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Submitting Short Fiction to Literary Magazines

October 20, 2011 by Jessica in Books and Manuscripts

So you’ve written a short story and are looking to getting it published in a literary magazine. There are still a few steps you’ll want to take before you can see your name in print.

Step One: Find a market.

If you don’t already have a magazine in mind, you may be at a loss as to where to look. If Google is too vast a sea to trawl, check out Duotrope or Ralan, or pick up this year’s issue of Writer’s Market.  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America also keep an updated list of qualifying short story venues on their website. Research your market; you don’t want to send a military sci-fi piece to a magazine that only prints Regency romances, or is currently having a themed reading period.

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Step Two: Format your story.  

Different markets can have different formatting requirements, especially as more magazines accept online submissions and set up programs that take care of formatting issues for them.  However, there are still plenty of markets that tend to outright reject a story if it has been poorly formatted. Why risk it, when it only takes a few extra minutes to make sure your document isn’t an editorial eyesore?

Always double-check your dream magazine’s website for submission guidelines, but many still ask for the tried-and-true standard manuscript format, especially for hardcopy submissions.

Step Three: Have it proofread.

Some editors ask for a cover letter to accompany each submission; keep it short, simple, to the point, and most importantly, error-free—you don’t want to dishearten a slush reader or editor before she even gets into your story.

It can be hard to catch the mechanical errors in your own work.  Because you’re so close to the material and know exactly what it ought to say, you may skim right over basic and potentially embarrassing mistakes in spelling, grammar, or punctuation.  Even your beloved beta readers, if you have them, can miss things.

Consider finding a fresh pair of eyes to give your manuscript and/or cover letter a critical gander. These days, getting that extra help is just a few clicks away: ProofreadingPal is a professional service that specializes in catching and correcting mistakes, and can help you with both this and the previous step.

Step Four: Send it out!

This can be the scariest part, but it’s the one you’ve been waiting for.  You’ve done your market research, formatted your story, and had it looked over for mistakes.  (You’ve also double-checked that the correct version of your story is, in fact, attached to your e-mail.)

Take a deep breath, then click send.

(Alternatively, take a deep breath, then drop your manuscript [with its SASE] into the mailbox.)

Good luck, and godspeed!

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