Monday 20 February 2012

How I choose where to send prose

People have recently asked me where they should send their prose. I've shown them lists of magazines and prizes but there are too many options for them to cope with. So here's what I do.

  • Factors - Length, Type, and Quality affect my choice as does where I've send stories to in the last year, and how desperate I am. I don't send to any mag that's accepted or rejected me in the last 9 months or so.
  • What I do with good 2000 word literary stories - If I think I've written my best story ever, I save it for the Bridport competition. After that I consider "London Magazine" and "Stand". Then (or straight away if the story's not so amazing) "Riptide", "Iota", "Ambit," "Under the Radar", "Staple", "Tears in the Fence", "Warwick Review" and "Horizon Review". If it's the right time of the year I go for the Bristol and shortFiction competitions (both offer publication and prizes). The advantage of competitions is that they're anonymous and you know when you can send the story out again.
    US mags are increasingly tempting - they're often easier to submit to than UK magazines are. In the last 2 years I've tried (unsuccessfully) "Alaska Quarterly Review", "Triquarterly", "Tin House", and "McSweeney's". There are many other respectable magazines to choose from, and unlike their UK counterparts they often accept simultaneous submissions. For rankings, see the Pushcart Prize Rankings. For other details (e.g. how quickly they reply, etc) see Duotrope
  • What I do with good 750-1000 word fairly literary stories - I look at Smokelong quarterly (my first option), Ink, Sweat & Tears, Everyday fiction, The Pedestal Magazine, Journal of Microliterature and Flashquake.
  • What I do with good 500 word stories - I try Quick fiction and Vestal review.
  • What I do with other stories - I send to Right Hand Pointing (max 500 words) and many other mags - see Tania Hershman's Non-complete list of UK and Ireland outlets
  • Cover letters - Several mags want them. I have a standard bio that I always use, saying where I live, where I've been published, and where I blog. Just a paragraph or 2.
  • Submission record - submishmash is used by many magazines as a submissions system. It also stores your submission history. I use spreadsheets and paper.
  • The worst thing that can happen? - That you send your best story ever to a rubbish magazine and they accept it. You need the confidence boost of acceptances so in lean patches you might send good stories to less good mags, but otherwise I suggest you keep your best stories for the best markets and be patient.
  • The next worst thing that can happen? - That you send it nowhere.

Of course, my idea of which magazines are good may not correspond to your notion. You'll need to do market research. Here's another opinion - Salt's "The Best British Short Stories 2011" edited by Nicholas Royle chose stories from these sources: books (5), non-UK mags (3), newspapers (3), Warwick Review (3), London Magazine (1), Ambit (1), Wasafiri (1), Riptide (1), New Welsh Review (1), online competition anthology (1)

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