For all of us writers, publishing at least SOMETHING can be the difference in our lives that keep us writing. It’s what makes you feel like a writer, and feel justified when you tell others you are a writer. Today I would like to discuss the process of submitting short stories and poetry for publication.
I am not going to go into the craft of short fiction or poetry, as there are so many great books and blogs out there on this subject, but simply discuss the advice I have received and lessons learned regarding publishing.
One of my early workshop teachers told me a great idea – submit your stories in tiers. For example, tier one would be the big-dogs, the literary magazines that we don’t likely have a great chance of being published in, but what they heck. Why not try?
Tier 1 examples: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Tin House, Ganta, Ploughshares, The Paris Review. etc.
Tier two publications would still be pretty tough to get into, but maybe less impossible. What I mean here, is I’ve known people to get into them, but no one I know has ever been published in a Tier one publication, that I know of. Tier three, even more so.
Tier 2 Examples:The Gettysburg Review, Zuotrope, Kenyan Reivwe, Missiouri Review, Iowa Review, etc.
Tier 3 Examples: Indiana Review, Mississippi Review, Virginia Quarterly, The Colorado Review, etc.
However, I want to get into the reality of publishing now. Until you are awesome (I’m still working on that), getting into any of these publications will be tough. If you have done so, that is terrific. Congrats! But what do we do when we really just want to be published, and the big named publications aren’t giving us the time of day?
Duotrope and Poets & Writers
Two great places to look for publications, and to narrow your search by genre, word count, and other categories, are Duotrope (which now costs money, unfortunately) and Poets & Writers (which is still free, I believe). This is great for those writers out there writing fantasy or scifi, or other niche categories, such as military, nature, etc. Even if you are writing literary fiction, you can find a great deal of publications through these resources.
As I mentioned above, you may be targeting a niche. That is how my first story was published. I was a Marine for five years and wrote a short story that was inspired by that time and had a military angle going for it, so when I heard of the veteran focused publication “O-Dark-Thirty,” I was sold. You can find it at here, and more information on it and The Veterans Writing Project. I also published my first poem in a niche collection, this time focused on nature. If you have a niche you can target, go for it. I promise, it isn’t cheating.
Another great source is writers conferences, where you get to actually meet the editors of these publications. It’s great to chat with these folks and see what they’re looking for, and when you submit you may get some feedback, which always helps! Just to warn you thought, some of these conferences can be very overwhelming. Don’t be ashamed of brining a good book and hiding out in Starbucks for a break from the crowds.
Writer’s Market Guides
The Writer’s Digest offers a great resource for getting published, the Writer’s Market. In addition to listing sources of publication, this tomb offers advice for getting published, samples of query letters and all sorts of other helpful advice. The Writer’s Digest also offers advice for screenwriting, novels, etc., and I highly recommend it.
Finally, I would like to discuss Craigslist and other such avenues. Maybe you have a story that you love and for some reason it isn’t getting published, but you’re sure it is complete and you love it. You could always pop on Craigslist and find an up-and-coming publication that may love your story. Are they a big deal? Probably not, but who cares. They may become something someday, it may just be that your story helps them shine, or it may just go on their website and no one reads it except the people who follow the link from your tweet. I say go for it, but only if you’ve tried the other avenues first. A lot of these publications are started by college kids, maybe MFAs, and they mean to go somewhere someday. If your story touches them, you may have just made a connection, and who knows where that can go.
So in conclusion, my advice is to work through the tiers, search the sites and network at writers conferences, and if you just want it out there, give Craigslist or something like it a try. Whatever it takes to get you to keep writing and feel happy with yourself as a writer.
Let me know when you have some success, and I hope this helps.