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Okay, you’ve worked hard and you have your first short story ready to send out into the world. And, of course, you are keen to see it published in a magazine or anthology – and importantly, because you have ambitions to be a full-time writer, you want to get paid for it too.
So where do you send it? Well, if it is a brand new story, that is, it has never been ‘sold’ before. You need to offer ‘first rights’ to any publications you approach, because it's the first time you've sold it, right.
First rights are the most valuable rights, so don't give them away easily.
Whatever you do, and whatever your opinion of your story (it doesn’t matter whether you think it’s great or not so great), always offer first rights for your story to the top paying market within the genre you have picked. A market might be an anthology, or a print magazine or even an online magazine. This is common sense, because if you start at the top of the market, you can work your way down the market should your story be rejected initially. On the other hand, if you were to start at the bottom of the market and your story was quickly accepted, you'll always wonder if you could have sold those valuable first rights to the top of market and made more money and gained more prestige.
Don't put yourself through that trauma. Start at the top.
Suffering From Imposter Syndrome?
Okay, but you might be thinking, my story isn't good enough, however, once your story is out into the world, it will be judged, not by you, but by the editor of the publication you submit it to. Your opinion is biased, after all, you wrote it. Let the editors of the magazines and the publications be the judge of your work. If the story is good enough and if it fits in with what they want, they will make you an offer. That is their job.
Your job is to write and send your story out into the world.
So what if you submit your story to the top paying magazines and it's rejected? No problem. You've not lost face, and that magazine or publication will still look at any other stories you send in.
The bottom line is all magazines reject more stories than they accept. A rejection doesn't necessarily mean that your story is no good. There are hundreds of different reasons why a story might be rejected. So if your story is rejected by a publication, don't beat yourself up about it, just send it out to the next highest paying publication on your list.
Rejection is part of a writer's lot. You'll get used to it. And the quicker you do the quicker you'll start selling your stories.
So What Is a Top Paying Market?
The top paying markets will pay professional rates, and they will have a good reputation.
Maybe they've been on the go for years, and getting your story published in these types of magazines will impress other editors who aspire to be just like them.
So what do they pay?
Now, this varies from market to market and genre to genre, but here is a rough guide to what you might be paid for first rights:
- For the top Pro markets, you might get paid greater or equal to 5 cents a word.
- For Semi-Pro markets, you might get between one and five cents per word or at least $25 per story.
- Token markets would pay below 1 cent per word or $25 per story.
So How Do You Find These ‘Story Hungry’ Markets?
Generally, there are two types of markets that buy ‘first rights’. These are magazines either in print or electronic format or both, or anthologies, again, either in print or electronic format or both.
Tools to Find Markets for Your Short Stories
There are several online tools that you can use to find markets for your short stories. Ralan.com is a well-established website founded by the writer Ralan Connelly. Here, you can find a variety of markets for your short fiction, including horror fantasy, science, fiction, mystery etc.
At the moment this is a free resource and also offers some great advice to writers whatever their preferred genre. The list of markets on the site is organized by Pro Semi-Pro pay rates and for magazines and anthologies.
Aside from Ralan.com, there are other tools to find markets for your stories.
Another currently free market list is the ‘submission grinder’ or simply ‘the grinder’ and you will find it here: https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/.
This has a useful search feature and a generally simpler layout than the aforementioned Ralan.
Another tool you might want to try is Duotrope at www.duotrope.com. This is a paid service and at the time of the publication of this article is about $5 a month, but you can try for free initially. One of the useful features of this tool is that you can track your submissions through the website.
They also allow you to search for markets based on different criteria, such as genre and pay rates etc. It's in a similar vein to the grinder. We recently discussed.
If literary or mainstream fiction is your thing. You may be better at finding markets through the Poets and Writers website at www.pw.org.
Once you have found the markets for magazines or anthologies that you wish to submit your story to, make a master list of ten markets you are going to send your story to, remember, go for the best paying professional markets first and then start submitting your story to one market at a time, as it will be easier for you to keep track of your submissions, and also most markets do not allow multiple submissions (that is when you submit one piece of work to several different magazines or anthologies at the same time).
As you start submitting your different stories to different markets. It will soon become confusing, and you want to make sure that you don't resubmit an error a story that's already been rejected by a market. So you need a system to log all your submissions and at what stage they are at. There are several ways of doing this including the submission tracker is built into the Grinder and Duotrope websites, or you can do it yourself with a simple spreadsheet.
See the example above of how you might use a spreadsheet to track short story submissions. You could use something similar. But it is key that you track your submissions from the start.
So if you have that short story sitting on your desk, it's time to blow off the dust and send it out into the world.
Are You a Short Story Writer?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Jerry Cornelius