How to get a Short Story PUBLISHED: Spend Less Time Writing & More Time…
…you’ll have to read this post to find out!
Notice my use of capital letters in the title? Subtle. My middle name. But the caps are used for good reason.
Many writers spend hours writing and editing a myriad of stories; masterpieces infused with magical words and imagination. Then they let their mum read them and wonder why they’re not famous.
OK, maybe I’m exaggerating to make a point.
“So what is the point?” you ask. “Get on with it.”
The point is simple, oh impatient reader who is irritated because my cunning use of blog title enticed them to read more and they want the answer now goddamnit:
To be successful and see your words in print you need to spend as much time and effort marketing your stories as you do writing them.
Writing with a market in mind helps publishing success rates.
How do I know? Because I’ve done it. And it works.
You’ll be pleased to hear that market research is simple and fun. All you have to do is visit a competition website and read any stories they publish that have previously won. Or buy back issues of magazines or short story anthologies and read them. It’s a lot of fun and you can absorb a lot of writing ideas by doing so.
Many magazines and competitions offer detailed submission guidelines. Read them. Learn from them. Tailor your story submission to their needs.
Immerse yourself in reading. Enjoy every story. But don’t just read. Analyse and ask questions:
- Which stories do you like best?
- Is there a clever idea that inspires you?
- Can you use any of the writers’ story telling techniques to enhance your own work?
I’m not suggesting you plagiarise anyone else’s work. I’m simply pointing out that other writers’ short stories can be an amazing source of inspiration. As well as enjoying reading them, you can learn from them. If a writer employs a clever story telling tactic, see how you can apply that to your own work. Try it out. You should always attempt to improve your writing. It’ll make you more publishable.
Remember, you’re also reading to learn about an editor or judge’s taste – to discover more about the market you intend to submit to. The aim is to give yourself a better chance of having a submission accepted and published. Again, analyse and ask questions:
- What kinds of story do the editors / judges publish?
- Is there a style they seem to prefer?
- Do they favour a certain type of ending?
- Do they favour a certain type of plot or dialogue style?
- How many characters are in the stories they publish?
- Do the published stories have interesting titles?
- Is there a genre they seem to prefer?
- Can you write in a genre that would fit?
- Does your writing style fit with the publication?
- If not, can you tweak it so it does?
If you research in this manner and then write a story with a publication in mind, your story is more likely to be successful. It’s more likely to be published.
For example, before I submitted my story, The Ninja Zombie Knitting Circle, to the Writers’ Village competition, I did some research first. I read the previous winning stories.
I discovered John (the judge) likes humorous, quirky tales, which suited me as I often write stories in this style. The competition winning stories have strong, satisfying endings. In fact, they are strong throughout with good use of dialogue and engaging plots that keep a reader hooked.
With this in mind I wrote and submitted a story. John rejected it.
Ah, this puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?
I didn’t succeed on the first attempt.
But I didn’t give up. I took John’s constructive criticism on board and edited the story, changing the end substantially. I submitted the new version of the story to Writers’ Forum who published it. I then wrote another story for Writers’ Village. This story was successful and John published it.
This publishing success originated from doing some initial market research and writing with a publication in mind.
If you don’t succeed first time, learn from the experience and try again.
You will be published.
You can read the stories I’ve mentioned here in my book, How to Write a Short Story, Get Published and Make Money. I use them as detailed case studies in the book.
You Can Undertake Market Research After Writing A Story
Inspiration doesn’t always obey the rules. Sometimes, it occurs so suddenly that you just have to write and forget about market research and publishers and all the things I’ve mentioned in this post so far.
It happens to me. If I’m inspired, I need to write there and then. This means a story might be completed and I have no idea where I might submit it.
In this situation, all you need to do is undertake the market research in exactly the same way as before, but after the story is written. If you find a suitable market, submit. If you find a market that might work if you edit and tweak your story – you guessed it – edit and tweak your story to give it the best chance of publication.
It’s all common sense stuff, but sometimes one needs to be reminded of what is common and sensible.
As you become more experienced and have stories published, you’ll learn what different markets look for and will be able to write for them naturally. So from the very point when inspiration strikes, you’ll have a better chance of seeing the finished story in print.
The old cliché still stands true – practice does make perfect.
Never Give Up
Never give up: does what it says on the proverbial tin.
Just because one competition judge or magazine editor rejects your work, does not mean another won’t love it and publish it.
Learn to deal with rejection.
Grow skin thicker than a rhino.
Listen to any feedback a competition judge or editor gives you.
Use constructive criticism to learn; edit and better your stories.
Once You’ve Had a Story Published, Keep Promoting It
Once a story is published, it doesn’t end there. You need to share the fact that it’s been published. You need to market it. There are many ways you can do this:
- On your blog / website
- Google Plus
- Any other form of social media I’ve neglected to mention above
- Email marketing (Mailchimp is a great service to use)
- Through friends and family
- Through any industry contacts you might have
- Contact local press (online and offline) to see if they’d be interested in doing a feature
This kind of promotion benefits you and the publication that has used your story. They are likely to notice any promotion you’ve undertaken, especially if you tell them about it. They’ll appreciate it – it widens their audience and gains exposure for their brand. It does the same for you as a writer. Seeing that you’re proactive will mean they are more likely to consider publishing your work in the future.
Don’t be afraid to employ this approach and be proactive with promotion. Let’s use local press as an example. They want news. If you’ve done something newsworthy, like been published through a major international competition and won a prize, they’ll welcome hearing about it.
This very blog post is another good example. I’m writing this post and Geraldine is publishing it. Now her readers will know about me. They might read the story I linked to further up the post. They might click on the link below to my website. They might read a story or two there as well…
You get the picture.
Marketing does work, as long as you give it the time and attention it deserves. By splitting your time equally between writing and marketing (research and promotion), you’re much more likely to see your stories published and enjoy success as a writer of fiction.
If you found this post interesting, there is a LOT more advice on my website, christopherfielden.com