can get familiar with the magazine market by:
Browsing your local library’s collection, or check out the Periodicals Department at the Central Library.
Browsing literary magazines at bookstores.
Reviewing listings in the Writer’s Market or Literary Market Place.
Checking the publishers' Web sites. Some magazines explain the kinds of stories they like.
Searching the databases of Literary Magazines and Small Presses compiled by Poets & Writers, Inc.
Creating Your Submission Packet with Cover Letter
Always, always, always follow the submission guidelines. If you don’t follow them, you’re almost sure to get rejected.
Remember to include a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE). Magazines usually won't respond, and may not even read your story, if you don't include one.
Publisher guidelines can be found in the Writer’s Market, Literary Market Place, and magazine Web sites. Guidelines tell you:
- Types of stories/genres a magazine publishes.
- Contact Information.
- Names of the editors (so you can address them directly).
- Story length requirements.
- How to submit your packet (e-mail or standard mail).
- Times of year that they read submissions
(some magazines only read a few months a year).
- Typical response time to your submission.
Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter introduces you to the editor and gets him or her interested in reading your story. The letter should be brief and to the point, always just one page, and usually just a few paragraphs. Editors don't want to read a long letter. Here are some tips for what to include. Remember to always follow submission guidelines.
- Let them know how your story fits with their magazine.
- Include the title and word count of your story.
- Address the cover letter to a specific person. You can find editors' names in the Writer's Market or on the publisher’s homepage.
- Do NOT summarize your whole story; give a brief one-sentence description.
- Always keep a copy of your story for yourself.
- Say if you have any advanced degrees and if you have won any awards, grants, or prizes.
- Let them know if you're a new writer. Editors love to discover new talent.
- Include a brief biography of yourself and any background that relates to the story.
- Let them know about any publication credits you have.
- Mention all enclosed materials (such as the SASE).
Sending the same story to different magazines at the same time is becoming more acceptable, but always check the guidelines first.
Always let the magazines know that you are submitting to others.
You MUST notify all parties immediately if you are accepted in another magazine.
Organization and Follow-up
Keep good records of what you sent, where, and when. This helps with follow-ups and communicating about simultaneous submissions.
After 6 months, if you haven't received a response, you can write asking if you’re still under consideration (include another SASE).
Be aware that long waits are not uncommon for literary magazines (small staff, little money). Also, it can be as long as a year before the actual magazine comes out.
For more information, check out these books from our library:
The Author's Handbook by Franklynn Peterson and Judi Kesselman-Turkel.
Guide to Literary Agents by Writer's Digest Books.
Literary Market Place by Information Today, Inc.
Novel & Short Story Writer's Market by Writer's Digest Books.
The Practical Writer edited by Therese Eiben and Mary Gannon.
The Writer Within You by Charles Jacobs.
The Writer's Digest Writing Clinic by Kelly Nickel.
Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman.
The Writer's Market by Writer's Digest Books.