January 2014 through December 2014 - Page 28

Mining for by Bob Strother N ot all short story authors want to become novelists, and not all novelists started out by writing short stories. But it’s a safe bet that most successful novelists have at least a few published short stories under their belt. Why? Because agents, editors, and publishers want to see some publishing “credentials” before they consider your manuscript—and short stories are easier to have published than longer works. You already know the basics of submitting your work: edit carefully, proofread meticulously, and follow the publisher’s guidelines. What may not come so easily is finding the journal or magazine markets for your finished work. Certainly you can Google “literary journals” and find a wealth of listings. Or, if you prefer a hard copy source, the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market has well over a hundred pages of listings. The 2015 edition has combined listings for literary journals, online journals, and consumer and sm all circulation magazines. This means a bit more work for the writer, ferreting out which is which, but it’s still one of the most comprehensive market resources around. It may also contain information not readily available on the publisher’s website, i.e. number of submissions received monthly and number of works accepted. Odds are you’re more likely to be published in a journal receiving 20 manuscripts a month and publishing 30 stories annually than in one publishing the same number but receiving 100 submissions a month. An online subscription to the Writer’s Market also comes free with the book’s purchase. Most literary journals advise authors to “order copies of the journal and become familiar with the type of stories we publish before you submit.” Good advice, but an often expensive proposition, with no guarantee that what you read fits with what you write. The upside is that if the journal includes author bios, they almost always list a number of other journals in which they’ve been published. A potentially less expensive (and generally more beneficial) way to get some of that same information may be through joining a local writer’s organization. Many have monthly newsletters featuring who was published and where. Critique groups, local or online, may offer similar information. Social networking sites are often helpful, especially if you have writer friends who use that venue to announce acceptance or publication. If your colleague was published there, surely you have at least as 28 Southern Writers good a chance, right? There are lots of good reasons to attend writing conferences and workshops: exposure to big-time agents, editors, and publishers, certainly, but don’t overlook editors and publishers (often the same person) of small circulation literary journals and anthologies, either. If conferences are too expensive, book festivals aren’t, and they are usually loaded with literary journal publishers. Those journals with bios are packed with information on where to submit your work, and you can typically purchase copies of older editions for much less than the current issue. Of course, if you’re reading this article, you’ve another fine resource at hand. Each issue of Southern Writers Magazine is packed with authors—authors who have websites. Check them out. All of them started somewhere, maybe with short stories. Some may list early publishing credits. More fodder for your submission education. Speaking of process, here are a few things I’d suggest. Set aside one day a week to do nothing but submit your work. (It’s hard, I know, when you’re caught up in the throes of a great story, but it’s worth it when you receive an acceptance.) Take submission guidelines with a grain of salt. Sure, you need to follow formatting instructions to the letter, but “no simultaneous submissions” is designed strictly for the publisher’s benefit—not yours. Many journals reply to submissions in a timely way. Others never reply. So if you’re waiting on a reply before sending to another journal, you might be waiting forever. But once you are accepted, notify immediately any other journals to which you also submitted. (I keep a computer file listing each journal I’ve submitted to, which story I’ve submitted, and when I submitted it. It’s an efficient means of notifying other journals of an acceptance elsewhere.) Many writers, especially aspiring novelists, want to build publishing credits with as many different journals as they can. And that’s a good thing—looks great in a query letter. Even so, don’t discount the benefits of submitting multiple stories to a journal editor who truly likes your work. My relationship with one such editor (who had a good relationship with a publishing house) led to the publication of my short story collection and a novel. You can do that, too. Just keep writing and keep submitting. n In addition to his collection, Scattered, Smothered, and Covered, and his novel, Shug’s Place, Bob Strother has over ninety publishing credits in a number of literary journals and magazines. His story “Doughnut Walk” was recently adapted for a short film of the same name. www.bobstrother.net