A friend of mine was asking me how I go about getting my fiction published. Below is my long-winded answer to her:
So far publishing just the one fiction short story has been hard work. I’ll give you the steps I went through for it and for the other pieces currently in the pipeline from start to finish. Fair warning the list is long, but it gives a good representation of the dedication involved in freelance fiction writing and publishing (to my knowledge thus far anyway).
1. When the idea for a fiction piece shows up, I right it down and set the note aside for a couple days.
2. If I’m still thinking about the story in two days, then I begin to write it. This helps eliminates my pencient for having dumb ideas that seem really good at the time. As I write the story, I also do whatever research I need to on place setting, culture, characters, etc. so that I can add a good amount of depth to the story and its characters.
3. Once I finish the rough draft, I leave the story alone for about a week before rereading it so that I can edit the piece with fresh eyes.
4. After I’m finished with my first final draft, I submit it to other people for their critiques. I usually have my mom (grammar expert), my dad (fantasy genre expert), Matt (character expert), Mary (fantasy expert #2/scene expert), Lauren (fantasy expert #3/character expert #2), and David (grammar/spelling expert) read my stuff before I submit it. The last four people mentioned are all part of a wonderful writing group to which I belong. It’s not imperative that you have seven or more people critique your work, but do have at least two that you trust edit your work. I especially love having this group edit my stories because they nitpick on everything just like professional editors do.
5. I clean up my story based on their edits and then do a final reading aloud to make sure it flows correctly. You’d be amazed at the extra errors you catch when you read and listen to a story simultaneously.
6. Shop for a publisher. I use the Web site Ralan.com for my fantasy and science fiction stories, which was suggested by my mentor Martha Wells. For a wider range of fiction, try writersmarket.com. Warning this one is not free, but it’s the best source of market submission information dealing with fiction or non-fiction anywhere to my knowledge. I am no help if you are looking to publish a story in a market other than the fantasy, sci-fi, or horror genres. I would suggest contacting your professors, etc. and see what contacts/Web sites they suggest to get you started in another genre.
7. Once I have found the right market for my story (which takes research of several Web sites and sometimes of the magazines, etc. offered by those publishers), I double-check my story’s word count, theme, language style, etc. to makes sure it falls within the publisher’s submission standards and send it to them with a brief cover letter summarizing what the story’s plot. Some publishers prefer that you send the story in hard copy form to a physical mailing address. Others will take the story pasted into the body of an E-mail or as an E-mail attachment. I always double-check their preference and follow their instructions dogmatically.
8. Once a manuscript is sent off, I repeat the process with another story. It is important to note that most publishers (at least in my genres) get very cranky when an author sends out multiple copies of the same story to different publishers simultaneously. Most of them also prefer to see only one story at a time from an author. I therefore never send more than one copy of one story to one publisher at a time. The process is tedious, but it cuts down on publishing problems later.
9. When a publisher rejects a story, I give a sad smile at the foolishness. I then file the rejection notice and submit the story somewhere else. Sometimes a publisher will include a critique of the rejected story which can be a useful way to double-check a story’s quality before sending it to someone else.
10. When a publisher does accept a story, I dance for joy and then get to work again. My current editor wanted me to sign a standard contract giving the publishing company first publishing rights to the story. This means that the cpublisher has the right to be the first and only (for a limited time) publisher of my story “Sumari’s Solitude.” I believe the contract I signed ceded story rights to the publisher for six months before actual publication and one year after the story’s publication. All rights of the story then revert back to me as its author with the exception that the story can be published a second time in a best stories anthology produced by that same publisher.
11. The publishing party pays me the amount decided upon in our contract and then sends me a proof of the story. I thoroughly read the proof to make sure everything is accurate to the original submission and to fix any more edits I find. Once I approve the proof, my job is pretty much finished and I’m off work on other fiction.
12. As I publish more stories, I will need to start marketing them so that people become aware of their existance and read them. I’ve already started this project be telling many of my friends and family about “Sumari’s Solitude.” I also continued promoting my work by going to AggieCon 39 this last weekend and talking with several writing mentors of mine about the story. Word of mouth is after all the best advertising ever! My goal for later this year is to learn how to build a proper Web site and then get one started that promotes my writing. I already have a blog started on livejournal.com under “alyciachristine” and I will eventually also get my “Alycia Christine” MySpace page customized.
That’s all I know so far. I hope it helps!