If you want to get serious about selling your short fiction, here are some tips.
Cream of the crop
Don’t bother sending out anything but your best. You are competing with thousands of other writers for a very small number of spots. Get feedback, workshop that story, make it sing. If it’s cliché in any way, put it in a drawer and forget about it. Editors have seen everything. Your story needs to be fresh, innovative and engaging to stand out from the crowd.
Don’t scatter-shot your submissions. Choose your markets carefully, with the tone of the magazine, the intended audience and the editors’ tastes in mind. It will take time to get to know the markets you are interested in, but you learn pretty quickly which ones are more suited to your stories. And wherever possible, read a copy of the magazine first. If you think all the stories are poorly written or just dreadful, then why would you submit to that market? Don’t imagine you will get in because you are “better”. If you don’t connect with the magazine, the editors aren’t going to connect with your story.
Format to the bone
Check the guidelines. Do they accept simsubs? Multisubs? Do they want courier or times? Indents or double spacing? Attachment or body? Check and double check before you send. Submit each story as if it was a novel query to an agent. Be professional.
My mum loves this, so…
Decide what you want before you start submitting. Do you just want your name out there? Then find a good token or non-paying market with a high acceptance rate. Or are you ready to compete with the best? Go for markets that pay pro or semi-pro rates. They are tougher to get into, but worth it.
Use the data
If you are submitting short stories, you need Duotrope’s Digest. They take a lot of the donkeywork out of the process, and are an invaluable resource on market preferences, acceptance rates, pay rates, reading periods etc. Join up, it’s free, but do consider supporting them with a donation if you make a sale.
Hop on the merry-go-round
Keep stories in circulation at all times. As soon as a story gets rejected, send it straight out to the next market on your list. Unless you have feedback from an editor that makes you think “by jove, they’re right!”, don’t revise between markets. Endless revision is not cost effective for short stories. Accept the fact that some stories may never find a home, because they just aren’t saleable, or aren’t fresh and interesting enough.