Finding the right market for your story is every bit as important as any other step in the process.
It seems obvious but if you send a mystery story to a science fiction market, you’re not going to get an acceptance. Quite the contrary. You’re going to receive a speedy rejection letter.
Or if there’s an editor (ahem…) who notoriously dislikes cat stories and you send her a cat story, there’s an excellent chance, you guessed it, you’re going to get a rejection letter there too.
So how do you know which market to send your story?
When you’re new to submitting, the sheer number of markets and editors can feel overwhelming. Once upon a time, I was there myself. I didn’t know Asimov’s from Analog from Aesops Fables.
And it’s OKAY if you don’t. There’s no harm in saying you don’t know. Just don’t pretend and go blindly out into the marketplace submitting stories willy-nilly and hoping for the best. There’s a far more effective way to go about it.
Find a market submissions tracking site.
There a quite a few of these out there.
I use Duotrope most often. There’s a free option with limited features, but I shell out the $50 for an annual subscription.
How to use Duotrope for finding the right market:
You’ve written your story (they include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry markets). Head over to Duotrope and enter the details (length, genre, subject, you get my drift.). You also enter details like pay scale and submission method. Duotrope’s software will search all the available open markets and show you a listing of what’s open.
Go through the search results to find a market that fits your story. Each listing will give more detailed information. Some even include interviews with the editor. These are GOLD. They’ll tell you exactly what style of a story the editor prefers. You can scroll down further on the page and see other magazines that have accepted stories from authors who sold stories to this magazine. So if your story looks like a good fit for this one, chances are, it’ll be a good fit for one of those as well.
See? Now you have several magazines that like the style of story you’ve written. You’re getting closer.
Now, when you find a market that seems like they’re looking for what you’re offering, go to their website. The link will be right there on their Duotrope page. Make sure to visit their submissions page and read the submissions guidelines very carefully. THESE ARE IMPORTANT.
If an editor says in their submission guidelines they don’t accept cat stories, DO NOT SUBMIT A CAT STORY. Even if you’re sure you’ve written the best cat story in the world, don’t do it. Find another market where the editor loves cat stories. I promise. You’ll save yourself a ton of time and heartache this way.
Carefully read the instructions for submissions.
Do they require a cover letter? Do they want a synopsis or not? Anonymous manuscript? Follow the submission instructions to the letter. Find the appropriate links and double check any email addresses. Make sure your document is formatted correctly. If you’re not sure, hit google. Ask a friend. Or better yet, email me. That’s what I’m here for after all.
Now it’s time to submit.
Make sure you’re submitting the CORRECT DOCUMENT.
And once you’ve submitted, don’t withdraw it.
You might realize you’ve forgotten a comma or misspelled a word. Leave it. Withdrawing and starting over for petty reasons will make an editor cross-eyed and draw attention to your submission in a negative way. Trust me.
Duotrope also has a section to log your submissions. You enter the date, story, and market so you can refer later. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when you only have a couple of stories out on submission, but once you have thirty or forty, you’ll be cross-eyed trying to remember what’s where.
When you receive a response, whether it’s rejection, acceptance, or a short-list notification, log that on Duotrope as well.
This information helps other users know what to expect from each market.
Another great submission tracking system is The (Submission) Grinder.
And the (Submission)Grinder is free.
It doesn’t have quite as many bells and whistles as Duotrope and leans heavily towards speculative fiction, but it’s a terrific resource.
You can also do a Google search for open submissions.
There are plenty of blog and magazine sites who keep market listings. Make sure to double check the dates. These will sometimes fall out of date.
The biggest factor in finding the right market is do your homework and read the guidelines.
If in doubt, check out an issue of the magazine or find a copy of a previous anthology.