Traditional Publishing

Submitting Short Stories to Magazines

Have you ever written a short story and tried to get it published in a magazine? Chances are you have. Many authors, both traditional and indie, write short stories and try to get them published in print magazines, on e-mags, or in anthologies. I’ve been published in a couple of magazines and I’m hoping for more in the future (though with my writing schedule these days, it’s hard to make time for short stories). And there are benefits to doing so, including:

  • Short stories are a whole different beast to tame than novels, so writing and sending out short stories lets you know what works and what people look for in a good short story. Sometimes magazines will even give you feedback if they decide to reject your story, so you get an idea on how to improve it.
  • At the very least, you’ll get some exposure from having your work published in a magazine. At the very most, they’ll pay you some money for a nice dinner out.
  • For those critics who accuse indie authors of trying to skirt around hard work and just put any old book out, this is a way of saying “Hey, we can do it your way too.”

If you haven’t ever sent a short story out to magazine, this might give you some help in going about it. If you’ve already done it before, then maybe this’ll be a useful reminder. And like I said, you should try it. You never know what’ll happen if you do.

1. Find a publication. Once you’ve written a short story and edited it to the utmost perfection, it’s time to find a magazine. Publications like Writer’s Digest’s Short Story & Novel Writer’s Market contain may useful listing of magazines in all genres, as well as contests and agencies and conferences. You can also get info from friends or family members who write. Another blogger told me about a magazine she published a short story in, and I think that I might have a short story I could submit to them, I just have to make sure it’s ready before I send it out.

Also, it’s helpful sometimes to read the short stories they publish. This generally gives you some idea of what they tend to publish, so you’ll have a better idea of what might be accepted.

2. Read over the rules. Every magazine has its own set of rules about submitting to them and the terms you’ll get should you be accepted. They may want the short story sent in a particular attachment, or they may prefer the story in the body of the message. There may be restrictions on length, subject matter, or a hundred other things. And being published by them might mean signing over all rights to the story to the magazine, or only first North American publishing rights. So know what you’re getting into when you decide, “I’ll send it to this publication.”

3. Write that query letter. A query letter is a letter stating who you are, what you’re sending, and why you’re sending it. Once you’ve done your research, write up a query letter and send it along to the magazine with your short story. Here’s an example of me sending a query letter to a fictional magazine:

Dear Darkness Abounds magazine,

I am submitting my manuscript “Hands” (5,732 words) to your publication for your consideration. I decided to submit to your magazine because your website said you were into “dark, creepy fiction with an interesting twist on old stories” and I thought my short story matched your description.

I am a self-published novelist with two novels and a collection of short stories published, as well as short stories published in Mobius Magazine, The Writing Disorder, and the Winter 2011 issue of TEA, A Magazine (now The Daily Tea). I also write for two blogs, Rami Ungar the Writer and Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. I am also a senior at The Ohio State University double majoring in English and History and expected to graduate in May 2015.

I look forward to hearing from you and would like to thank you for your time and consideration.

Hoping you are well,

Rami Ungar
[contact information, including address, phone number, and e-mail address]

Make sure to include the word count of your story (that’s an important factor in many publications), why you’re selecting the magazine, and any relevant publications. Also, don’t make your biography too long. Just keep the relevant stuff and don’t give them your life story. You can save that for your memoirs.

4. Wait. Every magazine has its own quoted turn-around time, so you might as well be patient. However, it’s not uncommon for a magazine to let work pile up and miss your short story entirely, so if you find two or three weeks have gone by and you haven’t heard anything, it might be helpful to send an email asking politely if you are still being considered for publication (I’ll write a post about that another time).

5. How to handle the reply. Assuming the magazine didn’t lose your work in the pile of submissions they get and you get a reply, the important thing is to be grateful one way or another for their reply. If you’re accepted, that’s wonderful. Talk terms with them and then decide if you want them to publish you. If you get rejected, possibly look at getting published somewhere else, and take into account any feedback you might receive on your short story as a possible way to improve the story.

What tips do you have for submitting to magazines your short stories?

Categories: General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Publishing Basics, Short Stories, Traditional Publishing, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Conferences, Are They Worth It?

The short answer is “yes,” but the real question is why are they?

