I’ve got a bunch of short stories hanging around, in random folders on my pc, that no one’s reading. My big plan is to self-publish them, but that’s not the only way to get stories out there. In this blog I’m jotting down what I’ve done in the past – and what I’ve learnt from it.
Submit to journals
I’ve done a fair bit of this. When I have a few short stories ready, I get back into researching magazines and publications and submitting.
There are so many English language journals, magazines, anthologies. They’re run by wonderful indie presses and universities – people who are doing it because they love great writing. Best of all, they don’t have to answer to shareholders or a senior executive board, so they can go with their gut and their heart.
If you love short stories, you’ll find some of the best in these publications, which makes the research a great pleasure. Some of my personal favourites are:
- Carousel by Paul de Haviland, in Brace: A New Generation in Short Fiction
- We that are Sheep by Patrick Neate which I read years ago in Underground, and more recently
- A Lone Astronaut Watches the World End, by Jessie Greengrass in The London Magazine.
There are hardly any short story collections published in the UK. So, literary presses have become the centre of our short story scene and the best homegrown source for readers who love the form.
You’ll find lists of journals with details and website links on useful blogs like this one on the Neon Books website.
Being part of this indie literary world – even momentarily – is a reward in itself. But seeing your story in a publication with an ISBN reminds you what you’re doing is worthwhile. Most of these publications are beautiful, and they offer acceptance in a world of rejection (as well as rejection too of course).
However, in most cases, once your story has been published, you won’t be able to submit it to another publication or to a competition. So choose wisely.
Competitions are great. They give you a boost, raise your profile and often publish your story in a publication that’s well received in the traditional industry.
However, some of them charge a fortune. If you want to enter a few, it can get very pricey. Some have early-bird offers or bursaries for people on low incomes, so definitely look out for those.
The other thing is that a lot of writers enter the big competitions, reducing your chances of getting on the long or short list. It’s a gamble! But how great would it be to win the Bridport Prize?
You need to be strategic, read the stories that have won previous competitions, look at the judges. If a competition has links to a publication, get to know that publication.
Again, it’s a great boost to find yourself on a long list (as I did today!) It confirms you can write and it’s really exciting if you get even further.
Publishing stories on a short story website
This is different to submitting your story to an online publication that then accepts and publishes your work. These are sites where you can upload your story to reach an audience.
These are sites with lots of authors publishing short stories online, which is great if you fit in with the group that’s publishing in that space. Most of these sites work well for genre fiction – not so much historical fiction unless it’s romantic. So this isn’t for me.
The other reason I don’t do this – or publish my stories as a blog on this website – is I don’t read stories or novels that way.
I don’t mind reading my Kindle, but I’d never sit at my desk and read a story because I sit at my desk all day. It’s not the right vibe for me. Neither’s scrolling, scrolling, scrolling on my phone. It’s just a personal thing.
If you feel differently though, take a look at this blog on the brilliant Just Publishing Advice site to find out where you can publish your short stories easily and for free.