Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 2)

Continuing on from Tuesday. If you missed that post, I recommend clicking the handy link at the top or bottom of this entry (depending on whether you’re on the blog or website) or simply scrolling down and reading that one first if you’re on the main blog page.

Picking up where we left off:

Anthologies

An anthology is a collection of short stories (or longer works, such as novellas) that center around some sort of theme. These themes can be very specific or very broad, depending on the publisher and the particular anthology in question. Publishers that regularly release anthologies may have the next several themes available on their website so you can plan ahead.

Submissions for anthologies work in two distinct ways:

  • You can be invited to submit work for an anthology. This is more common if you’re an established, decently-selling author who has been traditionally published by major markets, or if you’ve worked with an editor before and they’ve been impressed with your work.
  • A publisher releases a call for an anthology, which is open to established and new writers alike. (In some cases, publishers may be looking specifically for new authors; the submission guidelines for the anthology would state this.)

Like magazines or journals, market websites like Duotrope and the Submission Grinder list open anthology calls on their websites, and you can search specifically for anthology markets by using their advanced search function. Anthology calls often have a deadline associated with them (i.e., stories must be received by November 15), though some publishers may keep submissions for a particular anthology open until they feel they’ve received an appropriate amount of acceptable submissions. Often, an anthology call will also include the intended publication date for the anthology.

Pay rates for anthologies follow the same methodology as magazines and journals, falling into pro, semi-pro, token, and non-paying or exposure. Anthologies are more likely to pay a flat rate per story, and also may include a copy or two of the anthology. Some anthologies may pay authors a share of the royalties, either as the main form of payment, or in addition to whatever the original buying rate was. Some anthologies are created to make money for charitable causes–the submission guidelines will normally specify this.

Like magazines and journals, you can try to fit a previously written story into an anthology, or write a story specifically to match an anthology theme.

NOTE: Depending on the anthology theme and how specialized it is, it may be hard to place an anthology-intended story elsewhere if the anthology does not accept it.

In many cases, the submission process for an anthology is similar or identical to submitting to a magazine or journal, with most using either an email submission process or an online portal. An anthology may accept a wide variety of story lengths or be focused on a specific type of short story (such as flash fiction), and pay rates may be different depending on the length of the story. For example, some anthologies may pay a pro rate for very short works, such as flash or micro fiction, but pay semi-pro or token for longer works.

If your short story is selected for inclusion in an anthology, the publisher will send you a contract specifying rights and when/if the rights will revert to you after a certain period of time. The editor or publisher may also ask for some edits to be made to the story. These are normally fairly minor–small plot issues or copyediting–as the time frame and demand for an anthology does not allow for more major changes; if a story is not working on a larger level, it is very unlikely to be selected.

Here’s part 2, Squiders! Again, let me know if anything is confusing or if you feel I’m leaving something out, or let me know if the format isn’t working for some reason. I’d hate to go through the whole thing if the format is inherently wrong! Otherwise, we’ll continue next Tuesday with the third and final part of traditional short story publishing and then take a bit of a break on the subject before we jump into self-publishing short stories.

Otherwise, I hope you have a happy weekend, Squiders!

Publishing Short Stories Traditionally (Part 1)

Okay, Squiders! Let’s get into the meat of things. Today we’ll be talking about “traditional” methods of short story submission and publication. As a short recap, “traditional” publishing is the method of publishing that has been the norm for the last several decades, where authors send out a story to a market with the hope that said market will buy it and pay them money.

For short stories, your traditional paths fall into three main categories:

  • Magazines (including e-zines) and journals
  • Anthologies
  • Short story collections

We’ll take a look at each of these in order.

Magazines/Journals

A magazine is a soft-bound publication that often features a mixture of articles, advertisements, and pictures, often centered around a theme, that is released on a regular basis. A journal, in this case, is similar to a magazine but tends to focus more on publishing stories. These are sometimes known as a literary journal, but many people use both magazine and journal interchangeably. There are publications that combine the two, featuring a mixture of articles and stories.

And e-zine or online journal is essentially the same idea, except the final product is digital. These can be an e-book type file, which can be downloaded and read on e-readers, or everything might be hosted on a website.

When submitting to a magazine or journal, it’s important to do your research beforehand and make sure the publication in question is open for submissions, and that they publish the type of story you’re trying to sell. Most publications will clearly list their submission guidelines on their websites.

Various websites will list open markets. The most well-known of these is Duotrope. Duotrope keeps track of short story markets and also provides acceptance and response time stats. It is a subscription-based website, costing $5/month at this time, which can be somewhat costly if you aren’t using it regularly or aren’t selling on a regular basis. A free alternative is the Submission Grinder, which also keeps track of markets and stats. There are others, and websites also exist for specific genres.

