Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Short Story Marketing

Here’s the scoop on how I marketed “Silence” for publication. I started writing “Silence” back in 2006. It went through a few drafts with my writing teacher at All Writers. Kathie suggested I send it to PMS.

I found a copy of their journal at a local bookstore and read it. Since they’re based in Arkansas, this is where national distribution helps. My story was a perfect fit. But their yearly reading period was over. So I sat on the story and didn’t send it out. And then I moved, and for almost a year my literary journals sat in an unpacked box. I was working on my first novel and forgetting about short stories.

I sent the story out to two magazines (never heard back from them) in 2007, but missed the PMS reading period again. Last fall, I sent the story to five more magazines. I got one immediate email bounce back -- that journal was dead. I received a rejection from two more – both about three to four months later.

Here is one of my most favorite rejections, from Epiphany: “Thanks for giving us the chance to read your work, but unfortunately it wasn't quite right for us. Never mind what we say. Keep writing!” Isn't that both efficient and fun?

I still haven’t heard anything from the other two. In March, I sent Silence to PMS and one other journal.

The PMS reading period opened again at the start of the year (January 1 to March 31st) and I sent the story on March 23rd. Spending a season as an editor for Oyez Review, I’ll suggest that you send your stories closer to the end of a reading period than the start. You probably won’t hear a response until after the reading period, so why have a story sitting around collecting dust all that time? This can be hard to manage for simultaneous submissions, but I’d recommend this practice for those “first pick” journals you’re especially in love with.

PMS notified me of my acceptance via email on July 1, just three months after their reading period was over.

I only submit to journals that allow simultaneous submissions, so I've notified the places I haven't received a response from that my story has been accepted elsewhere. Don't skip this step! It is professional and kind and just the right thing to do.

In total, I submitted my story to nine journals. I found most of the journals through Writer's Market. I have the short story market book at home and also a subscription to their online database.

PMS was the only journal I properly targeted -- by purchasing their journal and seeing if my story was a good fit. I’m glad I kept waiting for their reading period. I’m proud to be part of their journal.

This acceptance, of course, is making me go back and take stock of all the short stories I've written over the years. More stats on those in another post! I know a lot of the readers here are novelists -- any short story writers out there who'd like to comment on their marketing process?


  1. I've only ever written one short story (besides all that stuff from elementary school :D). I've never had the urge to try until lately. It's just so hard to get my mind geared toward short fiction. And that, I don't read a lot of short stories and don't really know what I'm doing. How in the world do you introduce, follow, and wrap up a plot in so few words? Do you think you might be able to give some tips on short story writing? What is the usual word length magazines look for? Thanks!

  2. Thanks for a great suggestion Cindy. I'll try to include some info in another post on short stories. On average, I'd say they range from 2,000-4,000 words, with 5,000 probably being the max. Silence is just under 3,100 words.