Things Writers Should Know About The Short Story Market Before They Submit

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard this before: “Write what you know.” It’s good advice, but it’s not always easy to follow especially when the idea of writing about yourself can feel uninspired. That’s why so many writers turn to their own lives for story material. 

But if you’re planning on submitting your short stories to any of the top literary magazines like Tin House or Glimmer Train, there are some things you might want to consider before putting pen to paper. That way, when editors open your email and read it from start to finish (yes!), they’ll think: “This is how I want my day off spent.”

How to Publish Your First Short Story – YouTube
Understand submission guidelines and formats.
Research suitable publications for your genre.
Craft a compelling cover letter for submissions.
Consider the target audience and theme.
Revise and proofread your story meticulously.
Simultaneously submit to multiple platforms.
Be prepared for rejection; don’t be discouraged.
Be patient and persistent in your submissions.
Networking and engaging with writing communities.
Be open to feedback and continuous improvement.

Every Writer (And Submitter) Has A Different Experience

Short stories are a very new market, and they’re still evolving. Every writer has their own experience with the market, but in general, you should keep in mind that every submitter has a different experience with each submission.

It’s important to remember that rejection isn’t always personal; it can be an indication that your story isn’t right for the anthology or magazine in question.

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The Journey To Publication Can Be Long And Arduous

The journey to publication can be long and arduous. It can take months, years, even decades for a story to find its home in an editor’s inbox. You may write a short story that you’re convinced is perfect for one market or another but nothing will happen if the editor doesn’t agree with your judgment. 

When it does get accepted, there’s no guarantee that it will sell well or for much money (especially if you’re new). The editors of all these great magazines are out there doing their best every day they deserve your respect and support!

There Are Now More Outlets For Short Stories Than Ever Before

Short stories have never been more popular. There are more outlets for short stories than ever before, and many of these markets have an online presence: they accept submissions through their website or by email. Most also accept simultaneous submissions, which means that you can submit your story to as many magazines as you want at the same time.

Not only do many of these literary journals have a website where writers can send their work electronically, but some even provide free access to readers in exchange for writing reviews of new books or articles about publishing trends (and sometimes even pay those reviewers!). 

In other words, it’s easier than ever before to find an audience for your work and if your story takes off on one website or blog, it may get picked up by another one without any difficulty at all!

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Print Is Not Dead

It’s not dead, and it hasn’t been for a while. While e-books are the more popular format of choice these days, print is still alive and well in the short story market. Most magazines still prefer to receive hard copy submissions either via snail mail or through an online submission portal and they often require them as a part of their submission guidelines.

The reason why this is important to know is that there are plenty of benefits to submitting your work in print. For one thing, you get to hold something tangible in your hands afterward (which can be fun when it comes time for award season). 

Additionally, many authors have said that reading physical copies helps them better understand their writing process; if someone else reads their printed story out loud or simply flips through each page slowly enough for them to hear each word individually before moving on to the next one… well… You get my point!

Short Story Collections Are Still Alive And Well

Short story collections are still alive and well. You might think the market for short stories is limited to literary magazines and anthologies, but it’s more expansive than that. Short story collections still get published by presses in all genres commercial, genre, middle grade/young adult, and they’re read by readers of all ages (not just adults). 

They will almost certainly still be taught in classrooms for years to come because teachers have been teaching them for as long as there have been teachers!

To illustrate this point: I’ve had students who came from a background where they’d never read any short stories before taking my class because they wanted to learn how not only to write them but also to publish them someday. That was exciting for me! Many writers I know started out writing short stories first then later moved on to novels or poetry collections. 

So yes it’s possible your first foray into publishing could be through a collection rather than an individual work like a novel or memoir piece; you may even want both types of projects under your belt before submitting anything at all (more on this later).

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Most Markets Have Reading Periods And Most Magazines Have Scheduled Publications

Now, let’s talk about submission schedules. Most magazines have a reading period and most often that reading period lasts three to six months. Some magazines publish quarterly (three times a year), biannually (twice a year), and annually while others publish monthly or weekly.

