Whatever your experience as a writer, one of the most exciting moments of your career is sending out a story for publication. If it’s your first time sending out a story or you’ve been published many times before, there’s still nothing like that feeling, of typing it out so that it looks beautiful, editing it, and sending it out to magazines you admire. Just imagine: your name could appear in the table of contents alongside other writers you love. Whether you’re writing fantasy, romance, YA, or literary fiction, the process is almost always the same. So if you’re ready to get your short story published, it’s all about working through this process as thoroughly as possible, so that you’re sending out the best possible version with a query letter editors will take seriously.
If you’ve just finished a story, and you think it’s ready for publication, here are the steps you need to take to get it published. Remember: every writer’s gone through this, even the greats, and you can get published, too.
Revise Your Story—And Have It Revised
Before you even start thinking about perfecting your query letter and who to address it to, you need your story to be in tip-top shape. And even if it’s a good story, one of the best you’ve written, revision never hurts. One small typo on the first page can cause an irritable intern to toss it into the trash despite the fact that you’re talented and have great ideas. So read it out loud to yourself, and to a friend, because somehow we always catch more mistakes that way.
Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to get someone else to read your story before you send it out into the world. Your writing partner, or workshop group, should be able to raise any issues for you to work on—even if you initially thought your story was good to go.
There’s a reason why 20,000 applications were submitted to MFA programs in 2016, and that’s because writers are craving the feedback they need to improve.
Study Up on the Lit Mags
When you’re sending out submissions, it can be easy to send out your story to hundreds of magazines, hoping that you’ll somehow get a publication offer lottery style. But this isn’t respectful of literary institutions, and it isn’t respectful of your own writing, either. It’s better to do some research, find out where your favorite authors’ first stories were published. And there’s no need to subscribe to magazines if it’s too expensive for you; you can always visit your local library or bookstore and peruse what’s out there. Online magazines are usually free, and even though they weren’t always taken seriously, they are now that we’re spending more than five hours a day on our phones.
Once you know what magazines to submit to, find out what other magazines have submission overlap with them. The online resource Duotrope makes this easy to do. Once you have your list of twenty to fifty magazines you think would be a good fit, set up an Excel sheet so you can keep track of your submissions. In the same way that eChecks simplifies paying employees for businesses, being this organized will simplify your sending out withdrawal emails once your story’s been accepted.
Write an Amazing Cover Letter
One of the benefits of studying up on literary magazines is that it’ll give you a leg up when you write your query letter. Generally, a query letter should look something like this:
Dear Firstname Lastname,
I’m writing to submit my story, “X.” I noticed from reading some issues of your magazine that my story has Y and Z in common with many of the stories you usually publish, especially “A” by Firstname Lastname. Because my story accomplishes B and C, I think it would be a great fit for D Magazine.
I have a BA/MFA in writing/English/(your field) from E University, and I’m now sending my stories out. I’ve had stories published in E, F, and G, and would love to be part of your magazine.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Generally, this is how your letter should look. If you haven’t been published before, instead of listing publications you could state that this would be your first if they published your story (An honor for any magazine!). And even though it might take some extra work, finding out who to address the letter to makes a huge difference to the person who opens your query.
Considering that some literary magazines paid $500 or more in 2016, you might even make some money from writing your query letter as well as you can!
Once you’ve followed these steps, you’re ready to send your writing out into the world. Do you have any additional advice for writers getting ready to send their stories out for submission?Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.