There is a further step, if one wishes to plumb the depths of pain. Publication!
If you want to self-publish, feel free. However, once a work is up for the public to read (on a webpage, on a public forum… basically anywhere someone can access it without having received it directly from you personally), publishers are no longer interested. They will not pay for it, they won’t even publish it for free. So you gotta keep it secret and keep it safe if you want to Get Published. (There are exceptions. Alexander can tell you about them. :) But they are crazy rare.)
Fortunately at this point, the work part of getting published is mostly done. The remaining steps are mostly easy, and often peasy. They are thus:
Put your manuscript in standard manuscript format. Fortunately we all already did this when we submitted, so we all know how to do it and that it’s barely an inconvenience.
Next you’ll go to the website of a short story publisher and submit your story to them. The “choose a venue” thing is not a big deal. By the time you are trying to get your 2nd or 3rd story published, it’s routine and takes no time. (note: Online publications are more widely seen/read, Print have more prestige due to legacy. 8c/word is consider professional pay). I’ve listed the big Usual Suspects you’ll want to start with if you’re writing sf/f/genre fiction:
- Clarkesworld – Great pay, very fast turn around, online, awards-darling, and good reputation
- Asimov’s – Print, Very good reputation. One of the “Big Three” (traditional print mags)
- Analog – Print, Very good reputation. One of the “Big Three.” SF ONLY! No fantasy.
- Fantasy & Science Ficiton Magazine – Print, Very good reputation. One of the “Big Three”
- Strange Horizons – Online, awards-darling, pretty good reputation. Only accepts submissions at the start of every month!
- Uncanny Magazine – Good Pay, Online, SUPER awards-darling. Rarely open for submissions though.
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies –Good pay, Online, good reputation. Only accepts Fantasy, strongly prefers longer works in second-world settings and lots of world-building.
(Also, if you haven’t had three pro-level sales yet, submit to the Writers of the Future contest every quarter. The money is extraordinarily good, AND it comes with an all-expenses paid 5-day writers workshop in Los Angeles. (It is financed by Scientologists, but they mostly stay out of it, and it’s run and taught by legit serious authors like Liz Hand).)
You will (very likely) be rejected A LOT. Don’t lose faith, they just suck at reading. Keep going.
But DO keep a spreadsheet with four items:
This is because you cannot submit to more than one venue at a time (within reason). You’ll need to track which you submitted to.
Reading times can be verrrrrrry long. Generally, if I haven’t heard back within 90 days I’ll send a query. If nothing after 120 days, I consider the story rejected and move on to next target.
ANYWAY! You picked one. You went to their website. They will ask for a few details, your manuscript, and sometimes a cover letter.
This is your cover letter:
Attached is my X,000-word short story titled “Effective Altruism Saves the Day” for consideration in Magazine Name.
My work has previously appeared in [biggest name magazine] and [second biggest name] magazines. – if this doesn’t apply to you, just leave it out.
Thank you for your time.
That’s it. Well, almost — if you’re writing about eg black holes and you are a legit black hole physicist, mention that in the cover letter.
Some places want a bio. Feel free to say whatever, but here’s the boilerplate standard if you don’t wanna stress:
[Author] was born in [state/country] and now lives in/near [city], with a very patient and attractive partner(s). [Author] loves [fav food/sport/TV series] and has [x children/y pets/omit if neither].
NOW that’s basically it. You wait, you have your heartbroken, and you repeat until someone finally buys and publishes the piece.
Why do this thing?
I don’t know man. It’ll pay a few smaller bills. It kinda feels nice to get validation from strangers with enough taste and authority to give validation for a living. Maybe someone will see the story and notice you, and you’ll get a fan. It’ll help a little if you ever try to sell a novel. Your parents and friends may think you’re cool? You can put “published author” in your dating profile!
Ultimately, the rewards are ephemeral and semi-random. But it’s better than not publishing, and if you get published a decent number of times it’s a sign that you’re doing this writing thing right and you should press your advantage.
Now go click on Clarkesworld and submit your piece!