Some magazines only accept submissions during a certain time of year. For example, literary journals like The Paris Review have specific deadline dates for their issues throughout the year, but other markets might not have these dependencies on seasonal timing and might be open for submissions at all times of the year with their deadlines for each issue.

Every Market Has Its Preferences, But You’ll Find Shared Themes, Too

There are some things you’ll find in nearly every market, and there are some that are specific to the magazine or publisher. You can use these common themes to help guide your writing as you work on a short story:

A Majority Of Short Stories (And Novels) Have A Single Main Character

The protagonist is often male, but not always depending on the genre or style of writing.

There are usually only two or three characters in a story; this also depends on genre and style.

Most protagonists have an active goal that they want to achieve by the end of their story’s climax scene (or “turning point”). 

This can be anything from winning an argument with another character to saving someone from danger or death. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s clear!  If there isn’t such an obvious objective, then try creating one!

All markets have their guidelines, but every aspect of your submission can be affected by your story’s details, so it’s best to know your piece well inside and out.

All markets have their guidelines, but every aspect of your submission can be affected by your story’s details, so it’s best to know your piece well inside and out. You should know what you want to write, what you don’t want to write, and where you’re willing to compromise.

You should also know your audience. If a market specifically asks for a certain genre (or sub-genre), then there are probably a lot of submissions that don’t fit that niche—and those stories are going to stand out from the rest in a bad way if they aren’t tailored specifically for the magazine or anthology in question.

If possible, find past issues of the publication and read through them so that you get an idea about who their readership is and how much variety they tend toward when it comes down to finding new voices within each issue.

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If All Else Fails, Ask The Editor

If you’re still unsure about a particular market, you can always ask the editor. They are usually very open to helping writers with their submissions, and they often take the time to thoroughly answer questions. 

However, because editors are generally very busy people (and therefore not inclined to spend a lot of time answering emails), it’s best not to bombard them with questions or expect an immediate response. 

If possible, I would suggest waiting at least 24 hours before sending another email but if you really want an answer from them and have waited as long as possible without hearing back from them yet, then by all means send another message (or two…or five). It never hurts!

The short story market has been around for about two hundred years now, so it’s very much still evolving.

The short story market has been around for about two hundred years now, so it’s very much still evolving. The form is popular and widely read, and there’s a lot of room to explore it in new ways.

Short stories have been around for more than 200 years, and they’re still evolving. Even though the format isn’t as popular as other books or movies, there’s still a place for them in our modern world — if you know how to write one well!

Each market has its editorial style, staff preference, and submission numbers, so it’s important to figure out who you’re submitting to before you submit anything.

A great way to figure out if an editor is right for you is to read their previously published stories. You should also look at the types of stories they publish and how many they accept per month. If a market only publishes one story a week, and you have three (of equal quality) in your portfolio, that might not be a good fit.

If an editor has rejected several hundred stories over their career, chances are it’s because they don’t like what you’re writing about or how you write it. Don’t waste your time on someone who doesn’t value your work!

Different online markets can operate differently from one another in terms of how they publicize new work, pay writers and conduct submissions.

Online markets are different from print ones in many ways. For one thing, they pay less than print magazines and journals do. They also have different submission requirements, payment schedules, and submission windows (the time during which their editors are open to receiving manuscripts). 

In addition to these factors, online publications likely will have a different editorial style than print publications as well. If you’re looking to get into an online market as opposed to a print magazine or journal, be sure that you read the guidelines carefully before submitting your work so that you know what they’re looking for in terms of length and style!

The Short Story Market Responds Well To Writers Who Respond Well To Constructive Criticism

There’s a reason why many experienced writers have editors on their speed dial. Editors have seen it all and they know what works in the market, which means they can provide valuable insight into how you can improve your writing and make it more marketable.

