Okay, so you’ve now finished the ‘story of the century.’ You’ve shed blood, sweat and tears; sacrificed your free time, good eating habits, and small children and animals to complete this you-know-it’s-going-to-be-world-changing final draft. Now what?
I get to that point and then start to feel overwhelmed. Seriously! There are so many places to submit a short story these days – magazines, webzines, anthologies, specialized anthologies, U.S.-based and outside, pro-paying, semi-pro and more. How to figure it out? Without abandoning spouse and children again for computer and submission process.
My answer was to create a Submission Matrix (I really like saying that, makes me feel smart). Okay, back on topic. What I mean is to make a list of what is important to you – pay, prestige, just being “out there” in publication?
I start with pay. Why? Because, for me personally that is what I use to define authors from folk like me who are still at the writing phase of our careers. I’m looking for professional rates first and foremost – $0.05 a word. I include all magazines etc that meet that requirement. Then I look for those that pay $0.01-$0.04 per word, followed by those that offer at least some compensation. There aren’t as many as you’d think.
After pay, prestige is the second most important element. There are a few places that, while they don’t quite meet the professional pay rate are known in the industry as solid performers, or as having a quality product, or an eye for up-and-coming authors. There are several ways go discover these “prestige” markets. One way is simply word of mouth through authors, editors, agents, other writers…The way I do it is through awards. I look at the Hugos and Nebulas, Edgars and Bram Stokers (depending on the genre) and see where the winners have been published. Many are from “pro-zines” but not all. And if you’re willing to read back a few years, you’ll find that many of the same “prestige” magazines show up over and over. It is also a great way to spot up-and-coming magazines that even if they don’t pay $0.05 a word yet, may one day be able to do so.
Third, is responsiveness. Published authors always say to send your story out and keep sending it out; that’s the best way to eventually get it published and in front of the public. But I know how I am, in a word – lazy. I’ll submit a story and if it gets rejected, I tend to be slow about submitting again. Not becuase of hurt feelings, or because I think the work is subpar, but I’m just downright lazy. Nowadays, it doesn’t even have to be put in the mail as a number of publications accept email submission. So, I want to find places to submit that have a quick turnaround time. If I get a response relatively quickly, I’m more likely to resubmit my work to somewhere else. Of course, from a mathematical point of view, if I receive quicker responses, the sooner I can send stories out again, the more places see it, the more likely the odds that someone will accept it eventually. Well…unless it is complete and utter drek.
So I now have these three values that are important to me and a list of various places to send my writing. Now comes the building of the matrix. I award points for each of my categories. For example, pay. 3 points for $0.05 per word, 2 points for $0.01-$0.03 per word, 1 point for any fiscal compensation and 0 points for anything else. Prestige is based on appearances in awards (within the last 5 years) and if stories from the publication appeared in any “Year’s Best” (also from the last 5 years). Responsiveness, obviously has an inverse relationship with: 3 points for less than 2 months, 2 points for less than 3 months, and 1 point for less than 4 months. Obviously, I would have more detailed information on each of the publications elsewhere, but for the purposes of submission this is what I use for a quick and dirty hit list.
PUBLICATIONS PAY PRESTIGE RESPONSE TOTAL
Magazine A 3 2 0 5
Webzine A 2 2 1 5
Webzine B 1 3 3 7
Magazine B 2 2 2 6
Which means I would submit my work in order to: Webzine B, Magazine B, Magazine A and Webzine A. When the scores are equal my initial priority (pay) is the determining factor. Whew! It can take a bit to get used to using a system like this, but I have to admit, it has made my submission cycle simpler. Whether it has been more successful or not, I’m still waiting to see. Currently, I’m conidering adding an “Other” category specifically to represent things such as personalized rejections (to better reflect when I’m “close”). Your mileage may vary but at the very least, happy submitting!