This past weekend, I did something I’ve only done once before. I submitted a short story to a publisher.
I think my biggest surprise was how unlike querying an agent it was.
1 – No Query Letters
I mean, I knew you didn’t need to pitch like a novel manuscript, I’d done SOME research.
But, my single short query was a while ago, through an online form. So, when prepping my ‘cover letter’ I reached out to my fellow Sub-It-Club members to get a quick evaluation of what I had.
And I had too much! Why?
2 – Not Like a Picture Book Query!
I’d cut my standard query letter down to what I thought was a cover letter: just a quick pitch, story stats, and then, because they’d given me up to 100 words for my biography, I exchanged my standard 34-word bio, for my blog bio.
Because I wasn’t pitching to the YA novel community, thus PitchWars wasn’t going to mean much, I cut that part.
And that’s when I heard back from a friend in the Sub-It-Club group. Apparently, unless they ask for it, you don’t even need the one-line pitch! According to the link my friend sent me, a short story cover letter can be as basic as:
Please consider “TITLE” (H, 2000 words).
My short fiction has appeared in [PLACE] and [MAGAZINE].
I have a [relevent DEGREE] from [SCHOOL]. My thesis was on [Something Relevant].
3 – Most Don’t Like Simultaneous Submissions
Agents these days EXPECT you to query multiple agents simultaneously (just not within a single agency). They occasionally ask for an exclusive when requesting your full, but that’s pretty rare.
Most of the markets I found to submit my short story to, though? They expect it and require it.
Publishers talk. Don’t play it fast-and-loose and hope you don’t get caught. They WILL black-list you.
4 – The Market Varies Wildly
For fiction short stories, you can get offers anywhere from ‘we find you worthy to share’, up to hundreds of dollars for a story. Pay attention to where you’re querying.
SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) has a certified list of what they call ‘professional rate’ magazines, that are stable and pay at least $.06 per word.
Depending on your story, many universities and colleges have their own magazines, some even still in print and not just digital.
For me, I went online and searched on https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com for places to submit — based on SFWA status, story length, and genre.
And they all have different requirements for:
- how long of a story they’re looking for
- what format they want your story in
- when they’re open to submissions
- how quickly they’ll response
5 – Reprints Are Fine
Short story rights are often granted for a short period of time – a year, maybe two – and then the rights revert to you. Many of the markets are happy to pay the same rates for reprints that they do for new stuff.
Which means? You can make money off stuff you’ve already sold! Provided you wait for it to come back to you.
Just like novelists making money off their back-lists, so can short story writers!
It was fun to write something short, that I could polish and share in mere weeks, as opposed to this novel I’ve been obsessing over for a few years now.
Between the short story and this month’s poetry, I think I’m all warmed up for NaNoWriMo.
Anything big I missed? Do you write short stories? Tell me about your experiences!
(P.S. I also heard back from WorldFantasyCon!
As of today, according to the schedule, on Saturday the 3rd at 5pm, I’ll be in the Homeland room, participating in the Talking the Talk: Audiobooks from Fantasy Works panel with Guy Gavriel Kay, Greg Tremblay, and Simon Vance.
Queue some nerves, excitement, and moderate impostor syndrome. Wish me luck?
And let me know if you’ll be at WFC! I’d love to talk in person about writing with people who listen to me ramble about it online.)