Have story, will submit. But where?

To get published you have to commit pieces to publishers. To start with, I want to get a short story published by someone who pays. The money isn’t really important, but the fact that I get paid is. Anthologies and well established magazines rate higher in the publishing stakes than my grandmother’s literary website.

I consider myself a pretty good Googler, but finding places to send submissions to turns out to be rather more complicated than I thought. Good thing that there are tools and websites that makes it easy for you.


  • www.ralan.com
    Ralan lists a large number of websites and magazines that take submissions. You can filter by genre but you’re left scanning alphabetic lists of potential submissions. Luckily the summaries are comprehensive.
  • www.doutrope.com
    Duotrope is a little more structured than Ralan and offers a fancy interface for searching. Learning what you can search for might take a while – I find either nothing or everything. If you find it useful, consider donating some money too them. It’s a great service and it’s free to use. (I’ve done my bit. And a little more.)
    You can use Duotrope to track your submissions and responses. The aggregated response time data provide a guide to other writers.

Learning a new language

There’s a lot of new jargon to learn with submissions. A whole new language to learn. The joy! Luckily, it’s one you learn quickly. Many of the terms are self-explanatory although a re-submission* wasn’t what I thought it was. Until I started looking for places to submit I didn’t even know I wrote speculative fiction. I wasn’t aware of this catch-almost-all super-category that fits both the mild horror and urban fantasy stories I write.

* It means submitting something’s that’s been published somewhere else rather than submitting the same story to the same place more than once. Which would be a crazy thing to do.

Reading fiction for research

Last year I wrote a novel as part of NaNoWriMo. It was great fun and I produced many words. I’ve been editing it down into something that can be shared with people not my boyfriend ever since. As part of this process I’ve been doing research to make sure that I don’t lie more than necessary.

Research can be great fun. You learn a lot of interesting stuff. But only a fraction of what you learn will feed into the final story. Sometimes I research things and realise that none of what I’ve just learn needs to go in to the story. It’s like doing research for an academic essay: only in first year do you include everything you know. After that you do a lot of research that you don’t refer to. (Hurrah for bibliographies: you can show off in fiction writing too but most of the time no one cares. Unless you get it wrong.) But that’s for a different post.

A lot of my research has been in and around the type of novel I wrote last year. This means reading many, many books in the same genre. Yay, you might think, but no, it’s not all good. Urban fantasy, which is one name for what I wrote, is fairly popular at the moment. There’s a lot of books out there set in modern settings but with an alternative super-natural edge. I’ve found that there’s a particular type of this kind of fiction that I don’t love. It’s vampire fancier fiction.

It gets on my nerves

When I was 19 I fell in love with Lestat. When I was 23 I fell out of love with him again. Many years later I have completely lost interest in the problems of going out with a vampire and rather enjoy the kind of tales where there is no vampire romance or, indeed, no romance. (Gasp! According to the research I’ve just lost the female audience. Because we’re all the same.)

The spurious love story is one of my pet peeves. It irritates me equally in films and books.

What I read

Here’s a list of what I read as part of my research:

  • Ben Aaronovitch: Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho
  • Brom: The Child Theif
  • Gail Carriger: Soulless
  • Larry Correia: Hard Magic, Monster Hunter International, Monster Hunter Vendetta
  • Laurell K. Hamilton: Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter (1-11)
  • Deborah Harkness: A Discovery of Witches
  • Charlaine Harris: Southern Vampires (1-11)
  • Kim Harrison: The Hollows (1-8)
  • Tobsha Learner: The Witch of Cologne
  • Malcolm Pryce: Aberystwyth Mon Amour
  • Phil Rickman: The Wine of Angels
  • Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire

(Why are the H’s so very prolific?) Sometimes I go too far and read too much of what’s of no use to me, but there you go. I think I’ve had a fairly good grounding in contemporary urban fantasy and caught some steam punk and other genres too.

What I like

What I have found is that I have a European, and possibly male, sensibility. I get bored with descriptions of clothing and hair styles. Colour is good: I like background and texture, but there’s only so much detail that I want.

I like solid characters from a moral universe similar to mine. Overt religiosity, sexual squeamishness or intolerance irritates me. (Unless there’s a reason for it to be there.) My cultural upbringing shines through in my tastes: I’m northern European in my attitudes. This is what I learned by doing research into my genre. It wasn’t what I had expected to learn. My hope was to unlock the secret of a successful urban fantasy novel.

Maybe I did unlock the secret only to find that the ingredients bore me.