Business of Writing, SFF, Writing

A quick and dirty guide to selling SFF short stories

I am doing a sort of information sharing meme at my Dreamwidth journal, and am cross-posting a revised version of one of my comments in the event that it might be useful. It is a quick and dirty guide to selling SFF short stories!

(We will consider and dismiss a spasm of Imposter Syndrome here about how it is rich for me to be telling other people how to sell SFF short stories when it’s not like I’ve ever been published in x, y or z pro markets.)

These are basic practical tips for people who are not sure where to start. It assumes that you are already writing or planning to write short stories that are speculative in nature. No actual writing advice is given.

The main plank of my approach is this: what you want to do is mechanise your submission process, so that you continue submitting lots without its disturbing your peace of mind, preserving the mental space you need to write.

(1) Make a list of markets. I like Duotrope, which is a search engine that lets you search by word count, genre, etc. It’s paid now, but there’s a free trial. Ralan is the other main resource. ETA: via Kara Lee, The Grinder is a Duotrope alternative that is free and looks like it does some of #5 for you.

Depending on your area of interest, you may also want to look at Asia Writes (which is also on Twitter) and this helpful list of explicitly diversity-friendly SFF markets. You can also look at the websites/bibliographies of authors who write stories like yours, and google the markets they have published in.

But you’ll want to compile your own list, to match what you’re most likely to be sending out. My list of markets recorded:

  • Genre
  • Word count
  • Pay rate
  • What editors said about what they wanted or didn’t want to see, and/or any other specific information e.g. peculiar formatting requirements

When submitting, you want to go for markets that pay you (pro, semi-pro and token, in that order) and, ideally, the ones that make stories available for free online. The latter is because exposure is the most important thing for a new writer. You can’t link to stories in anthologies.

(Of course, there are lots of nice things about publishing in anthologies — interesting themes; contributor copies; being in books in actual bookshops; and that glow of excitement when you see the Table of Contents and realise that your story is in the same book as a story by an admired author. *_*)

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