The Under Ground Writing Project

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Submitting Short Stories

Posted by Jenny Maloney on September 24, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Tucked away in a file on my computer is a folder titled "Submittable Short Stories." This is where I stash the short stories that I feel are good enough to be published. I've edited them. I've fiddled. Polished. Rewritten seven or eight times in some cases. They're as ready to go as I can make them.


From there, I hit Duotrope. If you have never been to Duotrope - or if you've been there and haven't created an account - you need to go there and you need to create an account. This is THE most comprehensive database of literary magazines and anthologies anywhere. If you've been hunting for places to send your'll be blown away by the amount of data available on this website. Plus, it's free. They do ask for donations and if you can spare a few bucks to keep them free, please do so. It's well worth it.


Cool things that you can see on Duotrope: payment scales, whether or not a magazine accepts simultaneous submissions, whether or not a magazine is currently accepting submissions, online vs print periodicals, and the acceptance/rejection stats based on reports to Duotrope. And Duotrope tracks all of your submissions for you don't need that Excel spreadsheet - though you can export your submission information if you feel the need for a backup.


On Duotrope, I've made up a list of favorites. These are the magazines that I want to (and will) be published in. I poke through them and see if any of the stories that are currently in my "Submittable" folder would be appropriate for these magazines. I can't afford subscriptions - but I do read any available stories or excerpts they post online. I do buy copies of lit magazines when I have the chance and funds. And I do read yearly Best Of anthologies to read the best of the best, and what magazines are publishing them. So I think I've got a pretty good gauge on who is putting out what and where.


Once I've got a place to submit to - or sometimes several places to submit to - I figure out whether or not they accept online submissions. For online submissions, let me tell you the other place that you're gonna need an account: Submittable. This is the website used by a lot of the literary magazines. The good news is, that if you have an account with Submittable, you don't have to enter your personal information (name, address, etc) on a form every time. Submittable saves all that stuff for you...and it offers another place to track your submissions.


Then I hit send. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.


I also keep printed copies of the submittable short stories so that I don't have to print them out every time. At least five copies of each - I'm realistic when it comes to getting rejections...five is actually an optimistic number. That way I can focus on putting together a cover letter, which I do try to personalize. My bio paragraph is pretty much the same, but in the first paragraph I try to be more personable. (Hayden's Ferry Review once thanked me for that.) Then I slap the cover letter on, and mail off the stories.


When the rejections come in, I track them on Duotrope - which has an option to label a rejection as personal or form. I see if that story was a simultaneous submission, and if it was, I turn around and send it to another magazine that accepts simultaneous submissions.


And a note on simultaneous submissions - I send one story out to a lot of magazines. I shoot for at least ten at a time. You just can't predict outcomes. A story that received a personalized rejection from The Atlantic (one of the best places in the world to have your story published) has received three form rejection letters from other magazines. You have to give your work its best chance. If the magazine says they accept simultaneous submissions, then by all means take them up on their offer. Life is too short to wait for two years - no exaggeration - for a magazine to get back to you.


After I've submitted to as many stories as I can to as many relevant places as I can, then I wait. And wait. And sometimes I get a rockin' acceptance letter...or a rockin' rejection letter...or a lousy form rejection letter. Once a story has hit a low-submission point (where it's only being looked at by one or two magazines) then it's time to send it out again.


Another thing that I try to do is tier my submissions. There are magazines that I really, really, really wanna be published in someday. Sometimes it's because the magazines are prestigious - and sometimes I just dig what some mags are putting out and want to be among the writers published in that magazine. Those magazines get my best work first.


How do you submit your work? Are there any good places you've come across that are helpful for writers submitting? Any hints on the best way to track down literary agents...I haven't gotten heavily into researching that yet, but I'll let you know when I do.


P.S. Also The ReviewReview is a wonderful website that breaks down the literary reviews and what they publish. It's awesome.

Categories: Submissions, Lit Magazines

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