I LOVE short stories. I write way more short stories then novels, and even though I'm a published novelist, I'm more known for my short stories. Probably because most of my novels were self-pubbed, while a bunch of my short stories were pubbed in magazines over the years. Since 1978 I've published over 2,000 short stories. At the height of my career (several years ago) I was publishing a short story every week. (Sadly those days are gone, largely because hundreds of literary mags went out of business in 1990s and it's not as easy to publish short stories today, as it was back in the 1980s when I was doing it as a full time career.)
I switched to novels when it became harder to find places to publish short stories, because, while mags are still out there, most of the ones today pay you $5 to $10 per story, when back in the 1980s we used to get paid $200 to $500 per story. Since the big shutdown of literary mags in the 1990s, it's become very difficult to earn a full time income with short stories.
40 years ago, publishing a short story a week was going to bring in at least $10,000 ($200 x 52), now today, you'll be lucky if it brings in $200 ($5 x 52). I think that's why you see the shift in focus with a lot of writers focusing on novels now instead of short stories. A lot of people are looking to pay the bills, so they gotta write what sells, right?
Interestingly, my novels are not actually novels, but rather me taking the 2,000 previously published short stories and writing "connecting scenes" to pull them together into a set of 130+ novels.
>>**Try writing a short story in two days and see if any magazine will publish it.**
It takes me on average 8 hours to write and edit a 5,000 word short story. There have been times when I write, edit, and published 4 stories in a single week. I don't recommend that as a weekly schedule, but it certainly is doable.
It depends on your skill, the story, the magazine in question, and how many fans you have. Magazines will publish an author who they can guarantee will sell issues, over a new name with a better story.
I have 7,000 die hard fans who buy EVERYTHING I write and 3 million more who swoop in here and there, so my name on the cover, regardless of the story, guarantee they'll sell 7,000 copies of that issue and could reach over a million copies. A lot of magazines struggle to sell even a 1,000 copies per issue. Believe me, once you become one of the top names in the industry, you can publish ANYTHING.
When I publish a new story on my website, it'll get 25,000+ views a month (which I'm doing right now at a rate of 3 to 4 new short stories a week).
A lot of small magazines drop everything to rush a big name to press without even reading the story before accepting it. There's that to consider.
I'm a big enough name that Hugh Howey invited me to write a book with him... 2 years BEFORE he wrote Wool and became a household name. (See book link below...)
But I started writing in the 1970s when short stories were king. I'm not sure a short story writer today could follow in my footsteps and gain the sort of fame I did. So yeah, starting out, you'll find it difficult to get published, but that doesn't mean it'll stay that way. Stick with it and you can reach the top and have the literary mags eating out of your hand and begging for you to submit to them.
>>**Why is everyone jumping on spending years on one story?**
Uhm... no one doing this as a career is doing that. The average career author publishing 4 novels a year.
>>**Still, I stand by my thought, that more time spent in a story helps to engage the reader by more fully developing characters and ideas.**
I've published 2,000+ short stories... all are in one setting and follow one character and his friends/family... more than 14,000,000 (14 million) published words.
You want to see how developed this character is... here, have a 28,000 word character profile sheet:
I defy you to find a series of novels with a more detailed story, idea, or character
I've literally spent 40 years fully developing him.
No longer submitting to magazines due to changes in my career focus, but I used to be submitting regular to magazines all over the place.
My method of submitting was to first aim for the ones I subscribed to/was a regular reader of, as I knew them the best to know what they wanted.
After that I went with the ones I wanted to subscribe to, but hadn't yet, due to the fact that it is expensive to sub to magazines and after a dozen or so subscriptions it was just impossible to sub to every one I wanted to.
After that I sent out to the ones that best matched my writing style/genre, but were magazines that I was not too familiar with.
I had a wide range of magazines I was submitting to from the mega giants like National Geography, PlayBoy, Cosmo, and Seventeen to the large indies like Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, New Era, Friend, and Cricket, to the small Literary, Church, FanZine, and University Press mags. Women's mags, cooking mags, teen mags, kids mags, art mags, pet mags. Generally even the non-fiction mags had 1 or 2 fiction pieces per issue so I was submitting to everyone. It never really mattered to me how big or small a magazine was, it was always just based off how much I liked the magazine.
My motivation was always: "Hey, I like this magazine! I want to write for this one!"
That was back in the 1970s and 1980s though, when magazines were booming and there were more mags then writers for them. The submission field was quite different back then. There were so many fun magazines back then. Fiction mags were everywhere. Dozens of titles for every genre. It's just not like that any more.
>>If I were to get published in one of these types of journals and they folded, would this reflect negatively on me later on?
I've never heard of an author being affected by a magazine shutting down. Most magazines I've written for went out of business 20+ years ago, but then again about 90% of all magazines went out of business in the 1990s. It used to be easy to get published in little zines because there were thousands of them. Now you have to search far and wide just to find a handful.
Today magazines continue to get fewer while writers trying to get in them continue to grow, so the competition now is much different then it was in the 70s and 80s when I was submitting. Also, most mags paid good money ($100+ for a story) back in the 1970s, whereas today, it's difficult find a mag that pays in cash, most pay in subscriptions only, or if they do pay cash it's only $5 or $10.
40 years ago, you could write a story a week and make a full time income doing nothing else. Even at the barest minimum you'd earn $5k a year from it and $20k to $30k was not difficult with only 1 short story a week. Today, you'd have to write twice as much just to reach a few hundred dollars. A zine writer will struggle to even reach $500 total writing 2 store a week. Thus why I shifted my career focus. I mean, I love writing for magazines, but, I got to pay the bills, you know?
I still write short stories, but now I do it is a quasi-web-serial format on my own website and in ebook and paperback format on Amazon. I can make more money that way then I can writing for magazines now a days, thus why I switched, that and the fact that there are so few Fantasy genre magazines these days.
So, I don't know. If you are just looking to be published, and or build a portfolio, the small mags are great, but if you are looking for an income you can live off of, you really want to focus on the big mags first. I guess it all depends on what your personal goals are.
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