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4 Ways to Publish a Short Story
There are many different kinds of styles and formats available for short story writers. The digital age has brought about multiple literary outlets for unpublished writers to get published stories and even find literary agents.
If you’re a fiction writer looking to try a different publishing route, or an emerging writer ready to release your first story into the world, take note of the following possible options:
- Online submission. Digital publications and contests are ways any writer can submit their fiction in hopes of getting it published. Notable publications, like The New Yorker or The Paris Review, will publish writers, but research other outlets that might be interested in your short story. Some publications are genre-specific, and your work may be completely wrong for one place, but a perfect fit for another.
- Audio fiction podcast. Some podcasts will read or professionally perform a writer’s work to their listeners. Humorist David Sedaris was launched into the national literary conversation when his essay, “Santaland Diaries,” was read on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition followed later by a longer broadcast on This American Life. Find which narrative storytelling podcasts offer this, and try submitting to them.
- Traditional publishing route. You can always try submitting your short story the old fashioned away—to a literary agency—and hope you get selected for representation. An agent can help you circulate your writing and get your short stories published. However, this is one of the most difficult routes, as there aren’t many publishers looking for short stories, so it has a lower chance of success than the other options available.
- Self-publishing route. Publishing on blogs or eBooks through online sites (like Amazon) is how a writer can attempt to publish their own works while also remaining free and independent of an agency or publisher’s control. A self-published writer has the freedom to write what they please, working on their own schedule, and only sharing it when they’re ready.
4 Tips for Submitting Short Stories to Literary Magazines
While each publication is different, there are some general guidelines to follow when submitting short stories to a literary journal:
- Target the right literary journal for your short story. Get familiar with fiction magazines by reading up on the kinds of short stories (or collection of short stories) they publish and ensure your writing is right for them. Sending a story of yours that is completely outside the genre accepted is a waste of your time, so do your research and figure out where your writing has the best chance of landing.
- Follow the submission guidelines. Once you’ve written a great fiction story, research the rules that each literary magazine has for creative writing submissions and see what it takes to get a short story published. Some may not accept simultaneous submissions, meaning they will only accept one story at a time. Other sites may require a processing or submission fee, or have a hard deadline. It is important to read up on the guidelines and familiarize yourself with the deadlines to avoid immediate rejection of your literary fiction based purely on logistics rather than skill.
- Write a cover letter. Like other poets and writers, if you want your unsolicited submission to stand out in the slush pile and have a better chance to publish a short story, a well-written cover letter can attract the attention of the right reader (if you’re submitting a short story collection, then you should provide a query letter instead). Find the specific editor you’re sending your manuscript to and address them by name. Keep it short and professional, include a word count, and omit any irrelevant personal information—sell your short fiction in as few words as possible.
- Format properly. Use a standard font like Times New Roman in a regular reading size, and make sure you’ve proofread more than once. Get an outside reader to put a fresh pair of eyes on it and do a quick scan for any possible errors. Polish your writing as much as you can before submitting it to present it in its most final version. Properly formatted work comes across as neat and professional, which is the kind of thing agents and publishers alike want to see.
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