10 Ways To Get Your Short Story Published In A Magazine
In this blog Alan Walsh offers some advice for short story writers. Alan is a Dublin-based writer, poet and graphic designer. His work has been featured in the Moth, The Bohemyth, Wordlegs , Magill Magazine, The Irish Times and Outburst Magazine.
His novel Sour (published by Pillar International Publishing), a book which takes the old story Deirdre of the Sorrows and transplants it into a town in modern Ireland, is due out in November.
Alan is currently working on a new novel about the mysterious Comte De Saint Germain, keeping a blog at: alanwalshblog.blogspot.ie and tweeting regularly at @Alan_Walsh_77 . He will be reading from and discussing his novel Sour at the Dublin Book Festival this Autumn.
10 Ways To Get Your Short Story Published In A Magazine.
Getting your story published in a magazine is a great way to showcase your writing ability, get your name out there and grab the attention of editors, agents and publishers. Once you’re writing to a good standard, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get noticed by the magazines, but in many cases writers try the same things again and again to no benefit. I’ve compiled a simple list of points that should help set you up for a successful submission.
1) Read the magazine you’re submitting to.
This sounds pretty obvious. It’s not all that obvious to many writers. Read at least a whole issue, ideally, read more. What this will do is give you a pretty clear insight into what the editor likes. He or she is your target market. Your YA tale of forbidden school-yard werewolf romance, no matter how well written, won’t appeal to someone only publishing gritty social angst stories. It’s all too easy to shoot off multiple emails to lists of magazines with a copy-and-paste intro and an attached word doc of your story. You’re playing the game a little like a lottery there and chance are you’ll get pretty much the same results.
2) Pitch the story in your intro email.
This is maybe not so obvious. Editors of these magazines aren’t always working full time and have a limited amount of hours to trawl through submissions so a quick pitch, outlining tone really helps. A simple few words ought to suffice, think clickbait. This doesn’t need to be a synopsis. “Alexandra and Wesley are classmates united by an unusual preference for dog treats. Mr. Jeffries wants to know why they never meet during a full moon.”
3) Address the email correctly.
Be specific. People can tell when they get blanket emails. Address the editor by name, mention the magazine, talk about the style and themes the magazine goes in for and why your submission would fit in exactly. This shows you’ve taken the time to get to know the publication and that you actually care about where you get published.
4) Care about where you get published.
This seems pretty obvious but only submit to magazines you’re actually interested in. You might find a publication run out of someone’s backyard shed, using a combination of fonts making it look like a ransom demand, you might happen upon a magazine where they dedicate a few pages to the opinions of the deranged, blinkered or worse. Look for magazines you actually like and respect.
5) Show the piece around to people before submitting.
Writing is a solitary endeavour, but as soon as you submit something it no longer stays that way. The whole process of getting a story out to people, in whatever medium, is highly collaborative, so get used to working with others in getting your work the best it can be. Show it to honest critics. Friends who fawn over your prose are no good to you. The ones who sit you down and list how and why a thing isn’t working are invaluable. The greatest mistake a writer can make is thinking ‘this person just doesn’t get what I’m saying’. Your job as a writer is to make people get what you’re saying. Feedback and second and third and ninth drafts is part of what you do. This will help massively.
6) Use standard formatting.
Comic Sans, random bold text, font size experimentation, trying out different margins, spacing, colour as ways to express your individuality are out. You express yourself through the words. The rest should be as undistracting as possible.
7) Read as many short stories as you can.
Read the greats, of course, Carver, Hemingway, Alice Munro, Chekov and so forth, read them to bits, but read younger, current writers too. Be aware of how people are writing now. Find your own voice.
8) Tell a story.
I know, I know, but vignettes, exercises in prose styling, crazed narrative experiments and ‘what-if’ fan fiction is tough to find a home for. Very tough. Know what your story is, know what it says. Make sure it has a beginning, middle and end, conflict, and all the things a good story ought to have. When you’re a seasoned pro you can turn around and mix it up.
9) Submit to one magazine at a time.
Wait for their response. Worst case scenario is not two rejections, it’s two acceptances, for then you must contact one magazine with the bad news and know that they will never entertain an approach from you again. Be respectful to the magazines, try and forge a bit of rapport, follow them on twitter, retweet them.
10) Keep trying.
This doesn’t mean keep sending the same story with updates. If a story doesn’t make the cut in a magazine bite down on the fact and embrace it. Most of the time you won’t be told why. The reason is either the piece is totally wrong for the magazine, the upcoming issue is dedicated to a particular theme and your story doesn’t fall within it or it simply wasn’t good enough. If it wasn’t good enough, that’s okay. It means you need to work harder. As a writer you’ll always need to work harder. Craft what you do. Show it around. Beg, plead for criticism and when you get it, take it on the chin. Someone hating your piece and you addressing that makes you better. Someone liking it just keeps you at the same level.