How and Where to Publish Your Short Stories
One reader asks:
“What advice would you give to someone who has bags of passion and loves life and just happens to have lots of stories and would like to know how to publish or where to publish?”
I’m really glad this reader writes from the heart. A short story which is meaningful to you, which celebrates life and which is written with real spirit is much more likely to meet with success than a technically good story without meaning for the author.
If you’ve got a stack of short pieces that you’ve written for your own enjoyment and that of friends, consider sharing them with a wider audience. There are dozens of ways to do this, from entering writing competitions to submitting work to magazines to self-publishing, and I’ll discuss a few below.
Questions to ask before trying to publishing your story
Is your work a complete piece?
Even when you’re writing from real life experience (as the reader who asked the question above was), your story needs to be well-shaped, with a beginning, middle and end. There also needs to be some conflict – whether between two characters, or just in a character’s own mind – at the start of the story which is then resolved by the time the story concludes. Without this, your work will read as an anecdote – interesting, perhaps, but not suitable for publication as a story.
What genre does the story fit into?
Whether you’re aiming for publication in a magazine or journal, or whether you’re planning to self-publish your work, you need to have a clear idea what genre the story is. If you’ve written a science fiction piece, you’ll have little luck submitting it to a magazine of Westerns. And your sweet story about your cat is unlikely to please the readers of “Tales of the Undead”, however well-written it is.
Where to Publish Your Work
Either you need to find someone else – probably a magazine editor – who likes your story and wants to publish it, or you need to self-publish. You will probably reach a wider audience with the former method, and you may receive some welcome remuneration, but the latter option gives you total control over when and where your work appears.
Publications which accept short stories
There are hundreds of magazines, e-zines and websites where short stories are published, and some pay professional rates. One good place to start is the magazine shelves of your local newsagents. Are there any publications devoted to fiction?
For example, the UK has many magazines aimed at women such as “Take a Break”, “Woman’s Weekly” and “My Weekly” which publish a couple of short stories each week – and bring out a monthly collection of twenty or so stories. If your writing fits into this genre – commercial in style, with a sympathetic main character (usually a woman) and a positive ending – then they are definitely worth considering. I’ve found the blog Women’s stories: read, write, enjoy! invaluable for advice on this genre.
If you write science fiction, fantasy, horror or literary fiction, you’re unlikely to find magazines devoted to these on the shelves. Try searching online for small magazines which people subscribe to by mail-order: you may be able to order a back issue cheaply or free. Or look for e-zines which you can submit work to online.
Self-publishing your stories
You can publish your work for free on a website. One easy way is to set up a blog (try www.blogger.com) and post a new short story every week. There are lots of easy ways to create a full website too – try Google Page Creator (Link no longer active). You don’t need to be very “technical” and you certainly don’t need to be able to programme or understand terms like “HTML” and “FTP”.
If you are fairly web-savvy, though, you might choose to pay for a domain name and professional web hosting. I’d recommend this if you’re serious about your writing as it means you can use your site as a professional-looking showcase for your work.
The other option is to publish printed versions of your stories, to circulate around friends and family – and perhaps more widely. Traditional self-publishing in this way involved paying thousands of pounds for several hundred or thousand copies of your book: new “print-on-demand” technology, though, means that it’s cost-effective to print just a few copies of your book. A volume of your best short stories could make a lovely present – far more interesting and memorable than a box of chocolates.
I recommend Lulu, which I used to print a single copy of my first novel manuscript. It cost me £7 (about $14) for the whole book, including the postage: I’d have spent just as much on paper and ink if I’d printed it at home, and the result was a high-quality glossy-covered paperback.
Lulu’s site is simple to use, and takes you step-by-step through the process of uploading your work and choosing the format of your book.
Need to know more?
I’ve only touched on some of the issues about publishing short stories, so if there’s something you’d like to know more about, or anything I’ve not covered, please leave a comment here – or use the feedback form on the Contact page – and I will happily address it in a future article. And look out for upcoming articles covering revising your writing, formatting your manuscript correctly, markets for your work, entering short story competitions and more…
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