Short stories

On occasion, I get queries for short fiction, especially novelettes and novellas. By word count, their rough categorization is:

  1. Flash fiction – up to 1,000 words
  2. Short story – 1,000 to 5,000
  3. Novelette – 5,000 to 15,000
  4. Novella – 15,000 to 35,000

These definitions are variable, of course, depending who you ask. Some people call all the above “short stories.”

Short fiction is generally not something agents or book publishers are interested in. For some people this is freeing: you don’t need an agent and can submit the story yourself where you will.

Since I get these queries on a regular basis, here is the run-down. There are two places to market them:

Magazines and anthologies (traditional method)

Tons of literary magazines exist. Large ones like Glimmer Train and Clarkesworld. And medium- and small-sized publications like Uncanny Magazine and Gamut Magazine, both catering to specific genres.

The same thing applies to anthologies. You will find calls for submissions from giants like Popular Fiction Awards and Writers of the Future. And then smaller stuff like Less Than Three Press.

Note that I’m naming things off the top of my head. There are thousands of submissions offerings all the time.

If you write contemporary or literary short fiction, finding outlets isn’t too hard. Genre fiction is a different matter. I’ve found “Open Call” Facebook groups post new opportunities daily. For starters check out these: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Pulp Markets, Horror, Horror/Paranormal/Mystery/Sci-Fi, Romance, Horror, and YA.

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You must request to join these groups, as they are private. But in my experience you explain you’re an author and will abide the rules and they let you in. (Note I haven’t vetted all these myself: some were suggested by writers.)

Abide by the rules and follow the guidelines. I recommend aiming lower when you start — including for presses which don’t pay. They’ll get you exposure.

E-format (self-publishing method)

Short fiction is now popping up on Amazon, Nook, and other e-book stores. I’ve never seen someone charge more than $0.99 for a piece. Some authors will put their short fiction up for free as promo for their books.

Most of the people doing this are already established authors. Like all self-publishing, it’s hard to garner sales when nobody knows who you are.

If you are already traditionally-published, talk with your agent about marketing short fiction alongside your long fiction. If you’re writing a companion story, you may need to work things out with your book publisher first.


Photo by Rookuzz.

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