Traditional Publishing Productivity

ONE HOUR A DAY: Getting Your Short Stories Published

ONE HOUR A DAY: Getting Your Short Stories Published
Written by Kimberly Nichols

Writing good quality work is only half the battle. The other half is all about getting published. It takes an extra dose of organizational effort, persistent submitting, and steady follow up. The good news? You can master it with this simple one-hour-a-day plan.

Start by Getting Organized

1. Create an Inventory

Make an inventory of your works. This can be a simple list of titles with word counts that you can refer to later, when you need to know which pieces are available for consideration. Keep it in a single file for quick reference.

If you are a writer of longer works of fiction such as novellas or novels, you might consider making a list of excerpts that can stand on their own. Getting an excerpt published can go a long way toward catching the eye of an agent or publisher once your larger piece is complete and you are ready to shop it around.

2. Write a Bio

Create a short bio about yourself, the kind of work you do, and any prior publication credits. This will give you an easily accessible paragraph to cut and paste when going through the submission process.

3. Create a Submission Spreadsheet

There are multiple submission management software programs out there (like Duotrope), but I use a simple Excel spreadsheet that I keep on my desktop.

On this spreadsheet are the headers:

  • Title of Piece
  • Word Count
  • Outlet Submitted To
  • Date Submitted
  • Simultaneous Submissions Accepted?
  • Response Time
  • Date Accepted or Rejected
  • Notes
  • Follow Up

(Don’t worry about creating this file. You can download a ready-made template at the end of this article.)

Every time I submit something I add it to this spreadsheet in alphabetical order by title for easy reference later.

4. Do Your Research

Now that you have your materials in place, research your markets online. If you are writing fiction, it is essential to read fiction. By maintaining a comprehensive understanding of the literary landscape, you will increase your chances of finding outlets that resonate with the type of work you do.

Today, almost every literary journal has a website which posts excerpts or full pieces from their current issues that you can review without spending any money on subscriptions. There are also a myriad of literary outlets that live solely online and attract huge numbers of readers through electronic newsletters such as:

These outlets are constantly looking for new material, so they’re a viable option in and of themselves. But they also publish news about the literary landscape. For instance, The Rumpus published a link to a story series that Vice was running, in which they asked writers to write short stories in response to random Flicker photographs. When I saw this note, I immediately contacted an editor at Vice and pitched myself as an author to consider and scored an assignment.

Aside from outlets that publish fiction, there are also many great individual bloggers, communities, and resources that are centered on finding and sharing new markets like:

5. Subscribe

Almost every outlet offers a newsletter, these days. Sign up to receive updates in your inbox.

The Hour-a-Day Plan

Now that you have your inventory, promotional materials, and information on markets being delivered to you regularly via newsletters, you can embark on the daily practice of submitting.

1. 20 MINUTES: REVIEW

Go over your inbox and scan for new markets, openings, assignments, and opportunities. Match them against your work inventory to find good prospects. Find one or two such prospects and move on to the next section.

2. 30 MINUTES: SUBMIT

Carefully review the submission guidelines for your chosen outlets. Use your pre-prepared bio to craft a compelling cover letter (if needed), and submit your work. Most sites now use Submittable or simply ask you to email in your work. Make sure to update your submission spreadsheet as soon as you send in your work.

3. 10 MINUTES: FOLLOW UP

At the end of your research/submission sections, make sure to check through your submission spreadsheet to note which pieces are due or overdue for a response. If you haven’t heard from an outlet whose response time has passed, it is entirely appropriate to write a quick follow up email asking about the status of your submission.

The business of writing requires constantly putting yourself out there, even if that means simply sitting at your computer for one hour a day to do so. The trick is in disciplining yourself to carve out this hour as consistently as you would for brushing your teeth or taking your daily jog. When this process becomes like clockwork, you create a staggered flurry of work rotating in the ethers, being seen by editors, and inching you ever closer to that prized publication.

Kimberly Nichols is a writer and artist living in Los Angeles. She has been published in many literary journals and publications over the years including the Los Angeles Times, Vice, Wine Enthusiast, Phantom Seed, Poet, Small Spiral Notebook and 3 AM Magazine and is the author of the book of short stories Mad Anatomy (Del Sol Press). She currently critiques art for Artdependence Magazine based out of the Netherlands. More work can be seen online at www.kimberlynicholsstudio.com

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