Great Markets In Which To Sell Your First Story

When ready to sell a short story, some modestly paying electronic and print magazines are open to the work of new and unproven writers. Here's how to build you resume and gain invaluable experience

If you dream of writing the great American novel, but started out writing short stories because it was easier, here's the latest scoop""writing short stories is indeed a wonderful training technique for becoming a polished writer, but not because it's easier. There's probably nothing more difficult than creating a believable piece of short fiction with compelling characters and a complex enough plot to keep you reading all the way to Sunday than a story with tight boundaries, and a limited number of words.

Can you put heartache into two thousand words and keep the reader clued to her seat? Can you make a magical fantasy world come alive in 1500 words? Can you create and solve a mystery realistically in 1000 words or less?

Maybe. Hemingway could, and John Updike still can. Tillie Olsen did, and Willa Cather, O. Henry and Ray Bradbury were brilliant at it.

But if you're not sure you can, the training to do so will make you a better writer, a writer who writes tight, creates a clear beginning, middle and end, uses perfect spelling and grammar, writes excellent dialogue, paints clear sensory pictures, makes us know and believe the characters as we would believe our own sisters and brothers and cry with them, laugh with them as we would with a friend. But how long can you pursue short fiction writing without getting published and still have the courage to go on?

Understandably, not forever. So here are some suggestions for finding markets that will help you discover if you're on the right track, growing in your skill to tell a story, pace it the right way, and breathe life into its heart. Literary magazines have long been the first threshold of serious fiction writers. Most literary magazines do not pay well. Some don't pay at all, offering only one or two copies in exchange for your struggled-over piece of fiction.

Not a great reward? Think again. Some of the world's greatest fiction writers have started out penning their tales for the non-lucrative but relatively prestigious literary journals. Wally Lamb, author of the two best-selling hits, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, is one example. So if you find a literary magazine you particularly like, and believe your own story is written in a similar vein, give it a try. Send for the submission guidelines (most magazines have them) and write a brief cover letter, enclosing your story and mailing it off during the months when the magazine accepts submissions. Most literary magazines are connected with a college or university, and often only do their reading of submissions during the school year. Save postage, and find out how to submit first.

So you've tried a few literary magazine (say fifteen or twenty) and you still can't get your masterpiece published? There's another tier of semi-literary magazines, more likely to be labeled general magazines, with a less academic readership, who may want your story in exchange for a few copies, a few dollars, or a subscription. Read a copy or two of the magazine you are targeting before you submit. This will keep you from sending a science-fiction piece to a ladies farm journal, or vie-versa. A few of the magazines in this category friends have had success with include regional or state magazines, works like Thema, which ask for stories to be submitted based on a current theme, Rosebud, Amelia, Vermont Ink, The Strand, Shortstuff for Grown-ups, and the Bohemian Chronicle. Many religious, children's, and other consumer's magazines also seek occasional short stories for minute pay.

Most of these magazines are not slick, four-colored presentations; some are little better than home-published pages stapled together with minimal art all in black and white. But the key is, you get your work in print! Once you have a few piece sin print, it is a much shorter bridge to the glossy world of magazines that pay and pay well. On the way over the bridge, confession magazines make an interesting market. You won't get a byline, most are published by the one publisher, but they pay reasonably well, if you can master the formula. Read a few and find out. I know personally several authors who got their first publishing break in the confessions.

Finally, if in print magazines still are not accepting your work for virtually nothing, try the E-zines populating the Internet these days. E-magazines offer a huge, hitherto unknown and unavailable market for struggling writers. I know several people who cut their teeth on these markets, many of which pay a small amount, or in lieu of payment, offer you the opportunity to build up a resume of published works.

Have a love story brimming over? Try I've seen some fine short fiction there. is a magazine for seniors that may be looking for short fiction. Beginning is another good market for new writers, and can be accessed at Rhapsody Magazine at has shown some decent fiction pieces lately""someone has got to be providing them, why not you? There's also Amazing Authors E-zine at "". In fact you can search the web for your own e-zine discoveries, especially if you like to write in one particular genre such as mystery, romance, sci-fi or fantasy.

In addition to searching the Web, you can research fiction markets in The Writer, Writer's Digest, especially their annual Best Markets for Short Fiction Issue, and other trade compendiums like The Writer's Market 2001, or The Short Story Market Annual.

As you progress in your publishing credits, you may find you're up to a short fiction piece in a better paying market, such as Woman's World, Woman's Day, even Harper's or the New Yorker. Remember to get submission guidelines for wherever you're targeting, and have patience. Someplace in publishing there's a market for you. Write a good story, polish it, and spend some time coming up with markets. The world will yet see your printed words""if you're determined enough to latch on to the "first market" opportunities available.

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