Posts Tagged ‘Google’

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m dividing my writing time between working on Full Circle* and working on short stories. And with my short stories, there’s been more of an emphasis lately to write them with the goal of getting them into magazines and/or anthologies. Why? Well, as many of you know, I’ve been trying the traditional publishing route again (though I will self-publish if I feel a story is better off getting published that way), and while getting published in magazines and anthologies isn’t absolutely necessary to getting an agent and/or publisher, they do help make you more appealing to them. Kind of like internships and volunteering on a resume during a job search, if you think about it a certain way.

That being said, getting your short stories in mags and anthologies is pretty difficult these days. Okay, the short story market has always been difficult (Stephen King said in his autobiography On Writing that he had railroad spikes full of rejection letters from mags/publishers/agents/etc. before he found success), but in an age where so much content is available for free, reading has to compete with movies, streaming, and video games, and even self-publishing is cutting into magazine’s readership,** magazines and anthologies are even choosier than they used to be. Especially the ones that pay. They only accept the best work out of all the submissions they receive.

So up against this market, how can an author increase their chances of getting their stories published? Well, keep writing, get other people to take a look at your work for feedback, and don’t take every rejection as the end of the world or as a reflection of your talents, of course. But is there anything beyond that to help one get editors’ attentions? Well, there are a few strategies, and I’d like to list them here:

  1. Research and target. In this strategy, an author should create stories geared towards a particular magazine or group of magazines. For example, if you find a magazine that prefers urban fantasy stories, write an urban fantasy story that the magazine would probably like. Look at the magazine’s website and/or in recent issues to get an even better idea of what sort of stories they prefer (maybe they prefer female protagonists, or they hate romances between humans and supernatural creatures). Once you have a good idea of what they prefer in their stories, write one in that vein and then submit it to them. Chances are that if the story is the kind the magazine specializes in and likes, they’ll publish it.
    I’ve actually used this strategy successfully before. My first published short story, Summers with Grandmother Fumika, is about a fox-spirit that takes part in a Japanese tea ceremony. It was written after I discovered a magazine that specializes in articles and fiction relating to tea! Earned $100 for that story, which to a high schooler who averaged about $28-$35 dollars selling tickets for basketball games, was a pretty big deal. And I recently wrote a short story that I wrote for a specific sub-genre of horror, so there’s a good chance that it could be published in any of the publications that like those stories (though time will tell, of course).
  2. Rely on your networks. We live in an age of social media, and that means we come across all sorts of people we might never have even known existed thirty, twenty, or even just ten years ago. That means if you have a blog, belong to writer’s groups on Facebook, or belong to an online critique circle, you potentially have dozens or hundreds of people who can help you find homes for your stories. For example, I asked one of my writers’ groups on Facebook if they had any suggestions for places I could submit another short story in a particular sub-genre of horror. Within a few hours, I had a couple of responses that I could follow up with.
    Sometimes your friends don’t even have to give you suggestions. Occasionally, they run magazines or anthologies! In the past three years, three short stories were published in anthologies where a friend of mine was one of the editors (you know who you are). Just from this, you can see what an amazing resource friends can be!
  3. Check your publications. There are a buttload of books out there that are meant to help the average writer write and publish their work. Most of them have sections full of listings for magazines, agencies etc, and a lot of them are updated yearly. The best part is, a lot of libraries carry copies of these great tomes with them. I highly recommend The Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market from Writer’s Digest. They have great articles and listings (though never enough in the horror department, sadly).
  4. Google. I know, sounds like something that goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how often this doesn’t occur to people. Google is a remarkable resource, and if you’re careful with your search terms and what links you click on, it can open doors. In the past couple months, Google has led me to several magazines and anthologies that specialized in stories I could send them. At the moment, I’ve been rejected by one, but there’s a chance I could be accepted by two more. And if those don’t work out, there are all sorts of places I can still try out. All thanks to Google

Now, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get into a magazine or anthology, even with using these tips. That’s fine, many successful writers have rarely or even never been published in these sort of publications. But if you think it can help your career, or you prefer short to longer stories, these tips might just help you get into that collection of winter-themed romances or into that magazine that likes hopeful stories involving space exploration and interactions with alien species. And that is a joy that every writer relishes.