Markets tend to be divided by pay rate. Short stories tend to be paid on a price per word, though many markets pay a flat rate per story as well. The highest rate is known as pro, and tends to be at least $.06/word, though some publications do offer higher. So, for example, if you had a 2500-word short story, you’d get $150 for it at a pro rate of $.06/word. Some professional writing associations, such as the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), will only accept pro-level short story sales as a consideration for membership.

The next highest level is semi-pro, where pay rates are greater than $.01/word but less than $.06/word. Then you get into token, which is where you get paid something, but it’s typically $.01/word or less. A lot of token markets pay a flat fee, often somewhere between $5 and $25 per story. Markets that pay a larger flat fee (such as $50 or $100) may be rated as a semi-pro or pro market, depending on the word count on stories they accept.

The final payment category is non-paying or exposure markets. With these, you’re not paid in money, but in exposure and experience. This means that you often receive a bylaw at the top or the bottom of the story where you can advertise or link to something else, such as your website or a recent novel release.

Many websites that list short story markets allow you to search specifically by payment category, as well as genre and accepted word count. They also allow you to search for anthology calls and contests, which will discuss later.

There are two main ways people go about choosing submission markets. The first is to write and polish a short story, and then do research to see what markets would be acceptable; the second is to choose a market and then write a story that feels like it would be a good a fit. Either way, once you choose your market and finalize your story, you can start submitting.

WARNING: Some markets only accept submissions during certain times of the year, called reading periods. If you submit a story outside of these periods, or while a market is closed to new submissions (which sometimes happens if a publication gets too backlogged), your submission will be deleted unread and you will have wasted your time.

Most short story publications accept submissions one of two ways:

  • Through email
  • Through an online submission portal

Some publications still accept or insist on snail mail submissions, though these are lessening. When submitting a short story for consideration, you will need a cover letter. These can be very short and essentially just need to include the story title, genre, and word count, as well as your name. Some publications will also ask for a short bio. If your story has been previously published elsewhere, you would also note this in your cover letter.

NOTE: Not all publications will consider a previously-published story, also known as a reprint. Their submission guidelines on their website will specify. Publications that do accept reprints often pay less than they would for an unpublished story.

In almost all cases, you submit the complete text of your story with your cover letter. The publication will specify their preferred format in their guidelines, but many accept a standard manuscript format, which you can find through an Internet search. (This is mainly for email submission; oftentimes online portals strip out most of the formatting and a block paragraph style may be the most readable option.)

Once you’ve made sure your story is in the proper format and you’ve met all the submission guidelines, you can go ahead and submit.

BEWARE: In many cases, you’ll have to send your story to one market at a time. Sending it to more than one market at a time is known as simultaneous submissions, and many publications don’t accept them. Though, in theory, they may never know, if you’re caught in a situation where more than one publication has accepted the story, you’ll be stuck in the awkward situation of having to explain to one what’s happened, and you might find yourself unwelcome from submitting to that market in the future.

Short story publications will have you sign a contract upon acceptance of your story that specifies which rights they’re buying (varies by publication, but may include first publication rights, serial rights, audio rights, etc.) and how long it is before the rights revert to the author.

It often takes several months for your story to appear in an issue or on a website, as many publications buy more stories than they immediately have slots for. The publication should tell you when your story will appear and, in some cases, may offer you that issue for free.

Tada! That’s part 1, Squiders. Hopefully it’s helpful. Please let me know if any steps are unclear so I can tweak them! Part 2 will be on Thursday.

Character Change as a Catalyst for Conflict

A few weeks ago, my sister finally convinced me to join Pottermore and get sorted into a house. Now, I was 14 when I started reading the Harry Potter books, and over the years I have taken a lot of sorting quizzes. The good majority of those came up about 50/50 Gryffindor (due to a sometimes ill-advised tendency to jump to people’s rescue without thinking things through) and Ravenclaw (because I am a giant nerd and love puzzles). Once I got Slytherin, which was a bit thrilling, because I went through a phase where I was really into Slytherin (much like I went through a phase where I was really into the Empire a few years before), but even I had to admit that was probably a fluke.

I was expecting Ravenclaw from Pottermore. I got Hufflepuff.

“Hufflepuff?” I said to my sister, who had sat with me on the phone while I went through the quiz. “I have never been a Hufflepuff. Aren’t Hufflepuffs nice? And like other people?”

My sister is also a Hufflepuff, but she is, like, stereotypically Hufflepuff. If she’d taken those gazillion of quizzes back in the day, they all would have said Hufflepuff.

My sister said, “I think most parents are probably Hufflepuff.”