Even after attending several of these, you wonder if you will learn anything new. But as usual, your doubts are put to rest after a conference speaker or two has presented.

Perhaps you are interested in taking the traditional route. Conferences allow you to meet with literary agents on a one-to-one basis. You can pitch your work and see if they believe your story has prospects either in the marketplace or in your ability to tell a good story. Often you bring a synopsis and at least a chapter for them to examine, but other times you just pitch your story. One writer I know has been pursuing this path for a number of years, and an agent at last week’s Nebraska Writers Guild conference requested to see more of her work.

However, today’s conferences also include a lot of advantages for the self-published author. They put you in touch with professionals in the business, such as in graphic design and marketing. One such speaker was a publishing guru and book designer Joel Friedlander.

He spoke on the benefits of each online social media from Facebook, to Twitter, to Goodreads, to YouTube, to LinkedIn to having a blog, stating blogs are the best resource. It is your hub where you can promote, post new ideas, conduct surveys and more, he said. Additionally, he believed LinkedIn to be extremely value in “gaining reputations” through its discussion formats, in being able to ask questions and in building a niche network.

Additionally, these professionals asked the audience which sold better e-books or print books? The audience replied, “e-books.” But these experts said the opposite. Thus, those brick and mortar bookstores are not going out of business soon. In fact, young people prefer print books, but adults favor e-books for their ability to enlarge print size, turn pages for those with arthritis and other e-book features, the field representatives said.

Conferences also allow attendees to interact with their cohorts – writers published or new to the craft. At this conference, there was a Friday night event where those who wanted to could read from their works. You cannot believe the great talent and variety of genres exhibited, such as poetry, memoirs, fancies, romances and humorous pieces. In addition, you got time to sell your books if you wished to do so on Saturday. If going to attend, why not sell your book(s)? You have nothing to lose since you are there anyway.

One thing I loved was putting a face to names seen on the e-mail loop. Nothing is better then talking with other writers, finding out where they are in the writing process and sharing experiences.

Finally, thank those who did the volunteer work to put the conference together. It takes time and a lot of effort from registering participants, preparing name tags, finding speakers, securing a facility and setting up the room.

So once again, get yourself to a conference even if you think there is nothing new to ascertain. You will not be disappointed. See you there and God bless.

Categories: Blogs & Websites, Digital & ePublishing, Marketing & Promoting, Self-Publishing, Social Networking, The Writer & Author, Traditional Publishing | Tags: , , , , , ,

My Thoughts on Self-Publishing, Traditional Publishing, and Pricing

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since I came back from the writer’s conference a couple weeks ago, and I’ve also listened to a couple of CDs from the workshops that I was unable to attend.  Below are my thoughts.  They do not reflect the thoughts of the other contributing authors on this blog.  Because my kids and I have been sick for a week, I’m closing off comments.   I wanted to do a blog post since it’s been a while, but I don’t have the energy to answer comments at this time.

With that disclaimer aside, here are my thoughts.

1.  Self-publishing ensures the author’s vision is intact.

Every once in a while, I start thinking that a traditional publisher, especially a small one, might be the way to go to build credibility among those who say those who can traditionally publish at least once, those who can’t self-publish all the time.   I’ve never been traditionally published, and looking back I’m very glad for it.  Why?  Because I never had someone from a publishing house come in and influence my voice, my characters, and my story.  Everything is 100% the way it was meant to be.  Yes, I realize that some publishers are good about sticking true to the author’s vision, but as soon as you hand over your work to a publisher, it gets tweaked on somehow.

Please note, an editor that works with your vision is very important, so I believe others going over your book is crucial.  But the editor should work for you, not the publisher.  In my opinion, an editor who works for the publisher has to be true to the publisher first and the author second.  So the publisher’s vision still prevails.  So yes, a fresh pair of eyes is key.  More than one pair is even better.  Editors, proofreaders, beta readers, critique partners, etc.  They can make your book better, but they must never sacrifice what makes your story unique: you.  Hope that makes sense.  :D

2.  I still believe you stand a better chance of making money through self-publishing.

I guess it depends on how big your name is, how big of a following you have, and what a publisher will do to promote you.  But what I’m talking about is the ordinary Joe on the street.  I consider myself to be one of those Joe’s.  I’m not a mega-blockbuster author.  You won’t find my name alongside Amanda Hocking or JA Konrath.  There are authors who outsell me by leaps and bounds.  I’m mid-list.  Lots of people have no idea who I am.  Based on how few people ever buy my books when I’m right there ready to sign them in person, I can honestly say that a lot of people don’t care to read my books.  And you know what?  I still make money.

