Short Story Series 3: Finding Publishers [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

As part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop this month, I’m picking up on my Short Story series. It fizzled out a while back, but it’s something I’ve wanted to get back to but just hadn’t found the time. Well this Blog Hop was the perfect excuse! Check out all the posts in this month’s hop!

This is Part 3 of a series on publishing Short Stories. If you find these helpful, please leave a comment or share with your friends!

So you’ve written your short story, had someone else look at it, and gotten it as good as you can make it. The next step is finding a publisher for it! There are plenty of free blog posts that authors work to keep up to date for interested authors, but there are some sites that work to compile these publishers. And a few that publishers seek out to ensure they’re listed as a potential option. Some of these require a monthly payment and others don’t. Some are for particular genres and others are for all types of writing. I’ve tried to keep this list short and to only mention ones that I’ve personally used.

  • Duotrope ($5/month or $50/year)
    • https://duotrope.com/
    • Years ago Duotrope was a free site. It was run by volunteers and it ran an annual donation drive. However over the years the donations just didn’t meet up with the server/data demands. So back in 2012 they went to pay.

      I would argue they’re one of the best places to find publishers and to get ideas for writing prompts for short stories. Check out their calendar of theme deadlines for plenty of ideas. They let you keep track of your acceptances & rejections for years and if you have to skip a few months and come back due to your budget, your data will still be waiting for you. I highly recommend them.
  • The Grinder (Free)
    • https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com
    • One of the very first submission tracker available for free for authors was The Grinder. You can dig all sorts of information out of their site. Going to the homepage you can see all the recent rejections and acceptances that have been reported to the system. While I don’t think it’s as fully featured as Duotrope is, I find that it’s frequently recommended when the budget isn’t available for Duotrope’s fancier user interface and designs. It’s also not as personalized, but the information is up to date and you may find publishers here that aren’t in Duotrope and vica versa.
    • The Grinder runs on donations through the Paypal Donate button on their page. If you rely on their services please consider donating either monthly or annually to them through their site.
      https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/Home/Donate
  • The Horror Tree (Free – Horror/Dark Fantasy)
    • https://horrortree.com/
    • I’ve found a lot of unique calls for submissions and opportunities over at The Horror Tree. I can’t really say when they started out, but they’re fairly new, and their dedication to finding all sorts of horror and dark themed calls for submission are impressive. They also post occasional original shorts and do author interviews as well. (I did an interview with them last year, and will probably reach out to them again when The Seeking comes out!)
    • The Horror Tree runs on donations through their Patreon site. If you use this service, please consider becoming one of their Patrons!
      The Horror Tree Patreon
  • Facebook Groups for Writing Associations
    • Look for Facebook writing groups that will post up opportunities on a regular basis. For example, the Horror Writers Association Atlanta Chapter has a public group open to anyone with an interest in what’s going on with the Atlanta Chapter. Announcements happen there and so do discussions. Sometimes opportunities are posted too.
    • The Horror Writers Association also has a public group and it is super active. Sometimes opportunities get posted too.
  • Facebook Groups
    • There are a TON of Facebook groups available for finding publishers. I honestly can’t list them all, but a few searches will bring up several options. From fantasy to science fiction to horror, there are all sorts of areas where publishers get listed. Make friends with authors in real life, befriend them on Facebook, find out what groups they’re in, and check them out yourself. Not all groups are equal and not all publishers are the same.

With that said, regardless of what publishers you find, before you send off your precious story, make sure you vet them to ensure they aren’t trying to scam authors. Duotrope screens their publishers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the same. Look for warning signs:

  • Never pay to have your story published.
  • Never pay for editing services.
  • Never pay for publication services.
  • The money should always flow toward the author.
  • Look at other books they’ve had come out. How do their ratings look? How are their sales? Are there complaints about editing or quality?
  • Check out authors from their existing groups. Find their websites and see what kind of feedback you can find. Don’t be afraid to reach out, but don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back right away.
  • See if they’re listed on the Writer Beware website. These folks investigate claims of scamming and keep an active list of publishers and agents doing shady things.
  • Writer Beware has an excellent write-up of what to look for when evaluating a small press. Please don’t let this list intimidate you, but it’s good to do your research so you’re aware of what to look for in publishers, contracts, and how to speak up and negotiate for yourself. Usually short story contracts are pretty cut and dry and you don’t usually negotiate with those, but get used to evaluating them and reviewing them because you might one day want to read over one for a novel or collection of your short stories.

To find more useful tools, check out my page on Writing Resources. And make sure you check out the other posts this month on the Author Toolbox Blog Hop!

Scrivener Tutorial Series

If you didn’t already know, I post new videos every Friday on my new YouTube account: Marlena Frank, Author.

This week I started doing something I probably should have done a while ago, started a tutorial series on Scrivener. Now I’m not doing this series because I’m being paid to do it or anything, I just love the software so much that I want to share it with other authors! (This is something that you actually see quite often in Scrivener circles haha)

I’ve been working in IT for over 10 years, and I’ve been helping people figure out software for even longer than that. When you’re getting a degree in Computer Science, you tend to have people ask you how to do things with computers a lot. So I realized recently that I could share my love of Scrivener in a way that would help other people. I get to show off features and methods that I use and love, and then hopefully I get to hear how other people use those same features. Which is pretty darn amazing.