*Speaking of which, when I’m working on that, the general policy is “get a chapter done, then work on a short story or a blog post.” So if you see a post come out on this blog over the next couple of months, it’s either because something big happened worthy of blogging about, or I just got a chapter of FC done. Like I did right before I started writing this post (only 22 more to go!).

**Dammit self-publishing, why do you have to–wait, what am I saying?

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Yesterday was my birthday, as you probably already knew. Lot of good things happened, but there’s one thing I’d like to focus on in this post. I’m on YouTube a lot (some argue it’s typical of my generation, and to some extent I agree), and yesterday Doctor Who’s official channel uploaded a short video featuring Sarah Dollard, who’s writing an episode for the upcoming season (you can watch the video here). Me being me, I comment on the video that someday I’d like to write for Doctor Who despite being an American. And that opened the commenter floodgates.

Now, YouTube has acquired a reputation where commenters can be the nastiest people around. I’ve seen this side of YouTube before. I once was called gay for commenting on a video of an old anime’s theme song that I used to love watching that show (wrong asshole, I’m bisexual. There’s a difference), one troll told me all the stuff in a video series I was watching was staged despite proof that it all actually happened (he was easy to fend off though once it was pointed out that he had only his belief to back him up), and infamously one guy joked I’d been raped by meditation music when I commented on how a meditation video really relaxed me (you can read my post condemning that joke here). With these sort of experiences, you learn to be a little guarded in what you comment. You filter yourself so that people don’t gang up on you, strangers using their anonymity to just be awful to you or take your words out of context or a hundred other nasty things.

Which is why yesterday’s experience was so heartening and uplifting. Throughout the day, I had people replying to my comment, telling me that I had to just be a very good writer and get on the DW team’s radar in order to work for them, that nationality had nothing to do with it (later I found out that Sarah Dollard is Australian, so there’s the proof right there). I replied that I was a writer, that I had a few books out and that they were on sale in honor of my birthday (and that sale’s still going on through Sunday, by the way. You should seriously check out my work on Amazon and Smashwords for marked down or even free books).

And that’s when it starts getting really awesome. People are wishing me a happy birthday, they’re wanting to know what sort of books I write, one guy even asks for the titles of my books so they can purchase them himself! All told, there were twenty-something replies to my original comment, some of them by me but others by the complete and total strangers I’d learn to be wary of over the years.

You know, the way YouTube is, they’re not very good at policing their comments sections for abuse. Believe me, Google’s tried, but the systems they use often miss the really nasty stuff and sometimes persecute commenters for relatively harmless stuff. Some content creators on YouTube even moderate each and every comment or don’t allow comments whatsoever on their channels because of these problems. And for those viewers like myself, we have to learn to cope with this, either by not commenting in fear of the replies we’ll get or just to learn to grow a thicker skin and develop tools to deal with it ourselves.

So I comment, but I sometimes wonder if on YouTube there’s only so much civility, that comments are on a spectrum from respectful and somewhat nice to just downright awful. Yesterday surprised me and made me very happy. Within those twenty-something replies was a level of kindness and support and love that I didn’t know I could experience outside of Facebook or blogging. I got to learn that people online, especially on YouTube, can still be decent human beings even with the protection of anonymity around them, so easy to abuse sometimes.

And perhaps maybe my faith in humanity was bolstered a little.

So from now when I’m on YouTube, listening to music videos or watching funny content or whatever, I might not be so jaded. I’ll remember this little birthday surprise and I’ll know that not everyone on YouTube has the potential to be a jerk. Some have the potential to be really, really awesome people (and not just because they’re probably Whovians, though that can sometimes play a factor). And I wish the best for the people who were so kind to me yesterday, because what they did was just so overwhelmingly positive and unexpected that it deserves special mention in a time when so many people are using the Internet for awful reasons.

Bravo folks. Bravo. And thanks. You made my birthday that much more special, and I appreciate the encouragement. Here’s hoping I’m writing with the BBC someday!