Which I’ve been thinking about, because that’s what I do. And I think she’s right. It’s not that I no longer have the qualities that marked me as a Gryffindor, it’s that I have to stop and think about what I do before I do something, to think about how it will affect my family. And it’s not that I’m not still a giant nerd or no longer love puzzles, but when presented with a choice between working on a devilishly hard Sudoku puzzle or having a tea party with the small, mobile ones, the latter tends to win out.

People change. It’s what they do. And characters also change, at least if you want them to remain realistic. There are always thread to who they were, sure, but people are affected by life. Good things, bad things. A character raised out of poverty to a life of luxury is not going to be the same person they were when they were living in a cardboard box. A character who has lost their spouse to cancer is going to be affected by that, one way or another. Characters make choices–choices that force them to reevaluate their priorities, to face the darker parts of themselves (or not to), to pick where they want to go and what they want out of life.

And that, dear Squiders, can be a wonderful catalyst for conflict within a story. It can drive internal conflict. Maybe a character knows they need to do something–for themselves, for their family, for their soul–but can’t bring themselves to separate from a part of their selves that they feel is essential. Maybe their goals are hurting them, but they’re not willing to let go. Or they know what they need to do, the change that needs to be made, but feel like it’s out of their reach.

It can drive interpersonal conflict as well. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “He’s not the man I married.” When people change, it can affect how they interact with the people closest to them. People react to pressure or success in different ways, ways that not be compatible with those of their loved ones. Someone can make a change for the better only to find their old friends trying to pull them back down, or someone can feel that someone else is leaving them behind.

Don’t forget change, Squiders. People response to outside stimulus, good or bad–and characters should too.

I think I’ll skip Thursday, but I should be back to post on Friday, unless I get swallowed by family things. (All state parks have free admission on Friday to try and combat the Black Friday phenomena, and that’s hard to say no to.) If I don’t see you then, have a happy Thanksgiving, American Squiders, and a great weekend, global Squiders.

Oh, and thank you to everyone who’s picked up To Rule the StarsWe’re sticking up pretty decently in our Amazon categories, hooray! The ebook version is still on sale for $.99, and the paperback is now available as well, so pick it up while you can if you haven’t yet!

Let’s Talk About Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Afternoon/evening, Squiders. As you guys know, I was a major Potterphile back in the day. Still, when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out in July, I didn’t pick it up. There seemed to be a lot of mixed thoughts on both the idea of revisiting Harry Potter years later as well as the plotline itself. There’s also the fact that Cursed Child is a screenplay and not a prose novel, and the fact that it wasn’t even really written by J.K. Rowling.

I could understand those fears and anxieties and so I just…didn’t touch the thing.

But my husband took the small, mobile ones to the library while I was at MileHiCon a few weeks back and picked the book up for me. Still, I resisted. I stared at it for a week before I touched it. And then I was very slow about it, reading maybe ten pages a day, afraid to get too caught up in it, just in case.

And then last night I read the last of it in one go, so here we are.

I liked it, in the end. It feels like it fits. Adult Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Draco read like believable adult versions of the kids from the books. The story mainly revolves around the younger generation, Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy (♥ Scorpius, poor kid), and deals with them trying to break out of their fathers’ shadows (and shenanigans along those lines). There were some really nice moments.

There was also one key scene where I will swear part of it was missing. I flipped back and re-read it a couple of times, and it still didn’t make sense. And I felt like some of the less major characters were occasionally out of character.

But still, it was nice to revisit that world, to see what had changed over the years. Also, technically, to see the future, because if you recall, the Battle for Hogwarts happened in 1998, and so the story starts 19 years later, in 2017. It was nice to see Harry (even if he is not the greatest parent), to see Ron and Hermione’s relationship, to see the kids as their own characters.

So, if you’ve been holding out–there’s no reason to. It’s not going to destroy the characters you love or the stories you grew up with.

I gotta say, the stage version must be something. Some of the stage directions…plus there’s a section with polyjuice potion, and another with transfiguration–I’d like to see those pulled off. It’s probably awesome. The Internet tells me that there’s talk of moving the show to Broadway, or starting a separate showing on Broadway, or something along those lines, and if we get a Broadway show, maybe we’ll get a traveling show, and then maybe I can go and see it.

Read Cursed Child, Squiders? Like or dislike? Favorite new character? (Mine’s Scorpius, as noted above.) Plus McGonagall, right? You can never go wrong with Professor McGonagall. ♥

Out Today: To Rule the Stars

Happy Tuesday, Squiders! It’s my pleasure today to announce the release of To Rule the Stars, an anthology of space princess stories.

To Rule the Stars cover

Who says fantasy should get all the princesses? Here’s the blurb:

Meet the princesses.

A trained diplomat, kidnapped by an alien race desperate for justice, and its dashing leader…

A political pawn, on her way to meet her betrothed, who stops in the asteroid belt to answer a call for help, and finds a princess both beautiful and brave…

A captive raised to believe that the greatest evil is magic, when it—and the handsome ship’s engineer who wields it—are the one thing that might save her…

Here are their stories.

