Re-posted from my monthly column at FFC.
If you're new to the submissions game, trying to find markets that might fit your work can seem like an impossible task. How do you learn your way around an arena as vast and varied as the world of literary magazines? Mostly, it just takes a lot of time and research, but if you're looking for some tips on how to get started, I've compiled some of my advice below.
- Read the year-end anthologies. Of course it's important to support your favorite journals by subscribing, but if you're strapped for cash, reading the Pushcart Prize volumes or books from the Best American series is a great way to get to know a lot of magazines for one price of admission.
- Look for themed journals or special issues. Some magazines theme issues by geographical location or subject matter. Looking for a journal with a theme that fits your story can be a great way to learn about new magazines. If you're looking to find one, Duotrope has a handy theme calendar that's a good place to start.
- Don't just read the magazine, read the bio pages too. When you're first learning your way around, author bio pages are a great way to find comparable magazines. You already know you like the magazine you're reading, and other journals that have published the same writers are likely to have a similar vibe.
- Stalk your favorite writers. If you stumble upon a writer whose work you would liken to your own, see if they have a website or list of pubs somewhere. You can target the same magazines and guess that the editors who liked their stories are more likely to enjoy yours as well.
- Talk to your writer-friends. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we're coy about the submissions process. Don't be afraid to share information about where you're submitting and why. Everyone benefits from this kind of knowledge sharing.
- Finally, when deciding where to send your work, be clear about your goals. This is a really important step and one that's often overlooked. Where you send your stories should depend largely on what you want to achieve. If you're looking to get a fancy teaching job, you should sub to top print journals. But if your priority is readership, web-based venues are a better bet.
Those of you who have been submitting for a while, how did you learn your way around the literary landscape?
This month's article at Flash Fiction Chronicles is about my first time being published. I've re-posted it here:
Everyone remembers their first time. Maybe you’re young and naive, like I was. Maybe you’ve been working up to it so long that you already feel like a pro. But when the moment arrives, it’s always the same: the excitement, the nervous butterflies, the need to share the news immediately with a trusted friend. For this column I thought I’d tell you about my first time–my first time being published, that is.
I don’t know when (if ever) I would have started sending work out on my own, but luckily my first writing teacher was adamant that we all engage with the world outside the workshop. At the end of my first writing class in my junior year of college, I was required to print out a manuscript, compose a cover letter, research a market and (gulp) send the whole bundle off to a real life magazine to be judged by the cold, cruel world.
I spent a lot of time deciding on a market for that first story. I didn’t know my way around the literary landscape at all, so there was no name recognition involved. Eventually, I flipped to the section marked “Special Interest.” Since my story dealt with illness, I was excited to find many magazines dedicated to that topic. I settled on a magazine called Kaleidoscope because it was from Ohio and so was I.
Since the instructor all but promised us we’d each be getting a rejection letter in our little white envelope in four to six months, I didn’t even entertain the possibility that Kaleidoscope would take my piece. But it didn’t matter; I was hooked. I spent long afternoons in the library reading through The Writer’s Market, making copies of my manuscripts and my disastrously generic cover letter. I spent my drinking money on postage.
Slowly but surely, the rejections started rolling in. You know them immediately: addressed in your own handwriting, no return address. I always opened them anyway, looking for any scrawl of pen on paper, evidence that someone took an extra second to reject me.
I could have gone on like this for a long time, forever maybe. But I didn’t have to. The big envelope came two weeks after Christmas. It was from Kaleidoscope and they wanted my story. They were even willing to pay me for it ($75, which went right into more envelopes, copies and postage, after a round of drinks for my my roommates). I’ve celebrated every acceptance since then, but there’s still something magical about that first one. You never forget it.
I also won’t forget how it felt when the journal finally came, and I got to see my words in print for the first time. It was a bit of a wait. Despite having sent the story out in May of 2002, and having it accepted in January of 2003, the issue containing my story didn’t come out until July 2005. It was a long wait, but it was worth it.
Now that I’m someone else’s writing teacher, I have adopted the same requirement. It’s a good skill to learn, I tell my students, and no one will offer teach you once you’ve left. Sometimes I have to talk a reluctant student into it, but I don’t back down. I’ve even had a few students excitedly email me about their acceptances. They feel almost as good as my own.
If you follow this blog you are probably aware of my love of science, fiction, and, of course, science fiction. So I'm incredibly excited to be guest-editing a "Science and Fiction" issue of PANK Magazine along with my partner-in-crime (and wedlock), Devan Goldstein.
If you ask me, modern, forward-thinking science fiction stories don't get their due in land of the literary. We hope to correct that by showcasing just how awesome science-y fiction can be. We can't wait to see what you all do with this topic, so please send, send send! We think you'll straight kill it.
You can see full guidelines here, and I've also pasted them below for your viewing pleasure.
The December 2011 issue will be The Science and Fiction Issue, edited by Aubrey Hirsch and Devan Goldstein.
Aubrey and Devan are open to anything you'd like to submit as long as it's "science-y" (please excuse our very technical language). If you need more specific suggestions, here are a few:
Hard science fiction. Jet-packs, food pills, the enslavement of the human race, as long as it doesn't rely on formula over character. Think more George Saunders and less Tom Godwin, though we do have a soft spot for Rod Serling.
Social science fiction. The discovery of an island where no one can love, a world where insects are the people and people are the insects, an alternate time line USA where Kerry got elected and we cured cancer.
Fiction about science. A story that takes place in a third period biology class, a particle physicist who always wanted to be a cowboy, star-cross cosmologists.
Anything else that surprises us, thrills us, alters our definition of "science fiction" or otherwise makes us drop our beakers in delight.
No formulaic sci-fi, nothing that's all world-building and no character, no Avatar fan fiction, nothing that comes in an alien language that you invented and we can't read.
Submissions are open until October 15, 2011 or when the issue fills up. Response times for Special Issues are generally longer than for regular submissions.