The Process of Publishing Short Fiction


^What the process of publishing something can be like ^


I can only speak with a tiny amount of authority on the issue – I’ve just had something accepted (professional publishing-wheeee!). But I love “How I did A, B or C” posts, so I thought I’d write one myself.

How I managed to get a short accepted:

  • I wrote a short story that actually worked

I’ve been writing long fiction since I was 12. I wrote a 6 book series (now trunked – and it’s a good thing, believe me), that I finished before I was 17. I used to get up an write for two hours before school.

But writing something less than 60k? And making that something a complete story? F*ck me, it was hard.

Eventually though, I came up with something I liked, and thought was publishable. Thus, step one was completed.

  • I researched submission etiquette

Novels need queries. Short fiction – cover letters. I found this post, by Zanzjan (who hads been professional published in short ficition and hangs around on AW sharing all sorts of wisdom) to be invaluable.

No, not the dating site for gay men, but the submission grinder. Basically, it sorts fiction markets into genre and pay-rate, and lets you track your submissions and see how long it’s taken for others to get a reply. It also lets you run a search to see who might buy your story. Most useful tool ever.

  • Submitted something

Just one little something. Didn’t hear back for over a month – that made me excited, as most “no”s came within the first two weeks (I knew this because I had the data on submissions from the submissions grinder. As I said -useful site)

  • Rejection

Form letter 😦 At day 36 too. I promptly didn’t submit anything else for the next two months

  • Joined Write1Sub1 on Absolute Write Water Cooler

Absolute Write is a writing forum. Write1Sub1 (W1S1) is an area on that forum mostly population by short fiction writers who do just that – they write something, then they sub it out. Repeat indefinitely. It has useful threads such as “Middling It” (hanging out while you wait around in the middle of nowhere purgatory waiting to find out if anything has read your damn story), and Rejectormancy (hugging and giving each other encouragement when it doesn’t work out) and Braggage (yays! when it does work out).

  • Submitted more stuff. Now, more than one story at a time

With newfound encouragement from W1S1, and the ability to track where each of my stories were (thanks again to the SubmissionGrinder), I had another crack at it

  • Rejection

Pretty self explanatory. Got the occasional personalised rejection

  • Rinse and repeat until September
  • Get a reply that’s different.

Approx 90 days after I’d send out the piece, I got a note back asking if I could both make it shorter, and add to the world building. I was at home at the time, so didn’t get much done for the next month.

  • Rewrite and resubmit.

I managed to make the damned thing both shorter, and give it more backstory. Sent it back to the magazine

  • Wait 60 days

There is a reason why “Middling it” exists as a forum

  • Get back a yes!

All the skipping around.

The thing to note though – this process took over a year. I first submitted something in December of 2014. I was accepted in Jan of 2016. The piece that was accepted spent 5 months going back and forth. I had to wait five months for an answer.

This is not unusual.

I don’t know if this is a process that is going to repeat itself. As I’ve said elsewhere, in 2017, I won’t be able to publish for profit (visa conditions, yay!). Maybe when I try again, the process will be different. Maybe it’ll take longer. Maybe, even though there’ll be a gap in production, this one professional publication will help make things a bit quicker. Who knows.


Image courtersy of Emilia Eriksson, via Flickr, under Creative Commons


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