Be Prepared

So now you have your story, and it’s as perfect as it can be before ascending straight to Heaven without passing Go. And you’ve created your Duotrope or The Grinder account to search their database for markets to send your story to.

But wait. Before you pick a market, there’s some stuff you need to be aware of.

  • Markets earn you different amounts of writing kudos.
  • Markets pay different rates per word.
  • Markets have wildly differing response times.
  • Not all markets accept electronic submissions.

These things are interconnected, sorta. And these things should play a central role in your choice of market.

The pay rate is the easiest and most obvious selection criterium. Some markets pay $0,06/word or higher; these are considered pro rates, and the markets pro markets. Between $0,01 and $0,06 is the semi-pro level. And below $0,01 is the token level, also known as the why-bother level, because some writers draw a line under semi-pro and don’t bother sending their stories for peanuts. But let’s face it: if you count the hours you’ve put in first writing and then revising your story, there’s no way you’re ever going to earn back the invested time. It’s great to get pro rates, but even then you’re still losing money on the story.

Much more important than the money, selling short stories serves to build your writing resume, your bibliography, your kudos. Which is why the kudos factor of the market you select is way more important than the pay rate. Fortunately, the pay rate is a pretty good indicator for the kudos. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect correlation. For instance, you’d earn great kudos if you managed to get into Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, but they pay token rates. On the other hands,* is also a kudos-heavy market, and they have the highest pay rate in the genre market. And while you can neither select nor sort on kudos in these databases, you can do both on pay rate.

The other two factors, while also mapping somewhat to kudos level, serve mostly to make the process more bearable. Markets with fast response times help you keep the submission-and-rejection cycle short. Markets accepting e-subs help you keep it cheap (fortunately, that includes most markets these days). Response time increases with kudos level in general, but there are exceptions, like Lightspeed, which seems to be named not for its SF sensibilities but for the incredible turnaround editor John Joseph Adams manages. And there used to be a time when high-kudos markets didn’t accept e-subs, but times they are a-changing, and even Analog and Asimov’s, two of the Big Three, accept electronic submissions these days.

So with these considerations in the front of your mind, search the database, apply the selection criteria that match what you learned from this bit of blather, and sort by whatever you find more important: pay rate (as a proxy for kudos), response time, or even alphabetically (the sort default on both sites, though only and idiot would go through his selection in alphabetical… wait, Analog and Asimov’s both start with A… never mind).

Print this list, or save it somehow, and as a final step, draw a line where you draw the line, be it in pay rate, or in how long you are prepared to wait for a response.

* Unfortunately, no longer accepts unsolicited short story subs.