How to find paying short story markets

June 17, 2020

So, you’ve finished writing the world’s most amazing short story about the seven crystal hats of a witch queen. After polishing and refining the story, you’re wondering how to get it off your hard drive, and into the hot little hands of readers everywhere.

But where do you send your precious short story?

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do next. Where to find the editor who loves crystal hats as much as you do?

Thankfully, the internet has made it much easier to find markets for your short stories and send your work out to potential publishers. Gone are the days of photocopied stories sent out with reply paid envelopes.

In this blog post, I’ll take you through several online tools I use to find short story markets, what to look out for in potential markets, and how to pick the best markets for your story.

First, what is a short story market?

This might seem obvious to you, but a market is a publication that accepts story submissions. These could be anthologies, magazines, websites, podcasts, video games and other digital platforms.

Speculative fiction markets are divided into types of markets based on pay rates. The SFWA considers $0.08 USD a word and above to be a professional rate, although different genres and industries will pay higher (or lower).

Markets can be divided up into pro, semi-pro, token, and non-paying markets. Most people start at the top and submit to pro markets first, then semi-pro and token. While it might be tempting to submit your work to a non-paying market when you’re first starting out, it’s better to try for pro sales if your work is good enough.

How to find short story markets

Online submissions trackers

There are several free and paid online submissions trackers which also provide lists of open submission calls:

  • The Submission Grinder is the most well-known, with lists of recently added markets and the ability to track submissions. It’s useful for seeing how long submissions take and the acceptance rates for particular publications. While it’s a free tool, the Submission Grinder is supported by donations.
  • Literarium is another free submissions tracker which has a good interface for finding markets and seeing the pay level at a glance. You can also search by genre and word count. They’re working on improving the submissions process. Free.
  • Duotrope is a paid submissions tracker with an extensive database of publishers and agents. It costs $75 USD a year.   
  • Submittable is a submissions tracker manager aimed at publishers, but they have a universal submission tracker and lists of open markets on their platform and twitter channel.

Email newsletters

Email newsletters are a brilliant way to get markets delivered to your inbox.

  • Publishing… and other forms of insanity do regular market and agent listings across all genres
  • Horror Tree specialise in listings for authors of horror and dark fantasy
  • Writers centres and writing associations have free email newsletters which contain opportunities, competitions, and markets for authors

If there’s a particular market you like, subscribe to their email newsletter and they’ll usually send out a call for stories when they’re open.  

Facebook groups

Facebook groups are soon becoming my new go-to for market listings. Not only are there groups dedicated to posting story markets, you can also ask questions about submissions online. Some groups I’m a member of include:

Invitation

Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to get a personal invitation to submit to an anthology. While an invitation isn’t a guarantee of publication, it beats the slush pile. It means the editor has thought your work would be suitable for their magazine or anthology.  

How to get invited to submit your work? Get involved in your genre’s community in person and online. It also helps to have an existing body of work to show your skills – chances are, someone might read your stories and get in touch.  

What to watch out for in short story markets

There are several things to consider before submitting your work to a short story market:

  • I don’t submit to unpaid royalty only or token markets (unless I have a really good reason, such as a charity anthology). If you can’t find a paid market, you might be better off posting the story on your website or recording it as a video/podcast.
  • Look out for long response times for non-established publications. You don’t want a short story out for years only to get a rejection.
  • Look at the track record of a market – do they publish on a regular schedule? What’s their editorial commitment? Do they submit their stories to awards?
  • Check their news or blog before submitting in case there’s any relevant updates.  
  • Check SFWA’s Writer Beware site before submitting your work for any red flags.
  • Weigh up whether you want a large audience for your story in an online, free to read publication, or to see it in a print anthology. Sometimes it’s better to have more people read the story for a lower pay rate.

While it can seem intimidating to know where to send your short story, online submissions have made the entire process a lot easier. You can now find short story markets through submission specific websites, email newsletters, Facebook groups and even simple searches on social media. Good luck with the submission process.

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