Selling your short stories to paying markets is exciting, but if you are looking to earn extra cash through story sales, be prepared for a long and unprofitable journey. Short story markets are highly competitive, and many are overwhelmed by hundreds to thousands of submissions each month. Pay rates can range from up to $1,000 for a story in a high-profile publication, including "Playboy" or "The New Yorker," but smaller magazines often pay only in copies of the issue in which your story appears. Genre markets, such as fantasy, science fiction and mystery consider five cents per word a professional pay rate.
Hone your writing skills and polish your stories as much as possible before you begin submitting to professional publications. Editors often disregard stories that show little concern for the mechanics of language.
Read widely in your chosen genre. This will give you an idea of the types of stories favored by the editors you are about to contact as well as what was recently published. Knowing this increases your chances of having a story selected for paid publication.
Research potential markets in a publication, such as "The Writer's Market" or "The Literary Marketplace." Note each publication where your story might be appropriate, along with the pay rate for that publication. Follow up by checking the submission guidelines on each publication's website, which are updated more frequently than the market guides.
Look for anthology and short story collection markets as well as fiction magazines and nonfiction periodicals that accept some fiction. The more markets you can contact, the better your chances of getting paid for your story.
Prepare your submission package by following all guidelines exactly. If a market says it does not accept "Simultaneous submissions," you must wait to hear back from that market before submitting the same story to a different market. "No multiple submissions" means you cannot submit more than one story to that market at a time. Once you hear back on your first story, you may send the next.
Submit to the highest-paying markets with the shortest response times first. Keep several stories out at a time to various markets to increase your chances of having a story purchased. Track your submissions carefully so you don't resubmit to the same market.
Fill in and return all contracts on time once your stories are purchased. The publishing industry is notoriously slow to pay writers, so don't give them any reason to be late with your check. Read your contract carefully to find when payment is due. Politely remind the editor about payment if your check is late.
Continue to write and submit short stories, keeping several in each stage at one time to gain the most opportunities for payment.
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