I just got to say, I’m super pleased with my story in this one. (Mine’s the one with the trained diplomat up above.) AND we have it on special release price in ebook form for now, at $0.99, before it goes up to its normal price. There will also be a print version (which will be $7.99, I believe) but it hasn’t gone live yet.

For now, you can get it here: ( Amazon | Smashwords )

The Turtleduck Press page will get additional buy links as they go live.

So go check it out while it’s cheap! You get three awesome novelette/novella-sized stories for less than a dollar. Besides mine, which I am understandably biased about, I’m also super jazzed about Siri’s Ship of Thorns, which has a very cool tone to it that I won’t spoil for you. (You may remember Siri as my co-author for City of Hope and Ruin.) Erin’s story, which wraps up the collection, is also an interesting look at evaluating your beliefs and what’s acceptable (but don’t worry, it’s not preachy). You also get a preview for TDP’s next release, which is Erin’s Ever Touched, the third book in her science fantasy Fey Touched series.

So what are you waiting for?

Otherwise, I hope things are going relatively well for you, Squiders. Let me know if you’ve got anything awesome going in your corner!

Notes on the Submission/Publication Posts

So, as you know, Squiders (or if you missed it), I’m going to be interspersing in blog posts about submitting and publishing to help me put together a book on the subject. We talked about the types of publishing last week, but I wanted to let you know how the posts will be working going forward.

The bulk of the posts will be on a publication type combined with a type of submission/publication process. So one post might be Self-Publishing Short Stories, for example. For the blog, I’m going to focus on novels and short stories; in the book, I’ll also touch on nonfiction books, articles, and poetry. (If you have other prose-based types you’d like to see included, let me know. But I would like to stay away from things such as screenplays, music, etc., both because those aren’t my specialty as well as the fact that I think you can go too broad.)

There might be two or three posts on a particular subject, depending on the amount of information. In the book I intend to also address the pros and cons of using a particular submission/publication process with that particular publication type, but I’m unsure as of yet if I’ll do that here.

Once we’re done with that, we’ll move into troubleshooting topics, such as how to tell if an agent/publisher is reputable, things to do if you’re having trouble selling or getting bad reviews, how to tell how many rejections should be your limit, etc.

And then that should be that!

Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like covered that you don’t see above, and I’ll see if I can fit it in here, or perhaps in one of the other nonfic books I’m planning. (I have a series of seven planned, with a book and a half written at the moment.)

Anyway, Squiders, I hope this week hasn’t been too tough for you. Have a good weekend.

Revisiting Query Letters

A branch of my library system had a talk last night, given by Kristen Nelson and Angie Hidapp of the Nelson Literary Agency here in Colorado, about querying and query letters.

My husband said I should go, and so I did, and there were free cookies, so woo! But it served as a good reminder of the process.

If we go back to 2009, back before this blog, I was somewhat seriously querying. I’d finished my first revision ever, had done all my research, crafted a query letter and a synopsis, and had started sending queries out. And I got some requests, all of which came back with a “good, but not great” rejection. And I entered that story in some contests, with the same results, and then sent out more queries and got nothing, so I shelved that story and went on to other things.

But now I’m back in the querying saddle, and it was good to go through the process again, because admittedly I’ve just been working on my query, and it wasn’t until last night that I realized a refresher was actually not a bad idea, since it’s been so long.

A query letter, to recap, is like a cover letter on a resume. It’s a short letter (or email, these days) that explains the basics of your story. If it catches an agent’s/publisher’s attention, they then go on to read or request pages (depending on whether that particular agency/publisher asks for pages with the query). That’s its whole job–attract attention so the actual manuscript gets looked at.

There’s generally four parts: an intro (Hello, I think you would be a good fit because we both like plesiosaurs, and also we talked about plesiosaurs that one time I cornered you in the elevator at that writer’s conference), some basic story stats (word count, genre, title), a pitch (this is what my book is about, look isn’t it fascinating), and a bio (I have relevant experience which makes it sound like I may have a clue what I’m talking about).

The bio part has always been a bane of mine (I mean, alongside the pitch, but I think most people have pitch issues). I’ve generally gotten the impression that it’s no good to mention you’re an indie author unless you have major sales. I also have no major publication credits and have won no awards, so my instinct has always been to just…not do that part. But I did ask about that, and they said it was fine to just put a brief biographical statement like “I live in Colorado and 15 cats and a landsquid.”

Which is news to me, but hey, what can it hurt? It’s not really relevant until I manage to find a pitch that doesn’t suck, so, you know.

How are you doing, Squiders? (Don’t worry, it will all be over, one way or another, tomorrow.)