When you receive feedback from an editor, be sure to respond with gratitude and respect. It’s not uncommon for writers to take criticism personally but remember: editors are doing this because they love literature as much as you do! 

Editors want your story to succeed just as much as you do! So don’t take their comments personally.

think that an editor is trying to undermine your work; instead of making assumptions about why an editor may have written certain notes, try taking them at face value instead and see if there might be something useful in there that will help make your story stronger overall (and ultimately more likely to sell).

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There Are Many Things To Keep In Mind When Submitting A Short Story To A Magazine Or Journal

As a writer, you need to know the market. You have to know what kind of stories editors are looking for and which magazines or journals accept short stories. You also need to know who’s reading your work and what they want from it. 

Knowing all these things will help you make more informed decisions about where to submit your story, how much time and energy you want to invest in sending it out, and whether or not this particular opportunity is right for both yourself as the writer and your readership as potential consumers of printed material.

If possible and especially if this is your first submission it’s helpful if an editor knows who they’re dealing with when they receive one of your pieces. They’ll feel more invested in helping promote it if there’s something personal about how they’ve interacted with each other (and maybe even why). 

It can be difficult sometimes to know when exactly it’s appropriate for us writers not only let our guard down but also show off some personality traits that might otherwise seem unprofessional or inappropriate depending on various factors such as industry standards/expectations; editing styles at different publications.

So try not to worry too much about being seen as “too casual” by showing some vulnerability here during submissions (or even after someone accepts something from me).


As you can see, the short story market is a complicated beast, with many moving parts. There are a lot of factors that go into successful submission, but the most important thing is to know your work inside and out. If you’ve done your homework, submitting will be easier and less stressful and you’re more likely to get published!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to further enhance your understanding of submitting short stories and the writing process:

What to Expect When You’re Submitting: A Guide for Beginners Short story submission can be daunting for beginners. Learn about the submission process and gain insights into the world of short story publishing.

Where to Submit Short Stories: A Comprehensive Guide Explore a detailed guide on various platforms and publications where you can submit your short stories, increasing your chances of getting published.

How to Publish a Short Story: Tips and Techniques Discover tips and techniques for successfully publishing your short stories, including considerations for selecting the right venues.


What are the key steps to submitting a short story as a beginner?

Submitting your first short story involves a few essential steps:

  • Research: Find suitable publications or platforms that align with your story’s genre and style.
  • Guidelines: Review submission guidelines meticulously to ensure your story meets all requirements.
  • Formatting: Properly format your manuscript as per the guidelines, including font, spacing, and file format.
  • Cover Letter: Craft a professional cover letter introducing yourself and your story.
  • Submission: Submit your story according to the publication’s specified method.

How can I locate reputable publications to submit my short stories?

To find reputable publications:

  • Online Searches: Look for literary magazines, online platforms, and anthologies that accept short story submissions.
  • Directories: Consult submission directories and websites that list publications open to submissions.
  • Writer Communities: Engage with writer communities and forums where authors share their experiences and recommendations.

What should I include in my cover letter when submitting a short story?

A cover letter should be concise and include:

  • Brief Introduction: Introduce yourself and mention any relevant writing credentials.
  • Story Title: State the title of the submitted story.
  • Publication Mention: Mention why your story is a good fit for the publication.
  • Thank You: Express gratitude for considering your submission.

How can I increase my chances of getting my short story accepted?

Enhance your chances of acceptance by:

  • Polishing: Edit and proofread your story for clarity, grammar, and style.
  • Read Guidelines: Follow submission guidelines closely to avoid immediate rejection.
  • Unique Angle: Present a fresh perspective, unique characters, or an original plot.
  • Theme Fit: Ensure your story aligns with the publication’s theme or genre.
  • Multiple Submissions: Submit to multiple publications simultaneously to increase visibility.

Should I focus on online or print publications for short story submissions?

Both online and print publications have their merits. Online platforms offer quicker responses and broader audiences, while print publications often carry a certain prestige. Choose based on your goals and target readership.