To be honest, this used to bother me.  I hate to admit it, but sure, I would have loved to have been the Top 100 in the Paid Kindle US store or gotten a NYT Bestselling Author or USA Today Bestselling author status to put next to my name.  But looking back ever since this conference, I realized it’s to my advantage that I am where I’m at.  Why?  Because when I was at the conference and giving my spiel on marketing techniques, I was able to look other authors in the eye and tell them it’s possible to be a mid-list self-published author and make a living.

I’m not saying it’s a guarantee.  I’ve been publishing on Amazon and Smashwords since 2009.  I just published my 28th romance.  It took many books and time to get to where I am.  For two years straight, I was focusing on social networking (hanging out on a lot of forums as a participant, discussion boards, Myspace–back then it was good for authors be there, and Facebook).  I gave away a lot of free books, and it took me two years before I made $18K in one year.  In 2009, I made $150.  But you do everything you can to write a compelling story, keep finding ways to better polish up your work (you improve with every book you write), and keep at it.  I don’t believe in shortcuts.  I’ve seen sales rise and fall, my income vary from month to month like a roller coaster.  Do not quit your day job unless you have six months living expenses in your emergency fund and the ability and time to write more and more books.   I got lucky.  My husband worked while I wrote and stayed home as a housewife.  Not everyone has the luxury I did to build up seven to eight books a year (on average).  Be realistic, but also know if you don’t make a living, you might make some nice spending cash.

3. Traditional publishing isn’t a quick method to get established.

Publishers have their expenses, and not all of the books they publish will break even (meaning they will get back their investment on paying the editor, cover artist, etc).  So even publishers lose money on publishing some of the books they accept.  One publisher said the best marketing tool in her belt was to get more books out there.  The more books you can get out there, the better your chances are of finding the book that will take off.  That’s the heart of what I took away from the conference.  Of course, this does not mean you sacrifice quality for quantity.  You’ll never make money if you don’t produce quality books, and this publisher does produce quality books.  But the face remains, there are no shortcuts, so having a publisher isn’t necessarily a shortcut.  You will still need to market.  You will still need to write the best book possible.  Either way, you will have to put in the effort.

In my opinion (and keep in mind it’s only an opinion), I think it’s worth self-publishing in order to keep your rights to your work so you are free to do whatever you want to with it.  Even with the hassles involved with self-publishing (because we wear all the hats in the business), I still think it’s worth it.

4. Knowing what the market will bear helps make better pricing decisions.

A lot of people (and I mean a lot) hate my pricing strategy.  I’m fine with that.  I don’t think we all have to have the same opinion.  After all, some authors raise their prices and their sales go up.  I can’t argue with their experience.  What I know is that a higher price doesn’t work for me.  You have to price your book at what the market will bear, which means if you can sell enough copies where you are happy at a certain price, then that price is ideal for you.

Something to keep in mind when thinking of how to price your books is what is happening to the economy, both in your country and worldwide.  We are a global community.  Our ebooks are going global.  It’s exciting.  The barriers between the author and finding readers are no longer an issue.  However, we need to keep in mind what is going on with different economies.  Here in the US (from my perspective), the economy is too shaky to be pricing ebooks too high.  I was thinking of trying $3.99, but I’ve decided to stick with $2.99 for new books and to keep all of my old books at their current prices (with the exception of a couple I’ll be making free at some point during the next year, but I’ll be using a strategy in choosing which books go free).  If people are going to be facing economic hardships (say their boss cuts back their hours, gas prices go up so other items go up, etc), they are going to have less income to spend on items that are wants.  Books are not a necessity.  They are a want.  In times of economic hardship, the focus will be on things that are needed. I see no reason to raise my prices given these conditions.  Sure, some authors will still sell at a higher price, but they are already so does it really matter?

Bottom line: find your happy point (where you get sales you’re happy with at the price you’re happy with) and go with it.

Categories: Book Pricing, Self-Publishing, Traditional Publishing

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