03 November 2010

Should Selling My Story Be THIS Hard?

Like many authors, I wrote my first novel before I wrote my first short story. Once my first novel didn't sell, I figured I whip out a few short stories and sell them to reputable markets so that I'd have more publication credits to my name. That's when I discovered it wasn't easy to sell a story. The pro markets are next to impossible. The semi-pro markets are . . . well, really hard. Even markets that pay next to nothing can be choosy.

Its been several years since I made that discovery, and I've learned a lot since then. I've learned that my first few attempts at short stories were not a good as I thought they were. I've learned that the best way to get better at writing short stories is to write more short stories then subject them to critique. And I've learned it was unreasonable to expect "overnight" success. Selling a great short story is hard--sometimes impossible. But it can be done!

Here are some tips to getting published:

-- Remember that the NEXT story you write is likely to be your best. Keep writing and developing your craft.
-- Pay attention to markets as best you can. What 'zine publishes stories that match the genre, tone, and style of your story? Does your story fit the theme of an upcoming anthology?
-- Did you get a rejection? Don't let the story languish. Submit the story to the next promising market on the same day
-- Send your story to the Writers of the Future contest. Odds are you will not be a finalist, but an honorable mention is nice--and it's free. Plus, it's a golden ticket if you do win
-- Decide when it time to retire a story. If you've lost passion for the story and you've submitted to more than 15 markets, maybe it's time to let it go.
--Share your triumphs. If you get published, make the short list, or get a detailed rejection, share it with your writing friends. Only they understand how tough it is
--Don't give up. Keep writing.


sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I agree with all that, except the 15 markets. I just sold a story to my 19th and it's a GOOD, paying market. So it's worth keeping at it until the thing sells.

TLH said...

It would help if I could write a short story in the first place. Seems like every idea I come up with for one turns into a novel idea.

Any tips on actually writing them? :D

Betsy - I agree with you - the number of rejections is largely irrelevant for both short stories and book queries, it's just how long you personally continue to believe in the story. Once your own enthusiasm drops off, everyone else's will too.


lesleylsmith said...

You wrote a novel before you wrote a short story? That's crazy, dude!

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I guess I wrote a novel first, too, when I was 13! But then in school and university I wrote short stories because that's how they trained us.

Hmm, maybe we should do a series of posts on the actual writing of short stories... Maybe all the editors could write a post from their own experience and perspective.

lesleylsmith said...

Editor Dave, the timing of this post is interesting, considering we just had to tell some of the hold-for-voting authors we were going to pass on their stories. :(

Editor Betsy, I was already planning a post based on comments I heard at the production meeting...
When do you suggest?