When you complete a short story or novel, what is the next step? After taking a couple deep breaths and congratulating yourself, it is time to market—the business side of creation. Many writers agree marketing is their least favorite task. You do want others to eventually read your tale, right? If the answer is yes, then what follows is a necessary process.
Perhaps you have an idea where you want to send your writing, whether magazine or agent. Magazines and agents each have their own certain style, slants to use the in-house nomenclature, yet I often finish a story before searching the marketplace for the right fit. That being said, it is the wise writer who reads within the projected field, thereby having a good idea of the types of stories different venues publish. I have many markets bookmarked in my browser that I semi-regularly check to see what is currently being accepted; markets fold regularly or take a hiatus.
What I consider the greatest asset of the internet is the ability to search a broad spectrum of topics, and this is especially true for writers. I will use a story I am now preparing to market (following a final polish) titled “The Eyes of Destiny.” A standard sword-and sorcery-tale populated by thieves, Emperors, witches, and the Eyes, I will start my search by typing in “Fantasy Magazines.” The list is endless; sadly, this is where a chunk of time is required to sort through the false leads, bad links, and abandoned websites that at one time published fantasy stories.
Within an hour, I have a dozen possible homes for my story. At this point, these are vague markets, generalized to accept the genre I write, though I have already discounted several because they deal with Urban Fantasy, or Horror, or specialize in Fairies or Orcs.
All online magazines have a “Submission” section. Read the requirements carefully several times. Look for the following:
Word Length: if they say “up to 5,000 words,” don’t send a 6,000 word story. Instead, cut 1,000 words and see if you are happy with the outcome, or move to the next choice.
Further explanation of exactly what the magazine is looking for. Read several offerings published by the particular magazine—this should always be the case, whether online or physical magazine, with an eye cocked to “the slant” and the type of stories they publish.
Payment: recompense for your craft varies across a wide field, beginning with copies to anywhere from $5 to ¼ cent per word all the way to several hundred dollars. As you might expect, the higher payments are, for the most part, going to professional working writers who have a following. I’m trying to break into the marketplace, a newbie within the genre, so my sights are realistic, which may mean I will only make a few dollars on a published story. The hope is to have my writing read, to get the by-line, and in time gain a following, no matter how meager.
Rights: are they taking one-time rights, first rights, rights for a period of time or to include an anthology if they choose. A word of caution: Never give up all rights. If that is the case, withdraw your piece (if you did not catch that fact early on) or do not offer your writing. You never know where your creation can take you if left in your caring hands.
Response time: within the magazine short story market, send to only one at a time. For a novel, agents expect you to send out the pitch and synopsis to several agents simultaneously. Again, follow the directions, and if you do not hear back in the allotted time, send a polite follow-up as to the status.
Make sure you choose the correct editor and address the submission by name.
Books like Writer’s Market and others are invaluable—do not ignore their importance—and follow the same procedure as when searching the internet.
Follow all formatting rules. Some will be (or seem) quite complicated. If I don’t get it—I am not a programmer—the market is removed from my list. Copy-and-paste into body of email is okay with me, but I do not have time or inclination to add coding ( < i >, which indicates italics in some cases) to make the writing “readable.”
As I have mentioned in previous posts, writers need courage to send their creation into the world, and by doing so, success is gained even if the story is rejected. So when you complete a work, research the markets, make a list of a half dozen appropriate choices, and send your child to the first on the list. This is the beginning of the Submission Circle.
You will never publish if you do not give yourself a chance. Take heart, have hope, be brave and I will …
See you on the next page,