There are three types of journals available to you. The first is the traditional journals that only print hardcopies and have limited distribution. The second are the journals that print hardcopies, but also have an online journal of the printed copy. The third are the E-zines.
The proliferation of literary magazines popping up on the Internet has significantly changed the way stories reaches readers. Suddenly, stories are more accessible to the entire world, and E-zines are offering more selections to their readers. More markets like this means that the short story writer has many more options for their work and a better chance of getting their work published. It offers new and experienced writers a forum for their work, as well as a worldwide audience.
The days of sending your MS off through the post office are long gone. You can now send your work to a journal using Submittable, a free submission application. All you need to do is to set up an account. For Submittable you will be required to include a bio and cover letter within the online submission form. Other journals will accept your work as an attachment, while others may ask for your work in the body of the email. These may also ask you for a bio. Always keep a submission log with the date, publication, title of the work sent, rejected date and any comments.
There’s the saying about submitting your piece to 100 different markets before the piece gets published. The most I ever sent out a piece before it was published was thirteen. The least was once. Because of the large number of E-zines your chances should be better than 1 in 100.
The most common mistake writers make is interpreting criticism sent by editors as "never send to us again." What you want to hear back from an editor is please try us again. Rejection is to be expected. There were days I’d send a piece out in the morning and get the rejection that afternoon. Once I got three rejections in one day. It hurt, but I sent the stories out again. I knew a writer who sent her story out eleven times, then decided not to send it out any more. Not a good idea. There is a journal out there that will take your work—just don’t give up.
Here are some statistics and information that might help to keep things in perspective.
Cream City receives 300/month, accepts only 6 for each issue
Florida Review: 200/month, accepts 4-6 for each issue
Gettysburg Review: 350/month, accepts 4-6 for each issue
Georgia Review: 300/month, accepts 3-4 for each issue
Hayden's Ferry Review: 250/month, accepts 5 for each issue
Indiana Review: 5,000/year, accepts 50 for each issue
Iowa Review: 600/month, accepts 4-6 for each issue
Midwest Quarterly: 350/month, accepts 5 for each issue
Missouri Review: 400/month, accepts 5-6 for each issue
North Dakota Quarterly: 120/month, accepts 4 for each issue
Paris Review: 1,000/month, accepts 5 for each issue
Prairie Schooner: 500/month, accepts 4-5 for each issue
--C.S. Lewis and Ray Bradbury submitted more than 800 manuscripts before they made a sale.
--Nabakov was told by one editor that Lolita should be "buried under a large stone."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald was told, "You'd have a decent book if you'd get rid of that Gatsby character."
--Dr. Seuss's first children's book was rejected by 23 publishers. The 24th sold 6 million copies.
--In 1902, the poetry editor of Atlantic Monthly rejected poems by a 28 year old who took a road less traveled (Robert Frost) and persevered.
The first thing I always do is to look at the journal’s brief summary. If it looks like a place I’d want to send my work I go to the web site (always). The web sites will contain the most current information. In the web site look for the journal’s particular philosophy, information about the guidelines, archives and current work that has been published. It’s a good idea to take a look at past and present published stories. Most journals will accept simultaneous submissions, which means to you can submit your piece to as many other journals as you like as long as you contact them when you piece gets accepted.
I check the Duotrope markets on a regular basis looking for the journals that are less than six months old. I have had some success sending my work to these publications because they are new their editorial tastes have not always been firmly established.
If a journal specifies a return time contact the journal about two weeks after the specified time. If you don’t hear back from a journal after four to six months considered your piece hasn’t been accepted and move on. I’ve had a about an eighty percent response rate.
Entering and winning story competitions is a good way to get noticed. There will always be an entry fee, which some writers object to. I’ll leave that decision to you. Since decisions on the submitted stories are subjective it’s always a good idea do your research on the journal itself and the history of the particular competition. Individual stories differ so much from one another that it is impossible to adopt a fixed set of criteria.
A cover letter should be short, simple, and to the point. Generally, it should state your business and briefly introduce who you are as a writer. Always read the journal's writers' guidelines to see if they have any specific requirements for the cover letter and if one is needed.
As with any letter, address it to a specific person if possible. Use the name of the editor appropriate for your work. You can find this information on the masthead of the journal. Always check the journal’s web site to see who will be in charge when your submission arrives. If you can't find the appropriate name or if you're not sure, you can address the letter to the more general title of the editor of the genre, such as Fiction Editor or Poetry Editor. (Some journals prefer this. Remember, always read and follow the writers' guidelines.)
Keep the body of the letter short. Indicate that you are submitting a short story (or poem) for their consideration. Don't explain what the story or poem is about. Let the work stand on its own. It’s a very good idea to read the story archives or current issue, if available, for the publication you are interested in. It demonstrates you know the publication and have put thought into where to submit. You can then tailor your cover letter appropriately.
Next, give a brief run down of your qualifications as a writer. If you have published before, mention where your work has appeared. If you have several publications, you don't need to list all of them. Just select a few. Also, include any awards or honors you've received for your writing. If you don't have a lot of accolades yet, don't worry. Focus on whatever experience you do have—like taking creative writing classes—and don't apologize for or otherwise point out your inexperience.
End by thanking the editor for his or her consideration. Keep it professional and friendly
EXAMPLES OF COVER LETTERS
Dear [Editor’s Name]:
Please consider my 2,500-word, previously unpublished manuscript, “Your Story’s Title,” for publication at Any Title Magazine. There is no need to return the manuscript should my story not interest you.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sample B (Tells the editor why your story is appropriate for their publication):
Your Telephone Number
Your Email Address
Editor’s Name (if it can be found)
Publication's Address (may not always be available)
Dear [Editor’s Name/or Fiction Editor]:
Please consider my 2,500-word, previously unpublished manuscript, “Your Story’s Title,” for publication at Any Title Magazine. I have sent my story as an .rtf/word attachment/within the body of the email as the submission guidelines suggested.
In this paragraph you would briefly explain why you think your story is a good fit for the publication.
Your listing in says you are seeking work with and I think my story fits this description. I hope you enjoy it.
I have read several of your back issues and have noted that the stories you publish are characterized by , which is a characteristic of my stories.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Novel and Short Story Writers Market. Published by Writer’s Digest. Annually. Available at Barnes and Noble and Books A Million.
International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses. Contains about 4,000 worldwide markets for your work. Note: Don’t be afraid to try the international markets. I’ve had one story published in Great Britain and another in Canada.
P.O. Box 100
Paradise, CA 95967
Poets and Writers. Available at Barnes and Noble and Books a Million. Each issue contains extensive publishing markets.
www.duotrope.com. This is the BEST source for markets
Poets&Writers (pw.org) database