Guest Post: Five Ways to Get Your Short Story Published

This is a guest post by Tracy Falenwolfe

rite a good story and it will be published, right? Turns out coming up with a good story is only part of the equation. So how can you up your chances of seeing your words in print? I’ve got a few ideas.

Come at the theme sideways
Don’t go with your first idea. If you’re submitting to an anthology for which the theme is rescue animals, many authors will go with the obvious and write about a rescue dog or a rescue cat. But, chances are, the editor will be looking for a mix of rescue animals to include in the finished book. Your story about a dog will be competing with all the other stories about dogs, while your story about a pot-bellied pig may stand out in the crowd.

Play the odds
I like to have five short stories on submission at any given time. When one gets rejected, I immediately send it somewhere else. If I can’t find an open market for it, I’ll set that particular story aside and submit something else. As long as I have five shots at getting an acceptance floating around out there, I feel pretty good about my chances. It doesn’t have to be five. Your number might be one, or two, or ten. The point is to keep the balls in the air.

Follow the rules you have to follow
Word counts. Submission windows. Formatting preferences. They all matter. Learn standard manuscript formatting. but don’t assume that’s what everybody wants. Read the submission guidelines carefully. This isn’t the place to get creative. You want to stand apart from the crowd for the right reasons, not because you can’t follow directions.

Always have one ready to go
A rejection doesn’t mean your story isn’t good. It simply means it wasn’t right for the project you submitted it to. If you were lucky enough to get feedback, which is rare, consider it and adjust your story accordingly. Edit and polish if you must, but there comes a point when the story is done and is merely waiting for the perfect call to come along. ‘Cereus Thinking’ was already written when I saw the call for Moonlight & Misadventure. The word count was right. The story had both moonlight and misadventure, though neither had been a requirement for the first market I’d targeted. In other words, I had the story ready to go and the perfect call came along. Kismet.

Read short stories!
Short stories and novels are not interchangeable. Get familiar with short stories by reading as many as you can. You’ll hone your craft while supporting your fellow short story authors. That’s a win for everybody.

Tracey Falenwolfe - Writers First

Since winning the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Award in 2014, Tracy Falenwolfe’s stories have appeared in over a dozen publications including two of the three Superior Shores Anthologies: Heartbreaks & Half-truths: 22 Stories of Mystery & Suspense and Moonlight & Misadventure: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, where she followed the Submission Guidelines to the letter.

Tracy lives in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley with her husband and sons. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

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13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Five Ways to Get Your Short Story Published”

  1. All good reminders here. It’s amazing how many authors don’t check out basic things such as the publisher’s preferred formatting. C’mon, that’s the easy part — if you can’t do that, why would anyone think you could write a story worth publishing?

  2. Thanks, Tracy, for the terrific suggestions. You have inspired me to try again since my one and only short story has been rejected by some of the best.

  3. Tracey, I especially like the thought of coming at the theme “sideways.” I’d love to write short stories and will remember that one for sure. Thanks for the advice!

  4. I’ve only recently started writing short stories, having previously published novels and novellas. Thanks for the tips. I will certainly consider having several on the go at once.

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