So here we have Part 1, giving a basic introduction to Scrivener and where to get it. I also briefly give an overview of the Binder and how I use it to store several books in my current book series.

I hope you enjoy it!


Short Stories Series 2: Getting Feedback

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So you finished drafting your short story? Fantastic! Now comes what’s perhaps the hardest part to get used to with writing: getting feedback.

Let me warn you before you go emailing your reader friends for their advice, not everybody knows how to give constructive criticism. And you shouldn’t necessarily listen to all the criticism you come across. A full-time editor friend takes time out of their busy day to give you some feedback? Of course you should weigh their opinions more. But if a friend just gives it back to you, shrugs, and tells you they didn’t like it but it isn’t their preferred genre? I wouldn’t weigh criticisms as heavily. Remember it’s impossible to write a story that everybody will love (unless you’re J.K. Rowling, then maaaaybe).

There are a LOT of genres out there and plenty of different kinds of readers. It’s totally fine if your writing doesn’t work for everybody – that’s why writing is so unique! The more flavors out there, the more different the tastes will be.

So how do you find people willing to critique your work and give useful feedback? Here are some things I’ve tried:

  • Proof it yourself – This may seem kind of silly, but you will be surprised if you shelf that story for a couple of weeks or even a month then get back to it. You’ll find problems you never even noticed. Try reading it aloud – especially the dialogue. Does it sound clunky? Another trick is to read the story backwards. Check each sentence for grammatical errors as you go. It forces you not to get distracted by the story and to really focus on the words. It’s good practice if you find yourself getting distracted by some really juicy scenes.
  • Friends & family – Find the people you may have already been bouncing ideas around with. These people might have even critiqued other writing for you in the past. This is the best way to get detailed feedback, but depending on who you find to do this, it may not always be completely honest. People try to sugar-coat advice when they’re afraid that a friendship will be in jeopardy. Keep that in mind as you get feedback.
  • Scribophile – This is a great place to go, especially for first-time writers, or even writers who haven’t had their work widely read yet. On this site, you critique other peoples’ work, earn credits, then post your own work to be critiqued. You can have your story put into a queue to be read by anybody on the site, or join some of the groups to have reviews from people who might be more interested in the genre, but it’s going to take a long time to get more feedback on. If you’ve never tried it out, it’s definitely worth doing for a bit. Just be careful not to get overwhelmed in editing other peoples’ words. Sometimes you have to take a step back to make time for your writing again.

Once you’re sure your story is as good as it can be, then it’s down to formatting it and sending it off to find a home! I’ll cover where to find the publishers to get your work published.

This is Part 2 of a series on publishing Short Stories. If you find these helpful, please leave a comment or share with your friends!

To find more useful tools, check out my page on Writing Resources.

Short Story Series 1: Getting Started

How to get started writing short stories

First off – congratulations! You’ve taken the first step by doing your research!

I can’t tell you how important that is. As a writer, you should probably get used to doing research. It doesn’t matter if you write pure abstract space fantasies or historically accurate murder mysteries, research is a necessity. So brush up on your search engine and library skills! Let me just preface this by saying that you won’t only need it for story facts and finding that word that’s on the tip of your tongue.

Next up is writing the story. This is of course the biggest hill when you start. How do you find the time to do it? Well there’s a lot of motivational options out there. Here are a few that I’ve either tried or heard works well for others:

  • #5amwritersclub – A Twitter hashtag for all those early risers who try to get their words down before work or before the kids wake up. Grab that cup of coffee (or tea!) and join your fellow authors!
  • NaNoWriMo/Camp NaNoWriMo – You’re probably thinking wait, aren’t those for writing novels? I’m only ready to tackle short fiction thank you very much. Don’t worry. These challenges are flexible. One Camp NaNo I set my goal to be 20,000 words and I plotted out 4 short stories at around 5,000 words each. And for NaNoWriMo? Set a goal for x number of stories to be written, or get some editing in. Check out the Nano Rebels section on the forums to find others carving their own paths.
  • Inspiration Through Reading – If I’m in a deep writing slump, I’ll go find a good book that discusses the process of writing (Stephen King’s On Writing is a good example). Or I’ll listen to an audiobook of various short stories. I know the library had a whole collection of classic horror authors and their short fiction. There are also respected collections of short fiction online that are available for free, such as The Sirens Call for dark fiction or Heroic Fantasy Quarterly for heroic fantasy.
  • If you can’t really get into a short story, then try listening to others review them. I’m a big fan of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast and have been supporting them for years. They do a great job of breaking down the sometimes complex themes and churning your imagination in the process. If none of those sound appealing, then try listening to authors talk about their processes. There are a bunch of excellent author podcasts out there including The Outer Dark and Deadman’s Tome. I suggest trying each one to see what gets your imagination moving.

Once you have your short story finished, then it’s off to find a home for it. I think I’ll look at covering that in the next session on how to make sure your story is as good as possible.

This is Part 1 of a series on publishing Short Stories. If you find these helpful, please leave a comment or share with your friends!

To find more useful tools, check out my page on Writing Resources.