In a previous post, I shared my free, downloadable spreadsheet for keeping track of where you submit your short stories. But when you download it, you will find yourself looking at a blank sheet. No one can tell you which are the right journals for your story. You have to decide that on your own. But how do we decide, as writers, where to submit our work?
Why to Submit
For me, it used to come down to just one thing: I want as many people to read my stories as possible. Included in that goal is the hope that maybe a literary agent will read a story I’ve written and want to see more of my work. These things happen. A girl can dream.
In addition, I have recently added a second criteria: monetary balance. I don’t expect to get paid much, but I do aim for journals that pay. Even $100 helps balance out all the money I spend on submissions, and that means a lot to me. I also find this balance by choosing to submit to journals with lower submission fees.
Where to Submit
With those two motivations in mind, I tap three sources.
- The first is my community. I get giddy when a friend has a stack of lit journals on the back of their toilet. It’s a great chance to see what they’re reading. Another opportunity to find exciting new journals is at AWP, the yearly conference where all sorts of editors and writers just stand around all day talking about stories. These people are your community. Go to AWP and make friends.
- Second is Poets & Writers. Poets & Writers has a searchable database with hundreds (thousands?) of journals. You can sort by genre, reading period, submission format, and (hello) payment. I enter my personal preferences and then just start looking through the results. As an added bonus, many of the journals list their circulation size. I don’t discount any journals for small circulation, but I do make a note of it, and tend to start my submissions going out to the journals with the widest audience.
- Lastly, I search for journals that have had stories go on to be Pushcart winners. I recently discovered Clifford Garstang’s website, where he does an annual ranking of journals by the number of stories they published that garnered prizes or special mentions. It’s a long list. These are the journals that are publishing some of the best stories out there. I would LOVE to be included in their pages.
How to Submit
I list every journal in my spreadsheet, taking down as much information as I can on each. This requires work, and I consider it an ongoing project, but once you’ve populated your spreadsheet, you can sort for whatever criteria you want to. Want to know which journals are open to submissions this month? Sort by Column F. Want to know if the story you just finished is too long for a journal you were aiming at? Sort for Column I.
My own version of the spreadsheet has over 100 journals on it, and I would be honored to be published in any of them. At any given time, I have a couple of stories out to about five different journals. Then, when the rejection letters come, and the rejection letters always come, I just send my story to the next journal on the list.
If I get through all 100+ journals and no one wants my story, I will know it simply isn’t good enough. At that point, I suppose the choice will be to either make it better or let it go. I’m hoping I won’t get to that point, but if I do, I’ll tell you all about it.
How do you decide where to send your short stories?